By ANGIE FENTON
Connie Leonard and Kent Taylor tell stories for a living.
But the tale of how the WAVE 3 news anchor/reporter and sports director, respectively, became parents to Emerson Mackenzie Taylor is almost too much even for the veteran broadcasters to believe.
The couple, who married Aug. 7, 1999, quietly decided to start a family a decade ago. “We were pregnant a couple of times and it didn’t work out, and that was really hard,” Connie said. “That’s why we didn’t tell anybody.”
Eventually, Connie and Kent decided to try in vitro fertilization (IUVF). “There were weeks when …we drove to Cincinnati three times a week – this is after working (at the news station) until midnight, go to the appointment, drive back and go to work.
When IVF didn’t work, the two took some time off and reconsidered their options.
“That’s when we thought why not try adoption?” said Connie.
At first, they pursued international adoption, but that didn’t pan out. On the advice of a friend, they began to look closer to home for a child who needed a family.
The months drifted by as Kent and Connie waited for the call, which finally came in February 2012. Excited about becoming parents to a baby boy, the duo anxiously awaited his arrival. But at the last minute, the biological mother decided to keep the child, a bittersweet decision “that was pretty crushing,” Connie said. “I cannot tell you how many (news) stories I was on of people beating their children and killing their kids. And here we were. We love kids and can’t have one? Every time I was doing one of those stories, I was getting really depressed.”
After bouncing back from the disappointment, we “spread the web” even further, said Kent, and wound up working with a Cincinnati-based lawyer who specialized in private adoption.
“They really put the baby ahead of themselves,” Connie said.
“It just felt right,” Kent added.
“It was like, Now it all makes sense that we had to go through all of this for the past 10 years,” Connie said. “We had to wait for her.”
The due date was Sept. 8, but on Aug. 16, Kent received a text that the baby had been born in a small town in Pennsylvania. Two days later, they were on the road.
“When we left, we had no nursery, we’d had flooding inside our home and the windows had just been put in so the furniture was all over the place,” Kent said.
But they left anyway, driving through the night, taking turns at the wheel. When exhaustion set in, they exited the highway. Every hotel was booked. They drove 20 minutes further. All of the hotels were booked because of a “murder mystery thing,” Connie laughed. At the next exit there was a goat convention. So they drove on. Finally they found a hotel, and rested for awhile before heading to a restaurant where they were to meet with the lawyer and the birth parents. Thirty minutes after the agreed upon meeting time, the couple text the attorney, “We’re nervous.” Connie and Kent held their breath.
At least they hoped the tiny girl was theirs.
First the birth parents had to sign over their rights, though Kent and Connie also agreed to keep them up to date on Emerson’s progress. Then, on Aug. 22, Kent and Connie were allowed to take baby Emerson to their hotel, but they weren’t allowed to leave the state until they were given the proper clearance, a process that could take days, weeks, even – in extreme cases – months.
“At this point, we’d maxed out our credit cards and didn’t have much left in the bank,” said Kent. Flooding in the home, car repairs and repeated in vitro fertilization attempts had taken a toll.
“My boss, (WAVE 3 News Director) Kathy Hostetter was awesome,” Connie said. “Not only did she say go do what you need to do, she was sending us Starbucks cards and her husband was from Pennsylvania, so they were helping us navigate.”
At this point, Connie and Kent decided to let the secret out. As they sat in their hotel room with their newborn, they began receiving congratulatory emails from their colleagues. “That’s when Emerson really felt like ours. We felt like parents,” Connie recalled. “Kent was reading all of the emails … and we both just began to cry. We’d kept everything in.”
While the couple awaited approval to proceed to Ohio and then Kentucky, their WAVE 3 colleagues held a diaper drive. “We have not had to buy a diaper yet,” Kent laughed.
Close friends Joey Brown and Kevin Harned surprised the new parents by depositing a “large sum of money in my bank account,” Connie said. “I just started crying. Again.”
On Aug. 30, Kent, Connie and Emerson arrived in Louisville to find their family had cleaned the house and put the furniture back in its place. Their dogs, Maddie and Hank, were well taken care of and anxious to sniff the tiny bundle.
Now, months later, Kent and Connie have eased into a routine that allows them to work together on the night broadcasts, thanks to family and friends who assist with Emerson.
“It’s crazy, all the moving parts of it,” said Kent, “but she is so loved. We make it work. You just figure it out.”
“Someone wanted us to have her,” added Connie. “I just feel like we found her and she found us. We just had to wait for it. Now we look at her every night and say, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s ours.’”