A few weeks ago, the Rutherford house seemed empty. Just Heath and his wife Meredith lived there, and that’s if Meredith wasn’t out of the country.
Now, the house has become a home, with two children arriving via what their parents consider to be separate blessings and miracles.
At the dinner table, 18-month-old son Rocklyn has a snack of oranges and bananas with Heath, while Meredith’s mother, Sandy Howard, holds 2-week-old daughter Camden.
The former arrived last Saturday in Clovis after an 18-month international adoption process from the Bethel Hogar orphanage in Juarez, Mexico. The latter came home from the hospital two Mondays ago, a surprise pregnancy halfway into the adoption process for Rocklyn.
“We didn’t think we could have children,” Meredith explained, before Heath said the couple was told by her doctor that they couldn’t have children.
The two have known each other for six-and-a-half years, and got married about a year after they met. When they started to broach the subject of a family, they believed adoption was their only choice. Some friends at church recommended the orphanage, and Meredith had visited on a mission trip in her teens.
“I told my parents, ‘I’m going to adopt a baby from there some day,’” she said.
The couple worked with the orphanage, and came by way of a teenage girl who offered to give up her baby for adoption and sign him over when she turned 18. Meredith stayed in Mexico from just before Rocklyn’s May 25 birth until July 1, and then drove back and forth between Juarez and Clovis.
The cycle continued for months: Three weeks in Juarez, one week in Clovis. Deal with red tape. Repeat.
“During the whole process,” Meredith said, “Mexico would change a law, the U.S. would change a form. Mexico would fire somebody, the U.S. would tell us where else to go.”
Bureaucracy wasn’t the only issue. The couple was away from each other for weeks at a time; Meredith bonded with Rocklyn, and Heath visited during days off from being general sales manager for the Bender family of dealerships. Both were worried about the dangers of being in Juarez, well-known for border violence.
“You can tell (during the television news) when they’re in a bad neighborhood,” Meredith said. “The reporter will be in the back seat of a car doing the report.”
No matter what, the couple said, there was no giving up. After they held 2-day-old Rocklyn, Meredith said, coming up short wasn’t an option. Not even when Meredith had morning sickness around March.
Only immediate family and very close friends found out about the pregnancy.
“We didn’t tell anybody until October; we had to keep it a secret,” Meredith said. “With Mexico, if you have a child, they won’t let you adopt.”
Camden Rutherford was born Nov. 13 in Amarillo, and she was released from the hospital the next day. Five days after that, the paperwork cleared and an only daughter quickly had an older brother.
“He pats her, he says, ‘Baby,’ he leans his head on her head,” Meredith said of Rocklyn.
The process has given the Rutherfords patience they’ll undoubtedly need for raising children. After brushing their teeth with bottled water and heating water on a stove to wash dishes for weeks at a time, it’s not an emergency when the water heater fails in Clovis.
“There’s so much we have in the U.S. that we take for granted,” Heath said.
And they’re not going to complain about Heath’s occasional celebrity ribbing. Yes, that’s him in the Bender television ads yelling at salesman Langdon Brown for getting into ridiculous contrived situations. Yes, everybody mentions it — even the nurses in Amarillo who were minutes away from delivering his daughter.
“You tell Langdon he needs to straighten up,” Heath said with a smile, recalling the words of a 70-year-old woman at the hospital.
They’re also more cognizant of others who go through hardships.
“We appreciate the military so much more; they leave their families for months and years at a time,” Meredith said. “We were at least (only) six hours away. We could always go across the border and have an iced tea at Sonic.”
Throughout the process, Meredith said, Clovis residents were more than willing to help. If the orphanage needed food, a quick call put out a local alert for a small food drive. When Meredith would go for a haircut, the staff refused to take her money, and said to use that amount on the orphanage.
Also, Meredith said, people in Clovis and around the country prayed for them.
“That’s the only way we’ve made it.”