On May 18, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” will open in theaters nationwide and the twins will be seen alongside Jennifer Lopez. From being on the brink of death to playful 23-month-olds on a movie set, the adopted sons of Kindred and Meredith Howard of Powder Springs are their little miracles.
Kindred, a professional writer and developer of Family Upward (a marriage, family and life coaching business), and his wife, Meredith, discussed adoption before they got married. She had three miscarriages before the birth of their daughter, Emerson, 9.
The couple also has two sons, Carson and William. Adoption wasn’t completely off the table, but a tragic event in 2010 moved them to act.
“What really pushed us over the edge was (the Haiti earthquake),” Meredith said. “Kids were suddenly orphaned. We just said, ‘We have to do it.’”
From March to June 2010, they went through the process of completing the necessary paperwork and were put on the wait list. The couple requested a toddler-aged girl but Meredith said, “Even when Kindred and I were filling it out, we felt really weird about doing that because you can’t do that with biological kids.”
That fall they received an email about twin baby boys with possible special needs. The twins were considered high risk by U.S. doctors. Asher had meningitis and deafness was a concern. Samuel had sepsis and was severly malnourished.
“Right then, your heart just kind of sinks because that’s the whole point of adoption — to give somebody a home,” she said. The Howards were the only family to respond to the email.
Although they wanted Emerson, 9, to have a sister, Meredith recalled her daughter saying, “If they need a home, let’s just adopt somebody and move on.”
That November, the Howards received a phone call and a court date. They had to be in Ethiopia in a week.
“It was pure frantic craziness,” Meredith said. “It moved so quickly because they had been so sick.”
The week before Thanksgiving, the Howards met the boys for the first time. “They were so little, but they were so alert. They were so aware. We just knew they would be fine.”
Meredith said the twins’ grandmother said they had to give the boys up for adoption in order for them to live. She told Meredith, “Now I feel like their mother can rest in peace.”
They were awarded legal guardianship and were able to bring the boys home in December. The twins were 7 months old.
After a year of physical therapy and medical tests, Meredith said the boys are healthy and daily life is now a mixture of excitement and chaos with five children. However, her three older children can’t get enough of their baby brothers.
“Emerson is a little mommy. She was awesome,” Meredith said. “William and Carson are the big boys. Carson always wants to hug them and pick them up and cuddle.”
The twins received a chance at life because of the Howards. Now, a major movie being filmed in Atlanta would take the family on another incredible journey.
“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is based off the New York Times best-seller of the same name by Heidi Murkoff and follows the lives of multiple couples with children and/or children on the way. Lopez’s character, Holly, wants to adopt, and the crew was seeking Ethiopian twins for the role of her son, Kaleb. Last July, Meredith learned about the casting call from a friend’s email and decided to take a chance.
“We thought it would be cool to meet other Ethiopians on set,” she said. However, she was about to meet more than that — she received calls the same day. They wanted the boys to be in downtown Atlanta at 5 p.m.
“It was so bizarre. We didn’t know what movie it was. We had no idea,” she said.
Meredith recalled how the boys began their fragile lives, saying “Here were these babies that were so sick and nobody wanted them.”
But the movie studio did. Within three days, the twins had been cast.
Samuel and Asher’s story stirred honest emotions from many in front of and behind the camera during their eight days on set. “(Lopez) was awesome with the twins,” Meredith said. “(Director Kirk Jones) was moved by the story. If people love your kids, you’re just indebted to them. It’s such a bond. They genuinely cared about them.”
Dawn Jeffory-Nelson is a professional acting coach known as the “Baby Wrangler,” having worked with babies and children for 15 years. “There were many beautiful babies at our casting sessions, and many of them are in the film,” she said, “But there was just something about Samuel and Asher … a spirit and humanity in their little faces, the radiance of their smiles, the light shining in their eyes. Our director knew that they were our boys.” She said the authenticity of the boys’ adoption from Ethiopia to America brought richness to the film.
She said working with Lopez and the twins was a dream. “(Lopez) took one look at Sammy and Asher at their first meeting, and I could tell by the tenderness on her face that this was a perfect match. They settled into her arms as if that was a familiar place,” she said. Lopez is also a mother of twins, Max and Emme.
Nelson said she will always remember how the boys lit up and smiled when she greeted them each morning. She gives credit to the Howard family for rescuing “these two fragile bright angels and gave them a second chance so they could become the healthy, happy boys they are today.”
With the movie’s premiere approaching, what will Meredith think when she sees her sons on screen?
“I think I’m going to be a nervous wreck,” she said. “From the previews I’ve seen, it really looks funny.”
Although the Howards won’t rule out other acting opportunities for all of their children, they are aiming for a greater purpose — one of education and action.
“What we’re hoping will come from this … is that their amazing story will help not only bring awareness to the need for adoption but also that it will bring awareness to the desperate need for medical care and maternity care, especially in developing countries,” Meredith said.
The proud parents have developed a blog, www.oursammyandasher.com. “They have an against-all-odds type of story,” Meredith said. “We really think they are going to do something great in the world.”