Walt and Annie Manis were childhood friends—they had grown up across the street from each other, and as kids practically lived inside each other’s pockets.
“My whole life, I was like, ‘I think Walt Manis is amazing,'” Annie said with a laugh. “I always thought, when I grew up, I want to find someone like him.”
It might have been fate, or it might have been coincidence, but when they started college, Walt and Annie met again—and hit it off immediately.
They started talking, and before they knew it they were spending more and more time together.
Annie remembers the two of them sitting in his car one day, sharing everything, all of their hopes and dreams. She confessed that she felt she was always meant to be a mother.
“I felt like God had just made me to be a mom, that’s what I wanted to be more than anything, I wanted to be a mother,” she said.
She went on to tell him that she already had a name picked out for who she imagined would be her first daughter. Then, to her surprise, Walt said “I do too!”
“I thought that was weird, because I didn’t think guys did that,” she said.
Walt asked her, “Well, what’s the name?” and Annie answered: “Chloe.”
Walt was floored. At 12 years old, he had had a vision of himself in the future, tossing a little girl up in the air, and God telling him, this is your daughter. She had brown eyes and olive skin, and Walt knew her name was Chloe.
For his entire life, he had held onto that image and knew he would be that little girl’s father that day. Little did he know that Annie had had the same dream, and both of them wanted more than anything to be parents, especially to this little girl who felt fated for them.
But neither Annie nor Walt had olive skin and dark eyes, so Walt’s dream was a mystery, but the couple was joyous either way.
“I think we knew pretty early that we were going to get married,” Annie said. “The best way for me to describe it is Walt felt like home to me.”
When they did get married, the couple did not decide to have children right away. They wanted to travel first, and they spent a couple of years doing humanitarian work around the globe.
Then they decided it was the right time. They said, yeah, let’s start our family, and did not think it would take long.
“But months turned into years, and pretty soon we were four years into trying—and still nothing,” Annie said.
This came as a devastating shock to the young couple. “I had always clung to this promise God had given me,” Walt said.
They were a devoted couple, and they had believed they were brought together by fate or a plan and that they were truly meant to be parents. It was hard to understand the situation they were in.
“It was really, really hard on us individually, on us in our marriage, on the way we were relating to God,” Annie said.
All of their friends were starting their families and having babies, and the couple would just paste on their cheesy smiles and tell their friends how happy they were for them while their hearts were breaking.
“We would hear about someone getting pregnant and we were just devastated, because we were like, ‘this isn’t going to happen for us, we’re just fools,'” Walt said. “We’re fools who want kids and it’s never going to happen for us.”
They were more than four years into this ordeal when Annie felt something shift inside of her.
It sounds simple, she said, but her perspective shifted and she realized she could live a really full and happy life even if she wasn’t going to ever be a mother. That actually, she could “be satisfied the deepest way a human can be satisfied, with knowing a child,” Annie said. But paradoxically, at the same time, her desire to have a child was getting even stronger.
Walt and Annie had shared their story and journey with friends and people they met, and support started pouring in from all corners of the earth. People told them they would support them in their hearts, or pray for them, or that they were there if they needed them.
Then, Annie started to consider adoption.
Walt was upset at first.
“Annie was like, ‘Maybe we’re supposed to adopt,’ and I was adamantly against it,” he said. “I called it a ‘bandaid baby’—we were struggling, we were hurting, and I didn’t just want a fix. I wanted the kid we were supposed to have.’
Nevertheless, he came around to the idea and supported Annie as she pursued adoption and they went through all the paperwork. He was supportive, but did not have conviction.
Then, not long after, Annie got an email.
“It’s a girl!” read the subject line. It was from Annie’s adoption agency, who wrote to say they found a birth mother who wanted to meet the couple.
By this time, Annie and Walt had already decided the name “Chloe” was off the table. It was just a coincidence they had both liked that name so much, but they had given up on that dream and were ready to move forward with their lives. The girl they were going to adopt wasn’t “Chloe.”
Then they met the birth mother.
“She opens the door and it looks like this grown-up version of this little girl I’ve always had in my head and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, what in the world?'” Walt said. “In a second, in my head, the name was back on the table.”
Alison, the birth mother, started talking to the couple and found she really liked them. A few hours in, the social worker says, “Okay, let’s talk about names.”
Before Alison even knew Walt and Annie existed, she knew she was going to have a little girl and wanted to name her Chloe. So when the social worker asked, she put the name out there, not knowing if they would like the name or not.
“We were just floored,” Walt said. “I just had full body shivers.”
“I just know that I was ugly-crying,” Annie said.
Alison was stunned too—she thought the adoptive parents hated the name! She quickly apologized and said it was just an idea, they didn’t have to keep it.
“We were weeping and she was like, ‘Oh you hate the name!’ Oh my goodness, no, we love the name,” Walt said.
It seemed like their story had come full circle.
For Walt and Annie, this was a huge test of faith, and a profound symbol of love.
Even before the baby was born, “In an instant, I had become a father,” Walt said.
“I realized how foolish I was, how my perspective was so skewed in my own pain,” Annie said. It felt like their story had been written, had been in the making, for so many years and they were just beginning to see how carefully arranged everything was.
The next few months were full of anticipation. Come February or March, they would be parents to a little girl named Chloe.
“I was just crazy nervous that morning, then all of a sudden it’s happening. All this bustling around—and then Chloe was there!” Annie said.
She held her for the first time and said quietly, “Hi, I’m your Mom,” and it was almost surreal.
“She’s been a part of my life for so long, and now she’s here,” Walt said.
“I’m completely on cloud nine, just amazed,” he said.
“It’s not random,” Walt said. “It’s amazing, it’s a miracle.”
“People can say it’s just a coincidence. You can’t convince me of that,” he said.