September 22, 2017

Couple’s life becomes touched by love in opening their hearts to adoption

Joe and Jenni Amschler pose with their son Jaxson in January. The Amschlers adopted Jaxson through Adoption Bridges of Kentuckiana, a ministry of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany. (Submitted photo)

Joe and Jenni Amschler pose with their son Jaxson in January. The Amschlers adopted Jaxson through Adoption Bridges of Kentuckiana, a ministry of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles about adoption as a pro-life option.)

By Natalie Hoefer

LOUISVILLE, KY.—Jenni and Joe Amschler recall the birth of their baby boy with love and awe.

“I fell in love with him as soon as he was put on my chest,” says Jenni. “It was an instant bond.”

“It was instant” for Joe, too, he says.

“I did the first skin-to-skin. I changed the first diaper. I mean, that was our baby.”

The fact that the couple’s skin was white and their baby’s was a beautiful brown was of no consequence.

“I love him as my own. I didn’t give birth to him, but how could you not love this little baby?” she says, hugging 18-month-old Jaxson as he sits on her lap.

“He is my son, who I will love, support and take care of his every need,” Joe says.

Like so many couples who had trouble conceiving, the Amschlers opened their hearts to adoption.

Unlike some couples who adopt, the Amschlers know the birth mother—and of her refusal to have an abortion.

This is the story of their pro-life adoption journey through Adoption Bridges of Kentuckiana, a ministry of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany.

‘We always knew we wanted children’

Jenni, 31, and Joe, 33, were married in September of 2009. With Joe serving full time in the United States Army, the couple moved frequently.

It was during one such move that the couple suffered their first miscarriage. Their second miscarriage happened while they were stationed in Arizona.

“Grieving was difficult because we didn’t know anyone and were far from family,” says Jenni. “And we were always transitioning from one place to another, so we didn’t have time to focus on the grieving.”

After researching the cause of the infertility, and even a surgery, the couple remained childless.

Joe entered the Army Reserves in 2013. He started working at General Electric, and the couple settled in their hometown of Louisville, Ky.

When the couple suffered their third miscarriage, they decided they were ready to pursue adoption.

“For us, I think it was God’s plan for us to adopt,” says Joe.

“We always knew we wanted to have children,” Jenni adds. “And when we couldn’t have our own, then we reached out to friends who we knew were going through the adoption process. They were the ones who led us to Adoption Bridges [of Kentuckiana].”

The agency, a Louisville-based ministry of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany, works with women in unexpected pregnancies who seek loving families for their babies rather than abortion.

“The agency does a lot of work and effort in locating these forever families,” says Mark Casper, agency director for St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities. “Unfortunately, for every baby that’s able to be placed for adoption, there are 10-20 families wanting to adopt.”

In 2014, the agency handled 22 adoptions, 20 the following year, and 14 in 2016.

Casper says several aspects of Adoption Bridges differentiate it from other agencies, such as an all-day training for couples seeking to adopt; free lifetime mental health counseling for the parents of the adopted child, the adopted child and the birth parents; residential options if the mother chooses to raise her child; and legal licenses to handle adoptions both in Indiana and in Kentucky.

These were all appealing features to the Amschlers. But so was the fact that the agency only deals with infant adoptions.

“We’ve never been parents before, so we wanted that [experience of] every two hours you have to get up and change the diaper and feed the baby,” says Jenni.

Supporting the agency’s pro-life cause also figured into the Amschler’s decision.

“There are definitely circumstances outside a birth mother’s control, especially in this day and age where there are so many influences and things that are wrong in the world,” says Joe. He and Jenni acknowledge the strength it takes for a birth mother “to have her child and love them enough to place them up for adoption.”

Jenni adds that the birth mother had the strength to fight pressure from her father to have an abortion.

“She said, ‘No, I’m going to give a family a baby,’ ” says Jenni.

‘It’s definitely a two-way street’

The Amschlers filled out an application for Adoption Bridges which allowed them to specify such preferences as gender, multiple births, ethnicity and more.

