Tag Archives: adoption loss

Losing My Cool

Turns out, I’m not as cool in real life as I am in theory.

I’m talking about the kind of cool that stays calm and collected in the face of a challenge. The serene, unflappable cool that takes life as it comes and assumes that God is in control and everything is going to work out.

If you’ve read this blog before, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise.

But it’s caught me off guard this week. You see, I was sure I knew how I felt about my son’s birth family. I was adamant that they are an important part of my child’s life and therefore, important to me. I was compassionate about their struggles and their losses. I was encouraged by every indication they gave of love and interest in S. I was cautiously optimistic about openness and a continuing relationship with them; regular updates, pictures, and biannual meetings on neutral ground did not seem much to ask. I was secure enough and mature enough to face their angst and anger without taking it personally.

Until we actually set the time for the meeting. Suddenly my high-minded ideals seem naive and impossible. Though my mind continues to believe the truth of it, my heart revolts. I am sad. I am threatened. I am afraid. And I am, inexplicably, angry.

This week I will finally meet the mother of my son.

That sentence doesn’t even make sense. It is unnatural and strange. I share this incredibly intimate bond with a woman I have never met. I know heartbreaking details of her most difficult struggles. I know as much about her medical history as any doctor. And her child is now my child.

She carried him in her body. She felt his first kicks. Her voice was one of the first sounds his ears heard. She held him in the NICU. But she was young and broken and overwhelmed. She could not be what he needed.

Unlike many adoptions nowadays, she did not choose us. Nor did she choose adoption for her child, though she agreed not to fight the ministry on it. So far.

Our adoption is not finalized yet.

After 6 months in our custody, the government will apply to make it permanent (this takes another 2-3 months). It is extremely unlikely that anything should threaten this, but not impossible. Someone could petition the court to overturn the placement. Someone could try to take our boy.

Friends of ours recently lost the child they are desperate to adopt, abruptly taken and returned to his birth mom. Their grief and very real concern about his safety is palpable. Legal or not, he is their son. And they are devastated.

My cool, rational brain recognizes that this is not a realistic worry for us. But my heart isn’t always rational. And I won’t breathe easy until we hold the final papers in our hands.

Birth family is not our enemy.

This is the family that brought our beautiful boy into the world. They gave him a name. They dreamed dreams for him.

We have a plastic-covered book of pictures which we call “Everyone Loves S.” The first page is a picture of our family, the next section contains pictures of foster family and the last pages are pictures of Birth Mommy and brothers and grandparents. As we look through it with him, we name each face and tell him “Nana loves S, Poppa loves S… Everyone loves S.”

It’s true. They really do. As best they can. And we know enough of their story to understand where things have fallen apart for them. They are not evil, heartless villains, just flesh and blood people who are in over their heads.

And some part of me is glad, because now I have the son I wanted so badly. This competitive streak is alarming. I examine their shortcomings and am reassured that we can do a better job as parents. Mine! I see their dark hair and eyes, noticing that S looks more like my children than theirs. Mine! And I know it is ridiculous to be this petty and insecure, but he is mine, mine, mine…

I guess I’m not as mature and confident as I thought.

But I can play it cool.

I will let my mind and not my heart guide me. I will set aside my fear and insecurity. I will keep mama bear in check. I will protect, but not attack. I will pray when I want to obsess and forgive when I want to judge and trust when I am overwhelmed.

Adoption has enough losses already. This week we will try to build something positive and redeem some connection with his past. Because that is what my son deserves.

So here’s me, and I know it’s not a competition. I read “Percival the Plain Little Cattepillar” 7 times a day. I catch him when he leaps off the monkey bars. I wipe his nose and change his diaper. I teach him to sign “please” when he wants ANOTHER handful of blueberries. I rock him to sleep every night. I’m his Mom.

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Unspoken Things: Is This Grief Normal?

I’m like a badly dubbed foreign film. The words sound right, but the voice is all wrong. My lips keep moving long after the words are said. It feels laughably false, but they keep on watching anyway.

If I go through the motions, I may actually start believing what I say. It’s not lies or misdirection, simply an unspoken truth that lingers in the air.

I am desperately sad that I cannot have another baby.

There, I’ve said it. And very few will understand. It seems I am speaking a foreign language after all.

“ANOTHER? You want ANOTHER child? Seriously?” the woman shrieks at me, wide-eyed and astonished. I wish I had just left it alone. This is why I stick with the abridged version, the words they expect, familiar phrases that mean less than nothing at this point. No one wants to hear about this crazy hope I have been clutching for years.

Even my dearest friends, who love me and listen patiently, do not understand.

I love the life I’ve been given. I adore my three beautiful daughters. I have been absurdly blessed. And I feel greedy wanting more of it, but I can’t seem to reason my disappointment away. I have tried and tried.

I still remember the parade of doctors that came to my room: GP, OB, Nephrologist and even a few nurses. They began to cautiously broach the subject in the days after B was born. I had made no secret of my desire to have a big family, at least four (and a whisper in my head adds “or five, or six”). Add that to my “religious” demeanor and I can see why they were worried that I wouldn’t listen.

No more babies for me.

My kidney would not survive, and neither would I.

I didn’t give it much thought at the time. A twinge of sadness that I would not feel the wonders of pregnancy again; a sigh of relief that I would not feel the wonders of pregnancy again. Of course we would adopt. It had been discussed since we were starry-eyed teenagers planning our perfect life.

I’ve been holding tightly to the dream ever since. My husband, not so much. As we enter our third year in the process, almost a full year with our name on the list of approved homes, it has finally occurred to me that this may not happen.

No more babies for me.

After all the classes, workshops, paperwork, praying, homestudy, endless discussions, hopes raised only to be dashed again, waiting, waiting, waiting… we are near the end. We aren’t on the same page anymore.

He’s been good to do this for me, though now I wished we hadn’t even started. It was something he felt we should do, but had no actual desire for. But adoption is a team sport. And when push comes to shove… well, I just can’t keep pushing.

I know this isn’t a real tragedy. I’ve lived through that before, the complete and utter devastation of it.

But in some ways this is even lonelier. I feel guilty for being this sad about a normal thing. So I minimize the longing and paint a happy face on it. I’d rather keep it to myself. It’s so much worse when I share and they stare at me blankly. Or, worst of all, act like I’m crazy for feeling this way. Because deep down, I wonder if they’re right.

It’s time I face it, so I can move on. I want to dream new dreams, but first I have to grieve the old one.

We all must learn to lament,

otherwise “year by year,

as we deny and avoid the pains and losses,

the rejections and frustrations,

we’ll become less and less,

trivial and trivializing,

empty shells with smiley faces painted on them.”

Eugene Peterson (Leap Over a Wall)

So here’s me, and this is my lament. Because God hears my secret disappointments… especially when no one else understands.

What about you? Do you have a grief that people don’t understand? How do you mourn for hidden hurts?


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