Kimberly Schlapman on Having the Family She Dreamed of After Loss, Infertility: 'There Were Miracles for Me'

After losing her first husband and being unable to get pregnant for years, Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman thought she might never be a mom. Now she tells her story to help others considering adoption

Kimberly Schlapman
Photo: Kimberly Schlapman/instagram

Growing up, Little Big Town singer Kimberly Schlapman dreamed of being a singer, but "more than anything, I always wanted to be a mama," she tells PEOPLE. But as her career took off, she and her husband Steve Rhodes found themselves unable to get pregnant for 14 years. After Rhodes' sudden death in 2005, the singer "gave up hope of ever having a family."

She found love again with a friend she knew through the band named Steve Schlapman, and though they hoped for kids, she had been told that due to endometriosis, pregnancy was unlikely. Today, the couple has two children, Daisy, 14, and Dolly, 4. She wrote a story about her family's "miracle" called A Dolly for Christmas, and recounts their journey to the family life they have today to PEOPLE, in her own words.

I was told I wasn't able to have a baby, but lo and behold, we got pregnant on our honeymoon. Surprise! I believe, 100%, that my Steve in heaven sent me a wedding gift, and it was that baby girl. I believe he got up there and said, "Hey God, this woman has been in a lot of pain. We've got to give her what she's always wanted."

I went into labor almost four weeks early while I was on tour in Phoenix, with the tour bus in the parking lot. But the band had to go onto the next show in Las Vegas. (Daisy was born a minute before they walked on stage!) So we rented a tour bus to drive the 33 hours home to Nashville, with Daisy sleeping in one of the drawers my husband pulled out and made into a bed.

We came home and I was in heaven. It was just the sweetest. It was my greatest dream come true. We started trying for another one, and pretty soon we did get pregnant, but we lost that baby to miscarriage. We kept trying, but then when Daisy was 4, she started begging for a sibling: "Please, please. I want a baby brother or a baby sister."

We started trying much harder at that point. We did all the medical things, the artificial insemination at first, and then in vitro fertilization as we got more serious.

And one day Daisy said to me, "Mommy, if I don't ever have a baby brother or sister, then my kids will never have aunts and uncles and cousins. And that would be terrible." We were like, "I know, we're trying so hard."

We lost the first in vitro. We lost the second one. And then my husband and I just one day looked at each other and said, maybe God's telling us it's time to adopt.

We didn't know a lot about the process. We probably had a very romantic sense of the idea, "Oh, we'll sign up for adoption and we'll have a baby in our arms." But there's more to it: The home study takes a long time. Everybody in the house has to have very intense physicals. You have to lay out all your financial statements, and all your assets, and all your debts. A social worker comes by to be sure you've locked away the alcohol, gotten the little electrical socket covers — all the specific details to make sure your home is safe for a child.

And of course, we knew my career could possibly be a hurdle [for the home study]. But with Daisy, six weeks after she was born, we were back on a bus and my husband built her a little tiny insert for her bunk so that she wouldn't roll around. We had figured it out! So I made sure that was part of our story: We've done this before! We've been successful at it, so we can do it again.

Kimberly Schlapman
Becky Fluke

Of course, we had no preference on race or sex. It didn't matter to us. We just wanted a baby for our family. But all that stuff takes time to get ready, and then they say you might wait two years for a baby. But a miracle occurred in our waiting for that baby girl.

Just two months later, we were visiting my husband's family for Christmas, and I looked at my phone and I saw this text saying there was a baby girl who needed a family. And I gasped. Daisy, who was nine at the time, who had been praying every day for five years for a baby, saw me gasp, heard me gasp. And she was like, "What? What is it?" And inside, I was like, "No, no, no, I can't tell her because this is all she's ever wanted. What if it's not for real?"

I looked at my husband and I showed him the text and he read it and his eyes got big. And then I read it to Daisy and that little child, she jumped up on that bed: "I believe, I believe it's our baby." And she was praising God. I mean, she was having a little revival right there on the bed. It's a sight that I will never, ever forget. But anyway, turns out it was our baby. It was little Dolly and she needed a family, and it became our family's miracle.

Kimberly Schlapman Instagram
Kimberly Schlapman Instagram

Instantly, when we held her, she was ours. I secretly feared my love for an adopted child wouldn't be the same for my biological child; I couldn't understand how that love could feel the same. But I'm telling you, when I held that baby in my arms, there was no difference whatsoever from the child that I birthed out of my own womb to this child, who came from another person's womb.

Dolly is so special. She knows her story. She's proud of it. She tells everybody: "Daisy came out of mommy's tummy, but I didn't. But they came and got me." We wanted her to know right off that she was adopted; we wanted to start talking about that even before she could understand the word adoption.

Ours is a private adoption: The birth parents don't know us and we don't know them, and to protect Dolly, we want to keep it that way. So she might not know her birth parents, but she knows she had nurses when she was born who rocked her and swaddled her. We tell her, you weren't alone, you had angel nurses there and God was with you until we could get to you. And she just... she loves the story. She says, "I'm the miracle."

November is National Adoption Month, and PEOPLE is celebrating by highlighting the many extraordinary ways families can grow via adoption, featuring real stories from celebrities, everyday parents and adoptees, as well as information on the varied ways to adopt. For more heartwarming, heartbreaking and happy-ending stories, visit our Adoption page.

As she gets older and she begins to ask questions, we're going to be as honest as we can. Someday we'll tell her every single detail because if I were in her shoes, it would mean a lot to me to know as much as I possibly could about my birth parents. I'll never meet them, I don't guess, but my husband and I both are incredibly grateful that they made the choice to give her up for adoption.

The easy part was loving her — that was a piece of cake. The hard part is that I'm a worrier; I have secret fears as a mom — I wonder about her makeup, her DNA. But I think, "Why am I worried? Look what God did for us. Everything will work out fine."

I'm stunned at how similar to my older daughter she is. They're both so energetic, always on the go. Their bond is so special. Sometimes when Dolly's in her little toddler meltdown, I can't help it. But Daisy can. Sometimes I'm like, "Daisy, you're going to have to go in there" — she has more magic than I do, and that astounds me sometimes. They're not blood, but their hearts are one.

Oh, I don't want to cry my eyes out, but I cannot recommend adoption enough because there are so many children who need the love, and there are so many families who have it to give. What's really frustrating is that it is so expensive, and it is so labor intensive, and then you have to wait. it is hard, but it's worth every ounce of time and effort and energy that you put into it because you're saving a life. And you're bringing it into a family that has a whole lot of love to give. And man, it is special.

I feel a responsibility now to tell our story, because I feel like I have the responsibility to let people know there is hope. We have to pay it forward; we have to walk the next person through all that pain. I would say, just don't give up, do not give up.

There were several miracles for me along the way that I didn't believe could happen when I was in my darkness of grief [after losing my husband] … All the pregnancies we went through and we thought were going to be our answer — they weren't. But there was a reason for those losses, because we had to wait for Dolly.

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