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Life and Religion

5 times love: Growing a family through adoption
Jerricho and Mercedes Cotchery expand clan
Published Wednesday, December 27, 2017 2:25 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Mercedes and Jerricho Cotchery adopted five children after learning they couldn’t bear offspring naturally.

Adoption is part of the Cotchery family, not the defining characteristic.  

The parents – Mercedes and Jerricho Cotchery, the Carolina Panthers' receivers coach  – did not intend to adopt five children, but they wouldn’t have their family any other way.

“I’m barren,” Mercedes said. “That’s why we chose adoption. I’ve always kind of thought that I wanted to adopt. I think initially, I didn’t think too deeply or intimately about it, but it started becoming much more real in 2006. It’s something that I alluded to growing up, but then when I was 18 we found out.”
Determined to have children, the couple turned to adoption.

“For us it was really all quick,” Mercedes said. “We started in 2006, but we didn’t necessarily start with adoption. We started nesting over being a parent. We were actually going to go a totally different pathway. In July 2006, I went to my husband, and confessed that I didn’t think I could continue the path that we were going on, and that I thought we should consider adoption. We had to be patient with that process, because we weren’t on the same page.”
In 2007, Jerricho's page turned, and they began the process the following month with a home study.

“The home study gets finalized pretty quickly, but you have to have a background check, sex abuse screenings—there are tons of things that you have to do,” Mercedes said. “You have to have references. They want to know everything about your lives. As quickly as you can fill out that paperwork, that’s how fast your home study can be done. So it can really be done in about a month.”

While adoption may have become more of a common practice in recent years, it still takes time.

“The process of waiting for a child, it’s very different for minority children,” Mercedes said. “The first baby that we wanted to adopt, he was born Aug. 17, 2007. I was in the delivery room, everything, but we weren’t in an adoption family-friendly state. I was still just learning everything about adoption, and that wasn’t the baby that the Lord had for us, and my daughter [Jacey, now 10] was born seven days later.”

Deeply rooted in her faith, Cotchery knew God had a plan for their family.

“We had an attorney advocating for us, and so my phone rang one day, as I was watching my husband play the Patriots with the Jets one Thursday," she said. “A man that I’d never talked to before said ‘I think I have your baby.’ We had just suffered a tremendous loss. After suffering that loss, I was so confident that I would be a mom, but I was also confused as to how God would make that happen. I never doubted for one minute that the Lord would let me be a mom, but I was just like ‘man, how on earth can you make this happen with my condition?’ We thought we would pause a little bit on adoption. So when my phone rang, it’s just interesting that we were having all these thoughts of pause, but when it rang, it was right.”  

A decade later, the Cotchery family consists of Jacey, Nicholas (7), Joshua (6), Journey (4) and Nile (1).

“Luckily kids come one at a time, for the most part,” Mercedes said. “My daughter was an only child for three years, and it was so easy to kind of just bring her along with our life. I always say football is the best sport ever, because it has a very short season. My husband, when he was a player, had a tremendous amount of time off. It was easy to take family vacations, and all kinds of things like that. We were lucky to be on a team initially, the [New York] Jets, that has child care at the football games. They fed your kids. They did crafts with your kids for like four and a half hours while you were watching the football game.”

The Cotcherys have settled here in Charlotte, where Jerricho, a former Panthers receiver who played in Super Bowl 50, works with the team as a coach.
“We’ve been a part of football, “ Mercedes said. “We were out one year, but I guess 14 years now. Everything has kind of grown up together. It’s hard to kind of extrapolate it all, because it seems so seamless.”

Mercedes, who studied chemistry at North Carolina State University, where she and Jerricho met, home schools their children. She also documents their journey through her blog “Mommy Moments Meltdowns & Mercy.”

“We keep our kids on a schedule, kind of,” Mercedes said. “My oldest is 10, so she has to have more freedom. In the morning I wake up about 5 a.m. and nest; think about my day, have quiet time with the Lord, figure out what we’re going to do for that day. What will they eat? I get my children between 7-8 a.m., and before they come down, they get dressed, they clean their rooms, and then they go downstairs, because we may not go back up for a while. Then we have breakfast, and then we begin our day, and my little one is somewhere crying. My oldest can feed her brother [Nile]; she can change his diaper. She’s like a real person. What’s interesting though is that my 6- and my 7-year-old, they’re not a year apart. They’re two months and 20 days apart. My 6-year-old will turn seven in February. In the adoption world we call it forced twins.”

The last decade has allowed them to “witness” to others about adoption, while growing themselves throughout the process.

“We know much more about adoption now than we did then,” Mercedes said. “We didn’t embark on this journey thinking we would have five children. I don’t know if we thought we would have two. We just really wanted a child. We’re not ashamed of the fact that they’re adopted. It’s beautiful. We’re adopted in Christ. Our stories mirror that. That’s what we teach them.”

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