ADOPTION TWIST: Three Mothers Mourn Baby’s Death

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ANKENY, Ia -- Three mothers are mourning a baby's death after he was found alone in a Des Moines apartment.

Police arrested a teen Tuesday night hours after finding his 4-month-old son unresponsive.

The police report states that the baby's mother left 17-year-old Drew Weehler-Smith with the child so that she could run errands.

But when she came back to the apartment on Chaffee Road he was gone and their son, Gabriel McFarland was unresponsive lying in a chair.

Paramedics rushed him to the hospital where he later died.

Weehler-Smith was arrested at his mother's house and is currently charged with neglect of a dependent person.

Additional charges are possible pending the results of an autopsy.

The death is just as heartbreaking for an Ankeny couple. For two-and-a-half months, Gabriel McFarland was their son.

The sixteen-year-old mother had made an agreement last September to give up her baby to Rachel and Heidi McFarland of Ankeny. The McFarland’s were there with her every step of the way, and they took Gabriel home to his new room where he lived until March 13th.

“It just felt natural. When he was with us it just felt right. Like we were always meant to be moms,” Rachel said.

They had supported the mother financially through her pregnancy and had been with her at every doctor's appointment. They repeatedly asked her "Are you sure you want to do this?" The couple say she said “yes.”

On March 13th, they got a call from their lawyer that Gabriel's birth mother wanted him back and there was little they could do about it. They were left with nothing.

“The thing is we have been scrutinized. Our lifestyle has been scrutinized; the people that are in our lives have been scrutinized. We had to have letters of reference for this home study to make sure that we were adequate as parents, and they never had to have anything when they took him back,” Rachel says.

In Iowa, the birth mother has three months and then one additional 31-day probationary period to change her mind about giving up her baby.

Gabriel was born deaf in one ear and the McFarlands had not only fitted him for a hearing aid, they had begun to prepare to learn sign language in case he lost the hearing in his other ear.


    • change the law, protect our children

      takes ONE bold person to stand up to the law…still waiting for that ONE person! DHS was only doing their job, though albeit the law sucks in this situation.

  • Cheri Davis

    I do not think that what this young mother did was right. These ladies were there with her through thick and thin. What was she thinking? Was this the baby daddy? Did he kill his own child? Was this his revenge on the mom because she was giving the baby to Lesbians? Seems a lot of details are missing from this story! It is sad this poor baby had to die! I feel more sorry for the adoptive parents!

  • Michelle

    I feel so bad for Rachel and Heidi. My husband and I adopted our daughter and went through many ups and downs during the whole process. It really is heart breaking to hear of this poor babies death. If Rachel and Heidi ever need a surrogate I would do it in a heartbeat. I know that unconditional love you feel for your child adopted or biological. I wish everyone could experience that. Sending my prays to all involved.

  • Sarah

    Heidi and Rachel, you Are Mothers! Albeit for a very short while, but you gave your son love and he will always know who his REAL MOMMYS are. God Bless you both.

  • RoccoB

    This has got Lifetime movie of the week written all over it
    Lesbians…..teen moms….teen baby killers.
    I bet the DSM Register is going bonkers over this couple.
    Look for a 20 page special edition spread coming from that rag.

  • sally

    I feel very bad for Rachel and Heidi. I truly believe this is why so many couples go outside of the country to adopt. No one is going to come into their house and take away their child because the birth mother changed her mind.

  • Looking at both sides

    Does anybody really know the birth mothers side of the story, or are we just going by what the media is putting out there. There is two sides to every story and sometimes you need to walk in the other persons shoes to understand. When adopting you should realize there is always that chance that the birth mother can change her mind, that’s why there are laws out there. People really need to take a step back and give the birth mother and her family time to grieve. Just got to love how people just go for the throat and not take everything into consider.

    • make adoption real and final!

      I totally get your point, most of the bloggers on this website apparently live perfect lives and definitely enjoy attacking others.

      I realize we don’t know the cause of death yet, maybe the baby had a seizure and would have died no matter where he was. Still seems a little odd the 17 year old boyfriend just left the baby alone.

      I did not realize until today that the birth mother had been raped. that does put a different spin on things. At the same time, I would think it would make her want the child even less. What if he looks like his father? would you want to look at someone who reminded you of a violent crime every day for the rest of your life?

