When Kecia Cox adopted her son, Noah, in Ukraine in 2016, his birth mother spent a beautiful but heart-wrenching day saying goodbye to him.
Now, with war raging in Ukraine, Cox's powerful photos of that day are going viral.
"Noah was able to spend one day with both his mothers," Cox wrote. "One simple, beautiful day that we cherish as one of God's greatest gifts."
On April 15, Cox's family celebrated the sixth anniversary of bringing Noah home.
In recent weeks, Cox told TODAY Parents, she’s been revisiting their time in Kyiv, Ukraine with Noah’s birth mother, whom they call Nenya.
Noah spent nearly 10 months of his life in a Kyiv orphanage and his older adoptive sister, Mia, spent four years there. Both children were born with Down syndrome and given to orphanages by different birth mothers. When the Cox family saw Noah, he was malnourished, sick and would “surely have died,” Cox said, had he not been adopted.
His birth mother believed the orphanage was the best option for him, explained Cox, 43, of Murray, Utah. There was, at least, a glimmer of hope he would be adopted into a better life.
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“She [Nenya] never visited Noah, but she would call the orphanage periodically to see if anyone had shown an interest in him,” Cox said. “She was told if anyone would adopt him, it would most likely be an American family, so she started learning English just in case.”
As it happened, one of Nenya’s check-ins came when the Cox family was there to see Noah. Nenya asked if they could meet. They did, twice in the orphanage and once in Kyiv, where the photos were taken and they all said goodbye.
Nenya cried, Cox said, and “asked her boy to forgive her for leaving him in an orphanage.” Even though that moment occurred six years ago, Cox said she is able to go right back to the feelings she had in the moment when they said goodbye.
“There was guilt,” Cox said. “The last time I saw her was the last time she saw her son. But I was filled with gratitude that Noah would get the medical treatment he needed, that he would be safe with us and he would live the life he deserved.”
The Cox family has kept in touch with Nenya since Noah’s adoption. When Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, Nenya left for Poland with her 17-year-old son and husband.
“We were in contact nearly all day every day,” Cox said. The family offered any help they could, including donations from the followers of their Instagram account.
Cox told TODAY she made the account public in the first place so Nenya could check in on Noah. Now it has nearly 50,000 followers.
In a way, Cox said, the story of Noah’s adoption has come full circle.
“Nenya gave him hope,” she said. “I have no doubt he is repaying her now, bringing together the hearts of people he has touched the last six years to help her find life again.”