When the Watsons' 'why?' was answered
Bubba and Angie open up about adoption.
July 05, 2016
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Angie Watson paced around the swimming pool behind the Miami hotel at least 50 times. Maybe more. Her husband Bubba was just as fidgety.
In 13 days, he would win the Masters, his first major championship, a career-changing moment for any golfer. But right now, teeing it up at Augusta National was the furthest thing from his mind.
He and Angie were on the verge of something much greater, a life-changing moment. Unfortunately, there was one problem.
The woman they were supposed to meet was 20 minutes late.
Had something gone wrong? Had she changed her mind?
It wouldn’t be the first time. Three times before, Bubba and Angie had come close to adopting their first child. Each time, the birth mother decided to go in a different direction. Was this going to be another disappointment?
Angie’s nerves were frayed. Each of those other times, she had questioned her approach, whether she had done something wrong. She would ask Bubba: Why don’t they like me? Why can’t I have my own kid?
Bubba didn’t know how to respond in words. So he just hugged her.
“Her emotions,” Bubba says, “are different than my emotions.”
Now 20 minutes have passed. Perhaps fate was setting them up for another cruel …
Wait. There she was. The birth mother finally arrived at the hotel, cradling a baby, not even four weeks old, a boy she had named Caleb. She walked over to Angie and placed the baby in her arms.
“The physical exchange was something that was really, really important to her,” Angie recalls. “I don’t know if it offered her closure or (if it was) just the symbolic act of giving a gift.”
From the Watsons’ perspective, it was the greatest gift they had ever received. Nothing would ever be the same. They were finally parents.
“One of the most emotional days I've ever been through,” Angie said.
When Bubba got his chance to hug his new son, he thought back to all those questions Angie asked when things failed to work out in the couple’s favor.
“When I was holding him, the joy for her, the joy for him, the joy for me,” Bubba recalls, “it’s a wide range of emotions because finally her ‘why’ is answered.”
As were their prayers.
Bubba and Angie met at the University of Georgia in the winter of 2001. Angie had just completed her rookie year with the WNBA's Charlotte Sting and was back in Athens to rehab a knee injury. Bubba was about to turn pro and try to make his way to the PGA TOUR.
She was watching several friends in a pick-up game when someone dove to save a loose ball. Angie, whose knee was in a cast, couldn't get out of the way quickly enough.
"So all my friends came over to help me up and then after they all knew I was OK, they all started laughing at me," Angie says with a smile.
Bubba was in that group.
The two started talking as she casually shot free throws with Bubba snagging rebounds for her. The first time they spent any significant time together was a week or so later when they played golf and ate pizza "but apparently, that can't be a first date for a golfer," Angie says.
So they needed something more formal, which turned out to be dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse. That night, after Bubba drove Angie back to her apartment, the conversation turned serious. He asked whether she wanted to have children. She did, but she knew her chances to get pregnant were very, very slim.
Bubba wasn’t put off by her answer. In fact, he told her it would be “so cool to adopt, so cool to give a child a good home.”
Angie thought the response was endearing. “It said a lot about him,” she explains.
Bubba is quick to point out that the couple was over what he calls "high school love" when they had this conversation. He knew they needed to be honest with each other if their relationship was to progress. He also knew Angie's news wasn't a roadblock to its success.
“When you think about not being able to have kids, your dream of having kids, watching my dad, learning from my dad, wanting to teach my little bit of knowledge to someone else, girl or boy, keeping the family name going, things like that," Bubba says.
"I mean, this girl told me that she can't have kids, and it hit me at that second. It didn't faze me, but it hit me that second going, ‘Oh, there's so many different ways to have kids.’”
The two dated long-distance for three years and married in 2004. Bubba was playing the Web.com Tour and Angie was back in the U.S. after playing pro basketball in Italy and France. Eventually, the couple decided Bubba's future in golf trumped the WNBA.
"It's just really, really hard to go there and play basketball for such little money ...,” Angie says, “and he’d be back here trying to reach his goals and then we’d be trying to meet somewhere in an airport to say hello for five minutes.”
The couple settled in Pensacola, Florida, near Bubba's hometown of Bagdad, the place of so many fond memories for Bubba growing up.
That’s when they began to look into adopting their first child.
As you might imagine, there’s quite a bit of paperwork involved in adopting the kids. Angie compares it to writing an autobiography. The home study process is overwhelming.
“They get personal, they get into everything about your family history, your finances, why you want to adopt, why you think you're a good parent, what kind of discipline techniques you think would be the best," she says.
"They drill you."
Angie understands why. At the same time, those intense interview sessions could be unnerving. After finishing, Angie would ask herself the same questions.
Did I pass? Did I do OK? Are we going to make it?
Meanwhile, Angie and Bubba would replay the interview. Bubba would ask Angie, “Did you say that?” Angie would look at Bubba and say, “I don’t think we should have said that.”
“It’s so kind of stressful,” she recalled recently. So stressful, in fact, that the couple decided to take a step back and didn’t start the home study process again until after moving to Scottsdale, Arizona.
In the spring of 2012, about a month before Bubba and Angie were officially certified, the phone rang. It was a Wednesday morning, and Bubba was playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
Would they like to adopt Caleb? The answer was a no-brainer. Yes, of course, they would.
"It was almost like we didn't need to talk," Angie recalls. "It just felt right from the beginning. I don't know if it was timing or just the situation or just -- I don't know, just a piece of our hearts that it was time and Caleb was the one."
Most people have nine months to get used to being a parent. Not the Watsons. Six days later, Bubba and Angie were meeting Caleb and his birth mother in the Miami hotel lobby.
