Thomas and Lauren reveal the story behind adopting Willa Gray
In addition to having a beautiful family, Thomas and wife Lauren have a love story that started in a first-grade classroom. The two raised up in Valdosta, Ga. together and met when they were in first grade. They went on to attend the similar church camp at 13 and even dated at the age of 15. After they broke up with each other, they continued close friends.
Thomas and Lauren in fact almost finished up get married other people. Lauren was betrothed to someone else when her dad called Thomas and told him to admit his exact state of mind. She completed things after Thomas shared how he handled. The two activated dating again, got promised six months later, and marry at the age of 22 back in 2012. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, wife Lauren looks to be Thomas’ muse, as their connection was the topic of his songs “Marry Me” and “Blessed.”
It has only been a slight over a week since Thomas Rhett and his wife Lauren greeted their new daughter Willa Gray home from Uganda, but the 18-month-old has quickly been stable into family life, even linking Dad for her first onstage arrival this past weekend.
But the way that carried Willa to Nashville, Tennessee, was anything but with love and smoothness, the country star and his wife tell PEOPLE.
“I do not think anyone can completely make you for the journey of adopting someone, particularly from a third-world country where there are so many different regulations,” says Thomas Rhett, 27. “Every day you rise up with a whole new set of tasks that you never even caught of.”
In April 2016, Willa — known then by her nickname “Blessing” — was just one of many poor orphans in a children’s home Lauren stayed while working in Uganda with the Christian charity 147 million orphans. At the time, Lauren and Thomas Rhett had been trying to get pregnant with no good luck, and had just started to ponder adoption.
“When I met Willa, her story was quite deep,” Lauren says of the preschool, who had been brought to the children’s home soon after her birth in November 2015. “All orphans have heart-breaking stories, but it sensed like this particular baby was for ours. I think that the Lord saw what he was doing when he did not let us get pregnant.”
Lauren, in Uganda without Thomas Rhett (who was on trip), spent the next two days “friendly” to the little girl. “She was a total orphan and did not have any genetic relations, no one. Her life was going to be at the children’s home if not someone else tried to give her a shelter, ” Lauren says. “So I supposed, ‘We have to find her a home.’ I thought we could be the assistants — and then Thomas Rhett said, ‘We will do it!’
And with those words, the couple started their long year adoption plan. It gave Thomas Rhett some time to catch a break in his touring schedule long enough to go to Uganda to see the baby who had captured their hearts, and confesses laughingly, “When I did, she did not want anything no matter what to do with me!”
“I get hold of her and she was like, ‘Who the crap are you with that bush?’ But I was surprised at how quickly I became friendly with her— and how fast, she just sensed like she was my child.”
Thomas Rhett is one of the leading stars in country music with hits like “Look What God Gave Her” and “Marry Me,” so it is no miracle why admirers have also become quite invested in his personal life. Thomas and his wife, Lauren Akins, post gorgeous pictures of their two daughters, Willa Gray and Ada James, on Instagram fairly often, and it is flawless how much love there is in their family.
The couple has cleared up about the astonishing adoption of Willa back in 2017. So why did Thomas Rhett accept?
Why did Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins adopt? They always wanted a big family.
In May of 2017, the couple declared that they had formally adopted their daughter, Willa Gray, who was born in 2015. Willa, who was born in Uganda, quickly developed a known face around Thomas’ shows – she was brought in performance the first weekend she came home. Thomas and Lauren deliberated how hard the process was since they had to face the different decrees Uganda had for adoption.
Lauren first saw her daughter in 2016 when she was staying in Uganda with the charity, 147 Million Orphans. Lauren felt an assembly to Willa, and felt like her own problems with getting pregnant were a sign.
She told People Magazine in 2017 that hearing Willa’s story was “pretty strong. All orphans have heart-breaking stories, but it sensed like this precise baby was ours. I think that the God knew what he was planning while he did not let us get pregnant.”
Accepting Willa was a long period process that strained the couple. Willa had no alive biotic relatives, meaning that she had to be embraced by an independent family in order to leave the orphanage. Uganda’s acceptance laws also meant that the couple had to stand-in Willa first for a year before she could be lawfully adopted. The couple made manifold journeys to Uganda, and had to excruciatingly say goodbye to their baby girl after each one.
After the adoption became authorized, the couple also had other news to rejoice. Lauren got pregnant with Ada James just a few months before Willa was carried home, and their family doubled over in size quickly. The couple exposed in July 2019 that they are imagining their third daughter, and that Willa and Ada are delighted about being big sisters.
