by Amie Eagle
It’s a strange thing to go from a buoyant, proud moment to an anguishing one. Your body freezes up. It is confused how to proceed. It wants to figure out how to go back in time. It can’t transition from one extreme to the other in such a short span of time, so it locks up. What do I do now?
I guess I should start this story from the beginning.
Does This Outfit Make My Butt Look Like a Good Parent?
It was 2001. My husband, Evan, and I had been trying for a long while to have a baby, jumping through the medical communities’ hoops. We eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t that important to us to have a biological child and began the adoption process with a local agency.
First we had to make a large down payment to the agency, which would be spent on counseling for the birth mother and meetings between the adoption professionals, prospective birth mothers, and both of us. That smarts—it’s money that could have been spent on the baby’s room or the baby’s college fund if we had been able to get pregnant on our own.
Where is the screening for people who just get pregnant on one-night stands by accident?
Next we had to make sure that we had fire detectors on each level of our home and have someone come out and approve us and our home for parenthood. Where is the screening for people who just get pregnant on one-night stands by accident? I wondered silently in my head. At the same time, I also understood that if you are choosing to place a baby in a home, it is good to make sure it is a safe, stable place.
After that, we had to make an adoption portfolio with pictures of us and our philosophy of parenting and life. No pressure there—if it’s not good enough, we will probably not become parents!
Pretty soon we got a couple of calls with descriptions of birth mothers who had seen our portfolio and wanted to meet us. Those were awkward meetings. We wanted to communicate that we were responsible and that we knew how to be good parents, although we actually had not had one day of experience yet. We wanted them to think that we looked like fit parents, but is a fit parent in their eyes loving, strict, fun, rich? What kind of outfit says all that?
We didn’t want to come off as nosy or judging, but we really did want to know what was going on in their lives that they were not able to parent. Were drugs involved? Was the biological dad still around? Will he change his mind at the last minute and contest the adoption?
Should I Have Offered to Make the Spaghetti?
Applebee’s restaurant is apparently a good place to discuss these life questions. At one such meeting, we found out that the couple had two other children, and she was 20 years old. They had been evicted from their apartment and were living in an extended stay hotel. Her male friend had disappeared for lengths of time when the other two children were born. He worked as a mover. She was not currently working. She wanted to have an open adoption and had ideas that their other two children could be present at birthday parties and other events for this new child.
Looking back on it now, it sounds so strange to even think of agreeing to that, although I guess I didn’t so much agree to it as not directly state that I thought it might be kind of awkward. I think I wasn’t willing to rock the boat at all. I did understand that the baby would probably want to know his/her biological family and that some level of contact would be healthy.
We must have appeared the right way and said good things because we were officially chosen in June as the adoption parents. I was able to go to doctors’ visits with the mother and we found out that it was a boy!
It was hard to know what to feel.
During that time, it was hard to know what to feel. The agency told us that only 3% of adoptions don’t go through, so logically I was telling myself I needed to proceed like this baby was coming to us. We would need to fix up a nursery, have baby showers, and get ready, right? I also knew how many times I had been disappointed in the past, either by failed monthly attempts to get pregnant on our own or after taking fertility drugs to increase our chances or by failed IUIs.
Was it really a good idea to emotionally let myself believe this was going to happen, or should I stay guarded?
One day we got the call—the birth mother had gone into labor! We both rushed over to the house she was in at the time to see if she needed a ride to the hospital and to help her with her two children. She wasn’t able to get in touch with the biological father. We had never been pregnant and so had no idea what to expect of labor. Would the baby be born in a few hours or longer? We were at her house from around 3:00 till 7:00 helping with her children, reading them the two torn books she had and playing with a couple of toys.
I am embarrassed to write this part, but it’s funny what sticks in your memory. I have a very clear recollection of her telling us that she was going to make spaghetti for dinner, so I kept playing with her kids. I now am astounded that I didn’t ask her if I could make the spaghetti. Was she having contractions? I didn’t know anything about how difficult that might be. I figured she had done this birth thing before, and if she told me she was doing something I should roll with it. I didn’t know anything about where anything was in her house, but I could probably have figured it out. I will always remember that the spaghetti burned. Other memories were not so clear. I think the father was on his way home, so she told us we could leave. Was the father there when we left? Was she still having contractions or had they stopped? For some reason we went home.
