For a few years now, Lauren Akins has been traveling to Uganda on several occasions with 147 Million Orphans to help children in African countries get the right medical treatment they need, one little girl touched her heart.
She shared a photo of the two of them on social media with the caption, “Ohhh my goodness-the LOVE I have for this one,” and her husband, reigning ACM Male Vocalist of the Year Thomas Rhett, fell in love.
“Lauren had this amazing glow about her and it just felt like she was already our daughter in a weird way,” he told PEOPLE. “‘I just blurted out, ‘We should bring her home.’ ”
They began a year-long adoption process, which included several trips back to Uganda. Finally, the 18-month-old baby girl would now legally be their daughter. Named Willa Gray Akins, she is already cuddling up to her dad and learning from her mama.
Lauren’s parents flew to Uganda to bring home their granddaughter because Lauren has been advised by doctors not to fly. Before the whole adoption process, Thomas and Lauren were having fertility struggles, according to PEOPLE, which is why they turned to adoption. While they were getting closer to adoption, they found out they were also pregnant and made a joint announcement on social media. Due in August, flying at this point in her pregnancy wasn’t an option.
They drove to the airport to pick up Lauren’s parents and their baby girl to bring her home for the very first time.
“It felt like a dream,” Lauren told PEOPLE. “I’ve dreamed of us all being on the same continent for so long. It finally feels like everyone is where they’re supposed to be.”
See the family’s first photos together below.