Thomas may have been suggesting at the pregnancy news back in June when he talked about how he certainly wanted more than two kids. He told ABC News that his preferred thing is to hang out with his kids, but having more would be his dream. “If we clogged having kids now, I know I would get up at 45 and go, ‘We should have had five further. Because I really do want to be bright to sit at a Thanksgiving or Christmas table with the hugest family on the planet,” he added. Looks like his desire came true!
Baby number three reached in February.
On Feb. 12, Lauren posted on instagram announcing the birth of the couple’s third child. “Our initial Valentine baby was born yesterday, February 10th and her sisters could not be better-off to finally get to kiss her little sister,” she wrote together with a series of photos containing their latest addition.
Lauren and Thomas greeted a daughter they named Lennon Love Akins. “9lbs 2oz of lovveeee with lots of dark hair and blue eyes,” she said. “We could not be much in love.”
Wednesday’s episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show made fans – and Kelly herself – sensitive after the 30-year-old country singer communicated about the adoption process of his daughter, Willa.
Kelly first questioned the couple why they were obvious to accept before having a baby of their own.
Lauren told the singer: “I had always spoke about adoption my whole life. My mom in reality is adopted and I just thought it was really cool.
“We discussed about it but we had never sat down and had a full adoption chat. So I was in Uganda in 2016 and I had an image of one of the babies there and I had shared it on social.
“And when I finally got to FaceTime him that night, I was telling him her story and I was like: ‘Babe, we know so many people who are trying to adopt right now and this little girl requires an incessantly home.'”
She added: “And I was like, so continued. The second I touched her, it was absorbing and I was like: ‘Oh my word, this girl has just stolen my heart.’
“And I was like: ‘We have to take her forever home and that is why I am here and it is to get this girl her home.'”
That is when the talk show host interjected the couple and zapped away her overflowing tears.
She told them: “Oh my god, ok. You fully undid me just now. I did my own makeup and this is not water-proof!”
After Kelly self-confessed herself, she requested them to carry on their story.
Thomas Rhett took over for his wife and said: “When I spoke to her over the phone that night and she said that us looked-for to find her home.
“It was after a performance and I was going to bed and I was like: ‘Well, bring her home.’
“I do not fully recall saying it, it was such a mystical thing, and it factually came out of my body. And two weeks later, we were having home calculations and talking to adoption agencies.”
The couple lastly got to Willa Gray home in May 2017.
Thomas Rhett had beforehand talked about how he now trusts Willa was meant to be their daughter as she attaches with them and their love for music so perfectly.
He formerly told public, “The word ‘adopted’ does not even make intelligence in my head anymore really.”
“I know that it occurred and I recall it very brightly, but it kind of senses like she has just always been here. Even however Willa Gray comes from [a] entire different portion of the world, she has ours and it senses like she never was not.”
Astonishingly, Lauren was also pregnant as they tried to accept Willa and she gave birth to the couple’s second daughter – Ada James – just three months after carrying their eldest home.
The couple just had their third daughter – Lennon Love – together in February 2020.
Kelly herself has two kids with husband, Brandon Blackstock and is a stepmom to his two children from a preceding relationship.
All through a Thursday video call to “The Kelly Clarkson Show” the couple viewed back to the moment their family began, before Lennon’s coming 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 such a story so sweet that it brought Clarkson to tears.
“I had always talked about accepting my whole life,” Akins, 30, elaborated. “My mom is in fact adopted. I just recognize it was really cool. And we had communicated about it off and on, but it was not something that we had sat down and had a full-on acceptance chat.”
And when that chat finally happened, it was a tumultuous one.
“I was in Uganda in 2016, and I kept an image 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 understand so many people who are trying to adopt right now, and this little girl demands a forever shelter of happiness.’”
At the time, she did not know who should accept Willa, but she knew that she and her country crooner husband would play an essential part in finding the child a home.
“I was so enthused,” Akins said. “The second I touched her, it was shocking. I was like, ‘Oh, this little girl has just taken my heart.’ And I was like, ‘Honey, we’ve got to find her forever home. Like, I know that is why I am here — to get this girl to her home.’”
“Oh, my God! OK, you completely Oprah-ed me just now. I have done my own makeup, and this is not waterproof,” the host said as she endeavored to wave away her tears. “It is so stunning because I know that feeling as a mama. You touch them, and you keep somebody, and it does not matter if it is yours or not — we are a mixed family — and you are like, this is my determination. Such a influential thing.”
And the ‘Life changes’ singer avowed just how influential that moment was for him, too, even yet he was half a world away at the time.