She notes that the form even “goes over drugs—what you’re OK with, what you’re not OK with, and alcohol abuse. They’re seeing a lot of heroin babies right now.”

The staff at Adoption Bridges “was incredibly supportive” through the entire process, says the couple. They offered monthly meetings for couples waiting to adopt, and “we knew that if we had any questions, we could just pick up the phone and call them or e-mail them and they would get right back to us,” says Jenni.

Even nearly two years after adopting Jaxson, the Amschlers still keep in touch with the members from their former support group of couples who joined the adoption journey at Adoption Bridges during the same time frame.

“It’s a family,” says Jenni. “Once you’re in, you’re in.

“The support group that we were in, we all got placed within six to eight months of each other. We’re going to hit different milestones together: the pre‑school, the sleep deprivation, the teething, the walking and everything else.”

But the Amschlers appreciated the support being offered to the birth mothers as well.

“For every thousand questions we had, [the birth mother] had three times as many,” says Joe. “It’s definitely a two-way street, it’s not just about us. That makes us feel good.”

At Adoption Bridges, the birth mother uses couple‑made portfolios to select the family she thinks will be best for her unborn child. Shortly after Jaxson’s birth mother chose the Amschlers, the couple met her.

“She is a very strong person,” says Joe.

“If I ran into the birth mother today,” says Jenni, “I’d probably run up to her and give her a hug and tell her I love her. We did at the hospital—we hugged each other and told each other that we loved each other.”

‘You’ve got a story that’s really awesome’

That embrace happened on Nov. 18, 2015.

“When we got to the hospital, the advocate was there with us,” Jenni recalls. “She was in the delivery room, texting us that he was here. … She was there around the clock. Every step of the way we were calling [Adoption Bridges], they were calling us,” even at 2 a.m., the couple says.

They became Jaxson’s foster parents while Adoption Bridges pursued legal action to terminate the father’s parental rights.

“Even though adoption is a scary thing because you don’t terminate the rights right then and there, you can’t guard yourself from loving this baby,” says Joe. “Even if they just might be in your home for just a couple months, you still have to show the baby love.”

On Feb. 18, 2016, Jenni and Joe legally became the parents of Jaxson, now 22 months old.

Jaxson’s is an open adoption, meaning that he can one day meet his birth mother, if he chooses.

“We talk about her to Jaxson,” says Jenni. “We’re very open. He has two biological brothers. We’ll keep that open to him in the future.”

Overall, the experience of adopting Jaxson was easy, says Jenni. But that’s not to say the adoption journey has been without its heartaches.

“Before we adopted Jaxson, we were called for a little girl,” she says. “She was already 48 hours old and in the hospital. … We automatically said yes.

“Come to find out an aunt wanted to take the baby, which was devastating to us. It was another [time of] grieving.”

A similar situation happened this August—again with a baby girl—after the Amschlers started the process anew last November to adopt a sibling for Jaxson.

“I had always said ‘one and we’re done,’ ” says Jenni. “But going through the adoption experience with Adoption Bridges, the experience we had with his birth mother, how easy it was—we were at the hospital with him and said, ‘OK, we can do this again.’ ”

She notes that “we did get picked up quickly with Jaxson, but we might not with this next one.”

“Some [couples] hear from us in weeks or months,” says Casper. “On average, the wait is more like 18 months to two years, but we don’t control that—that’s based on the birth mothers and who they choose.”

Still, the couple remains hopeful.

“We know God has a plan for our family and will send us the perfect baby at his timing,” says Jenni.

“You’ve got a story at the end of the day that’s really awesome,” Joe agrees. “The child will have loving parents at the end of the day who are going to guide them through their life journey. Their story is going to be unique.

“You have to step outside of your comfort zone—it’s going to be rewarding.”

(For more information on Adoption Bridges of Kenuckiana, go to or call 502-585-4369.)

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