Paul Rush was looking for a fight.
The anger that seeped through him was the only thing keeping him from falling apart after he received the news his daughter, Annie Grace, was stillborn.
The Northwest Nazarene men’s basketball coach and his wife, Kylie, were driving up I-84 from a recruiting trip in Salt Lake City, where they had received the devastating news that the baby they had so longed for didn’t have a heartbeat.
Rush said he was angry with God.
“Not struggling with my faith. I was just pissed at him,” he said. “Just asking him why.”
The couple got back to Boise and were in the hospital until Monday, when they delivered Annie Grace and buried her later that week.
At the time, the Rush family never could have imagined that four years later they would have three children ready to tear open presents this Christmas.
“We were told we would never get pregnant again and now we have three kids under two,” Kylie Rush said. “We were told Jack would foster with us for 30 days. Those days got longer and longer until we adopted him.”
BABY JOHN WAYNEPaul and Kylie always knew they wanted to have children. They’d talked about adoption while they were dating and decided to start trying to have kids on a basketball trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
While spending a year trying to have kids of their own, they felt led by God to become foster parents.
They went through all of the training, and then right before doing the final step they got pregnant with Annie Grace, who they called Baby John Wayne because their dads’ names are John and Wayne, and decided to put foster care on hold.
Two months later, Paul, then a teacher and basketball coach at Capital High, was hired as an assistant basketball coach at NNU.
Then disaster struck.
After the death of their daughter, Kylie’s grandfather died and shortly after that a brother-in-law passed away.
“It wasn’t the best year of our life,” Kylie said.
Paul remembers being on a week-long road trip to California and being overcome by grief in a hotel bathroom.
“Part of it was because I wasn’t home to support her and be with her after losing the baby and losing her grandpa,” Paul said. “I can remember being on my knees on the bathroom floor of our hotel and having a conversation with God and a scripture from Job coming to mind, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.’
“I remember having that conversation with God. I thought he was pretty bad at that point and didn’t like what was going on, but I was still going to be open to him and have faith in him.”
FAITHWhile Paul and Kylie were wrestling with God throughout the situation, they continued to live a faith-filled life that impacted those around them.
Fellow assistant men’s basketball coach Jon Hawkins said he found Paul and Kylie’s witness inspiring to him and his wife Savannah.
“I think being angry at God is totally OK and they had some fights with God,” Hawkins said. “They knew God was still going to be faithful. That was powerful. Paul shared it with the team and you could just tell that he was still struggling, but his faith was so real to me and the team.
“I couldn’t fathom still going about day-to-day tasks and still putting others ahead of him.”
Staying rock solid in their faith helped lead to the family they have today.
“It just shows that sometimes you wait for something and God answers that prayer in a way that you never imagined,” said Audrey Scott, one of Kylie’s best friends.
TJ AND JACKThe couple waited six months after losing Annie Grace to start trying to have kids again. They spent 10 of the next 12 months using fertility drugs, hormones and the entire cocktail of medications prescribed.
None of it worked, and after meeting with an IVF coordinator, they decided to stop pursuing a child through the help of medicine.
They decided to revisit adoption, as it had long been on their hearts, but the meeting didn’t go well.
“It just wasn’t where we were supposed to be at the time,” Kylie said. “Paul was in a trance that whole meeting. Just listening to them talk, we knew.”
So, the couple went back to foster care, completed the final step and waited for a child to be placed with them.
After a few false starts where they were told they were going to be fostering a newborn, they found out they were pregnant with Timothy John.
They decided to keep pursuing fostering the summer of 2017, even after Paul’s surprise promotion to head coach.
With the season looming, the Rushes received a phone call on a Friday that they would have a 3-week-old to pick up from a daycare on Monday.
“We got so many phone calls and nothing had worked out, so we didn’t think anything of it and we didn’t do anything to prepare,” Kylie said. “We went out to eat and did fun stuff, not knowing it would be our last weekend as child-less people.”
That Monday after they had their 20-week ultrasound for TJ, Kylie went to the daycare to pick up Jack and their lives were forever changed.
“We didn’t sleep for the next year,” Kylie said. “I remember going to work pregnant on one hour of sleep after a night with Jack.”
Foster care isn’t just taking care of a child, it is also taking the child to appointments all over town for visitations with the biological family, doctors appointments and social work meetings.
“There were multiple days where I was ready to call them and tell them we were done,” Kylie said. “He would have visits and they would no-show. I gave his mom my cell number and she would call in the middle of the night or come by to drop things off for him at 4 a.m.”
Kylie and Paul persevered, though. When TJ was born, Kylie went on maternity leave, which freed up a lot of time and made things easier.
Until TJ had a major health scare.
On the night TJ was born, Paul was changing his diaper when the little guy started choking and turned blue. Paul handed him to Kylie and pulled the emergency cord. Doctors rushed in and cleared the obstruction and said TJ was “chokey and spitty,” but didn’t do any further tests.
Six months later, doctors figured out TJ had a laryngeal cleft and would need surgery to fix it.
A week before the surgery, they found out they were pregnant with Isaiah Matthew.
“It was a super stressful time, just knowing your kid is not 100 percent,” Kylie said. “It’s crazy. Being told you will never have children of your own and then …”
Isaiah was born in May with no complications.
“He is a champ,” Paul said. “He tries to keep up with his brothers.”
A HAPPY FAMILY
At 10:59 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 9, Jack Aaron officially joined the Rush family.
With the adoption official, the amount of extra work that went into foster care has slowed down. There are fewer visitations and meetings and appointments.
Jack still goes and spends time with his biological grandmother but otherwise is hanging out with his mom and dad or one of the men’s basketball players.
Kylie and the boys come to as many games as they can, often standing in the northeast corner of the upper bleachers.
She said she doesn’t really get to watch the games since she is chasing three boys around, but just being there is fun and a way to support her husband.
“The boys love going and they cheer for daddy and like all the basketball players,” Kylie said.
After every home game, Paul encourages his team to interact with fans and thank them for coming. He immediately grabs one of his sons and walks through the crowds whether his team won or lost.
“These little guys are the best perspective check,” he said. “You can be super frustrated after a game and snag one of these little guys and you get over what you were mad about.”
And while life is incredibly busy with having three young kids, the Rush family wouldn’t have it any other way and are looking forward to their first Christmas as a family.