Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins Open Up About Adoption Journey and Finally Getting Willa Gray Home

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Willa Gray Akins has finally made her way to Nashville and into the home of her parents, the childhood sweethearts, Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins. Though things are going smoothly and everyone is where they’re supposed to be, the new parents recently opened up to People, about just how hard the adoption process was on them and how bringing her home meant leaving her more than once.


Bringing Willa Gray home was a year-long process full of complicated laws and thousands of miles of travel. Initially, Lauren met the little girl while serving in an orphanage and just wanted to do anything to get her into a home. It was TR who suggested they step up and adopt.

The process began, but it also meant the couple would have to foster Willa Gray in country over the course of a year. The pair traveled to Africa almost a dozen times, including a 7-week trip, “I went over with Lauren in December for about seven weeks, and the room we were staying in with Willa almost started to feel like home. The hardest part was never knowing when it was going to end. I’m pretty sure every flight was booked a day before we left either place, because you can’t plan it. We’d get there and realize we had to be there another two weeks. Things moved at a snail’s pace,” Thomas shared.

It was on that long trip that Lauren found out she was pregnant, which further complicated everything (in a good way).

In March, Thomas and Lauren learned Wlla Gray was almost ready to be brought to America, but with Lauren’s due date fast-approaching there were still many issues to figure out– including TR leaving Lauren in Uganda to make sure Willa Gray wasn’t placed back in the orphanage, “That’s a scary place to be in as the husband — being 7,000 miles away from your 25-week-pregnant wife and your daughter, not knowing if they were going to come home in two weeks or two months….Willa was so attached to me and Lauren, and Lauren’s mom, that to bring her back to the orphanage at that point would have been completely detrimental.”

Eventually, Lauren had to return to Nashville for doctor’s appointments, leaving her mother in Uganda to bring Willa Gray home at last.

“It felt weird leaving one daughter and making sure the other one is okay. But I couldn’t do it another way. It killed me not being able to bring [Willa] home, but looking back, I think it was a blessing in disguise because I got to be home and nest before she got here — and catch up on my sleep so I wasn’t so jet-lagged!”

The day Willa Gray finally landed in Nashville, a few thousands Nashville Predators fans were at the airport to greet the team, too. Lauren shared, “So we pulled up in the car and expected it to be low key, but holy crap, half of Nashville was there!”

The welcome Baby Akins totally deserved.