One day, you meet a young couple in a hotel room, and they tell you all about their hopes for their daughter, hopes of her escaping poverty and drug addiction and family dysfunction. And they choose you for their baby's family. They text you as soon as their doctor schedules the delivery, and you fly there and set up camp. They invite you to try hospital to meet the baby, and she's beautiful. You hold her. You feed her. They let you meet with the pediatrician. But their families don't like the plan. They promise to help. And the grief and reality set in for the parents. And three days after the baby is born, they decide against adoption after all. You cry in your hotel, and you hold each other, and you start looking for plane tickets home, and you take back the diapers and the wipes and the formula you bought thinking the baby would be discharged to you that day. But this isn't your baby.
And another day, a young woman you've come to care about is telling you how excited she is for the baby to meet her big brother, referring to your son. She's been talking to you for ages. She chose you months ago. She's using your name for the baby and texting you with updates every few hours. A few days later, the baby is born, and you buy plane tickets in the dead of night. You know something is wrong as soon as the phone rings, because it's six in the morning, and you are in the driveway loading your luggage into a cab to go to the airport. Your social worker's tone makes your stomach drop. Things are starting to look dicey. You head to the airport anyway, not knowing what else to do with limited information. At the gate, you learn it's really over. And you are at the airport with your son, and your checked luggage is full of baby stuff. But you can't cry, because you're in the middle of the airport. So you send a nice text to the young woman wishing her the best, knowing she'll never reply, knowing she's already unfriended you on Facebook. And you hold it together somehow, because what else are you going to do? And your son asks you if you want a snuggle, and you thank God for him as you say, "Yes, please." You thought you were on your way to meet his sister. But this isn't your baby, either.
Adoption is not the the faint of heart.
We adopted our son about 5 years ago in a domestic open adoption, and we've been waiting to adopt child number two for the last two and a half years. We recently suffered our second "hospital unmatch." That's what it's called when a mother makes an adoption plan with a family during the pregnancy but changes her mind in the hospital after the baby is born. On the one hand, I try to rejoice in the fact that a child gets to be raised by his or her family of origin. I am glad that parents have the time to change their minds about adoption after the birth. Anything else would be monstrous. On the other hand, I grieve for our dashed hopes. I grieve for the fear we now feel of continuing to pursue adoption to grow our family.
It is hard not to get your hopes up during a match with an expectant mother, especially since you have to be prepared to take a baby home if the adoption proceeds. That's a lot of onesies and swaddles to wash without getting excited about the baby. And it's hard to face the idea of endangering your heart again after it has been broken. Twice. It's hard to believe that you'll ever adopt a baby when a mother who sounded so certain of her decision to place her child for adoption during the pregnancy finds herself so uncertain after the baby is born. If it weren't for our son, I'd have a hard time believing adoptions ever really happened. Sometimes I look at the pictures of the other families using our agency, people whose adoptions seem to have gone so smoothly, and I wonder, why not us?
So, we grieve and we try to decide whether or not to throw our hats back in the ring. Perhaps we should be grateful for what we have and accept that our family of three is pretty great as it is. Perhaps we should be happy with the chance to chase other dreams that a newborn baby would forestall or delay. Perhaps our money and our emotional energy would be better spent elsewhere.
Or . . . perhaps we should remain open to the possibility that we might be the right family for some baby out there in the ether, even knowing that it might not ever happen for us. Perhaps we should leave that door open and continue to live in uncertainty.
This is incredibly cheesy, and I hate to admit it, but I was quite touched by a pop song I heard in the car on the way home from the airport after our latest adoption heartbreak. Music often helps me come to terms with weighty emotional issues. Maybe not usually music from a European house producer, but desperate times. The song is Avicii's "Waiting for Love, and these are some of the lyrics:
Where there's a will, there's a way, kinda beautiful
And every night has its day, so magical
And if there's love in this life, there's no obstacle
That can't be defeated
Monday left me broken
Tuesday I was through with hoping
Wednesday my empty arms were open
Thursday waiting for love, waiting for love
Thank the stars it's Friday
I'm burning like a fire gone wild on Saturday
Guess I won't be coming to church on Sunday
I'll be waiting for love, waiting for love
To come around
You can watch the video here.
When our social worker called us to tell us everything was falling apart . . . in that moment, trying to hold myself together in front of my son and an airport full of strangers, I certainly felt broken. In the following days, I couldn't face the prospect of continuing to hope, because as far as I could see, hope only brought pain. As the weeks pass, I'm starting to think maybe I could open my arms again.
Maybe. Maybe we can keep waiting for love.