Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Story, part 2

(Read Part 1 Here)

As I was trying to move beyond the grief of infertility and miscarriage, we met with the caseworker at LDS Family Services, the adoption agency we were using. We were introduced to the homestudy paperwork, and began learning about adoption. Although I always felt inclined to adopt, I didn't know much about it at all, so I began reading and reasearching online all I could.

The homestudy was a lot of work. I tried to get at least something done just about every single day. There were appointments to make, profiles and questions to answer, home safety improvements (carbon monoxided detectors, fire extinguishers, medication locks, etc.), and all kinds of paperwork to gather- references, taxes, financial statements, vet records... the list goes on and on. I was asked the other day if it bothers me when people adopt who aren't infertile. The answer was a resounding NO! It does not bother me in the least! For one thing, adoption is awesome, and I wish more people would do it. For another, adoption is a huge pain, and anyone who goes through the whole process isn't just messing around, so you know they are serious about what they are doing.

Adoption is kind of the opposite of pregnancy- the labor comes at the beginning. I viewed this work as my "pregnancy pain" and "labor", and it helped me have a positive attitude during the more annoying aspects.

We had our initial interview with LDSFS in November of 2002. By the very end of March 2003, we were approved. Approved means that our homestudy paperwork was complete and in order, and we had permission from the agency to adopt. Mostly it meant that they would start showing our profile to potential birthmothers, and we were officially "waiting to adopt". The wait was just... weird. It felt exciting, but we didn't want to be too excited. We were hopeful, but also frustrated. We knew it could be weeks or months or years. I finally figured out ways to keep myself sane during this time. My most successful idea was to set a list of goals- these were things that could best be accomplished if we didn't have a baby- they were financial, creative, and other things that I could work on and accomplish while we were waiting.

Fortunately, we didn't have to wait all that long, and my goals were fabulously unmet when we got called into the Family Services office for a "checkup" (what they told us- which didn't make much sense, since our paperwork was only a couple months old). In early June of 2003, we found out that a birthmom had selected us to adopt her baby boy!

We were beyond excited. I couldn't believe it! We started writing to the birthmom, and she started writing to us. We were sending a lot of snail mail letters, and we were writing each other quickly, which led to some crossings in the mail and some funny confusions. The only thing I can really tell about this letter exchange is that I totally fell in love. I wanted the baby, of course, and I was beyond excited about the prospect of being a mother. But beyond that, we were developing a relationship with this expectant mother. She was so sweet, and so worried about us, and we couldn't wait to get each letter. We prayed for her every minute. We worried about problems she was facing. We wanted everything to be wonderful for her, but we knew it wasn't.

In July, we went to meet her. We were SO nervous! Worried about rejection (what if she didn't like us?), nervous about what to say, just nervous in general! We met at a church, and it really could not have gone better. As soon as we started talking, we felt at ease. The conversation flowed, and we seemed to want the same things as far as openness and our future relationship. I came home and started making baby plans! It was also exciting because my sister was pregnant, and our due dates were only 1 day apart. It was such an exciting time.

2 days before the due date, our excitement came to an end. We were called by our caseworker who told us to not make travel plans. To not expect a baby. Honestly, we didn't really believe it. We were never told why, we were never given any details. We only knew that the birthfather was causing problems, and we should not be involved. But we knew our relationship with this mother. We knew that this was supposed to be our baby. So, it would all work out, right? Somehow, someone would do something to make our miracle happen. We would still get this baby, right? Somehow?

No, we wouldn't. We didn't. My heart was broken. Again and again it broke. My sister had her baby. My friends at work who were "expecting" with me were still pregnant. People at the mall had babies in strollers (can you believe it?). I cried. I was upset. I was trying to patch a huge hole in my heart. We had shouted this news from the rooftops- everyone I talked to during those months of waiting knew we had a baby coming, and now I was faced with "untelling" them all. We had both planned "maternity" leave from work, and we just took off. We went on a trip to North Carolina. Our official story was that we had the vacation time already planned and didn't want to waste it, but really we just wanted to hide. We didn't want to have to tell people it didn't work out. We didn't want to face it for ourselves that we weren't getting our baby.

I don't really know how to put into words how I felt about this baby. It wasn't just a baby and a birthmom. It was our baby. She was our birthmom. We still didn't know what had happened. We were plagued with questions, and worries, and wonderings. We thought maybe she was parenting, and I wanted to send her baby things to help her out. There was still a tiny part of me that hoped she would eventually still place with us. How could the most perfect situation ever just fall apart? It didn't seem possible. I kept waiting for the miracle to occur.

The hole in my heart was caused by two losses- not only had we lost this precious baby, but we had completely severed contact with this precious girl. I'm not exaggerating when I say I loved her. I still love her. After a month (or two?) we wrote a letter to her caseworker asking her to give this girl our information and see if she still wanted to contact us. I missed her! I was worried about her, and I wanted to resume at least part of the relationship we had built. I also desperately wanted to know what happened. We did resume contact. She was and is an amazingly strong person. We found out that the birthfather used his power of parental rights to say that he would only sign the adoption papers if the adoption was completely closed. There were some good reasons for doing this, and some bad ones. But the end result was that the baby was placed, but not with us. It couldn't be us because we had met. We had exchanged first names and vague locations. We were heading for open, not closed, and so they could not place with us. Communicating with this girl again brought much peace and healing for both of us. She was also heartbroken. She had no idea who had her son. She had a few letters with very few pictures, and little to no information.

It has been 7 years and 3 kids, and I still love this girl. We still keep in touch. I still have complete admiration for her. And I still wish I had that boy. I can't explain it. I am at complete peace with it- I no longer feel any sadness or regret. I am happy for her, I'm happy for him, I'm happy for his family, and I'm happy for us. But I still want him. I still wish she was our birthmom and we could visit sometimes. I just do. Several years ago, one of my sisters said to me "aren't you glad that first placement didn't go through and you got Abigial?" I had to answer no. Maybe Abigail would have come later. Maybe something else would have happened. I love my daughter with my entire being, but I don't think I will ever be "glad" that this first placement didn't work out. I can see reasons for it. I can see so much good that came of it. I can see things that happened that wouldn't have if it turned out different... but I still love that boy and his birthmom.

Parts 1 and 2 were mostly the hard stuff... the painful stuff. Joy comes in part 3, and miracles fly in part 4! Coming soon!


Rebecca said...

You are such an amazing person Shanna! I'm all teary reading your story, even though I knew the basics of it. I admire you so much for the love you have for your children, and their birth mothers.

Kimberly said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It's hard to fully understand the pain of failed placements unless you've experienced one. I dearly miss the mothers we formed relationships with, and I think about those babies all the time. Recently, one of the moms became my facebook friend, and it has been absolutely amazing to reconnect with her. She decided to parent after we'd had the baby for a week, but now that we can see and hear about the baby, we have found so much closure and peace. I'm so glad that I can still talk to my friend, and that we are still close.

Melinda said...

It still makes me sad too :( I actually think about him too--thinking about him and Carter being such good friends.... I'm glad you reconnected with the birthmom.

erika said...

You are a wonderful person Shanna! I love reading these!