Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taking the Bitter with the Sweet

As most of you know, we are currently in the waiting phase of the adoption process, which officially began in April. All the paperwork has long since been submitted, as have all the pre-placement funds. In adoption lingo, we are what is known as "paper pregnant."

It's kind of weird knowing that we could become parents at any moment, but for the most part, we have lived pretty normal lives for the past six months. Probably the most frustrating part is simply not knowing the timeline. Most people have nine months with which to plan. We have...well, we won't really know until we know. Oh well, I guess some of the best things in life come together quickly and unpredictably.

We've gotten a tremendous amount of work done on our house in preparation for our baby's arrival. My former man-cave is now a nursery. We painted and rearranged all of our upstairs rooms in order to maximize space. On a personal level, we have made some healthy changes to our eating habits and I have become a bit of a workout fiend (which I guess is good as I approach the doorstep of my 30th birthday). Tara challenged me to start working out in the mornings after witnessing my repeated evening willpower fails. After laughing at her suggestion for about five minutes, I finally said "Ok, I'll give it a shot" and almost three months later, it's a regular part of my morning routine. The goal is for my future kid to be able to say "My dad can beat up your dad!" (though it's much more likely that the other dad and I will just catch a Phillies game instead).

So here comes the part that is extremely difficult to discuss, but probably important to share. Some of you are well aware of the details and others of you have recently asked about this, having heard only sketchy details. So, it's time to share the good with the not-so good. This past July, we were briefly matched with a birthmother who was eight months pregnant and chose us to parent her baby boy, who was due in August. I will never forget the call I received from our case worker who told us that this young woman chose our profile out of the stack and wanted to meet with us. The meeting turned out to be the most exhilarating two hours of human interaction that we'd ever experienced. The two sides fell in love with each other almost immediately and by the next day, the match was made official through our agency. We made the announcement to the world and began immediate plans to bring our about-to-be-born son home. It was, without a doubt, the most amazing joy we'd ever known.

A week later, we received the devastating phone call that, for reasons that are still somewhat unclear to us, our birthmother decided to pull out of the adoption plan. Now let me take a moment to address that aspect. Birthparents have the full right to withdraw from the adoption process at any time before the birth (and in some states, for a short period of time after the birth). We do not disagree with her right to do so, but naturally, that didn't lessen our pain by any stretch of the imagination. Tara and I can honestly say that throughout the course of our lives, we had not tasted true suffering up until that point. This was nothing short of a miscarriage. The pain of losing a baby -- even one not yet born, nor carrying your own genes -- is second to none.

The day after we received the heartbreaking news, we found a handwritten card on our porch from one of our dearest friends. This person had previously experienced a miscarriage, knew what it was like to suffer, and also understood that truly coming alongside hurting people meant walking with them in their pain without being able to provide solid answers. While all the words of sympathy, support, and encouragement from all of our family and friends will always be cherished, the words in this card were unique and comforted us in a truly remarkable way. They were as follows:
Dear friends, since I got the text yesterday about your birthmother pulling out, I've been mulling things through my brain. Searching for something...anything. While I know the deep pain of losing a child, this is different! This is harder!! I wish I could write you some clever words or share some wisdom of some sort...just something to ease your sorrow right now. I will give you all I have, and it's everything (but it doesn't feel like everything yet!) I am fervently praying for you both! Know that Jesus and many others weep with you today!
Three months later, after a lot of processing and a lot of prayer, I believe we have a healthy and hopeful outlook. The world, which only looked gray to us for a time, has begun to display vibrant colors once again. Jesus truly did weep with us in our deepest agony. Our family and friends rallied around us and mourned with us. Our church community completely loved on us. We began to examine why this happened, where we went wrong, and what could have been done differently, only to conclude that we may never know why this happened and that there's nothing we could have done differently.

Additionally, over the course of the past three months, a strange and beautiful thing has actually resulted because of this experience: We are all the more excited about becoming adoptive parents and have never been more in awe of the beauty of adoption. And, just as importantly, we are more convinced than ever before that open-adoption is the best way to go for everyone involved. However brief, the interactions we shared with our former birthmother were more amazing than we could have ever imagined, and we excitedly look forward to once again establishing that kind of relationship when we are matched for good. The feelings of love and admiration you develop for your baby's birthparents cannot be measured, quantified, or put into words. During the time that we were matched, I recall talking to some pregnant couples and actually thinking inwardly "How sad that you and your spouse don't have any birthparents, other than yourselves, with whom to share this incredible joy!" With all my heart, I can honestly say that this sentiment has not wavered. And I can also honestly say that we will always have a special place in our hearts and think fondly about the amazing woman who, for a brief time, chose us to be the parents of her son.

If you are considering adoption, please don't let our recent experience deter you. Our hope and prayer is that this experience will be a positive testimony to others. The truth is that adoption "disappointments" as these are called, are not all that common. But be the statistics as they may, I encourage you to pursue adoption knowing that the rewards far outweigh and completely triumph over the risks. If we had the choice to erase our memories and to simply be six months into the waiting process without having gone through our disappointment, we would turn it down every time. As difficult as it was (and is) to experience, we have learned immeasurably more about the faithful guidance that comes from Christ, the beauty of forming families through adoption, and the kind of parents we are striving to be when our son or daughter finally comes home.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
-Proverbs 16:9