MOORHEAD — Bringing a new life into the world is as terrifying as it is exciting. However, not everybody gets the luxury of having an idea when their precious baby girl or their handsome little man will become part of their family.

Couples who choose to adopt, whatever that reason may be, are at the mercy of someone else to decide when they will become parents.

It's something Moorhead couple Josh and Benny Andres understand firsthand after a recent last-minute change that will keep their nursery empty — at least for now — as they continue on their adoption journey.

#AdoptingDads

Josh and Benny practice putting their honest selves forward. It's an approach they've taken since they first began dating more than six years ago, and it's helped bring about new experiences that pulled them closer together as a couple as they navigated life's ups and downs.

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Since the beginning of their relationship, the Andres have talked about starting a family. However, because they are both men, getting pregnant in the "traditional sense" is out of the question and they opted to adopt — a choice that gives them both the opportunity to enter parenthood together because the child will not be their biological offspring, as would be the case if they instead pursued surrogacy.

Throughout their adoption journey, the Andres have kept their Facebook page up-to-date with news and happenings in their lives as it relates to adoption. That log of their journey has so far included submitting the first part of their application in early February 2018 and being approved and moving on to the next phases of the process.

The Andres are part of a program that offers two "tracks" or options to pursue. The agency's profile book gives expectant mothers all of their information and allows them to get to know more about the couple. If she decides they may be a good match, she has the option to meet with them and figure out if they'd all like to move forward.

The second option is outreach, which gives the Andres the ability to find a match themselves without using the family profile service. both men agreed that would be their preferred option.

"We are basically in the mindset that if we don't have to go on the profile book, it's a win," Benny says. "We would prefer to match through our own personal outreach."

"More organically," Josh says, adding.

After a profile on the couple and their adoption journey was published earlier this year in The Forum, it seemed outreach would be their saving grace in their mission to become parents.

The match

It all started as a normal drive back from a weekend away from home.

"We were driving back from a weekend in Sioux Falls (S.D.)," Benny says about the unexpected development. "(I) got a random phone call in the car, literally three hours after that article was in the paper, and it was this woman who said, 'I saw your article, I am pregnant, I am considering adoption and I will work with you guys if you are interested.'"

The couple was definitely interested. The caller continued to speak to the shocked couple, telling Benny to talk to his husband and get back to her.

"I could have just said that he was right here, but I was in shock," Benny says. "We hung up the phone and both looked at each other like, 'Did that just happen?'"

The couple met with the woman that night. They recall getting ready for the meeting was somewhat similar to preparing for a first date. They picked out clothes that looked "parent-y" without being overdressed and arrived early at the coffee shop to wait for her.

"That's the call we were waiting for this whole time," Josh says. "We called it 'The Call,' like, at some point we are going to get 'The Call' — whether it be the hospital call or an expectant mother. We beat her (to the coffee shop) and were looking at every vehicle that drove by, wondering which was her. Then she walked in and my heart was pounding out of my chest, but she was very calm."

Both the Andres and the expectant mother decided they were a good fit. Josh and Benny met with her three times, including for one of her ultrasounds, and the three put together an extensive birth plan, even getting their names put in the file as the adoptive fathers.

Until the plan changed.

Change of heart

After weeks of thought and consideration, after multiple meetings and agreements and crafting a birth plan, the expectant mother made the difficult decision that she would parent the child herself.

In a post on their Facebook page, Josh and Benny shared with the public their world over the past few months, starting with the match they had made a few months earlier with the woman.

"However, today we were told the expecting birth mom made the difficult decision to parent — so the adoption is no longer happening. Despite having a range of emotions, we support her and know that little boy will be loved dearly," they wrote.

Despite their plan and everything they had decided, previous circumstances pushed the mother to ultimately decide to keep her child, a decision that Benny and Josh say she wrestled with for weeks before choosing to do what she felt was right for her situation.

"We would have never guessed that it would have gone this way," Benny says. "I remember saying that this seemed too good to be true."

While devastating for the Andres, this decision is not uncommon in the world of adoption. Throughout the adoption process, expectant mothers are covered in any event they decide to change their minds. In Minnesota, a birth mom has up to 60 days to sign over consent to the adoptive parents. If she changes her mind, it is referred to as a "change of heart," like what happened in the couple's case.

The other side of this is called a "reclaim," which happens when adoptive parents take the child home and the birth mom decides to raise the child herself.

While both are a loss, the Andres are mindful of what they're experiencing.

"We talk about our loss and, not to minimize it, but others have experienced more loss," Josh says. "For example, a stillborn would have been so hard, or if we would have actually met him, brought him home and had to bring him back... Right now we are heartbroken, but it's because we lost the idea of him. But we didn't lose him. He wasn't ever ours to have."

Moving forward

After calling to update their parents, friends and co-workers, the couple started to accept that their lives would go back to their normal — something neither of the men was excited about.

"Our whole summer plans had been wide open to become parents," Josh says. "Like, 'We can't do this and we can't do that, but we can do these things instead.' I was going to do a half-Ironman maybe, but then I wasn't going to be able to train (because of the baby), which I was excited about!"

"The next few weeks are going to be really hard because we had envisioned certain things we would be doing," Benny says. "Different things that we had been envisioning that are not going to happen."

But Josh and Benny aren't quitting, and they say the support they've felt since their post last month has given them hope and a drive to keep moving forward with their outreach.

"The nice thing about our journey so far and being able to share is it's allowed other people to share either their really hopeful stories of success that keep driving us forward, or allows them to share their loss," Josh says. "It's built this great community of support that we obviously appreciate. It feels good to share your experience with somebody else. We can all share in this pain and this joy together."

Through the pain of losing the idea of becoming parents right now, the Andres are keeping their faces to the sunshine and trying to remember that, sometimes, the greatest joy comes after suffering.

"A lot of stories we've heard were like, 'Right after our biggest loss is when we made the match,'" Josh says. "It's when you least expect it, I guess, but what I would do to have that happen."