Kelly Clarkson Cries as Thomas Rhett and Wife Lauren Recall Daughter Willa Gray's Adoption
"I did my own makeup and this is not waterproof," Kelly Clarkson told the couple after hearing their adoption journey
On Thursday, the country music star and his wife appeared on the at-home edition of The Kelly Clarkson Show and spoke to Clarkson about their family.
Clarkson started the conversation by asking the couple why they chose to adopt first, with Akins telling the "Stronger" singer that she had "always talked about adopting" her "whole life" and that her mom is adopted.
"I just thought it was really cool," the mother of two said. "We'd talked about it off and on, but it wasn't something that we had sat down and had, like, a full-on adoption conversation."
Then in 2016, Akins told Clarkson she traveled to Uganda with the organization 147 Million Orphans and met a baby girl. After sharing a photo of herself and the baby on social media, she FaceTimed Thomas Rhett and told him they had to find her a "forever home."
"I was telling him her story and I was like, 'Babe, we know so many people who are trying to adopt right now, and this little girl needs a forever home,'" Akins said.
"I was, like, so moved. I mean, the second I touched her, it was, like, electric," she added. "I was like, 'Oh my word. This little girl has just taken my heart.' I was like, 'Honey, we've gotta find her her forever home. Like, I know that's why I'm here is to get this girl to her home.'"
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At this point in the story, Clarkson jumped in, telling the couple that they've "totally Oprah'ed" her.
"I did my own makeup and this is not waterproof," the singer said through tears. "It's so beautiful because I know that feeling. As a mama, you touch them and you hug them. It doesn't matter if it's yours or not. We're a blended family. You're like, this is my purpose. It's such a powerful thing."
Then Thomas Rhett recalled feeling a "spiritual" moment during the call with Akins, telling his wife to bring the little girl home with her.
"I don't fully remember even saying it," he said. "It was, like, such a spiritual thing for me that it came out of my body. Then, literally two weeks after, we were having home assessments and talking to adoption agencies."
However, the road to adopting Willa Gray was no walk in the park.
“I don’t think anyone can fully prepare you for the journey of adopting someone, especially from a third-world country where there are so many different laws,” Thomas Rhett told PEOPLE in 2017. “Every day you wake up with a whole new set of challenges that you never even heard of.”
To comply with Uganda’s complex adoption laws, the couple was required to foster the baby there over the course of a year. That meant nearly a dozen trips back and forth to the East African nation. Things became even more (wonderfully) complicated when they learned they were pregnant with their daughter Ada James in the midst of fostering.
Akins recalled to PEOPLE having to travel to Uganda during her third trimester to finalize the adoption, but then having to leave for a pregnancy check-up before the process was complete.
“It felt weird leaving one daughter and making sure the other one is okay. But I couldn’t do it another way,” Akins said at the time. “It killed me not being able to bring [Willa] home, but looking back, I think it was a blessing in disguise because I got to be home and nest before she got here — and catch up on my sleep so I wasn’t so jet-lagged!”
Akins's parents ended up bringing Willa home to Nashville once the adoption was finalized in May.
“Seeing her there felt like a dream,” Lauren said of her first glimpse of Willa when her parents drove up to the private hangar where they met. “It’s something we’ve worked for and hoped for for so long and it’s just a dream come true."
Just a few months later, Ada was born in August 2017, and earlier this year, the couple welcomed their third child together, daughter Lennon Love.