Natasha Daniels is an author and motivational speaker. She and her husband, Billy “Slick” Daniels, have been married for for 21 years. They have five children, all of whom were adopted: Micah (17), Romah (15), Zhenya (14), Bogdana Grace (10) and Vicka Adele (9). Natasha also has a ministry called Living Hope.
WP: You and your husband struggled with infertility. Can you talk to me about the toll the struggles put on you?
ND: Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). I grappled with that verse for years. I was delighting in the Lord, I loved him, and I lived for him, but he was not fulfilling his promise to me.
I dreamed of growing up, marrying my Prince Charming and having six kids! I never imagined that I would struggle with infertility and the shattered dreams of becoming a mommy. I suffered the storm of infertility for years. Friends and others around me didn’t understand my pain and didn’t see infertility as a loss, but it is. I grieved what never would be, I grieved the barrenness of my womb and the life I had planned for myself. I felt less of a woman because I couldn’t have kids. I often felt that my husband deserved a wife that could give him a family. Slick didn’t feel that way at all. He loved me through it, and he was so strong and supportive. He comforted me during my grief, and he hurt for me. Slick was my rock and he always knew just what to say and how to make me laugh.
I was hurt, confused and angry. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was angry at God. I thought he was letting me down. Even though I was angry with God, I still yearned to be comforted by him and still yearned to read his word. The more I ran to him and the more I read his word the more I healed from my pain and the more I knew that he was not letting me down but that he loved me deeply.
The Lord also opened my eyes to his truth that he was not the one taking life from me, but that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but he comes to give life and give it abundantly. The Lord also revealed to be that the verse I grappled with, Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart, didn’t mean he would necessarily give me what I wanted, but he wanted me to have faith in him and to worship him while I waited. So, I worshiped, and I waited.
You see, I wanted my plans of motherhood to be fulfilled one way, but the Lord wanted to fulfill them in another way. At that time, I changed my prayer from, “Lord, please let me become pregnant, to, “Lord, please let me become a mommy” and I am overjoyed to say I am now a mommy to five beautiful children through adoption.
When I started living by faith through my brokenness, I found hope in Jesus. I was so wrapped up in what I wanted I wasn’t listening to what he wanted. The Lord did want to give me the desires of my heart in his time and in his way.
Ecclesiastes 3:11a says, He has made everything beautiful in its time.
WP: Seventeen years ago, you and your husband adopted a six-week-old baby. Tell me about the emotional process you went through.
ND: Oh wow, to think back seventeen years ago, when we were blessed with Micah brings tears to my eyes. I remember when Slick and I received the phone call that we were chosen to be his parents I was in disbelief. I was anxious and overwhelmed with fear and joy all at the same time.
I remember vividly driving to the church with anticipation to meet the birth parents and this precious six-week old baby boy. It seemed so surreal. We went into the church office with our pastor at the time, he prayed with us as we waited for the family to join us.
The door opened to the little office and in walked our pastor and the family. As soon as they walked in, they handed me the baby. He was precious, he was so beautiful. Micah had blond hair, blue eyes and he was the chunkiest thing ever. He was wearing a striped shirt with little sweatpants that match, and he was wrapped in a bluish green blanket. I could not contain my emotions, I cried as I held him, I could not believe this was really happening. Slick was talking with the parents and my mind was in a dream, I was hardly listening to the conversation. At one point I heard my husband say, “How can you just give your baby to complete strangers?” I glared at my husband wanting him to stop asking questions and just say yes to taking this bundle of joy home. I was about to interject when the dad replied, “Well, we can’t care for him and I hear you and your wife want children and have not been successful in conceiving, so we feel God has created Micah for you.” My husband had nothing to say after that, he shook his hand. The tears were flowing down my face as I held on to this precious gift that was in my arms. I fell in love with him instantly, I was his mommy. I was already so in love with him. My joy and love for Micah is no different than when a mom gives birth to her baby. I was excited and scared all at the same time, I didn’t expect things to move so fast and I was not prepared for a baby, but my heart was beyond ready. I also had a fear of this not being real and wanted to guard my heart, but I had already given it away.
