In three short years, Eric and Jenny Scherr have lost one baby and welcomed two more into their lives.
That journey of love and loss, of grief and joy, has strengthened the couple’s faith and left them fearless about the adoption process.
“As a parent, you want to think you’re in control. That if you do everything right … everything will work out perfectly,” said Eric Scherr. “We did all that, and then Blakely came into our lives, and she was only here for five short months. After Blakely, we realized nothing is certain and to not let the fear of uncertainty stop you from adoption.”
Today, the Scherr home is filled with the joyful noise of four children, two of whom were adopted through Catholic Social Services. The couple has two biological daughters, Alexa, 9, and Leighton, 7. They lost Blakely Anne at the age of 5 months to a fatal genetic disorder in September 2013. Seventeen months ago, they added a son, Matthias, and the family welcomed a second baby boy, Blaise, two months ago.
Since the average wait time for a domestic infant adoption in the United States can be anywhere from one to three years, the gift of two infants in less than two years is unusual, according to Natalie Lecy, director of Family Services at CSS. The Scherrs were one of just two families actively seeking to adopt through CSS in 2016. CSS placed two infants during summer 2016 and currently has no adoptive families on its waiting list.
“Right now is a great time to get on our adoptive family list, since we currently have no waiting families,” said Lecy.
The Rapid City couple was initially drawn to CSS because of their Catholic faith. They belong to Our Lady of the Black Hills Catholic Church in Piedmont. But they soon came to appreciate the expertise of adoption specialist Lisa Spielmann and the experience of an agency that has finalized 388 adoptions in the last 40 years.
“It’s been so good having them right here in town, especially with all the paperwork involved,” Jenny said. “Lisa was always very realistic with us and very knowledgeable about the process.”
Despite completely different birth family situations with Matthias and Blaise, Spielmann helped negotiate open adoption arrangements that were in the best interests of the children. “She did a great job working with the birth parents,” Jenny said. Ignorance about open adoptions initially made the Scherrs wary of them, but Spielmann dispelled their fears by explaining the wide range of options that define open adoptions, and the benefits they can bring to children.
“Once we got comfortable and really understood what open adoption was …. Then it wasn’t about us or our feelings. It’s about the child. It’s what’s best for them,” Eric said.
Given the popularity of international adoption, the Scheers discovered many people were surprised to learn their sons were born right here in Rapid City. “Within two years, we had two babies, so there is a need (for adoptive homes) here,” Jenny said.
The Scherrs battled infertility for three years and had already begun the adoption process when they got pregnant with Blakely. “As we’ve grown in our faith, we just really cherish family and God placed in our hearts the desire to have more children,” they said.
Following her devastating diagnosis and death, they were even more certain they wanted to grow their family through adoption. “Blakely living in our lives for five months lit us on fire to adopt,” Eric said.
She also filled them with peace about all the “what ifs” that make adoption an emotional rollercoaster. Their daughter taught them to trust in God and not let fear get in the way. “After going through that process with Blakely, I had no fear of any of those things,” Eric said.
From the beginning, the Scherrs chose to be open and honest about Blakeley’s prognosis with her older sisters. They found out 20 weeks into the pregnancy that there were birth defects, but didn’t get the devastating news that the baby would not live to see her 1st birthday until a few days after she was born.
“We knew we had to take it one day at a time and enjoy the time we had with her,” Jenny said.
That openness proved valuable to during the waiting periods of adoption, too.
“The things we’ve gone through have definitely changed the way we’ve handled adoption,” she said. “Even now, waiting to finalize this adoption, I continue to have peace that it will all workout. ”
Jenny and Eric were able to reach out to two very different birth families, each facing their own loss and fears about adoption. “It was almost like we shared a special connection of losing a child,” Eric said. “While I don’t know what it’s like to give up a child, I do know what it’s like to lose a child.”
Thanks to the Family Services Department at CSS, they also know the gift of adoption. Matthias brought hope and happiness into their home.
“I was excited to have a baby. Not that he was replacing Blakely, but it was just the hope of new life. And he was such a gift. You can’t even imagine it. It’s just an amazing gift,” Jenny said. “I remember holding him and saying, “I can’t believe that you’re here. That you’re our little baby!”
They encourage any family interested in adoption to contact CSS. “I would say don’t let fear hold you back or stop you from exploring adoption as an option for growing your family,” Eric said.