Emily Rose Esterline chowed on her favorite cinnamon sugar doughnuts at the Tuscola County Pumpkin Festival on Friday – minutes after being legally adopted by her new parents, Ryan and Stacy Esterline of Vassar.
Emily, 10 months, gobbled her favorite pastry from the Donut Diner, one of the food stands along Sherman Street next to the Tuscola County Courthouse, where Probate Judge Nancy Thane conducted the adoption proceeding for Emily.
“We have waited 273 days for today,” said Stacy Esterline, 31, whose husband, Ryan Esterline, works at Wolverine Human Services Inc. in Vassar and is co-coach of the Vassar High School cross-country team.
“We have it down to a day and I can almost give you an exact hour, so if that tells you anything, we are pretty excited,” Stacy Esterline said on Friday afternoon. “We have been waiting as patiently as we possibly could for today to get here – to finally be able to say that she’s officially ours. It’s amazing.”
The Esterlines, and their friends and relatives, enjoyed doughnuts as part of the Tuscola County Pumpkin Festival outside the courthouse to celebrate their adoption of Emily, the first child “What can be better than an adoption ceremony and doughnuts?” Stacy Esterline asked.
The Esterlines weren’t able to have children after Ryan Esterline was diagnosed with testicular cancer, though he has been cancer-free for three years.
“Our best friends and my daughter’s godparents, Matt and Melissa Sandusky of Millington, are now in the process of adopting Emily’s brother,” Stacy Esterline said. “That’s a nice little blessing for us. An added bonus.
“They introduced us 11 years ago and here we are sharing siblings. God has worked in mysterious ways for us. They can’t have children, either, and we never in a million years thought that the four of us would be on this path together.”
Following the adoption proceeding Friday, the Esterlines happily devoured doughnuts from the Donut Diner, a food stand operated by their friends, Dennis and Vicki Bragg, of Trenary in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The adoption party continued Friday night, as the Esterlines and Sanduskys prepared to buy pizza from Finish Line Pizza in Vassar, ice cream from Vassar’s Central Shop Rite and aimed to watch the Disney movie, “The Jungle Book,” at the Sandusky home in Millington.
“We’re going to make celebratory ice cream sundaes, because Emily adores ice cream,” Stacy Esterline said.
The two families plan to visit Johnson’s Giant Pumpkins farm in Saginaw County’s Buena Vista Township today.
“One of the first things we did was finally post photos on Facebook, on my husband’s page, my page, our parents’ pages, my siblings’ pages,” Stacy Esterline said. “We decided that until Emily was legally ours, we wouldn’t post photos.”
The Esterlines plan to attend the Tuscola County Pumpkin Festival parade at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ve been to the festival before, but now I get to experience it as a mommy,” Stacy Esterline said. “It’s a whole different Pumpkin Festival.”
Emily’s new grandparents are Mike and Barbara Esterline of Vassar, and Stacy Esterline’s parents, Chuck Jevicks of Bay City and Teresa Jevicks of Clio.
“My mom’s got other grandbabies in Clio and they came first, so she moved to Clio to be closer to grandbabies,” Stacy Esterline said. “But I just gave her the first girl, so I’m pretty sure she’s gonna come back to Vassar.”
Mike and Barbara Esterline have two grandsons, and now they have Emily.
“She’s the first granddaughter on both sides,” Stacy Esterline said. “She’s a princess.”
Stacy Esterline found out about the possibility of adopting her daughter during a stunning chat with a co-worker at Diplomat Pharmacy in Clio.
“You never in 100 years thought the day would get there,” Stacy Esterline said. “I work with a girl who knew that we couldn’t have kids, and one day she came up to me and asked ‘Hey, by any chance, would you and your husband like to adopt a 10-day-old baby?’ I said ‘That’s not funny. You don’t say that to people who can’t have kids.’
“She said ‘No, I’m serious.’”
The co-worker’s cousin had given birth to a daughter, but the mother encountered mental problems after being involved in a car crash, and the state was preparing to take the child, Stacy Esterline said. Esterline’s co-worker at the pharmacy was the baby’s guardian.
“She showed me this picture of this little girl who looks identical to my husband with his great blue eyes, and I just stood at her desk and started crying,” Stacy Esterline said. “I said ‘Are you serious right now?’ She said ‘Yes.’
“Twelve days later we met the little girl for the first time, and that was the day her birth mother asked my husband and I if we would adopt her daughter.”
The Esterlines changed the girl’s first name to Emily, and the baby has lived with them in Vassar for about nine months. Stacy Esterline took some time off from her job at the pharmacy, but plans to return to work soon.
“I got to stay at home and experience a whole lot of firsts with Emily while we went through our adoption process,” she said.
There also have been plenty of “seconds” – as in helpings of cinnamon sugar doughnuts, and ice cream.
“Emily’s a perfect angel,” Stacy Esterline said. “She was six weeks premature and weighed five pounds, but she’s as healthy as can be.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org