New Orleans Saints Linebacker AJ Klein has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
One year ago, he found out his wife, Taylor Klein, was pregnant with their little girl, Bowie.
They also received a call that changed their lives forever, WDSU shares the following story.
AJ and Taylor went from two to four in a matter of months. They knew one day that they would have their own baby, but Taylor also said she wanted to adopt.
That was a conversation they started having before they got married.
“She always said ‘hey, I think I want to adopt.’ Me, at first I was just like eh, I’m not sure. Like, OK, we’ll talk about it,” AJ said.
Taylor said she watched her parents foster children ever since she was a young girl, which is why she wanted to adopt because she saw the impact it had on others.
When she and AJ started talking about it, he admitted that he was a little hesitant.
“I was very resistant to the idea, and I ended up just praying about it. I literally went to God in prayer and just asked Him to work out my heart and whether or not it was the right thing for me. The hardest part that I had, thinking about the situation, was can I love a child that’s not biologically mine as much as my own children,” AJ said.
One morning, AJ said he woke up and decided he was ready to adopt.
The couple wasted no time getting the process going. November 2018 was the start of a new beginning for the Klein family.
“We actually found out we were pregnant the day after Thanksgiving  on a Friday. And the following Wednesday, I get a call from our social worker, well, a missed call. I called her back and she told me about his birth mother,” Taylor said.
On January 25, 2019, Cannon James Klein was born.
“We were in the delivery room. I was able to cut the umbilical cord. My wife did skin to skin right after he was born. I didn’t think I could love a child that’s not biologically mine and I love him more than words can express,” AJ said.
“When I look at him, I see pure joy,” Taylor said.
Cannon was named after AJ’s old neighbor. When AJ played football in Charlotte, he said the ‘original’ Cannon would ride his bike and check on his home whenever he was out of town. So, when he and Taylor thought of names, AJ said he immediately thought of Cannon because he admired how kind and respectable he was as a young man.
Cannon and AJ during the Saints and Panthers game
A few months after Cannon James was born, his little sister entered this world. Bowie Rose Klein was born on July 27, 2019. Taylor and AJ said the two are already the best of friends.
“Cannon came in January during off season. So, AJ was able to be here all day, every day. And Bowie came the first day of training camp. She loves watching him. She doesn’t take her eyes off of him,” Taylor said.
When AJ and Taylor decided to adopt, the couple said they did not have a preference on race or gender.
“We went into it and we said, you know what, whatever child God gives us, that’s the child that we’re going to accept as our child and love regardless. And then, there’s a ‘no preference’ box. That’s the box that we checked,” they said.
“We had no idea what our son was going to look like, and meeting him he was so familiar. And we couldn’t imagine him looking any differently than he does,” Taylor said.
Though, the couple admitted raising a black son will eventually come with its challenges.
“Obviously, there are a lot of injustices in this world and we know that raising him is going to be different than raising her [Bowie], simply based on the color of his skin. And it’s going to be difficult for us,” AJ said.
“The biggest thing is to start the conversation and never stop. Even when he can’t necessarily grasp everything, we will still be telling him so it’s not this big surprise. He’ll hear the stories, he’ll know about her [Cannon’s birth mother]. He’ll know that he grew in her belly. He didn’t grow in mommy’s belly; he grew in his first mommy’s belly,” Taylor said.
Until those difficult conversations begin, AJ and Taylor want to enjoy watching their son and daughter grow together, and cherish these moments that make them so thankful.
“Thank you for revealing my true purpose, growing my heart, teaching me what love truly is,” Taylor said. “God writes the best stories, if you just have the patience to let Him.”
“Thank you for giving me a renewed since of purpose. I think, especially in our profession, you can get lost on what you play the game. You play for the love, but I have a purpose, and my ‘why’. My ‘why’ is sitting right here on this couch,” AJ said.