Police Officer Jesse Whitten and wife Ashley, former Save the Storks team members, share their personal testimony of connecting with a homeless woman and later adopting her baby.
Harlow Whitten has a safe place to call home because of her new parents. Jesse and Ashley Whitten adopted their six-month-old daughter after befriending Harlow’s biological mother and helping her through a rough pregnancy.
Jesse was the first one to encounter the mother, a homeless woman. He spoke with her frequently as part of his day-to-day patrol duties as a police officer.
“People always talk about the negative aspects of policing — the shooting, the fighting — but a lot of policing is simply talking to people,” Jesse shares.
As he got to know the woman, he learned that she had children in foster care who he and Ashley had become fond of. He saw her heart for her children and her desire for them to live good lives even though she battled drug addiction.
“She said she had nobody to turn to,” Jesse says.
Ashley, who used to be an ambassador and blog writer for Save the Storks, got to meet the woman when she rode along with Jesse one day. She noticed the woman was pregnant and asked about the baby. The woman gladly showed Ashley her belly and even let her touch the child. Little did Ashley know she was feeling her daughter for the first time.
The couple helped the woman as much as they could. When they took her to a rehab facility, she told them how much she wanted to get better for her children. Jesse and Ashley encouraged her to get better for herself first and foremost. As they continued their friendship with the woman, she gave them an ultrasound picture of the baby, which they displayed on their refrigerator. The woman mentioned that she wanted them to adopt her baby, but they weren’t sure if she was serious.
Then, Jesse and Ashley were at a Valentine’s party when they got a phone call from the hospital. They went over and spoke more with the woman in person. She was serious about what she was saying and asked them to take the baby in to be part of their family along with their three other daughters.
“She had this image of her daughter playing in tutus with her sisters,” Jesse shares.
The girls have been great with baby Harlow and were not confused by the concept of adoption, especially because of Ashley’s work with Save The Storks. The movement had a bigger foreshadowing on Harlow’s journey as the girls gave their baby sister the song “Blackbird” by the Beatles. In the Whitten family, each child is given a song based on what was playing from the playlist that plays when Ashley was giving birth.
And there’s more!
Harlow had an odd red mark on the back of her neck since she was born. She had gone through the typical symptoms of a baby recovering from exposure to drugs in utero, but Ashley had suspected it was a birthmark, so didn’t think much of it. But it grew redder, so she took Harlow to to the doctor to get it checked out. The doctor took one look and said, it was a birthmark indeed, and a common one called a “Stork Bite.”
“God was in the details of it all,” she says.
For their love and courage, Save The Storks has given the Whitten family $5,000 to help with the adoption process. The funds will also help the family as they have moved to a bigger house to accomodate their now-larger family.
“It will help us a lot with giving her a good place,” Jesse said of providing for baby Harlow just like her biological mother hoped for.
Jesse now issues a call for the community to step up to help pregnant mothers and for churches to be more involved in local systems such as foster care. He asks for a sense of understanding for what mothers are dealing with. And for the pregnant mothers who might feel helpless:
“There are a lot of people out there,” he says. “There’s people that would be willing to help at the drop of a hat. You just have to ask.”