When a white couple gave birth, people instantly noticed how “different” the babies looked. The young dad admits his reality was “hard to fathom” but insists there’s no reason for scorn. After he explained why the children his wife bore don’t look the way others might expect, people have been left even more shocked.
Aaron and Rachel Halbert are white evangelicals who, along with their children, are turning some heads. The couple has five children who are not white like their parents. But, it’s how their family came to be that’s really shocking others. While the Halberts adopted their oldest son, who’s African-American, and their oldest daughter, who’s biracial, as infants, Rachel actually gave birth to the couple’s younger triplets, who happen to be black.
So, how did a white woman, who’s married to a white man, give birth to three babies, who are obviously not the same race as their parents? It’s an interesting story that even Aaron admits was “hard to fathom” as he made his stroll from his wife’s hospital room to the NICU to visit his newborn daughters, realizing their “family has been put together” in a way many have never even heard of.
Aaron and Rachel Halbert’s triplets were adopted as embryos after being frozen for 15 years when the couple’s “commitment to the protection of the unborn” and their desire to add to their family led them to the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), a Christian embryo bank. “For us, NEDC is doing yeoman’s work of setting a standard of what it means to have a high view of embryos, a high view of life, a high view of children,” Aaron said.
“We were deeply moved by the idea of adding more children to our family by rescuing these tiny lives created from in-vitro fertilization and intrigued by the thought of Rachel getting to experience pregnancy,” Aaron explained. With an estimated 625,000 to 1,000,000 embryos in frozen preservation in the United States, the Halberts saw an opportunity that was a “logical outcome of being pro-life” for the couple.
“We live in a world with hundreds of thousands of embryos frozen in the United States alone. Most who aren’t selected by their biological parents are donated to science or destroyed or kept frozen,” Aaron explained. “If Christians – or others – really believe life begins at conception, it follows that we should respond by being willing to support embryo adoption and even take part in it ourselves.”
The choice to select African-American embryos began with the adoption of their first child. Although the couple was fertile, they were deeply convicted that involving themselves in adoption was one of the best ways to be pro-life. “Knowing that it is often more challenging to find adoptive homes in the United States for non-Caucasian children, we informed the agency that we were willing to accept any child except a fully Caucasian child,” Aaron recalled.
“We knew, especially in the South, that a white couple with non-white children would draw a myriad of different reactions,” Aaron admitted, but he and Rachel were undeterred. “Grasping diversity will make the world stronger as we marvel at God’s creative genius on display through His people’s varying pigments, personalities, and proficiencies. Our differences are cause for celebration, not scorn,” Aaron said.
“We see the human family’s varying physical characteristics as awesome reminders of God’s creative brilliance. It’s not that we think race doesn’t exist, or that we don’t see it. In fact, it’s the opposite – we see it, and we embrace it,” he furthered. When faced with the question of ethnicity while choosing their adopted embryos, the Halberts decided they wanted all of their children to feel connected to one another racially and again chose to adopt African-Americans.
Aaron and Rachel had two embryos implanted and began the long wait to see whether the transfer was successful. They would be pleasantly surprised to learn one of those embryos had split in two inside Rachel’s womb, meaning she wasn’t having twins, but triplets. Although it hasn’t always been easy, the couple is just living out their dream, placing a high priority on life, adoption, and multi-ethnic families.
“We see [the] protection of children not as charity, nor as part of a political agenda, but as something near to the heart of God,” Aaron said. “The Scriptures testify that God has always pleaded for the protection of his most helpless and needy image-bearers,” he added. “Because every human life bears His image, all life –no matter how young or old, no matter the stages of development — has inherent dignity and value.”
Aaron and Rachel, both Presbyterian missionaries, say they are simply echoing God’s compassionate work, “giving the world a glimpse of the truth and beauty of the gospel,” by adopting children into their home the way God adopts believers into His own family.
But, because of the unusual ways that the couple has chosen to build their family, the Halberts have experienced both situations which have provided rays of hope, reminding us how far our country has come, and those that remind us how far we still need to go.
“There will always be the older white woman in Walmart who stared at us with sheer disgust or the African-American mother who looked at us and just shook her head,” Aaron admitted but quickly added, “There is something beautiful and enriching being the only white face sitting and chatting with some of my African-American friends as my son gets his hair cut on a Saturday morning.”
He continued, “There is also something wonderful in the relationship that is built as my wife asks a black friend on Facebook how to care for our little biracial daughter’s hair. The beauty of a multi-ethnic family is found there, in the fact that the differences are the very thing that make ours richer and fuller. It forces you to think in a new way about the way you think, speak, act, and live.”