Like all stories about babies, this one begins with a mom. In this case, three moms. And one of them is Marianne, who tends to see life as a series of answered prayers.
You’ve likely met Marianne if you’ve been on the Wabash campus the past 14 years. She has served you a meal at your reunion or Commencement when she was working special events for Bon Appetit. Or she’s been the supervisor behind the student calling you to pledge money in her more recent full-time job as the College’s assistant director of annual giving. Maybe your son was one of the dozens of students that she and Jacob invited for game nights in the dorms—a chance to get a meal and much-needed social interactions for students on campus during the summer.
She first got to know the College through Jacob, whom she married in 2003 and who calls Wabash “the place that forged me.” But as she said in the Chapel Talk students asked her to give last year, “Wabash College is more than just that place where my husband went to school.”
When Adam Burtner ’17 mentioned in his Commencement speech the invaluable role women had played in his time at Wabash, Marianne was one of those mentors he was talking about.
“I would listen to all these Wabash stories,” she says. “I wanted one of my own.”
She’s got a good one now.
“i didn’t think I’d cry telling this.”
Marianne sits on the edge of a comfortable chair in the living room of the couple’s home on Sugar Tree Road, a little girl barely one year old playing at her feet.
She’s describing the wish she made on Mother’s Day 2017 after Wabash’s Commencement ceremony.
“Mother’s Day is usually sad for me. My mom died in a car wreck—hit by a drunk driver in August 2001. This was my 16th Mother’s Day without her, but I didn’t want to focus on that.”
So her Facebook post that day celebrated the Wabash seniors she had worked with or gotten to know who were graduating that day.
“There are four years that we’re together; we get to walk side by side. They know this day is a hard one for me, and they wrapped me up in the biggest hugs. They didn’t have to do that. So my Facebook post was about my Wabash guys, how proud I was of them.
“That night Jacob took me out to dinner at Stookey’s in Thorntown to celebrate our mothers. I held Jacob’s hand and said, ‘I want to make a wish: that this is the last Mother’s Day without a baby in our arms or a baby on the way.’”
The next day Marianne received an email from Greg Estell ’85. She had often talked with Greg and his son, Henry, at Wabash events. Marianne would give Shirley Temples and cherries to Henry when she was working the bar. Greg and his wife, Sarah, had offered to talk to the Isaacs about their experience adopting.
In his message Greg thanked Marianne for her Facebook post, adding a P.S.: “Marianne, my prayer for you is that you have your heart’s wish.”
“I hadn’t mentioned my wish in that Facebook post,” she says. “I still have no idea how he knew this, why he chose that word.”
Thirty days later, that wish came true.
the isaacs had met a man at their church months earlier who knew they were interested in adopting. He had told them about a baby whose birth mother was considering placing her. But before the process could begin, she’d had second thoughts.
Now the birth mother was ready to proceed. The man the Isaacs had met in church called Marianne to find out if she was interested.
“The answer, of course, was ‘Yes.’” Marianne laughs. “Well, ‘Yes, but I should probably talk to Jacob.’
“I sat there crying. All of these pieces coming together—I knew it was God answering.
“Then I realized, It’s Friday night. We’ve got to find a lawyer. How on earth are we going to find a lawyer?”
“I emailed Greg at 8:30 the next morning.”
He called back excited by the news. He put the Isaacs in touch with Betty and Bill Harrington ’85, who were on vacation in Bermuda.
“Saturday afternoon Betty called me from Bermuda and in 20 minutes told me what we needed to do. I called the birth mom back and told her the child could be with us as quickly as they could get her on a plane.”
Now the Isaacs had to find an adoption agency to begin the home study process.
Once again, Wabash folks came through.
“The mom of one of my student workers, Anton Hummel ’18—who always shows up at work early and stays late—was director of adoption services at St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services. We called her, I told her my connection with Anton, and she started getting things set up for the home study.”
Lucy and her birth mom arrived in Indianapolis June 15 after a series of storms redirected their flight to Dayton—five days after the Isaacs had said yes to the adoption.
“The plane was struck by lightning. We were waiting to meet them at the church at 2:30 in the morning. They got there at 5:15 a.m. Lucy’s birth mom brought her close to us, put us face-to-face, and she came right to me. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to seeing Jesus’ face.
“Lucy’s birth mom put Lucy first, every step of the way. We have no idea of her circumstances, what she was facing, but we do know that she took very good care of this little girl.”
what happened next seems almost as incredible to the Isaacs as the adoption itself.
Marianne’s supervisors, Joe Klen ’97 and Kevin Andrews ’10, and HR Director Cathy Metz figured out a way to grant Marianne an immediate parental leave. Summer intern Omar Chavez ’18 stepped in to cover some of Marianne’s workload.
Alicia and Ray Claycomb ’98 donated a closet full of clothes their daughter had outgrown.
Dusty and Jack Mansfield ’01 gave “all kinds of advice and support.”
Some brought diapers, a crib, and baby food; others helped finish the nursery.
“There was an outpouring of love from the Wabash community on campus, alumni off campus, our Wabash friends, family, the people I work with at Purdue,” Jacob says. “All these people made sure we could hit the ground running with a new baby girl with five days’ notice.”
Within two months of Lucy’s arrival, the Isaacs finalized the adoption alongside a room full of extended family and Jacob’s longtime friend Thomas Sarver ’99.
Lucy attended her first Freshman Saturday before she turned one. Hugh Vandivier ’91 sang “Old Wabash” to her.
She had lunch with Professor David Blix ’70.
And for Lucy’s first birthday, the family attended Chapel Sing to kick off Homecoming Weekend. At the Homecoming game she hugged the College mascot.
“Ran right up to Wally and grabbed him,” Marianne says.
Emmanuel Aouad ’10 captured the moment with his camera.
“He was one of the first people I served when I began working at Wabash,” says Marianne. “It felt like our story had come full circle.”
“I tell people Lucy’s story is a spiritual story, but also a Wabash story,” says Jacob. “This is how Wabash came together for us. We’re one brotherhood, one fraternity.
“Lucy’s birth mother wanted the best for her, and now Lucy has not just a family, but Wabash there for her, too,” says Marianne. “I believe that in this process God answered her prayer, and our prayer, too.”
Watching Lucy playing on the floor of the Isaacs’ home on a late fall afternoon, toddling back and forth between her mom and the toys, slumping into Jacob’s arms asleep as he carries her upstairs for her nap, it does seem something of a miracle.