Saturday, January 17, 2015

It's Been One Month... by Adrienne

It's been a long time trying to figure out what exactly to say next.

We've wanted to share the exact details of how everything went down with our baby that didn't come home. We've wanted to put our agency, the birth mom and all sorts of other people on blast for letting this happen. We've started writing a lot of really sad and depressing posts, and a lot of angry posts. We've also started writing a lot of half developed thoughts. It's hard to know what to say when pretty much all words or thoughts or feelings are inadequate. It's hard to find any coherent thought patterns to write a complete narrative about what happened.

I think it's just time to express something. Time to get thoughts out in the open. I will start with the disclaimer that these are my thoughts, my experiences, my feelings, and my grieving process. If you have not been in this situation, I don't expect you to understand or empathize. I know that many people have experienced all sorts of terrible forms of loss and I do not mean in any way to diminish them. I am just trying to articulate a type of grief that I have not seen expressed very much. I hope to articulate the nuances of a failed adoption, at least as I felt it. First let me say that I have really come to appreciate people who just say “I'm sorry”, and “I don't know what to say.” Those are probably the only two honest things anyone can say. “It will get better”, “It wasn't meant to be”, and “this wasn't the baby for you”, “it will all make sense later”, or worst of all “God has a plan” are all pretty much the last things anyone wants to hear when something tragic happens to them. Not only is it not what people want to hear – I'll speak for myself, me, it's not what I wanted to hear- it's pretty much impossible to hear with any sort of perspective when you're in the middle of such grief.

I know it may seem crazy to be going on and on for a month now talking about grief, talking about still being sad and distressed over a child that “wasn't even ours”, but the truth of the matter is that she was ours. In our hearts and minds she was ours. This is a baby that we followed and experienced her growth and development for almost as long as her mother did. We found out about this situation and the existence of this life only about 2 months after her mom did. We nurtured this relationship just as any expectant parent would. We knew it wasn't the same, but we lived it every day. We don't expect to have biological children of our own and so we wanted to try to live as much of this process as we could without actually being pregnant. We have 3D and 4D ultrasound pictures and video. We even have an angel teddy bear with a recording of her heartbeat inside. You can imagine how fabulous it was to come home and remember we had that. We named this baby. The most beautiful perfect name there ever could be for another human being. We even lovingly incorporated the birth mom's name into her name. We loved this baby. We tried not to let ourselves get attached, but those babies have superpowers! We hoped for her, we dreamed for her, we imagined teaching her, we bought things for her. (Not just us, but our families, our friends, and even strangers.) What's weird is that now the baby that we named doesn't exist. When we refer to her by the name that we gave her, it's like a ghost. That person does not exist in the world. I mean she is still living, but she has been renamed, and her birth mother isn't just her biological mother, she is actually her mother, in every sense of the word. As far as that child will ever know, she is the only mother figure she ever had or will have.

As I see it, in the world of adoption there is an understanding that a child knows that he or she was born of one mother and raised by another. That child always knows (or at least would in open adoption) of this scenario of 2 families planning for her arrival. With what happened to us (and to so many other hopeful adoptive families) I am fairly certain that this baby will never know we existed. She will never know how her brief presence in our lives affected us. About the life that she had before she was born, the plans that we made for her, or that there even were any different plans. I mean, how would she? Who would ever tell a child that type of information. “Oh, by the way, you almost lived in a different house with different parents and a different name.” The identity that we had given her is gone. Also in the open adoption that we had planned, the birthmother would have received periodic updates and even visits if she wanted. The birth family would get to see how she was growing up and how her life was evolving. Throughout this process there is so much care to make sure that the expectant mother is comfortable, is counseled (allegedly) and that all of her wishes are followed, up until her time to sign any paperwork. And rightly so, for a woman to actually go through with placement is a gut wrenching experience. But there is no care given to the hopeful adoptive parents. What we want doesn't matter and we are not offered the same amount of care or closure. Right now, for me, I feel like what I imagine a birth mom in a closed adoption might experience. It's all backwards.(Yes I know it's different, I know she's not my blood, I know I never had any legal rights to this child, but I'm trying to draw a loose comparison.) I think I can somewhat understand what it must feel like for a birth mother to place her child with another family and hope that they do the best job any parent has ever done raising a child in the history of the world. I will have to live with the permanent loss of never knowing her future. How crazy is it that something that occupied so much of my time, thoughts, energy, and emotions, can just be gone in a blink of an eye. It's like a dream, a bad dream. I've woken up and it's as good as if it never happened.

What an odd type of death.

Now this is the part that will probably upset people, but I think I want to say it with the disclaimer again that this is my personal experience and revelations while working through my feelings. What an odd type of death, losing a child to a failed adoption. It's not like a miscarriage or a complication of labor. It's not like a death of a grandparent or parent or an aged friend or relative. It is not like something that can be rationalized by an act of nature or biology or old age. It's a loss of something that, first of all, you're not supposed to believe is yours to begin with, and second of all, it's a loss at the hands of someone else. It's not like death because this child is still alive. She is living a life completely devoid of us and we have no say in the matter. How quickly this baby's entire trajectory in life was altered by literally one single second. I often wonder if the butterfly had flapped it's wings somewhere in Asia just one second sooner or one second later, or one ounce harder if the entire Universe would have aligned things in our favor. Of course, that is something we will never know.