In the interim, the couple rented a furnished home in Orlando. Since it was an interstate adoption, there would be a lot of paperwork and no one knew how long it would take for the court to give the OK for Caleb to leave the state and travel to Scottsdale.
Bubba's management team and his caddie and his trainer were the only people who knew what was going on behind the scenes. A courtesy car overflowing with diapers and baby clothes and toys nearly gave it away, though.
"I went and spent Saturday morning, three hours, I had two people or two girls from Babies 'R Us just helping me pick out everything that I needed, everything I need to just last for first three weeks, get me through the first three weeks because I think we'll be able to go home at that point," Angie recalls, smiling.
“I probably bought two of everything and Bubba gets finished with his round on Saturday, I pulled into the player parking lot with a car full of baby stuff. ... I was so overwhelmed, didn't even know how to work half the stuff that I got."
Bubba went on to tie for fourth at Bay Hill. On Monday, the anxious couple headed to Miami with Angie's mom to see their son.
The adoption facilitator had been caring for Caleb since Wednesday.
"She would call us at night and we would hear him making noises in the phone," Angie said.
The bonds were forming, even then.
After the birth mother handed Caleb to Angie, the group went out to lunch. Angie remembers feeling a little uneasy because she wanted to do the right thing with the baby so the birth mother would feel comfortable about her difficult decision.
Bubba had his own way of trying to put her at ease.
"I looked at her across the table, and I said, ‘Hey, we're going to keep his name as Caleb,’ and she goes, yeah, it's a strong name; it's a name in the Bible,” Bubba says. “And I said, yeah, it's one of the best stories in the Bible … and I said, but I'm doing it because I'm honoring you."
Once the couple got back to the hotel, they began their lives as parents. First on the agenda? A bath.
"My mom has pictures of that experience of Bubba and I just scared to death, like thinking that every little move that we made with Caleb we were going to break him," Angie recalls.
"We don't have a clue what we are doing," Bubba says. "I mean, we're in a hotel and he's screaming and we're just trying to figure it out. So we've had ups and downs but we'd never change it for anything. Just amazing.
"It's like he was created for us, and now Dakota, the same thing."
Dakota came into the Watson's lives in November of 2014.
This time, the couple had 10 days' notice before adding to their family. Bubba actually was overseas, playing in China and Japan, while Angie and Caleb went to Sacramento, California, to await Dakota's birth.
"I won in China, I holed a bunker shot, two days later she's born," Bubba says. "Nobody knew what was going on, but we were hiding it from people.
"Now, she's 19 months old, and he's 4 years old. It just seems like they were our kids. We don't see them as adopted, we just see them as our kids.
"We're getting close to that age where we're going to have to start explaining, but yeah, it's been so fun and so joyous that golf tournaments and being on TOUR doesn't even compare to being a parent, as most parents would know."
While Bubba was in China, Angie and Dakota's birth mother actually had dinner the night before the scheduled C-section. Once Dakota was born, though, she bonded with her new-found family in the Adopt Out Room while the birth mother recovered in another wing of the hospital.
"Caleb would come in and that's how he met her for the first time," Angie says. "He actually saw her in the nursery through the glass like just 30, 45 minutes after she was born.
"We have a picture of that, actually him seeing her. He was so excited. He got a sticker that said, 'Big Brother.'"
This time, the Watsons got to name their child, too. Bubba liked the symmetry of A, B and C so their daughter's name had to start with a D. He suggested Dakota.
Angie wasn’t sure. The movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” had just been released, and Dakota Johnson was the star, playing a character who … well, you’ve probably heard about the book.
"That's the last thing that I want people to think about when they hear the name Dakota,” Angie says.
"But there's actually another Dakota Watson who is a football player. ... We kind of wanted unique, something different and then when he said Dakota like it's just kind of more of a coincidence that was A, B, C, D but kind of Bubba's quirky way of thinking that."
So the name stuck.
In both cases, the adoptions are semi-open. The birth mothers know who the Watsons are, and Angie keeps in contact with them, writing emails and sending occasional photos.
She was hesitant at first, and even now, the contact is limited. But Angie has come to appreciate the sacrifice birth mothers make, as well as the different circumstances that can prompt such difficult decisions.
"After Dakota came along I actually said I want to get Caleb's birth mom a cell phone to let her know how great we're doing and how much we appreciate her and love her and what she did for us," Angie says. "It's made our relationship a lot more open and I think it's helped everybody heal a lot more that they made the right decision for these babies."
At the same time, the relationship does not include contact between the children and the birth mothers -- and likely won't until Caleb and Dakota are old enough to make that decision by themselves.
"Bubba and I have sat and talked very specifically about what positives could come from that," Angie says. "I think everyone is doing great, the kids are doing great and I think the birth moms, they've asked but, at this point, we're his parents and we need to make the decision of what's best for them and what's best for everybody and that's what we feel is the best right now."
The couple has spoken openly about adoption in front of Caleb, who's 4 and “always smiling," Bubba says, and will do the same with Dakota, "who's our little dare-devil," Angie points out. Whether he understands what that means yet is another thing altogether.
In addition, the couple is serving as national spokespersons for the National Council for Adoption. Angie was the keynote speaker at the organization's Great Expectations Gala last November.
And when Caleb or Dakota should ask about their adoption?
"I think our first priority will be making sure that he knows that his birth mother loved him and the same with Dakota," Angie said. "I don't ever want our kids to think that they weren't good enough to be in one situation so they were placed in our situation.
“I want them to know that they were chosen by us because they're so special.”
Bubba and Angie truly believe their kids were hand-picked for them, that this was no random selection. That something special was in the works to bring them together, to make them a family.
Even if it did take an extra 20 minutes.