Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins expanded their family this year, welcoming baby No. 3, Lennon Love, to the world in February.
But during a Thursday video call to “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” the couple looked back to the moment their family began, before Lennon’s arrival or even that of her big sister, 2-year-old Ada James — all the way back to when their first child, 4-year-old daughter Willa Gray, entered their lives.
And it was a story so sweet that it brought Clarkson to tears.
“I’d always talked about adopting my whole life,” Akins, 30, explained. “My mom is actually adopted. I just thought it was really cool. And we had talked about it off and on, but it wasn’t something that we’d sat down and had a full-on adoption conversation.”
And when that conversation finally happened, it was a whirlwind one.
“I was in Uganda in 2016, and I had a picture of one of the babies there, and I had shared it on social media,” she continued. “And when I finally got to FaceTime (Thomas) that night, I was telling him her story, ‘Babe, we know so many people who are trying to adopt right now, and this little girl needs a forever home.’”
At the time, she didn’t know who should adopt Willa, but she knew that she and her country crooner husband would play a fundamental part in finding the child a home.
“I was so moved,” Akins said. “The second I touched her, it was electric. I was like, ‘Oh, this little girl has just taken my heart.’ And I was like, 'Honey, we’ve got to find her her forever home. Like, I know that’s why I’m here — to get this girl to her home.’”
That certainty, that sense of predestiny, is what touched Clarkson so deeply.
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“Oh, my God! OK, you totally Oprah-ed me just now. I did my own makeup, and this is not waterproof,” the host said as she attempted to wave away her tears. “It’s so beautiful because I know that feeling as a mama. You touch them, and you hold somebody, and it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not — we’re a blended family — and you’re like, this is my purpose. Such a powerful thing.”
And the “Life Changes” singer affirmed just how powerful that moment was for him, too, even though he was half a world away at the time.
“When I talked to (Lauren) on the phone that night and she said that we need to find her a home … It was after a concert, and I was going to bed, and I was like, ‘Well, bring her home.’ And I don’t fully remember even saying it," he said. "It was such a spiritual thing for me that it just came out of my body. And literally two weeks after, we were having home assessments and talking to adoption agencies.”
One year later, they finalized that adoption — and learned that they had another bundle of joy on the way, as Akins was then pregnant with Ada.
And it’s been one blessing after another since then.