Derek and Emily Berry of Lugoff were married in November 2009 and like any other couple, wanted to start a family. Emily had a heart for adoption.
“A lot of people really want a child that looks like them … for some reason I didn’t really care about that,” Emily said.
Emily talked to her husband about considering adoption.
“I had never really thought about adoption. When Emily brought it up she had read several books, and researched it ... I figured that it would be fine,” Derek said.
Nearly two years later, Derek and Emily would welcome Luke into their lives.
Both proud parents describe Luke’s temperament as sweet and generally docile, as long as his feedings stay on schedule.
“He’s always been extremely happy -- just smiling and laughing. He’s not very fussy. If he is fussy, it’s usually because I haven’t remembered to make his bottle on time,” Derek said.
Luke is obviously a happy baby, quick to smile and generous with laughs. An observer will also note that Luke’s brown skin doesn’t quite match with his parent’s. That’s because Luke is African American.
“It’s not really an issue, sometimes people might ask, is he black? They might feel a little strange at first but then they’re like, ‘Oh, OK!’” Emily said.
Derek shared how people sometimes assume that Luke is from another country when he was actually adopted locally.
“People aren’t rude or anything, just curious, they want to know where he is from,” Derek said.
“We have babies right here in America who need homes,” Emily added, smiling at Luke.
Derek is a teacher at Lugoff-Elgin High School while Emily is now a stay-at home mom. She chose to do so because she didn’t want to miss Luke’s growing up.
“It goes so fast,” she said about her son who went from a newborn her husband could hold across his forearm to a chubby, bubbly 6-month-old.
For the Berry’s, and typical of any adoption, the adoption process was long and expensive. They fundraised to help cover adoption costs by selling crafts and even Christmas trees. They also started a website -- As His Own -- as a way to share their story and raise money for Luke’s adoption.
The wait for their first child was Emily’s most difficult part of the entire process.
“I would say that the waiting was the hardest. We actually went through a failed adoption attempt. We had been chosen by a birth mom but she decided to parent after she had the child, which happens … but it was still really hard because we had planned for that child,” Emily said recalling the incident. “Then Luke came along and now we can’t imagine having anyone else.”
The Berry’s went through Bethany Christian Services to adopt their son. Derek was particularly drawn to that agency because of its Christian roots and the care it provides to its birth mothers.
“They take care of the birth mom (at no charge to her) throughout her life. So if she ever wants counseling or anything like that, then she has that at her disposal through Bethany. It’s a little bit more for the adoption because of that but … we wanted to make sure that the birth mom was taken care of, too. I mean, that’s a very special person to give their child up for adoption,” Derek said.
Derek and Emily were chosen by Luke’s birth mother to be his parents. They were notified of Luke’s birth after they came home from work on a Friday.
“We got a call that Luke had been born Thursday night and that we were top candidates … we were told we needed to be ready because Sunday we’d probably take him home” Derek said. “I was super nervous, too. If we had been pregnant we would know the date and some other things ahead of time.”
Just like any other first-time parents, Emily and Derek are enjoying the challenges and joys of parenthood and can’t wait to see how Luke’s personality will develop.
“It makes getting up in the mornings nicer when you go to get him and he smiles at you,” Emily said.
They also want the best for their son, and want to make sure that he knows the story of how he came into their family when he is ready.
“We don’t know what it will be like for Luke, we don’t know what he wants … but we want him to know his story … then he can tell what his story is whenever he is ready to,” Derek said.