Since it was a Saturday evening, I assumed I would give this precious baby back to his biological parents and then on Monday we would take the next steps to make things legal and bring him home with us soon. Well God had other plans. As we were sitting there and talking, the parents asked, “Will you adopt him, we said, “Yes.” Then they asked, “Can you take him home tonight and on Monday, we will go to the courthouse and make you legal guardians as you moved forward with the adoption process.” I looked at my husband, and then at our pastor because I didn’t know if we were allowed to do that, but I was willing, and my adrenaline was through the roof. John wrote up a little man-made contract and had us each sign it and made copies of our driver’s license.
I could not believe I walked into church on that Saturday evening with so much anticipation, hope and excitement and literally left the church a few hours later with a baby boy in my arms and my desires of motherhood fulfilled. As we drove home, I was still in disbelief, I felt like I was in a dream and I never wanted to wake up from it. Slick and I walked in our home as a family of three and we were both smiling so big and our hearts were overflowing. We called friends and family and told them that we had a baby, and no one could believe our miracle. We had no baby items, we needed everything from formula, diapers, clothes, a car seat, crib you name it we needed it. Within one hour of making phone calls to friends sharing our news our house was filled with people, pizza and every baby thing we could ever imagine. Our friends brought us a crib and started setting it up in the bedroom. I called my best friend Connie, I said, Connie, “Guess what I have?” she replied, “Natasha, shut up, you have the baby right now?” It didn’t take her long to rush to my house and get her hands on him. She didn’t come empty handed either, she brought clothes, milk, bottles, diapers, a car seat and everything she had to share with us to make sure we were set and that our baby had what he needed. The genuine love, joy and support we received from our friends was overwhelming. I could feel God in the midst of that night as they all gathered in our home and supplied all our baby needs without us even asking. They all took turns holding our precious Micah and telling us how beautiful he was and how God had just given us a miracle.
When everyone went home and it was just me, my husband and Micah, I allowed my emotions to consume me. I cried as I held Micah and was in awe of how the Lord provided all we needed through his people. I looked around my house and at all the baby items that were given to us and how quickly the baby room was put together with so much love. Not long after everyone left, we received a phone call from John telling us that Micah’s biological parents called, saying they may have made a mistake and that family members were mad at what they did. I wanted to take this baby and run away. I could not fathom giving him back, he was mine. “God what are you doing? “Raged inside of me.” “Why God would you play with my emotions like this.” I didn’t understand, I begged him to let us keep him. I couldn’t sleep that night as I was still in total shock that we had a baby and I was worried we were going to have to give him back.
Micah did well his first night with us. Slick and I gave him a bath and he screamed his head off the whole time. We got him all dried off and put a sweet little pajama on him that Connie gave us. I made him a warm bottle and rocked him. He smelled so good. As he sucked on his bottle and snuggled into me, he fell asleep. I didn’t want to lay him down, I wanted to embrace the moment and take him all in and I did just that. As I held Micah and rocked him, I prayed over him and pleaded with God to allow me to be his mom forever. My heart was full and heavy all at the same time. I didn’t want morning to come because the fear of his parents changing their mind and wanting him back was crippling. We didn’t get much sleep that night.
Well his parents did not change their mind they knew they made the right choice and did as they said they would. On Monday morning we signed legal guardian papers and November 2003, just a few weeks after Micah’s first birthday and the day before Thanksgiving Micah became legally ours and we are still so in love with him and thankful that the Lord chose us to be his parents.
Yes, our family became big overnight! In April of 2015 we heard about a ministry program called “Grace to Ukraine.” It’s a hosting and outreach program for the orphaned and impoverished. We signed up to host two brothers for the summer.
WP: Three years ago, your family got even bigger when you adopted a group of four siblings. Talk about a huge decision! Were you nervous about bringing so many new children into your home at one time?
ND: Romah was 9 and Zhenya was 10. The goal was to love them and give them a great summer with no strings attached. If we wanted to pursue adoption, we could. We were told that if we chose to adopt them, they came with two little sisters and the youngest one has special needs and they were a package deal. They could not speak English and that was a hardship in itself and their behavior over the summer was awful, but at the end of the day these boys would take a shower and run out to me and say, “Me shower and now me baby!” That meant they wanted me to hold them, rock them and love them like a baby and I did every night for six weeks. I fell in love with these boys right away. They needed a mommy and I was available. Slick was not so easily committed. After wrestling with God, he surrendered, and we started the long, hard, expensive journey of adopting all four of these precious children from an orphanage in Ukraine.
