As Christmas trees come down following the holidays, the tree in front of Elisa and Terry Rumbo’s Pilot Point home remains lit year round in honor of their first daughter, who lived to be just 25 hours old.
On Nov. 8, they became the adoptive parents of a newborn baby girl named Cara Beth Rumbo, coming full circle from the devastation they suffered when Crea Rumbo died the day after she was born in 2013.
Elisa is outspoken about her experiences and writes about infertility, infant death and miscarriage on her blog, ibelievedespite.org, which she uses as an outlet and to reach out to women going through similar difficulties.
She has experienced nine miscarriages, four with her ex-husband. Terry had been told he would never have children, so they were surprised to learn Elisa was pregnant just before they married in 2009 after meeting at a Dallas honkytonk. But they endured five disappointments before Elisa finally became pregnant with Crea, which means “believe” in Spanish.
“I really believe that when it comes to a portion of faith, I’ve been given a larger measure,” Elisa said. “People can only endure so much disappointment, but I feel like in my life and with our journey, we’ve just been granted a little extra faith to believe a little bit more. And that’s where Believe Despite comes from.”
Crea was born with spina bifida and an omphalocele, a condition in which the baby is born with its intestines contained in a sac outside the body.
“Her organs were outside her body, but the bag had ruptured, so they were everywhere,” Elisa said. “They let me see her for a few seconds, then they took her back to the operating room.
In the neonatal intensive care unit, Crea’s condition deteriorated until only life support machines sustained her tiny body. Elisa and Terry made the decision to turn the machines off.
“That afternoon, we went to her room and held her. We watched as she took her last breath,” Elisa said.
“The whole world comes crumbling down around you,” Terry said. “That’s when your faith is really tested. You go through all the emotions after that.”
The loss was crushing for the couple and pushed their devotion to each other to the limit.
“It’s a promise just taken away it feels like, and for me, I had already experienced that so many times for so many years,” Elisa said. “With our daughter Crea, that was the first pregnancy I had fully carried, and I say it all the time: We were at the finish line. She was born, and then she was gone.”
Crea was born on Sept. 6, 2013, and died the next day, marking the darkest point in Elisa’s life. Even with her faith as strong as it was, the pain pushed her nearly to the breaking point.
“I just laid in bed and wanted to will myself to stop breathing,” Elisa said. “The pain was physical.”
Elisa and Terry’s marriage survived, and today they have a child to call their own. They planted the tree in front of their house in March 2014 and began looking into adoption. They were matched through an agency with a mother who could not care for an expected child.
The couple was there for the birth, and Terry even cut the umbilical cord.
“I didn’t know if I could do it, but I did,” Terry said.
The three now live happily in their Pilot Point home with the Crea Tree lit up in their front yard every night.