Editor's note: November is National Adoption Month, and what better time to talk about family than at Thanksgiving? Family, in all its many modern forms, is truly a thing to be thankful for.
WADENA, Minn. - Krystal Boyd had long suspected that she might end up adopting a child.
The Wadena woman knew from a young age that she would one day want to be a mom, and she also knew she might not be able to have kids of her own due to issues with diabetes.
When she met her now-husband, Derek Boyd, she was relieved to find out that he was totally open to adoption. They got married and, about five years ago, their journey to start a family began.
It wasn't easy. It started in December 2012, when a friend of Krystal's approached the couple about a birth mom from the area who was due in August 2013 and was looking for an adoptive family for the baby. The Boyds were immediately on board. They met with the birth mom, and even went with her to her early ultrasound appointments.
But five months in, on the morning of Mother's Day, of all days, Krystal got a devastating text message from the birth mom, stating that she had changed her mind - she was going to keep the baby.
"The feeling I had as I read that text message was like nothing I had ever felt," says Krystal. "The more I thought about it, the more depressed I became. I wanted a family, and I wanted it now."
After that heartbreaking experience, Derek and Krystal decided to try another route. They signed up with three different adoption agencies, hoping that getting their names out there would lead to a quick match. But months, and then years, went by with no luck.
"Our profile book had been shown multiple times a month, we just were not being chosen," says Krystal.
All sorts of awful thoughts went through her mind, she says: "What was wrong with us? Is our profile book not good? Should I have put different pictures in it? Should I have worn a different outfit? Is our house not nice enough in the pics? Did the potential birth mom not like that both of us had jobs? Why aren't we being chosen?"
The stress and sadness of it all took an emotional toll. A woman of faith, Krystal says she started to doubt God's love for her, and even God's existence.
Then, finally, on June 10, 2016, the couple got the news they had so anxiously awaited for three long years: they had been matched with a birth mom.
Meeting the birth mom
After an initial phone conversation with the birth mom and her family, who all lived in Texas, the Boyds decided to fly down there to meet with them.
The two families felt surprisingly at ease with each other, Krystal says, and they shared common interests and values. The birth mom, Carol, gave Krystal and Derek pictures of the baby from her first two ultrasounds, and that's when they learned the baby's gender - a boy.
"When we left the next day, we couldn't feel anything but pure happiness, joy and a feeling of being blessed," recalls Krystal.
They stayed in touch with Carol on a weekly basis to keep tabs on how she and the baby were doing. They knew when the baby was up all night kicking, and the times of day when he was most active.
They were excited, but also apprehensive. Their first experience taught them not to get their hopes up too high.
"It was so great to feel like we were a part of it all," says Krystal. "But in the back of our minds was always that dreadful thought of 'What if - what if she changes her mind and decides to parent?' There is never a guarantee... the birth parents can and do back out at any given time."
The couple had exhausted their financial resources to pay for agency fees and other required adoption costs, and felt like this was their last chance. If it didn't work out this time, they couldn't afford to do it again.
Krystal recalls her mom asking Derek how he was feeling, since he didn't seem to be as excited as Krystal was.
"And I will never forget his answer," Krystal says: "'I just don't want to get my hopes up. If it falls through I need to be strong for Krystal and make sure she is alright. I will be excited when I know that he is ours.'"
Ups and downs
In mid-November, the couple's fears seemed to be confirmed. They started seeing changes in the birth mom; she stopped answering their pre-arranged calls and wasn't returning their messages.
A consultant at the adoption agency tried to assuage their fears, saying this was Carol's way of disconnecting from the baby. For the next month, that's the way the Boyds perceived it.
At the end of December, they flew out to Texas to attend a Dec. 23 ultrasound appointment. The baby was due in less than a week.
Carol had invited them down for the appointment, and went baby shopping with them the day before. The Boyds wanted her to feel as included as possible, as long as she was comfortable with it. They spent two hours picking out bibs, blankets, onesies and other baby necessities. Krystal says they all had an "amazing" time together, and calls it a memory she'll never forget.
But the next day, the Boyds waited around in their hotel room for Carol to call them about the ultrasound, and never heard from her.
"We waited and waited and waited - no phone call," says Krystal. "I tried to call and leave her a message, with no response back. So once again... we both couldn't sleep, and I think we were trying to prepare ourselves for the outcome of going home without what we originally had come for."
