Audrey Shook and her husband, Brent, had signed up for a four-week hosting program for orphans from China, but they had already decided to adopt six-year-old Lucy permanently. And when she finally arrived at George Bush International Airport in Texas, her first words to Audrey made the mom-of-five burst into tears.
Audrey and Brent were high school sweethearts. They married young – she was 21 when she said “I do.” But, even at that age, Audrey felt she would adopt a child someday after watching a documentary about orphanages in China.
Audrey told Today, “I knew in my heart that someday I was going to be a family to one of those babies.” But life temporarily got in the way of those plans. She became pregnant with the first of their five biological children.
Audrey and Brent live in Woodlands, Texas, with their quintet of kids. Between the births of their youngest two children, the couple had again considered adoption, but Audrey’s pregnancy stalled their plans once more.
But by the time Audrey and Brent’s youngest had reached preschool age, they began talking about adoption again. At the same time, they got an email that would further spur them. The Great Wall China Adoption agency wanted them to serve as host parents for four weeks.
When Brent and Audrey first considered the opportunity, they thought it would be a great way to prepare their kids to have an adopted sibling in the future. So, they signed up – but then they saw the pictures of their host child, Lucy.
Along with Lucy’s adorable photos came a bio about the little girl. It sealed the deal for the Audrey and Brent. They found out that she had Down syndrome, and that’s when they knew they could not simply host the six-year-old.
“I’ve always had a special bond with people who have Down syndrome. I have an extra feeling of love for them,” Audrey told Today. And that’s what made her feel sure that Lucy wasn’t going to visit her family for just four weeks. The orphan would stay with the family forever.
“My husband and I had it in our hearts that we couldn’t just have her here for a month and send her back, especially with what we were feeling about her,” Audrey continued. And with that, the couple began the paperwork required to make Lucy part of their family.
On July 20, 2015, the family and some of their friends headed to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas. It was a moment they’d all been waiting for: the day they’d pick up their daughter and bring her home for good. A clip from USA Today captured the special moment on video. “Are you ready to finally meet Lucy?” Audrey asked her excited kids.
As soon as she saw her six-year-old enter the airport’s arrival area, Audrey became overwhelmed with emotion. “Oh, my god,” she said as tears started streaming down her face. “There’s Lucy.”
But it would be Lucy’s first words to Audrey that would make the mother-of-six cry her happiest tears. “Hey, I’m mama,” Audrey said as she introduced herself to Lucy. Her daughter instantly responded, “Mama.”
Of course, Audrey wasn’t the only one to instantly see Lucy as one of her own. She told Today that her biological children had also welcomed the six-year-old with open arms. The only one who needed a little coaxing was Audrey’s five-year-old daughter, Maggie.
Fortunately, Maggie and Lucy bonded over the movie Frozen – especially after having a dance party to the movie’s songs. Audrey reported that the pair became inseparable after that. “Something clicked in their hearts that they’re going to be sisters forever,” she said to Today.
The local community welcomed Lucy just as warmly. Indeed, many families in their community adopt children from China and plan gatherings to get all of the kids together. This was a big deal for Audrey and Brent, whose adopted daughter arrived speaking only Mandarin.
The family planned to teach her English, but they also hoped to keep her close to her roots and her native language. “There are a lot of ways we can keep her culture a part of her. We want her to be part of her heritage,” Audrey told Today.
Most importantly, though, Audrey, Brent and the kids were delighted to have Lucy as part of their family. They said their new addition was so sweet that she’d give a hug to just about anyone she met. She was a ham, too, regularly making her family laugh by dancing in a silly way.
Audrey said she was astounded at just how quickly their lives had changed. “It’s crazy to think that just over a week ago she was a baby in an orphanage and now she’s a princess. She’s so treasured here,” she recounted to Today.
Meanwhile, Audrey’s husband, Brent, told USA Today just how much Lucy had changed their lives already. “We don’t see it as, ‘We’re going to help her.’ We feel like she’s going to bless our lives,” he said. And, after a few years, it was clear that Lucy had, indeed, shown her parents the joy in bringing adopted children into their big, blended family.
By 2018 Audrey and Brent had brought two more adoptive children from China into their family – Henry and Eloise Mei. And while they traveled home with their newest daughter, Audrey found out some even more incredible news. She was pregnant with her and Brent’s ninth child, due in November of that year.