      I don’t agree with the birth mother getting 4 months to change her mind after the adoption. What happens if another 4 months down the road she changes her mind again? she had her entire pregnancy to decide if she wanted this child or not. She was not in a good situation to raise the baby. The couple in Ankeny had invested a lot of time, money and love in this little boy just to have him ripped from their home. They had to go through invasive searches of their personal lives to make sure that they were going to be good parents.

      Nope, this happens too often. the laws need to be changed, or open up foreign adoptions and make them easier, knowing that means a lot of U.S. babies will end up in foster care, or with parents that don’t want them.

      I am assuming that while the birth mother was pregnant she looked at her life and thought ‘nope, not in a good place to raise a baby right now’. or, ‘don’t want a baby, maybe never’. Then, after this poor little guy was born, I’m sure she realized how beautiful he was. Then maybe she saw other mothers out playing with their kids. Or saw kids at the mall. I’m going to guess that she looked at ‘being a mommy’ with rose colored glasses on. she probably quit thinking about the financial implications of raising a child when she had no education, the nights he was going to be sick, having someone else watch him (or not watch him) while she ran out to do some errands. She wanted to be a ‘mommy’, but didn’t realize what being a ‘parent’ really entails. I think that happens to a lot of young people and it is the baby that pays for it in the end. This one, possibly, paid the ultimate price.

      • Looking at both sides

        Not sure where you got that the birth mother was raped, because I know someone that knows them personally and she has informed me that NO she was not raped. People do not realize that having a baby you go through a lot of emotions before and after, so whatever made her want the baby back is her right and doesn’t matter. In fact the news says that the adopted parents were getting ready to learn sign language, guess what the birth mother’s mom is deaf and can read lips and do sign language just like the birth mother. Please let this go and leave the family in peace.

      • SusanM.

        Not all states have the 4 month requirement. The laws are different by state. When we adopted it was 48 hours in the state we adopted from. Then we went to court and it was final.

      • change the law, protect our children

        IF she was raped, she left the baby with the father…the rapist? I’m sorry, but no. She should have left the baby with the adoptive moms, end of story.

      • Make adoption permanent

        Responding to change the law,protect our children. There was a blog on the first story that said she was raped by someone, NOT the 17 year old being referred to as the father. I’m wondering if perhaps that blogger was on the wrong story, or mis informed. Still doesn’t seem like she picked a very good person to leave her baby with. even if the baby died of natural causes, you don’t leave!

    • make adoption final and real

      ok, my other reply to you didn’t post. maybe it will and these comments will show up twice.

      In the blog for the original story, it says that he mother was raped. That is where I got that information. The person who posted that is just as trustworthy as anyone else posting out here saying they KNOW this or KNOW that.

      I had more sympathy for her when I thought she was raped. what was she doing getting pregnant at the age of 15? There are ways to prevent that…the best one being abstinence!

      And, if she wanted to be a mommy so bad that she ripped the child out of a happy home, what was she doing leaving him home alone? Yes, I realize ‘Daddy’ is the one who left, but, apparently ‘Mommy’ wasn’t too careful about the kind of guy she left her kid with.

  • Ok....

    ok, if the birth mother was raped, why does the first story say the teen father is responsible for the death of this child? Is it just poor reporting? If so, that’s a pretty big oops! Or, did the boy adopt the baby already?

  • madison

    Just so everyone knows rachel’s statement on this matter is almost completely false. They didn’t pay for anything to do with the pregnancy. They didn’t go to any appointments. Not even when the sex of the baby was revealed. I know rachel and she is not a trustworthy person. She made death treats to the mother about her and the child. Don’t feel sorry for her. She doesn’t deserve it. And don’t shame the birth mother for wanting her baby either. She did all the right things. And a terrible horrific thing happened to her and the whole family. None of you know any of these people. I do. Keep your judgment to your self. You don’t have any of the facts.

    • GabesGodfather

      …Excuse me?
      I know for a fact that not only did they pay for the things mentioned, but they also provided lunch for the mother every single time they went down for appointments (which was far, far more many times than you seem to realize), as well as going so far as to pay RENT for the mother when she couldn’t make ends meet. They bought her family groceries every time they visited. They paid to get Gabe fitted for a hearing aid, and were ready to pay for that as well- the birth mother cancelled at least two appointments to get that finalized. How responsible is that?
      The girl wanted nothing, NOTHING to do with this child until the last possible minute, when her financial support from Rachel and Heidi ran out. Rachel and Heidi were nothing but fully supportive for this child. How dare you try to libel this wonderful couple- clearly, it’s YOU who doesn’t know Rachel and Heidi, or are just trying to put up anything you can to make the birth mother look better, and believe me, there’s not a lot of argument for that case.

