'Hamilton' 's Miguel Cervantes' Family Suffered a Devastating Loss. How They're Finding 'Joy' in Adoption

Kelly and Miguel Cervantes and their son Jackson, 9, faced the unimaginable when daughter Adelaide died in 2019. Now, they’re working through an international adoption — and all the emotions that come with it

kelly cervantes
Photo: kelly cervantes

Jackson Cervantes has been asking his parents for another little sibling for years. The 9-year-old wants to be a babysitter when he grows up, "or if that doesn't work out, a professional baseball player," his mom Kelly tells PEOPLE.

Jackson's younger sister Adelaide was born in 2015 and soon after, diagnosed with epilepsy. She battled terrifying seizures and infantile spasms from 7 months old, relying on round-the-clock care until her death in October 2019, weeks shy of her 4th birthday.

Shortly after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, pushing the family — who'd just moved from Chicago to New Jersey as dad Miguel prepared to play the leading role in Hamilton on Broadway — to sit alone with their grief.

Listen below to Me Becoming Mom to hear Jillian Michaels' adoption journey and her unique road to motherhood.

"I thought it was so cruel that we had lost our daughter and now we had to go into isolation," Kelly, 39, recalls. "But in hindsight, I'm able to see that it really was this incredible gift that we were able to have time together."

During that time together, they were able to decide definitively that they wanted another child. But not knowing the genetic origins of Adelaide's illness took having a biological child off the table. So the couple began exploring the idea of adopting a toddler or elementary-school-aged child from another country.

"We had this sort of gravitational pull toward this new life," Miguel, 44, says. "And sometimes I'm like, 'What are we doing? We're going to change everything?' But also, why not? It's the next thing we're doing. It feels so crazy and so normal at the same time."

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.

The family recently had their home study approved after submitting their application and documentation, and are now in the "waiting process," Kelly says. While those are big steps, "it's just so hard to know how long this process takes or how many kids are looking for families," she shares. "It's going to be a journey."

That emotional journey started months after Adelaide's passing, when Kelly attended a retreat for grieving mothers and began to open her mind to growing her family again.

"Adelaide is missing, but there was this other aspect of our family that was just missing," she says. "We desperately wanted that other child for Jackson to have as a sibling — he began asking before Adelaide even died — but for us to have another child to love and dote on, too."

Both Miguel and Kelly admit they had a hard time with the idea of adopting another child following the loss of their daughter, "but a friend said it beautifully, when I was struggling with the idea that this child would be replacing Adelaide," Kelly recalls. "She said, 'You're not replacing anyone, you're adding someone. Adelaide is still there, and she'll be this child's big sister even though they won't meet her. They'll see her pictures, they'll hear her story.' That idea of continuing to add to our family brought me a lot of peace."

Though the couple was very open with Adelaide's health journey, documenting her life on social media, Kelly's blog Inchstones and raising awareness around her condition through outlets like PEOPLE, they've chosen to keep some aspects of their adoption, namely the country they'll be adopting from, to themselves.

"Initially the idea of bringing the world along on this process didn't seem necessary, but in terms of all the things we have gone through, what we found is through that struggle, that grief, that pain, people are helped, people are affected, people are moved," Miguel says. "And if us going on this journey can have some sort of positive effect in one way or another, then why not share it. For us, it made some of the pain a little more bearable."

"For me, I have to write about what is going on in my mind, what I'm working through, what we're processing, and this adoption is a big part of it," Kelly adds. "It's wrapped up in the grief, it's wrapped up in the joy."

Joy is definitely what Jackson is feeling these days.

"He almost started crying when we told him we were moving forward with adoption," Miguel recalls. "He ran upstairs and said, 'Okay, are we going to get two iPads? Are we going to share this iPad? Will we share a room?' The planning has started already, which is great because you can't really predict that reaction with all that's happened in our life. But it helped us realize pretty quickly that this was the right move for us."

Along with that, however, Kelly and Miguel will have to prepare their son for the less exciting moments of the process.

"There will be challenges once this child is in our family because there will be trauma, there will be major cultural differences," Kelly says.

Miguel adds, "We will have to at some point sit down and say, 'Hey, this could be difficult. It's not always going to be super fun and easy.' But he has gone through a lot, and is really understanding of how to handle difficult situations."

The same goes for his parents.

"If there is one thing the last five years have taught us, it's that we have no idea what the next five years will look like," Kelly says. "So let's open our hearts and go along for the ride."

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