Woman Not Open to Adoption Finds Out Husband's Ex Died After Giving Birth. Now, She's Raising the Child (Exclusive)

Christie Werts says her own experience in foster care made her hesitant to revisit the system, but she was willing to heal to keep the newborn with his family

<p>Lacy Ruffer Photography</p> Christie Werts, her husband Wesley and their adopted son Levi.

Lacy Ruffer Photography

Christie Werts, her husband Wesley and their adopted son Levi.
  • Christie Werts and her husband, Wesley, started fostering his ex-wife's baby when she died five days after giving birth

  • Werts tells PEOPLE she knew he needed to be with his brother and sister, Wesley's kids whom he shares with his late ex

  • The mom has shared her blended family's story in a book and several viral TikTok videos that have moved millions of social media users

Christie Werts never intended to revisit the foster care system in adulthood. Her own childhood experiences as a foster kid shaped her perspective and took adoption off her radar.

But everything changed when tragedy struck a boy's life just five days after he was born, and Werts took the opportunity to bring his remaining family under one roof.

Levi — who turns 3 in August — was born to Werts' husband Wesley's ex-wife in 2021. She died of a stroke shortly after delivering the infant. The two women never met, but Werts says she didn't hesitate to show up for Levi in his earliest moments.

"I knew from the minute [Wesley] told me that [Levi's biological] mom wasn't doing so good ... I just knew that he should be with his brother and sister," Werts tells PEOPLE, referring to the two children Wesley shares with his late ex, son Austin, 15, and daughter Dakota, 11.

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Werts flew from home in Ohio to see Levi in Texas when he was about 8 days old. In her dedication to Levi, she let go of her long-held aversion to adoption and the foster care system.

"How I felt, my emotions, my trauma — the love for this child just trumped everything. I would've done anything for him," says Werts, who is also mom to daughter Megan, 22, and son Vance, who turns 16 in August.

Though she overcame her reluctance to revisit the system, it took time for Werts to unravel her negative history in foster care. She says that she didn't suffer the darkest side of it — "I've heard worse stories," Werts notes — but she maintains that it's a difficult way to grow up, even on the less extreme ends of the system.

"A lot of people think because you were a foster kid, 'Oh, do you want to be a foster parent when you grow up?' I'm like, 'Nope,' " she explains. "I had no intentions, but that was probably the foster kid in me talking, not the adult woman talking."

Werts was required to complete interviews and classes meant to vet and prepare her to become a foster parent. Unexpectedly, the process also gave her the opportunity to heal.

<p>Lacy Ruffer Photography</p> Christie Werts, her husband Wesley and their kids.

Lacy Ruffer Photography

Christie Werts, her husband Wesley and their kids.

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"I was nervous because I thought if I told them why I ended up in foster care, would they think something's wrong with me? And it starts making you think about your trauma," she recalls to PEOPLE. "It was a little bit of a healing and emotional time having to become a foster parent when you were a former foster kid."

Werts wove together both layers of stories — her childhood spent in foster care and her family's experience with Levi — to write her book Life's Sad Story, God's Love Story: Transforming a Child's Adversity into a Tale of Love. She also uses social media to share her journey online, and she's reached millions of viewers with her viral TikTok videos about Levi.

In a video from March, Werts posted a series of clips showing Wesley spending time with their son, Levi. She spotlighted her husband's side of the story in overlaying text, writing, "Watching my husband with his [ex-wife's] baby. He adopted him after she passed so he wouldn't go to foster care."

In the caption of her TikTok — which garnered over 698,000 likes — Werts added, "The news stories always share me stepping up. But my husband also did!"

The Ohio-based mom tells PEOPLE she knew her blended family had a story worth telling, it being both "heartwarming" and "bittersweet," as she describes. She felt compelled to share it with a wider audience after Levi's adoption was finalized, just shy of him turning 2 years old.

<p>Lacy Ruffer Photography</p> Christie Werts' adopted son Wesley.

Lacy Ruffer Photography

Christie Werts' adopted son Wesley.

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"I thought if people really knew our story, they would probably be a little bit blown away ... I decided to share that first video, and it ended up going viral," she says. "I wanted to bring awareness and compassion ... how far love will go and how resilient a human spirit can be."

Then there's the motivating factor that comes from within, a part of Werts' past that overlaps with Levi's.

"I think a lot of times we don't show compassion towards people," she says. "Even though I never met [Levi's] bio mom, I think about her all the time."

"I know that she had struggles, but she's a mom too," Werts continues. "I just wanted to make sure that her children were loved and taken care of."

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