TIFTON, Ga. -- Tim Brenneman has four reasons to be thankful this Father's Day. Their names are Catherine, Lauren, Andy and Emma.
The University of Georgia plant pathologist and devoted father of four is once again counting his blessings on Father's Day. There was a time when Brenneman doubted if fatherhood was even in his future.
It appeared to be, in 1995, when Brenneman and his wife Joy found they were expecting their first child. Jubilation turned to devastation, however, when the child died during childbirth that December. It was later determined that the couple wouldn't be able to have children on their own.
The Brennemans were dealt more heartbreaking news a few years later. They decided to pursue private adoption with a young Tifton lady. The first-time parents brought the child home, but after just one day with their new baby, the Brennemans were forced to give the child back after the birth mother had a change of heart.
"The failed adoption was like another death," Joy Brenneman said. "I think that hit (Tim) even harder. We had (a child) in our home. We had him in our hands. I think the reality of that hit so much more. That was another death."
Just a few weeks later, the Brennemans finally received the news they had longed for for so many years. The Department of Family and Children Services called to say that a baby was waiting for them at the hospital.
"It was very exciting. We were ready to have a child, my wife especially," Tim Brenneman said. "There's a bonding that takes place between a mother and child before the child's even born that I don't think a man can ever understand."
Catherine, the daughter of a drug abuser, was born weighing just 3 -1/2 pounds. Her proud father still remembers holding her in one hand. Her birth mom's drug abuse resulted in Catherine developing cerebral palsy, a condition that did not deter the Brennemans from welcoming her with open arms.
"We thought about it a lot and prayed about it a lot, and we felt like that was the child we were supposed to have," Tim Brenneman said.
Catherine has thrived. She is computer savvy and has made the honor roll at school.
"She's a wonderful, bright child. Everybody that meets Catherine loves her," added the proud father about his daughter who will be a sophomore next year at Tift County High School. "If you met Catherine and saw the potential she has, she is very bright and has a wonderful sense of humor. She has a great outlook on life."
Two years later, the Brenneman family expanded further. Tim, Joy and Catherine were in Savannah at the yearly peanut meetings when they received a call asking if they wanted another girl. If so, they would have to hurry back to Tifton. Without a second thought, Joy Brenneman packed up everything, including Catherine, and drove back to Tifton to greet little Lauren.
"We figured we were probably done then, though we wanted a little boy," Brenneman admitted.
The family kept its file open with DFACS, with another adoption possibility looming. Three years later, the couple again got the call. It came with an unexpected twist. A 3-year-old boy was theirs if the Brennemans wanted him. So, too, was his 2-year-old sister.
"We thought about and prayed about it quite a bit because that was a big step going from two to four kids," Tim Brenneman said. "We never anticipated having four kids."
The thought of their family almost doubling in size made the Brennemans hesitant until they were enlightened by divine intervention.
"I think Tim was a little reluctant until we looked at the birthdays," Joy Brenneman said. "Catherine's birthday is 5/14. Lauren's birthday is 7/8. These two children, both of their birthdays are exactly five days from Catherine and Lauren's birthdays. Emma's is 5/9 and Andy's is 7/13. I told Tim, 'God is hitting us over the head, saying these are our children.'
"God has prepared us and really opened the doors and given us the encouragement and the knowledge he was preparing things for us. He has also provided abundantly through our family, friends and church everything we have needed to raise these children."
It was an amazing five-year period for theBrennemans as they transitioned from being a couple to parents of four. For Tim, Father's Day is another reminder of how blessed he is and how much faith he has placed in God.
"Tim leads our family," Joy added. "He is the leader of our home. Our children know that and know that daddy is responsible for our family before God."
Clint Thompson is information coordinator for the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Science, Tifton campus.