Reece’s Rainbow Report #32: Mitchell Family

It certainly wasn’t the most reassuring of signs: a broken leg on the flight home for a just-adopted son from Bulgaria
But it’s what Tennessee couple Gary and Carrie Mitchell had to work with in 2020, so they rolled with it. Making the most out of an unusual situation, in fact, had sort of become the “Mitchell M.O.,” a hallmark of an adoption hampered by Covid delays and extra quarantines, then bookended with the birth of the couple’s fifth child just 17 days after bringing home their fourth ― including that freshly-broken limb. 

Milko, their new thee-year-old son, “was in a full leg cast for the first eight weeks home, so I had a newborn and a toddler [who] couldn’t walk or talk,” says Carrie. “Those first few months were very challenging.” 
Challenges, however, were something that Gary, a CPA, and Carrie, a homemaker and homeschooling mother, were used to. They had first adopted in 2017, a two-year-old Bulgarian daughter named Presley. Her file had originally said she had cerebral palsy and moderate spastic quadriparesis. In reality, she had neither, but plenty of developmental delays to take their places. 

“Presley was a very timid child who was afraid to try anything. There was no medical reason why she couldn’t stand or walk, but she was just so completely afraid to try anything new,” Carrie explains. “It took a few months, but before long, she was standing, walking and running.”
Carrie had desired adoption since childhood. Gary, meanwhile, wasn’t as enthusiastic. Yet after a decade of marriage, they landed on the same page, getting pregnant with their second child just a few months after agreeing to adopt. Coincidentally, Presley made her appearance in Bulgaria around the same time, and the Mitchells eventually found her file. 

“When we saw Presley, we knew she was the one,” Gary says. Even so, coming home “was a shock to the system. We had this toddler child that we did not have an attachment to that we needed to provide their every need and who was delayed.”

The Mitchells kept at it. Under the covering of a loving family, Presley slowly but surely began coming out of her shell.

“Just this year she rode a horse,” Carrie beams. “She loves school and has so many friends.”

After the loss of an unborn child, Carrie and Gary began thinking about adopting again. They had first heard about Reece’s Rainbow (RR) through another adoptive family and eventually started perusing files. When they saw Milko’s ― “Micah” on RR ― “it was immediate love,” Carrie says. 

“We were instantly drawn to him,” Gary echoes. 

Milko’s file had this mouthful to say about him: “Obs. Hypoxemic - ischemic encephalopathy. Spastic quadriparesis.” Once again, those words turned out to not contain the full truth. He is now diagnosed with autism and developmental delays

Even before those new diagnoses, however, came the insanities of lockdowns. The Mitchells passed court on March 9, 2020 and planned to travel a few weeks later.

They didn’t, of course. 

”This was such a hard and trying time because he was now legally our son, but we couldn’t bring him home,” Carrie says. “Month after month went by, and not only could we not bring home our son, but I was also getting further in my pregnancy.” 

Finally, the couple got a special diplomatic letter to travel. The requirement? A two-week total quarantine beforehand. Gary accepted, traveling alone to Bulgaria to bring home Milko after a four-week trip. 

Once they got home, it was further chaos. Newborn Rhett needed his mother, obviously, while she was also trying to parent a screaming, nonverbal Milko. Thankfully, after starting ABA therapy in 2021, Milko began improving by “leaps and bounds,” Carrie says. 
“He has made a ton of progress, and we daily comment on how things are getting easier,” she says. 

Today, the Mitchells are raising five children ages 11 down to two. They alternately get along and squabble ― “just acting like normal siblings, which is good,” Gary muses. There are what feels like a thousand medical and behavioral appointment a month, which makes any complete-family public outings feel nearly impossible.  

Yet seven-year-old Presley is in a general education second grade classroom and plays soccer; Milko is five and wants to hug everyone. 

“We are super-proud of the accomplishments they have both made towards becoming healthy, growing and developing children,” their father boasts. “They have seemingly easily overcome the obstacles in their first few years of life.”
Of course, it hasn’t been easy; both Gary and Carrie will tell you that. But the difficulties have not proven so overwhelming that the Mitchells aren’t grateful, nor have they shut the door to another adoption in the coming years.
“All children are precious in God’s sight and deserve a home,” Gary says. “None of them chose to be abandoned at an orphanage or a foster home and grow up without parents to love them.” 
The Mitchells will gladly go back and do so one more time ― and that may be the best sign of all. 

Crystal Kupper
Crystal Kupper is a freelance writer specializing in magazines and special projects. Since earning her journalism degree, she has written for clients such as Zondervan, Focus on the Family and the Salvation Army, among many others.