Patroms ‘living the dream’ as new parents

by Sonja J. Keith

Thanksgiving will have new meaning this year for new parents Katie and Jon Patrom, who recently welcomed home their son, Duncan.

After battling the heartache of infertility, it was a special moment when the baby was placed in the couple’s loving arms through adoption. But it was a moment that almost didn’t happen.

Katie and Jon, both Greenbrier natives, met through Katie’s mom, Sharon Duncan, when Sharon and Jon were working together. The two began dating in December 2005 and became engaged Nov. 17, 2006. They were married on that date the following year. Jon is the retail sales/marketing officer at First Service, and Katie is director of children’s ministries at Springhill Baptist Church.

When the couple decided in 2011 to start a family, they encountered some fertility issues and sought medical help. Still, there were no results. As friends and family announced they were expecting, Jon and Katie were happy for them, but they struggled. “I couldn’t go to baby showers,” Katie said. “I was in a state of depression.”

While on a trip to the beach in the fall of 2014, the couple had some friends who called to let them know they were pregnant. Katie recalled that she broke down with the news. “It was a real breaking point for us,” Jon said. “They were the last of our friends that hadn’t had kids . . . We were back and forth on what to do.”

“It finally came to the point that I had a peace, knowing that I would probably never give birth to a child,” Katie said.

The following year, also at the beach, the couple was still unsure what to do but used the downtime to reflect, read, pray and think about their situation. Neither said anything to each other about adoption during that trip, but it was on their minds.

When they returned home, the couple was at a family gathering the next day when a relative mentioned that she knew someone who was considering adoption for her child and asked if Jon and Katie would be interested. “I automatically, without asking Jon, said, ‘Yes, we will.’”

Katie recalls being nervous that evening at home when she brought up the conversation to Jon. “I asked him, ‘What do you think about this?’” Jon replied, “Let’s do it. I’ve been thinking the same thing.”

“That was our ‘Aha’ moment — our peace moment,” Katie said.

Unfortunately, it did not work out for Jon and Katie to adopt that child. Later, the couple would learn that it was about that time that their son was conceived.

Last November, the couple sought the help of Conway attorney Shane Henry in pursuing adoption. The following month, the couple had Grace Adoptions agency do their home study, and they shared with family and friends as well as on social media their desire to adopt.

And they waited.

“The hardest part about the adoption was sitting and waiting,” Jon said.

On April 17, Grace Adoptions contacted the Patroms about a child. “Their words were, ‘We just cannot stop thinking about you. We were really impressed by the Lord to give you a call about this child,’” Katie said. The couple said, “Yes!” and bought a baby crib the next day.

“I remember telling our friends that I didn’t think it would ever happen,” Jon said.

In late May, Duncan was born at the Conway Regional Women’s Center. He weighed 7 pounds and 6 ounces and was 20 inches long. Jon and Katie had a boarding room at the hospital, and the baby was brought to them after the delivery. “Conway Regional was amazing,” Jon said.

“They brought him in, and he’s been with us ever since,” Katie said.

Jon recalls that the couple got very little sleep the first 36 hours after becoming parents. He said Duncan would make little noises that would send him into a panic.

Uncertain that they would get to meet the birthmother, the couple wrote her a letter, thanking her for choosing life for Duncan and sharing that they would be in prayer for her. The couple did get to meet Duncan’s birthmother, who shared with them that she was unable to care for her baby. “She and Katie sat on the bed and cried and held each other,” Jon said.

The birthmother took the “morning after” pill, which did not work, and sought an abortion. She shared with the couple that she was on the abortion table when she heard her baby’s heartbeat and could not go through with the procedure.

While Katie and Jon consider themselves Pro-Life, Katie said she understands that the birthmother was facing significant challenges. In fear and desperation, she made the choices that she did. “I’m not sure I wouldn’t do the same thing,” Katie said.

Jon believes that everyone has a story to tell. “I feel that Duncan was telling us a story nine months earlier,” he said. “It was a story of faith and to be still and know that He is God and He is in control. Duncan was screaming to us, ‘This is God’s timing.’ He had it all put into place at this time. It was perfect for when He wanted it . . . Knowing that she was on the abortion table and took the morning after pill, Duncan was screaming, ‘Let me live.’”

Katie and Jon are thankful for the state legislation that requires women considering abortion to hear their baby’s heartbeat. “If she hadn’t heard the heartbeat, we wouldn’t be holding him today,” she said.

In their meeting with the birthmother, she shared with Katie that she had never felt connected to her baby. “She said she knew that God took her through all of this to have our child,” Jon said. “She was a strong and courageous woman who chose life for him.”