It's not an exact comparison, but this poem is the closest thing I have reference to for a situation like this. This poem kept coming to mind when I was reflecting on all of this. This poem was written about children with special needs, but it touches on a parents dreams for their children and what it's like when those dreams are not realized in the way you thought they would be. I think it can also apply to adoption in general and the way most people expect to start a family...

Welcome to Holland
...When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.”  ~ Emily Perl Kingsley

The other thing that has struck me in this whole process is how informal it is. We left the hospital with little more than a “see you later” which never actually came. We never got to say goodbye, we never got to ask why, we never got to do anything. We left one night, and were told that she wanted to “save us the trip back” to the hospital the next morning. And we were back home alone within a matter of hours. But there is no formal grieving process for a situation like this. Actual death can involve the ceremonial traditions of a funeral, a burial, a memorial, some type of closure. This woman just took her baby home and went on with life as usual as if nothing had happened, while we, meanwhile, had to force ourselves out of bed and to eat for the first few days. (I do think she thought long and hard about it.) We had to create our own type of “ceremony” by writing, talking, and sharing with friends and family. However, when it's not a standard event, it is much less understood or appreciated for the profound experience that it is. There is the old saying about how losing a child is not the natural order of things, how there is a name for a spouse who loses a spouse, and a name for a child who loses a parent, but there is no name for a parent who loses a child. What about an almost parent? There's definitely not a name for that person; for a person who on paper and in society never was a parent, but feels the loss just as profoundly. For all intents and purposes we appear to have not lost anything. Our house is just as empty as it ever was. And visibly, nothing has changed. We are right back where we started. Will and I have always said that our status quo is pretty comfortable, and not the worst place to be, but it is not where we want to be. We are in Holland. The fact of the matter is that we are not status quo anymore. We are changed, we are different. We have a hole. It's a little bigger now than the initial hole from not having children in general. Now we have a hole that was supposed to be filled with this particular person, this unique specific life that can not be replicated. That is a space that will never be filled, even by another child. When a child does come in to our lives, I expect that he or she will occupy their very own space in our hearts. I have no intention of trying to fill this hole. Hopefully the hole scars over and won't hurt as bad, but right now, it's raw. I am left to hope and wonder about this person, this child, this life, this “baby that never came home.” I hope the best for her, while fearing the worst. As I told this birth mom in a letter I wrote to her after we got home, it is now her responsibility to give the child she promised us, the life that we promised her.

For the record, she is 1 month old today (1/17/15), and if all of this had gone according to plan, and there were no other issues or unforeseen circumstances, she would have been ours today. The birth mother and father's rights would have been terminated and she would have been ours for all intents and purposes except for the formalities of a few more post placement visits.


  1. Will & Adrienne-
    I have been following your story for only a short time now. I found your blog when searching through our "competition" on the iheartadoption website. You see, we are also a couple searching for our baby, in hopes of making our family a little bit more complete. What a heart wrenching experience the two of you have had, & I want to thank you for putting it out there to share with others. It makes my heart ache for you & fills me with an immense sense of dread, as we were homestudy approved a little over one month ago & I am sure we have a bumpy road ahead of us. I just wanted to say that I am so so sorry ...praying your baby finds their way into your arms soon.

  2. Adrienne & Will,

    I am so beyond sorry for you both. My husband and I live in Muncie and work in Indy. We too will be going through IAC for our adoption. Hopefully we will be signed up in a couple of months when we finally will have the money necessary to join. I listen to Will and everyone every morning on my way to work. That first show of the new year when he talked about what you all went through was heartbreaking. I proceed to stream the rest of the show while I was at work because I just could not believe what had happened. Nothing you posted offends me. This is one of my worst fears and you both lived it. I appreciate you both being so open and honest about your experience. It helps those of us who haven't made it that far yet. I wish nothing but the best for you both.

  3. I can't even imagine what it must feel like. It's such a great loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you both!

  4. I'm so sorry. My ex husband and I experienced multiple miscarriages, and it was so painful that I would not entertain the idea of domestic adoption. Adoptive parents have no rights. We adopted our son from an orphanage in Ukraine a year after 9/11, when everyone was afraid to go anywhere overseas. I thought that risk preferable to what you are experiencing now. My son is perfect. I doubt Ukrainian adoptions are still open, with the political turmoil from Russia, but I encourage you to investigate international adoption. I'm so sorry.

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  6. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words the very real struggle and pain a failed adoption causes the prospective parents. It's devastating, and this last year has taught me a lot about myself and strength required to endure this process again. The grieving doesn't end, the questions continue, opening the wound over & over. I have to tell myself that things will work out, God only gives us what we can handle, and when one door closes another one opens. Good luck, I'm so sorry, and there are many others that understand your frustrations and fears, you are not alone!! --Michelle

  7. I don't know how to get a hold of either of you so i am trying this but i have a young lady in my family who has a six month old beautiful baby girl, an excellent baby if there ever was one, who she desperately wants to place with a loving family who can take care of her and give her what this 18 year old girl knows she can't and won't be able to give her for a very long time. She tried and just doesn't have it in her to give. I have told her your story and she would love to get in contact with you. She has read your stories, listened to Will on the radio, and listened to me tell her everything i have heard of you and knows you would make wonderful parents. She is ready and will not change her mind. What should i do ??

    1. Hi Heather, Please contact us at 1.888.410.3526 - this will ring right to Adrienne's phone. We are very interested in hearing more. I'm sorry she is struggling right now. You can also message via our adoption facebook page here: We're also open to meeting in person if that is something that she's open to.
      Thank you!

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