The next day was Christmas Eve, and the Boyds found themselves far away from family, feeling isolated and nervous about the adoption. They tried to stay positive and keep themselves distracted, going out to dinner that night and seeing a movie, but they heard nothing from Carol all day and became increasingly worried.
Christmas Day came, and they started fearing the worst.
"I was tired, crabby, quiet, depressed and terrified," Krystal says. "We tried to make the most of Christmas day together, but it was hard to be cheerful in a hotel room, with nothing but time to think."
Finally, that evening, they got a call from Carol. She told them she had been sick, but was feeling better now. Her ultrasound was rescheduled for the 27th, and the Boyds were again invited to go. The conversation made them feel hopeful again.
When the day of the rescheduled appointment came, however, they found themselves waiting again for Carol's call. They finally heard from her at 9 p.m. that night, long after the appointment was over. She apologized for not calling, but the Boyds weren't happy. Once again, they felt like the whole deal might fall apart.
A son is born
The following day, Dec. 28, things started to take a turn for the better. Krystal and Derek met Carol and her mom, sister and niece for lunch, and the meeting went well. Carol's mom pulled Krystal aside and assured her that everything was going to be okay.
"Her words were so heartfelt, and her eyes so loving and kind, that it made me feel a bit more at ease," Krystal says.
They found out that Carol's labor was going to be induced at 8 a.m. on the 30th, and they made a plan to be there for the baby's birth. Carol invited Krystal to be in the room with her while he was being born.
The labor was slow to progress, but by about 3 p.m., the time had come.
"My emotions took over as I walked the hallway to her room," Krystal recalls. "Carol was sitting up in bed, and the first thing she said to me was, 'Are you ready?' As I held her hand and her mom held the other, 'we' had a baby... The hospital knew of the adoption plan, and asked if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I took (Carol's mom's) hand, and together we cut."
The baby was a healthy 8 pound, 8 ounce, 21-inch-long boy. As the nurses cleaned him up, Krystal thanked Carol, tears streaming down her face. She went to the waiting area to share the good news with Derek.
"I turned the corner and, as I did, Derek looked up and started walking my way. I fell into his arms and lost it," she says. "I pulled away, looked up and said, 'Congrats, Daddy!' Derek and I just stood there in silence for awhile holding each other. It felt good!"
Derek remembers that moment well, too.
"It was the first time throughout this process I cried," he says. "I felt, at that moment, some weight was lifted off our shoulders."
About 15 minutes later, they got to hold their son for the first time.
They were over the moon about the little guy, but there was still a nagging fear that Carol might change her mind about the adoption. So, the next day, Krystal spent some time with her, one-on-one, to talk to her about the decision.
"I wanted her to be 100 percent sure this is what she wanted to do, as we didn't want her to have any regrets," says Krystal. "She reassured us this was the best decision, for everyone... My heart ached for her. I was so happy for our family, but hurt for her and her family - it's a feeling you just can't explain."
Carol wanted the Boyds to name the baby, and they decided on Traesyn Michael James. They brought him back to the hotel with them on Jan. 1, a fitting date for this new start to their new lives as a threesome.
With them, they brought pictures of Carol and her family, to show to Traesyn when he gets a little older, as well as gifts for him from the family. The Boyds plan to stay in touch with the birth family so Traesyn can get to know them later in life, if he so chooses. He also has a half-brother that they want him to know about.
After a couple more weeks in Texas, completing more adoption paperwork, the Boyds were free to fly home with their son. Their feelings of relief grew stronger as they got closer to home, and they couldn't wait to introduce their families to their new little addition.
"I was excited to get home and for our families to meet our son," says Derek. "They have been big supporters throughout this process and we were excited for them, as well."
Krystal also credits the support of their employers for helping to make the adoption possible. She works for the Perham-Dent School District as its food service director; Derek is the manager of Warner Garage Door in Park Rapids.
After they got back home to Wadena, there were still more hoops for the Boyds to jump through, and there was plenty more paperwork to be filled out, but on Sept. 14, the adoption was final - the Boyds officially became parents.
The process was lengthy, emotional and expensive for them, and Krystal says it's not something she and Derek plan to go through again; but, "I would do it all over again if I knew he (Traesyn) would be the outcome."
"Traesyn has brought so much joy to our families - a lot of sleepless nights, too," she says. "He is very independent, outgoing, into everything, doesn't miss a beat and the center of our world."
"I couldn't be happier," adds Derek.