      These two women were so dedicated to this child that they ran nothing short of a gauntlet to get approval for his adoption, remodeled their home, etc. That’s more dedication and parenting than these teenagers could have ever hoped to give for this baby.

      • Carolyn

        Are you really the baby’s godfather? I want to get in touch with Markeya, but her privacy settings don’t allow me to send her a private message. Do you have an e-mail address for her? I promise its just encouragement. I just want her to know that not everybody is passing judgement.

      • liberationbarbie

        Sorry, I left that comment in the wrong spot. I don’t mean to make light of the adoptive parents plight. I can’t imagine what they are going through either. I have no doubt what they are going through is beyond difficult. I just thought Markeya might need an encouraging word after reading all the disparaging comments.

    • liberationbarbie

      Do you actually know her personally? I want to get in touch with Markeya, but her privacy settings don’t allow me to send her a private message. Do you have an e-mail address for her? I promise its just encouragement. I just want her to know that not everybody is passing judgement.

  • RoccoB

    How does a 16 year girl even afford an attorney in the first place?

    Or does the State/Fed. now hand out attorney fees out like welfare, food, and Section 8 housing?

  • Sassy Pete (@MissSassyPete)

    This is a loss that could have been prevented had DHS not had their heads lodged firmly up their yahoos. 4 months to decide if you want your baby? Are you kidding me with this? RIDICULOUS. This law needs to be changed – before another baby suffers from this type of “protection”.

  • what the heck...!

    @Sassy Pete – DHS, by law, had to return the baby to birth-mom. Sassy Pete, yes, the law DOES need to be changed, I agree. Rachel and Heidi went through home study after home study to prove they were legit and fit to be parents, why doesn’t birth-mom have to prove the same to get the baby back?

    As for anyone claiming that birth-mom was raped, consider this. IF (and I say IF) she was raped, she left the baby with the birth-father…the rapist? If she was NOT raped, based on basic math that means she was 15yrs old when she got pregnant. At what point does the law consider the fact that Rachel and Heidi are better suited IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD vs. a 16yr old mom?

  • Dan

    I’m curious what special circumstances existed that might have created the four month window mentioned above for the birth mother to change her mind. That sounds quite atypical. For the typical adoption of a newborn in Iowa, the birth parents may sign a termination of parental rights agreement 72 hours after a baby is born. They then have an additional 96 hours to revoke their termination without cause. After that though, their rights are permanently extinguished unless a court determines that fraud or some illegal inducement were used to get the birth parents to sign the termination documents. 1-2 weeks for final termination is much more the norm in Iowa though than four months, provided both birth parents sign the termination paperwork. (Court confirmation occurs a little later, but that doesn’t affect the parties’ rights relative to the 72 and 96-hour clocks.)

    Our hearts go out to the infant and all those who loved him. So tragic…

    • Make adoption permanent

      I know that we had friends that adopted a newborn…took her home from the hospital….lost her months later back to the birth parents. In their case, I believe it was the birth father that came after the baby. Not sure what the law is there. Can the birth mother give up the baby without his consent?

      • Dan

        Birth fathers are generally afforded the same legal rights in Iowa as birth mothers, so their consent to a permanent placement is also required. If they’re unwilling or unable to parent the child, or if they’re just not in the picture, a court can terminate a birth father’s rights on his behalf, but that can take some time. Adoptive parents often take the child home in the interim as part of a “legal risk” placement, knowing the permanent placement is not certain but hoping and praying that it will be. Unfortunately it sounds like that’s perhaps what happened in your friends’ case, with the birth father ultimately deciding to parent. I’m very sorry to hear about that. My wife and I also adopted a child here in Iowa, but we were fortunate to have both birth parents sign the termination paperwork very shortly after our son’s birth. The legal process can be reasonably timely and efficient when that happens, with far less risk.



    • Sub

      Seriously? Closed-minded bigots, bullies, and people just like you get to have children, and pass on far, FAR worse things than that. Even if homosexuality is a learned trait, I’d rather deal with a homosexual child than a child that takes after you any day of the week.

    • Canine Friend

      What a moron. Crawl back under your rock, this is about a murdered baby. Take your homophobe agenda and stick it red neck.