“When I spoke to (Lauren) on the phone that night and she said that we have to find her a home … It was after a performance, and I was going to bed, and I was like, ‘Well, bring her home.’ And I do not completely recall even saying it,” he said. “It was such a divine thing for me that it just came out of my body. And factually two weeks after, we were having home calculations and talking to adoption agencies.”
One year later, they decided about the adoption— and understood that they had an extra package of joy on the way, as Akins was then pregnant with Ada.
Akins, whose mom is accepted, said she was attentive in taking on a child “her whole life.” Akins was in Uganda in 2016 when she encountered Willa for the first time and closely felt a connection with her.
“I had a portrait of one of the babies there and I had shared it on social media, and when I lastly got to FaceTime [Thomas] that night I was telling him her story,” she remembered. “I was like, ‘Babe, we know so a lot of people who are thinking to adopt right now, and this little girl needs a forever home with happiness and care,'” Akins evoked.
“I was, like, so shocked,” she added. “The second I touched her it was, like, something different. I was like, ‘Oh my word, this little girl has just stolen my soul.’ I was like, ‘Honey, we have got to find her forever home. I know that is why I am here, is to get this girl to her home.'”
Clarkson began crying and revealed Rhett and Akins she can tell to their love for their daughter. Clarkson presented her her story of having two children, daughter River Rose and son Remy Alexander, with her husband, Brandon Blackstock, and two stepchildren from Blackstock’s earlier marriage.
“As a mama, you touch them and you love them. It does not matter if it is yours or not. We are a merged family,” Clarkson voiced. “You are like, this is my determination. It is such an authoritative thing.”
Rhett and Akins accepted Willa at 18 months old in May 2017. The couple have two other daughters, Ada James, aged 2, and Lennon Love, who was born in February.
“Watching our children meet Lennon for the first time was perhaps the sweetest thing I have ever seen in my whole life! Ada James and Willa Gray are going to be the finest big sisters on the planet,” Rhett said on Instagram at the time.
Akins posted a picture of Rhett with Willa and Ada from the singer’s 30th birthday party at home in March.
It was a long way and tough route, but during the journey, Lauren found out she was pregnant after some fertility fights—talk about an unbelievable way to grow a family! After their second baby, Ada James Atkins, inwards last August, it is absolutely been a change period, but Willa Gray has been the best big sister. “She was envious at first I think, but it is so fun to watch her,” he said to E! News during an interview. Rhett was a slight worried that she would not feel contented and would be overawed with regulating to America and becoming a sister, but she has done great.
The couple has hut light on the expressive rinsing acceptance can be for many families and is cruelly honest about how hard it is.
“I think it requiress to be tough because you have to contest for that baby just like you do,” Rhett thought. “I have done both now. I have had one biotic and I have had one through adoption. It is a fight to bring your child home. And it just reinforces you as parents and as a team. It is hard but it is so worth it.”
In the talk the couple reproduced on how their family began as they told the acceptance story of their 4-year-old daughter, Willa Gray.
Akins began by telling Clarkson that adoption is something she has “spoken about” her “whole life,” skimpy that her mom is adopted.
“I just supposed it was really cool,” she said. “We had talked about it off and on, but it was not somewhat that we had sat down and had, like, a full-on adoption discussion.”
In 2016, Akins toured to Uganda with a group called 147 Orphans where she a baby girl took her heart. After speaking with Rhett on FaceTime, Akins knew she had to make sure the baby had a “forever home of love and care.”
“I was, like, so moved. I mean, the second I touched her, it was, like, electric,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my word. This little girl has just stolen my heart.’ I was like, ‘Honey, we have gotta find her forever home. Like, I know that is why I am here is to get this girl to her sweet home.'”
The sweet story moved Clarkson to weeping. “Oh my God. You fully Oprah’ed me just now. I did my own makeup and this is not waterproof,” Clarkson said spreading away her tears. “It is so beautiful since I know that feeling. As a mama, you touch them and you hug them. It does not matter if it is yours or not. We were a blended family. You were like, this is my purpose. It is such a powerful thing.”
Rhett struck in count a bit from his perspective. “I do not fully recollect even saying it,” he elaborated. “It was such a mystical thing for me that it just came out of my body and factually two weeks after, we were having home valuations and talking to adoption agencies.”
After an extensive acceptance process, Willa Gray finally made it home from Uganda to Nashville in May 2017. At the time, Rhett told people, “It was like Christmas Day.” Akins voiced, “It felt like a dream. I have fantasized of us all being on the same landmass for so long. It finally looks like everyone is where they were supposed to be.”
Soon after welcoming Willa Gray home, Akins gave birth to a baby girl named Ada James who is now 2-years-old. The most fresh addition to the family, Lennon Love, inwards in February this year.