Six years ago today I received a phone call that would shatter my world. For months we had lovingly planned to adopt a baby boy. The expectant mother’s reasoning seemed so sure. We were fully confident that our journey to parenthood would be ending. Then, it all our hopes and dreams came crashing down around us.
There is a term that floats around the adoption world- “Birth Mom Strong.” There is no doubt that it is true. Truly, I cannot imagine what it is like to stare into the face of your child and then allow another family to raise him/her. The strength it has to take is unparalleled.
What does not get talked about often is what it takes to become an adoptive parent. Yes, there is loads of paperwork and lots of patience. There are a lot of articles on those subjects. Not much is said about the tenacity it takes to hold onto the dream of becoming adoptive mother.
We walked into this first match with an expectant mother naively. We met her and found out her reasoning behind choosing adoption. Her other children were all in foster care and she knew this one would end up there as well. She wanted more control over what happened to his life so she decided placing him for adoption would allow for that. We felt very secure in her rationalization.
We worked hard to have everything ready in time. We had not been looking to adopt. This situation fell into our laps. With only four months to get everything done, we were scurrying. We had his ultrasound picture posted on our fridge, everyday falling a bit more in love with this baby boy. As the due date approached our bags were packed, awaiting the call that she had gone into labor.
That call never came. Instead we found out she had the baby and decided to parent, never notifying us nor did she let the hospital know anything about an adoption plan. A couple of weeks had gone by between when she had the baby and when we found out.
It is really hard to explain what it is like to lose something that was never really ours to begin with. Life goes on just like the day before the phone call. Nothing changes and yet everything changes all in one moment. We were so sure that we would be parenting this little boy that it felt completely foreign to be living the same lives we had been for years. It felt like a bomb had gone off, decimating our lives and yet nothing changed at all.
I was completely grief-stricken, but at the same time unsure if I had the right to grieve. After all, he was never actually my son. My heart said otherwise. It was shattered. They say the grief is similar to having your baby die in childbirth. I don’t know that I can compare it to that, but it was the most painful thing I have ever endured.
In the midst of all the pain, there was one thing I knew for sure. I desperately wanted to be a mother. Every bit of the love that I felt for that baby felt right. It was like I was finally home doing what I was meant to do. But, I knew that that in order to continue to pursue my dream of motherhood, I was going to have to risk the pain all over again. This time I knew intimately what it was like.
To get back up and accept another match takes immeasurable strength. We were matched again less than a month later. Still reeling from our loss, we had to decide if we would do it all again. With guarded hearts we said yes, but this time things were completely different.
With our first match we told everyone we knew. We were so excited to be “expecting!” The second time we told almost no one. Many who were close to us only found out with a matter of weeks to go before the due date despite finding out about this expectant mother eight weeks into her pregnancy. We did not want to face the questions, but the ramification of that decision meant we also had very little support. I remember walking around feeling like I had this tremendous weight I was carrying, but yet, could not tell anyone about it.
With each of our matches were very persistent in letting the expectant mothers know we respected that the adoption decision was not final until after the baby was born. I can remember multiple conversations reassuring them that we would be okay if they chose to parent. The first time around, those conversations were easier. To say that to an expectant mother after a loss is far harder. I had no idea how I would absorb the pain of another loss, but yet I felt that it was important to offer them our respect.
I hid our loss from our children’s birth mothers while they were expecting. I did not want them to feel like they had to place their children so that we did not incur further pain. They had enough to work through as they faced the decision of whether to place their children with us. I thought they had enough pressure. They did not need our sorrow on their plate as well.
Looking back, I have no idea how I got through it. The stress of wanting so badly to become a mother and yet knowing the pain I was risking was immense. I remember with Little-Flower’s match saying over and over that I would never go through another match again. Three years later, I still cannot imagine taking that leap again.
We talk a lot in the adoption world about the strength of birth moms, and rightfully so, but the determination of adoptive parents deserves attention as well. It takes a certain amount of might to be able to stare down incredible grief and move forward anyhow. We are forced to push aside those fears and chase the dream of motherhood at a tremendous cost. The strength it took was something I never knew I possessed. I am so thankful that I pushed forward despite how hard it was. We ended up being blessed twice.
To the prospective adoptive parents out there-keep fighting! I know how hard it is some days just to put one foot in front of the other. I promise in the end it is worth it!