Sweet Times with Colby James
The next thing we heard was that the birth mother was at the hospital and that they had the baby in the car on the way to the hospital! When we arrived, we were able to see the baby right away. We named him Colby James. The plan was that I would stay in the hospital overnight with the birth mother and help with the baby. He was so tiny and perfect. I was in love.
We met birth mom’s aunt and uncle, who through conversation we realized were also having trouble conceiving. What a nightmare this must have been for them. I also remember thinking, Why in the heck isn’t this baby going to them? I thought maybe it was too close for comfort in the immediate family. Again it was awkward. When the baby cried, should I immediately pick him up? Should I wait for birth mom to indicate that she wanted me to pick him up or do it herself? I made it through the night, feeding and diapering him.
Then we took Colby home from the hospital with us.
It was a sweet time with him. I unexpectedly loved feedings with him in the still of the night, just me and him. It was so quiet, and he ate peacefully and then went quickly back to sleep.
Looking back, I guess it was not a wise decision to take him home, but what do you do for two days with a baby that is not fully yours and not fully hers?
I Can’t Face It
My mom and my sister came over that night. We were all talking about the baby and passing him around.
The phone rang, and I hardly registered Evan going to get it. There were some mumbles and then I heard a “Nooooo!” It sounded like a wounded animal, and my heart stopped.
The birth mom changed her mind.
How do you feel excruciating grief and take care of a baby at the same time?
We were so devastated that Evan didn’t ask about any of the logistics. What happens next? Who comes to get the baby? Do I hold and love the baby until he leaves? Can I even look at him without my heart breaking? When will he go?
How do you feel excruciating grief and take care of a baby at the same time? We tried to call the adoption agency to come get the baby, but they did not answer. We called again and again over several hours. Finally they answered and came to get him.
We never heard another word from the birth mother.
Evan’s parents and my sister and her husband came the next day. We went up to my parents’ for a day or two. It was all kind of a haze.
What I remember most clearly is waking up one morning and thinking, Another day. I can’t face it. There was absolutely nothing I wanted to do. Not even my favorite things. No one I wanted to talk to. Nothing to look forward to. I could not access any hope. I wanted to numb myself. I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to sleep the rest of my life. I wore this like a heavy blanket.
Eventually I ate, I moved, and I tried to do something normal until I was able to function again. Mostly what was helpful was a warm body in the same room, not being alone.
Tiny Seeds of Hope
It wasn’t the end of our tragic year. Two short months later, our world shattered again when Evan’s dad died suddenly. Now he would never have the chance to meet any children we might have.
I was filled with anger toward God. What kind of loving Father would let Evan lose a son and a father in such a short time span?
I was filled with anger toward God.
Yet God was not absent; He was not finished with our story yet.
Eventually I found new things to live for again. Eventually tiny seeds of hope grew. Eventually we became parents of two amazing kids. I did find joy once more. God was walking with me; He wasn’t afraid of my anger and pain. I know He felt all of it alongside me.
Of course, I can say this only after much time has passed. These truths are definitely not things I was able to connect with and make peace with in the moment but only in looking back after healing had taken place.
I hope in some way we altered the life of the birth mother we met. (Please let there have been some good come out of that situation!) Through my infertility/adoption journey, I gained patience and a lot of character building. I learned that there are parts of your life that you cannot control—you can only control your response to them. This last one has been especially helpful parenting my children.
While this failed adoption experience broke my heart, it did not defeat me—but it did change me.
posted on November 5, 2018
Meet the Author
Amie Eagle is a wife, mother and preschool teacher. She loves stories of every kind from The Very Hungry Caterpillar to To Kill a Mockingbird. She believes everyone has an important life story worth sharing and that writing is the best form of free therapy. Connect with Amie: firstname.lastname@example.org