When I heard about the grief series that Kathy was doing, I felt my stomach drop. I wanted to tell my story but I also realized that I hadn’t yet written about the grief that changed my family’s path. So here it goes…I am taking that deep breath and sharing it with you.
In the summer of 2005, after many months of paperwork and waiting, we got “the call.” The next day, my long-time partner and I drove to the hospital and picked up a beautiful, healthy infant boy who was meant to be ours. In the beginning, we were told that his adoption was low legal risk; however, after 18 months, a birth relative came out of nowhere to claim our son as her own.
For the next 8 months, we lived in complete uncertainty. We kept our crying and panic for the late night hours and demanded courage and consistency in the presence of our son. We fought with the help of attorneys and experts, and after a series of miracles, the judge declared us a “forever family.”
After that experience, we needed a few months to breathe before we addressed our family’s future.
The plan was not to raise a singleton. We wanted laughter while siblings tried to go to sleep at night. We pictured Saturday afternoons where brothers would entertain each other until one crossed the line, knocking over Lego masterpieces or destroying forts made of chairs and blankets. We wanted these experiences for our son.
We weighed our own fears against our dream and the dream won.
We told our adoption agency that we wanted to move forward after the required 6 month waiting period was completed. What seemed like a lifetime went by while we received calls about potential placements.
Then…we were called about a toddler who needed a home. We were excited about this call since the boys would be very close in age. We moved forward in the process and began to talk to our son about a child joining our family.
The first visit was arranged.
Prior to the visit, our son selected a new toy to give to his future brother. It took him longer than expected to find the perfect one, and then we nervously drove to our first meeting. We were warned that the foster mother might be unfriendly. That was a bit unsettling to us, but it didn’t lessen our own excitement. We arrived early and paced the floors.
When they entered, I saw him.
He was small for his age, and he had a tight grip on his foster mother. What I noticed immediately, was the protective tight grip that she had on him too.
She tried to put him down, but he clung to her and called her “Mama.”
Mama?! He called her Mama?! When I heard this, my heart sank.
My son walked over and gave the little boy his gift. The toddler held it, only momentarily, before he tossed it to the floor. The expression on his face was as if he had thrown a broken toy in the garbage; however, the devastation on my son’s face was unforgettable.
We tried to connect. We followed him, talked to him, and played with him some…all with the foster mother only steps away. My son was confused and tried desperately to keep our attention, grabbing my face and forcing me to look at him. “Look at me Mama! Only me! I’m here.”
My emotions were overwhelming. I struggled to keep a smile on my face and the tears from flowing! This wasn’t what I pictured! He was supposed to run to us and want to be in our family. Our son was supposed to see this boy as his brother.
At one point, I looked at the foster mom and she was very quiet. “This must be hard for you.” I tried to say it with compassion and empathy, but I wasn’t expecting her answer. I expected to hear, “Yes…but this is what I do. I care until there is a family.”
Instead, I saw a woman in agony tell me that he was only days old when she got him and that she has raised him as her own along with her biological children. My heart hurt for her! I couldn’t take this baby! He wasn’t mine to take! He had a mother already!
I couldn’t breathe and we made an excuse to cut the visit short.
On the ride home, we talked about our next steps through tears and disappointment. Knowing what we knew about attachment with our own son’s legal battles, we knew we couldn’t take him.
Although the agency was surprised, they understood our decision. Not long after, we learned that our visit was instrumental in the foster’s mother decision to move forward and legally adopt the little boy despite her own financial struggles.
Even though it was excruciatingly painful to go through, it felt like the right ending…for everyone involved.
We continued to wish for another child and one more time, we came close. A struggling mother selected us to raise her daughter. We met them, held her, and began at that very moment to dream about her future. Several weeks later, the process stopped when the biological mother changed her mind.
I could not ride this roller coaster any longer! It had to stop! How could I continue to subject my family, especially my son, to so much emotional uncertainty!
The day we told our agency that we needed a break; we were pretty sure about our decision. The day that we let our foster to adopt license lapse, we surrendered our dream of a bigger family.
As I sit now and look back at my life, I can honestly say that it took years for me to heal. For a long time, I felt guilty! I should have been SO grateful that my son’s adoption was finalized, especially when most of the “experts” told us that we would lose. I felt greedy and unappreciative and wondered if the universe was trying to teach me something!
Initially, I obsessed about the children that we almost raised. I pictured their faces as I wondered about what they were doing and how they were growing. Over time, I thought about them less until one day, I realized their names were not on the tip of my tongue. Now, I can remember without pain.
My small family of 3 isn’t what I pictured and sometimes I still have twinges when I see siblings playing together; however, I know that the decision was the right one.
I couldn’t say this then, but I believe that the grief we experienced reminds us of our many blessings and for that, I am grateful!
Connect with Kelly on her blog and on Facebook and Twitter.
Connect with Kelly on her blog and on Facebook and Twitter.