In October of 2015 I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine with the missionary who started “Grace to Ukraine.” It was an amazing experience. I was able to reconnect with the boys and assure them that we were doing everything we could to bring them home. I also had the honor to meet our girls. They were beautiful. Bogdana Grace was 6 and Vicka Adele was 5. Bogdana just smiled at me and kept hugging me and talking to me. Even though we could not understand each other we felt a bonding mother daughter love right away.
Vicka Adele was a doll. I had to visit with her separately since she has special needs. I loved her the moment I saw her. She was precious with her two little pig tails, chubby round cheeks, big brown eyes and a smile that melted my heart instantly. The translator introduced me and told her I was her American mommy. Her face lit up and she lunged toward me with the biggest hug and her joy was priceless, but what she did next really touched me. She started smelling me, she smelled me from my head to me toes, she was taking me all in. The translator asked her why she was smelling me, this is what she said, “I don’t ever want to forget the smell of my American mommy!” You see, all the kids in the orphanage have the same smell and my smell was different, she was taking me all in so she could remember me until I was able to bring her home.
After spending many months in Ukraine, we were finally able to head back home to sweet home Alabama as a family of seven. We returned home on May 13, 2017 the day before Mother’s Day. I was smiling ear to ear as we sat as a family in church that Sunday.
I was very fearful throughout our adoption. There were times the paperwork was not in our favor and I didn’t think we were going to be able to bring them home. There were times when I was worried, I wouldn’t be able to handle five kids and their behavior. I have always homeschooled Micah and I planned to homeschool the others. I had some fear and concerns on how I was going to be able to do that. I prayed about it and trusted the Lord in that area and everything else. The kids all school well and have learned so much in the three years they have been home with us.
They had a lot of healing to do, but they came home with us ready for a new life. They healed and did a complete 180 on their behavior and they have bonded and truly love us and called us mom and dad from the very beginning. Sometimes I still can’t believe they are ours.
WP: Not only did you add multiple siblings into your family, but you brought them into a new country. What are some things you did to help with that transition?
I believe without a doubt homeschooling is one of the best decisions we made. We are able to bond as a family and we have learned to live as a family together. The children have all learned English just by us talking to them daily and they know that they can trust us and that we truly love them and want them to have hope and a bright future.
ND: When we just had Micah, we were part of a large homeschool group and a large church, but when we brought our other kids’ home, they were very scared of the new surroundings, so we enrolled into a smaller homeschool group called Faith Academy in Enterprise and joined Church With U in Ozark. Both of those decisions were life changing for me and my husband and it helped the kids adjust better and feel more comfortable.
By God’s grace we have bonded as a family and the transitions my kids made in adjusting to a new family, a new way of life, a new language, and a new way to love amazes me daily. How the Lord rescued their heart and soul and the 180 they made in their life for Christ since bringing them home is a testimony of the God we serve.
WP: Your youngest daughter has special needs. How did you adjust your parenting style to ensure all of her needs are being met while not neglecting her siblings?
ND: Three Months after bringing the kids home Vicka Adele had to have a major brain surgery to save her life. We were assigned to specialist doctors in Pensacola Fl. I was upset at first that there was nothing closer to get her the care she needed. I thought we were going to have to leave our other four kids behind with friends and family as we spent much time in Pensacola with Vicka Adele. I was beyond thrilled when we found out about the Ronald McDonald House in Pensacola. We were able to go as a family and stay together, with no cost and all meals and snacks provided. Even now when we have to go to appointments or when we have a medical emergency we are able to stay at the RMH that is right across the street from the hospital and If Vicka Adele is in the hospital, I stay with her and Slick stays at the RMH with our other kids and they are able to come up and visit. If Vicka Adele just as a series of appointments the doctors send referrals to the RMH and we are able to stay there for the week. It has been the greatest blessing for us because it’s free and all food is provided. They also have sponsors that provide fun family opportunity. We have been given vouchers to take the kids for haircuts, to go ride go carts and play miniature golf and a packed lunch as we enjoyed the beach along with many other fun-in house activities such as arts and crafts, games, a playground with a basketball goal and so much more.