    • Brittany G

      This can not be serious. Did you read the article?! The GAY couple were the ones who loved this little and kept him ALIVE for 3 months of his life. One month with the straight couple and he’s dead. You seriously think that he was better off with them because of their sexual orientation. You sir/maam, are the scum of the earth.

    • KC

      Really? That’s simply not true. Most children raised by gay people are straight. Up until the mid 1980’s, when in-vitro fertilization was discovered, every single gay person in the entire world came from 2 straight parents. That’s an undisputable fact

  • It's a risk you take adopting In iowa

    You can not buy a baby through lunch, groceries and hearing aids. As hard as it was to give the child back it is even more emotional to give up a child. This young mother now has the horrible task of picking out a casket & arranging a funeral for the life she carried. While being judged by people who have no clue. Have those “mothers” stepped up during this tragedy, for anything other then sympathy for theme selves or to create hardship for the birth mother? I’m sickened this is not the time to bring light to your problems of adoption. Selfish please do not call them the other two mothers…..
    If his mother had any reason to believe he would have been harmed by his father in the hour she was gone, I doubt she would have walked out the door.
    Young mothers have enough struggles, bossy inconsiderate people are one of them. I also had a child at a young age, not once did I accept government help. We survived, he is almost 30 yrs old with two gorgeous babies of his own. I have been married 28 yrs, to a man who choose to love both me and my son.
    Thinking it feels right to hold a child and call him yours is different then carrying a child for 9 months and giving him up. This is a risk all adoptive parents in Iowa face. Get some counseling, I don’t see complaining like this an advantage in your next attempt at adoption.

    • Sub

      Between this article and another, the father may be a 17-year-old kid, or a police officer in his 30’s. If that’s the case, she likely doesn’t even know which it is. She shouldn’t be even thinking about having children. So you run errands? Be a mom. Bring your child with you. Parenting isn’t a hobby you do when you’re bored or when it’s convenient for you, it’s a lifelong commitment. Iowa’s laws are a sick, twisted joke on this matter.

    • Kim

      Birth Mommy managed to go get her nails done the day after her baby died. Her baby is dead because she left him with someone she admits she didn’t trust to take care of the baby just so she could get her nails done and make concert arrangements.

  • Canine Friend

    Toss the thing that’s called his mother and the waste of air space she chose for a sperm donor into the clink and remove them from society.

    Poor child had a chance and instead two selfish humans who had sex wouldn’t put him first.

  • Lilreb

    Unless you have given a baby up for adoption, you people should not judge. It is one of the hardest decisions a person will ever make in their life. I see nowhere, in any of these articles that state the mom was charged with any crime. She left her son with someone I would assume she trusted and that person let her down. What an emotional roller coaster for this young lady. She will probably spend the rest of her life regretting every decision she made with this child. As far as the adoptive parents, my heart breaks for them as much as the biological mom but they do know the risk going into the adoption that the birth mom can and may change her mind, for whatever reason. Its a very sad story all the way around and a beautiful, young baby is now gone. Thoughts and prayers to all involved.

    • KC

      You assume she left him with someone she trusted? Well you are completely wrong. And the mother has basically admitted this. She went out and her friend came by her house 25 minutes later and saw the baby was with the father. The friend was scared that the baby was with him and she called the mother and asked her, “Do you trust him with the baby”? The mother said no and asked the friend to go back and watch the baby. The friend did and she found the baby dead

  • aFellow

    I highly doubt she will regret anything. What I’d be willing to bet money on is that she’ll be pregnant again before 18, and look to the system for a free ride. And once again, you and I will be punished for making good decisions, and will be forced to pay her way. She’s learned now that the system works in her favor, and she’ll have no motivation to do otherwise.
    But that’s truly unimportant compared to the loss of this baby’s life. No harm should ever come to any child.
    I hope this Drew, who is a disgrace to mankind, never again sees the light of day. But you know he will.

  • Ruby Stroud

    Rest in peace little baby you’re now in the arms of a Loveing Heavenly Father…so sorry your life was so brief But God knows best and allowed you to come back to Heaven ….as for the birth mother pregnant at Age15 she is a child having a child… as for the two gay mothers if they really wanted a child they should chose a normal lifestyle.women have children but it takes a father to make it happen…a child needs a normal life….I agree that Gay people whether men or women should not be allowed to adopt so unfair to the children .This is not normal and I think it Is cruel. So many poor decisions by the wrong people..soooo sad.

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