Whenever Tracy Umezu imagines what her family life would look like, she always pictures a big family and a house filled with children. Sadly, however, this dream of hers didn’t come to fruition.
Tracy and her husband, Junji Umezu, lost their second daughter, Charlotte, in 2016 due to a rare genetic disease. Two years later, their third child Maggie also died because of a severe pregnancy complication.
This left them with only one living child – their firstborn, Sophie, who is already nine years old.
But recently, the couple welcomed a new bundle of joy in their family: a baby named Jacob Benjamin.
Born on February 6, 2021, the adorable cherub is now Tracy and Junji’s son.
Charlotte and Maggie
Charlotte was born in 2014 with SCN2A, a rare form of epilepsy. Doctors told them the baby didn’t have too long to live, so the family and their friends created a “joy list” for her.
This list included activities that they wanted Charlotte to experience during her limited time here on earth.
“We wanted to fill her life with as much joy as possible while she was here,” Tracy told TODAY.
They made sure Charlotte got to experience as many adventures as possible. Tracy pushed her during the Twin Cities marathon. They went to the zoo and had picnics. They also took her on a trip to Hawaii.
In November 2016, Charlotte started seizing uncontrollably. Tracy and Junji saw that she was “suffering more than she was enjoying life.” Also, no medications were working, so they made the difficult decision to take her off life support.
The couple struggled with infertility when they were trying to conceive Charlotte, so they started on fertility treatments a few months after her death, hoping they could have another child.
A year later, the Umezus learned they were having twins.
However, the second baby’s heartbeat stopped after 10 weeks. Tracy was able to carry the other one—Maggie—with no complications until she lost consciousness and passed out at 34 weeks.
Tracy almost died then. It was later found that she experienced a complete placental abruption, which means Maggie probably died as soon as it happened.
A Change of Heart
Her doctor said it would be best for her not to get pregnant again, so Junji brought up adoption. However, Tracy felt that she wasn’t ready for it.
“I had to come to a place where I didn’t define my worth by the number of living children I had and knew I was still a good mom whether I had one living child or five,” she said.
Tracy knew this wasn’t the life she had dreamed of, but having only Sophie meant that there was more they could give to her. So she became okay with that.
But everything changed when she visited Israel.
In 2019, she went there with her church parish and the priest who counseled her. During the trip, she remembered Junji’s adoption idea.
Charlotte’s nurse also happened to be on the trip, and their group met a doctor who assisted families with the adoption process. This series of coincidences had Tracy feeling at peace with the idea of adopting.
Tracy came home knowing that she wanted to adopt.
The Adoption Process
The Umezus moved through the process and received the final approvals they needed in November 2020. Coincidentally, it happened during the week of Charlotte’s death anniversary.
In February 2021, they got a call about a 2-day old baby boy in a Florida NICU who needed adoptive parents.
Tracy talked to the newborn’s birth mother on the phone that night. She asked if they would keep the name she had given him, and Tracy said yes. This was her way of honoring the baby’s biological mom.
“She said it’s ‘Jacob Benjamin,’ and Jacob is the name we have always had in mind for a boy,” Tracy said. “It was a pretty telling piece that this was meant to be for both her and for us.”
The couple then flew him back home.
Life with Jacob
Now, all that Tracy and Junji want is to give Jacob the best life he could possibly have.
Although they are overjoyed by his arrival, Tracy sometimes feels a pang of loneliness. She couldn’t help but remember her two babies in heaven.
Still, she said that bringing Jacob home has brought healing to their family. They’ve gone through so much, which makes them appreciate this gift even more.
“Knowing that life can come out typical and normal and healthy is so awe-striking to us after all we’ve been through,” she said. “To look at him and know he has a brain that isn’t seizing and lungs that are breathing and a heart that is beating is such a miracle to us. It’s an overwhelming joy.”
Tracy, Junji, and Sophie’s lives are complete now that they have Jacob in their midst.