Smarty Mom Stats:
Smarty Mom: Katherine Vest
Mom of: Alex & Henry (3 year old twins) & Ann Mason (6 years old)
Married to: Rob (for 13 years)
Years in Charlotte: 12 years
Walk into Katherine Vest’s home and you will be greeted by three (or more, depending on the day) joyful children, something organic and yummy simmering on the stove, an art project almost completed, and a wet kiss from a dog named Hampton. Katherine’s home is a place you want to visit over and over again (and I do).
The Vest home is a welcoming place because of a fabulous Smarty Mom named Katherine. We love her for so many reasons, but two really stand out . . . her twin sons (Alex and Henry). The twins are “mini miracles” who fought for survival when they were born prematurely at 27 weeks gestation. They fought for survival alongside their mom and dad who had just adopted them. Countless hours in the NICU and faithful prayers brought the boys home. We have heard plenty of adoption stories, but this one is truly unbelievable.
Charlotte meet Katherine Vest. Her story will make you realize that life is indeed a miracle.
When did you decide that adoption was right for you and your husband?
It began out of necessity: a candid, but less-than-tactful doctor told us that due to complications related to my auto-immune disease that we needed to “be child-free or adopt.” At that moment, I thought his timing abrupt and out of line. There was no gentle chat leading to the news that we would never bear children. He just laid it out there with the same tenderness as reading this week’s VIC specials aloud to his wife. HOWEVER, he did us a favor. He didn’t give us a false hope. He didn’t waste our time or draw out our emotional pain. His (brutal) honesty ultimately brought us the family that God intended for us all along, in less time than a pregnancy lasts!
You have a daughter (Ann Mason) who is also adopted. How does her adoption story differ from the twins?
It would be simpler to answer “how are their stories the same” because they were nearly opposite experiences. Hers was a fast, easy process that ended with a healthy, 2 weeks overdue, 8 lb, girl. But our path to the twins included several years of heartbreak in fallen adoptions, complicated details and a pair of boys born 3 months too early, tipping the scales at 1 1/2 lbs each. VERY DIFFERENT stories, indeed! There were also very different circumstances surrounding each birth mother. Different agencies involved. Different state laws to navigate (Florida vs. Texas).
How far in advance did you know you were picked by the birth mother when the twins were born? What was THAT phone call like?!
We had 24-hours notice. It was an absolute whirlwind. We had moved into our house just 10 days prior and my husband was in California for work. The time difference between coasts (and the half-unpacked boxes everywhere!) added to the quirkiness of it all. I remember emailing him , “um, what do you think about twin boys? You have 30 minutes to decide.” Can you imagine his face when THAT message popped up on the Blackberry?!? The birth mother was meeting with our agency that afternoon, so they needed an answer quickly so they could prepare each family’s “look book” and consent forms. She was to make her decision that night. We anxiously waited all night, but no phone call came. The following morning, I jumped each time the phone rang, but got no news. My hope withered as lunch approached, and by 4pm when I saw a Texas area code on Caller ID, I knew it was our agency’s “we’re so sorry” phone call. We’d been down this road before. Several times. I steeled myself for the disappointing news, and instead heard “Congratulations on your boys!! How soon can you fly here?!” Oh My. OH! MY! We were shocked and thrilled beyond the moon.
How long did the twins spend in the NICU?
Three solid months. Right up to their due date.
What was your biggest challenge as a couple and family while the boys were in the NICU?
Life balance. I felt guilty when I wasn’t at the hospital, but also guilty leaving my 3-year old daughter, yet again, to go check on the boys. I knew I needed to take care of myself by resting, exercising and eating well (what good was I to these struggling babies if I wasn’t healthy myself?), but it also felt wrong doing anything for me when they were fighting for their lives. I felt badly about taking a walk with a friend vs. spending those 30 minutes at the NICU. Reconciling those choices was a struggle for me.
What advice do you have for families considering adopting?
Talk, talk, talk to anyone and everyone you can who has been through it. The process is daunting at first. Private or Public? Open or closed? Agency or lawyer? Domestic or international? What states have adoption-friendly laws? Which foreign countries do? Where do we start? What should I look for in an agency? The questions seem endless. You can read every book out there, but the quickest, most reliable information will come from other people.
What are the challenges that you face today due to the twins early arrival?
Lots of developmental delays. We are in some form of therapy (OT, PT, Speech) 4x each week. That’s been going on since they were 6 months old. And respiratory weakness. During the winter months we often spend several hours a day doing Nebulizer breathing treatments, but that is improving each year. They’re tough little fellows!
What was your reaction when you saw Henry and Alex for the first time?
Truly overwhelmed by joy and love. After all of our pain and waiting, could these two precious bundles really be OURS?! My goodness, they were so tiny. Their fragility didn’t scare me at the time, but now when I look back at photos I am shocked by the many tubes, wires & monitors. I guess love really is blind.
If you could say one thing to Henry, Alex, and Ann Mason about their birthday and the joy you felt when you first held them, what would it be?
We prayed for you, and waited for you for a very long time. When you were born it was like the Lord sending us the very best present in the world to open.
Favorite “mommy time” activity?
Toddler dance party! We twist-n-shout like nobody’s business over here.
Favorite girls night out spot?
Nolen Kitchen (small crowd), Vivace’s terrace (larger crowd), winestore (one friend– go taste wine and read their clever anti-wine-snob descriptions. A hoot!)
Best place to eat out with the whole family?
Bricktop’s or Mezzanotte.
It’s not officially a park, but the Little Sugar Creek Greenway is great. Ride bikes along it to Freedom Park from any distance you choose, then hop off and let the kids frolic on the playground before heading back. Add a picnic and it’s a perfect outing.
Mini-van or SUV?
Neither. I’m a cross-over gal.
Best book you’ve read lately?
That darn “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series is addictive!
I could not live without my . . .
Best thing about raising a family in Charlotte?
Smaller town feel with big city opportunities.
Best kept secret in Charlotte?
Reedy Creek Nature Preserve.
It's great to see Katherine on here! She is an amazing women, mom and friend. Thanks for sharing. We need more women like her out there!!
Wonderful read and fantastic story. What a fabulous family.
Katherine, I'm so happy to see you in the CSP spotlight. You're incredible!
Thanksso much for spotlighting an adoptive family during National adoption month!
So good to "see" you here, Katherine! Your story has brought tears to my eyes! I knew those boys were special the first moment I laid eyes on them. But you are a true angel!-Jen Plym
I am also an adoptive parent and loved reading Katherine's story. I felt many of the same emotions as my daughter had serious health issues at birth. There was never any doubt that we would do whatever we had to do to get her healthy and bring her home! Thank you CSP for making an effort to feature adoptive families as we have just has much love and just as much fun as any biological family out there! Thanks again Katherine for sharing!
Nothing on earth can compare to the love a mother has for her children. What a beautiful, inspiring woman. Alex, Henry & Ann Mason are blessed to have you!