“She was very excited for us,” Katie said. “She said she knew without a doubt that she was here to have our baby for us.”

At home, it took a few days for the couple to settle in with their newborn. On their first night, they were exhausted and asked Katie’s mother to care for Duncan while they took a nap after dinner. Sleeping longer than they anticipated, they woke up to find that Sharon had prepared to spend the night and that she and her first grandchild were having a grand time. “She had taken 9 million photos of Duncan and was emailing them out to everybody that she knew,” Katie said with a laugh.

“He is an amazing baby,” said Jon, adding that the couple wasn’t sure what to expect when they brought him home from the hospital. “He cries when he’s hungry or tired,” Katie added, also sharing that Duncan began sleeping through the night early.

Katie said she was unsure what her feelings would be for Duncan. “I feared I would not love him,” she said. “I always loved him. I can’t imagine life without him.” Katie says she feels the same for Duncan as if she had given birth to him. She recalls being at a doctor’s visit and being asked if she knew if there were any hereditary issues with his vision. Katie was responding that she and Jon wear glasses when she was reminded that Duncan is adopted. “I said, ‘Oh my word, he’s adopted.’ I just forgot. I forget all the time.”

As they made the adjustment to parenthood, Jon and Katie had to wait five days before they could go to court to finalize the adoption. Arkansas law gives birthmothers 10 days after the birth of their child in which they can change their minds. Duncan’s birthmother waived five of those days. While they felt good about the birthmother’s decision, both Jon and Katie recognized she could still change her mind. They were aware of another couple who lost their child on the ninth day of the waiting period when the birthmother changed her mind.

“It would be like a death, but worse because you don’t know what that child is going into,” Katie said.

“We felt peace, but kept ourselves busy that last day,” Jon said, adding that the family was en route to Conway for a meeting at Grace Adoptions when the waiting period expired. “We were driving, and I said, ‘He’s ours!’ That was a relief.”

At their meeting, Jon asked if it would be OK to post a picture on Facebook. “They said, ‘Oh yeah, he’s yours.’ We were ready to share him with the world.”

In June, the adoption was finalized before 20th Judicial District Judge David Clark. Katie described it as a magical time. “Being there with the lawyer and hearing that it was finalized . . . It was great.”

“Judge Clark does an amazing story. He said he has to deal with a whole lot of situations that he doesn’t want to have to deal with, but our situation was something that brings joy and happiness,” Jon said, adding there were a lot of tears and emotion for those who attended. “It was very special.”

Time has passed quickly since the couple arrived home with their bundle of joy, and there have been many blessings along their adoption journey.

Jon recalls after the couple posted on Facebook in November 2015 that they were adopting that an envelope appeared in their mailbox. It was addressed to Jon, Katie and Baby Patrom and contained an anonymous gift of $500 with a note — “For this precious baby that God is going to bless you with.”

Friends, family and co-workers at First Service and Springhill Baptist have showered the couple with gifts and prayers. A family friend recently commented, “This child, it’s like the church’s child because we’ve all been praying for him and praying for them.”

“My church has been so good,” Katie said. “They love him. It is so sweet to see them love him. It’s sweet to see our families love him. I don’t see how this could be any different if I gave birth to this child. There is no difference whatsoever.”

Katie shared that each Christmas the young people in her ministry put on a play, which she chooses in July or August. Last summer, she found a play that she really liked because of the music — “Felix Finds Christmas.” She said the story focused on a boy being adopted.

“It was before we even felt peace to do it . . . It’s just like God kept pointing every way.”

Katie has shared the adoption with the children at her church and still fields questions about whether Duncan was in her belly and about the birthmother. “I think it’s good for kids to see. The way I explain it is she just couldn’t take care of him and God just knew we needed a baby. God just worked all this out and we had faith. We obeyed his leading on this.”

The couple said their lives have changed in many ways. “We can’t just grab and go,” Katie said, adding that there is more laundry at their house now. “I am thankful to have a little boy to put them on. I wanted those moments so bad.”

No longer are evenings quiet after work and dinner. But they don’t mind.

“I had longed for baby stuff all over my house for so long,” Katie said. “Now, we’re just living the dream of it all.”

Jon, who prays with Duncan every morning, said he is excited to see what the future will hold for his son. “I’ve said it since I’ve had him. I always look at him and say, ‘This is my son in whom I am well pleased and who is going to grow up and be a mighty warrior for the Lord.’”

Jon said, if God sees fit, they would welcome more children, but, “we’re at peace where God has us right now.” He also sees a faith message in Duncan.

“The whole adoption process points me to Christ’s love for us and what He’s done for us. I look at what He has taught us through him in that our timing is not His timing and His ways are perfect.”