Ever been in a place where waiting on God to answer prayer seems to go on and on and then — just when it looks like the answer might take place — the door slams shut? Today, I’m honored to share the faith story of Ben and Katie Rice. It’s a story of hope-filled waiting, outrageous love and their Fancy little Ansley.
Katie Rice is living her dream as a mom. Her days are full of a precious 17-month-old whose smile will melt your heart. Katie has dubbed her Fancy Ansley and she is that with pigtails in matching bows, a chunky bracelet and sparkly shoes. You catch the extravagant love between mama and child in the first minutes with these two.
But it wasn’t always this way. Katie and her husband Ben know the emptiness of longing, the suffering that comes in waiting and the grief of heart-wrenching loss.
Waiting on God
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Katie married Ben Rice right out of high school, after meeting him on a church mission trip. Two years into marriage, they wanted to start a family but Katie suffered from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and doctors told her she’d never get pregnant. She started serious fertility treatments and a prayer group with other women struggling with fertility. “After two years, everyone had graduated out but us,” Katie recalls.
With month after month of disappointment and surrounded by medicine, Katie cried out to God for direction. She finally closed the door on all the fertility treatments and determined to be content. “I had to put a lock on that door, walk away and be okay,” Katie says.
Ben had initially opposed adoption, unsure whether they could fully love a child that wasn’t biologically their own. During these years, prayer was their only option. But as they were driven by need to pray together, their marriage grew stronger. “We were so young. We didn’t understand the magnitude of prayer and His plan,” Katie says.
Eventually, the couple decided to pursue adoption. They completed their home study and sent it to “every agency in Florida.” Again they waited. A year and a half went by and they learned of a medical needs adoption for a little boy with cerebral palsy. Over the next month, they met with him, went with him to therapy and fell in love. With their heart set on what seemed like a seamless answer to prayers, another family was chosen to adopt. “We were devastated,” Katie says “and we still pray for him.”
But God was preparing their hearts for His plan.
A few months later the Rices got the call they’d been waiting for. A birth mother had chosen them. The birth mom spent most of her pregnancy in jail and assured the Rices, attorney and adoption specialist that she could not keep the baby.
All Plans on Go
Preparations for baby Ansley went full throttle. Katie had a baby shower, decorated a nursery and stocked the closet with bows, diapers and clothes. On the morning of Ansley’s delivery, Katie left bottles out, a receiving blanket just so on the couch and her home completely ready to walk in with a newborn.
The waiting room filled with parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins as they waited for Ansley’s delivery. “We were excited and laughing and celebrating” with “giddy anticipation” Katie remembers. Two hours went by and the birth mother had not let them see the baby. As relatives tried to keep a light spirit, a nurse motioned to the adoption specialist.
Minutes later, she announced the birth mother had decided to keep Ansley. “Ben started crying; I ran into the bathroom, just crying and crying.”
Afraid to leave in case she changed her mind, the family stayed around the hospital. They spent the day waiting and window shopping around the hospital, hoping for a call. But none came.
“We were done. We were not pursuing other adoptions. Just emotionally, we could not do it again,” Katie says.
After 7 years of treatment and home studies and praying and waiting, the grief was huge. Ben and Katie tried to pick up pieces of life again, going back to work, selling some of the nursery furniture and closing the door on the rest.
An Open Door
Four months later, a call came. The birth mom had changed her mind and signed papers. I was in the shower and the attorney called saying “Come get your baby!”
“We were so in love so quickly. We immediately bonded and she immediately attached,” Katie recalls.
But Ansley was underweight, malnourished, and smelled like cigarette smoke. At the pediatrician’s office the next morning, the doctor told them to immediately take her to the emergency room. The next few weeks were filled with MRIs, CT scans, and medical appointments as Ansley was diagnosed with lissencephaly.
Lissencephaly means “smooth brain” and is a rare condition where the brain doesn’t develop typical folds and grooves. It causes significant developmental delays, seizures, swallowing problems and other issues.
“It’s scary,” says Katie. “Scary to have a ‘special needs’ child. Scared of the unknown. What if she doesn’t develop past where she’s at? What if she never walks? Never talks?” These were questions Ben and Katie faced.
They wondered whether they could take care of a medically needy child. “Honestly, if it was just us? No,” answers Katie. “But God has equipped us.”
Katie says she doesn’t even see the delays until she’s with other moms and kids. “She’s just Ansley to us!” Even as she says this, Katie turns to Ansley with a big smile and eyes that light up and Ansley lights up with her own smile. Ansley leans into her mom, mouth wide open for a huge kiss.
Katie says every time Ansley crinkles up in a smile she’s saying “mama” in her own way. Katie adds that God has not made a mistake. They know that Ansley is fearfully and wonderfully made and they are blessed beyond measure to pour love on Ansley every day in their parenting.
“We are blessed that God put us together to be a family and honor Him. Whatever we have to face we know that God has this already mapped out; He has a special plan for her life.”
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And if you’d like to keep up with Ansley, you can join the Ansley is Fancy Facebook page here. Katie does a great job with photos of Ansley’s days. Even small things are big celebrations with Ansley!
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