Lauren Akins, the wife of country star Thomas Rhett, traveled to Uganda a few years ago on a mission with 147 Million Orphans. When she met Willa Gray, a 1-year-old admitted to the facility in 2015, she immediately knew she had to do something. Since adopting the beautiful girl, she and Thomas welcomed two other kids, Ada James and Lennon Love, to the family.
'CMA Country Christmas' hosts Lauren Akins and Thomas Rhett have three kids.
The married hosts of the CMA Country Christmas struggled to conceive a child at first. They started thinking about adoption roughly around the same time as Lauren was first introduced to Willa (nicknamed Blessing) at the Ugandan orphanage where she was working at the time.
"I think that the Lord knew what he was doing when he did not let us get pregnant," Lauren said. "She was a total orphan and didn’t have any biological relatives, no one. Her life was going to be at the children’s home unless someone else tried to give her a home."
Lauren soon discovered that she was pregnant with her second daughter, Ada James, while on a safari trip in Africa. She and Thomas Rhett were already in the process of adopting Willa, and the revelation turned their carefully-made plans upside down.
Ugandan adoption laws require prospective parents to spend a year fostering their child in the country before they are allowed to welcome them to their family. To comply with the strict criteria, Lauren and Thomas Rhett were traveling back and forth between the U.S. and the East-African country. It was during one of these trips that they likely learned that Lauren was pregnant.
Lauren flew out to Uganda when she was already approaching the third trimester of her pregnancy. She and Thomas were hoping they would be able to bring Willa home at the end of the trip. Things didn't go quite as planned, however, as she was called back to the U.S. to attend a medical appointment before the process was finalized. In the end, Lauren asked her mom, Lisa Gregory, to help out.
"It had been a little over six weeks since my last checkup and I just didn't want to think something could go wrong. My doctor really wanted me to come home and make sure everything was okay," Lauren said.
"It killed me not being able to bring [Willa] home, but looking back, I think it was a blessing in disguise because I got to be home and nest before she got here — and catch up on my sleep so I wasn’t so jet-lagged!" she added.
The adoption process was finalized in May 2017. The couple welcomed daughter Ada James just a few months later, on Aug. 12, 2017. Their youngest, Lennon Love, was born on Feb. 10, 2020.
The couple consciously chose names for their daughters that reference the name of other family members. Willa Gray is named after Thomas Rhett's grandfather, Willard, and Lauren's brother, Grayson. Likewise, Ada is named after Lauren's grandmother, Ada. James is a name on both sides of the family.