The Ronald McDonald House has made life with a special needs’ child a blessing. I honestly don’t know what we would do without it.
WP: Blending a family together, whether through adoption or marriage, can be a tough transition. How did your oldest son adapt to having four new siblings? Did you do anything special to help foster good relationships between them all?
ND: Micah longed for siblings for years. He was excited to finally have brothers, his sister’s well they have grown on him ha-ha! He loves that he is not an only child anymore. All the kids have their moments of sibling rivalry but for the most part they love each other and have bonded.
Slick and I though Micah was going to need some special one on one time and have moments where he struggled not having us all to himself but that has not been the case. He adjusted well and loved having someone to play with and now he loves that he has brothers to hang out with and sisters to entertain.
Micah is a great kid. He loves God, he loves life and loves people. He can play the drums something fierce and I am excited to see how the Lord is going to use him in the future. His dad and I do have one on one time with him and we are soaking him all in as he will turn eighteen in November and start working and growing up. It’s bittersweet.
WP: What would you say is the most rewarding thing about being an adoptive parent?
ND: The most rewarding thing about being an adoptive parent is knowing we gave them a chance at life and a chance to live life abundantly with hope. Our children have been through some very extreme abuse so to be able show them our love and the love of Jesus has been so rewarding. I told our kids they had two ways to view life and God. I said, “You can be angry at God for your life and what happen to you” or “You can thank God for how he rescued you and gave you a better future.” They have all chosen to be thankful and they are thriving in abundant life and in God’s love today.
WP: As a mom, you know that being busy is just a part of life. How do you make sure you don’t burn out?
ND: Spending time with God is essential. I need him daily to be the best mom and wife I can be. I also take time for myself and go out with my mom and with friends without my kids and I never feel guilty.
I have daily chores for each child in the morning and after dinner. All my kids do their own laundry. They each have a day of the week to wash their clothes and bedsheets and they fold and put their clothes away and put new sheets on their bed.
I color code all my kids, for example Micah is blue, Romah is red, Zhenya is green, Bogdana Grace is pink and Vicka Adele is purple. Their towels, water bottles, tooth- brushes, school binders etc. are either their color or marked in their color and it makes it easier for me to know whose it is and it also encourages them to keep their things cleaned and put up because they can’t blame it on anyone else, or say, “It’s not mine.” Ha-ha
We work together as a family and we clean up after ourselves. It makes life better for all of us that way and I have more time to spend with them because I am not constantly doing housework.
WP: What advice would you give to a family considering adoption?
ND: Pray! Listen to the Lord’s voice and make sure he is calling you to adopt. If the Lord calls you to it, go boldly to his calling and be his hands and feet.
Love! Love them unconditionally. It is easy to love and bond with a sweet brand-new baby, it can be more of a challenge to love and bond with older children, they come with lots of baggage, hurt, anger and feel so unwanted already. Love them through it, help them unpack their baggage and let them know it’s ok to be angry and hurt. Love and support each other’s differences. Be patient and make sure they know they are loved and wanted by you but more importantly by God.
Our kids have brought so much joy, celebration, hope and healing to our life and my husband and I brought so much joy, celebration, hope and healing to their life. We are not perfect, and we are all still healing in some ways and we all have our faults and failures, but his love and grace covers all our wrongs and we love each other through the moments..
WP: What about those who are struggling with infertility?
ND: For any family struggling with infertility, you are not alone. The Lord knows the desires of your heart. He sees every tear you cry, and he longs to fill that void. I encourage you to draw near to him and he will draw near to you. If you are hurting, angry and confused look to him, live by faith and you will find his hope during the trials of your life. Jesus loves you and he wants the best for you. Worship him while you wait.
WP: You’ve just signed a book deal to publish a memoir about your family’s journey. Congratulations, by the way! When can people expect that to be out, and where will they be able to find it?
ND: I am so excited about this and a little nervous because I have never considered myself a writer, but I have a story to tell for the Lords glory and hope to share with others. I am still in the process of writing my memoir and going through coaching and editing with Redemption Press Publishing. They are working with me and we are looking roughly at six months until my manuscript is completed and then it could take up to a year for it to be published. It will be in all major bookstores and available on amazon.