Hopeful Readers…it’s hard to find words. Monica’s story overwhelms my heart with grief and leaves me speechless. I have lived through the horror of handing over my deceased son, but can’t fathom handing over a living baby. Although Monica’s baby did not die, her opportunity of mothering her baby did and she absolutely faces the grief and loss that other bereaved mothers do. Her story is important and needs so desperately to be heard. Monica, thank you for sharing your story. You inspire me so much.
Sometimes you just know when you’re going to have troubles. Since my young adulthood, I just knew that becoming a mother would be difficult. Many procedures and issues…let’s just say very early on I came to peace with the thought of adoption.
Fast forward to over 10 years later, and sure enough, after one life-threatening ectopic, a miscarriage and years of staring at negative pregnancy tests, my husband and I decided to not deal any further with the pain of procedures and stress of trying to conceive and instead focus our efforts on adoption. It was such a great step for us and our relationship. We were full of relief, hope and positivity. We just wanted to be parents more than anything.
We started the process in February and by September of that year we were matched with an expectant mom. That was quick! A sign we had moved in the right direction. We bonded with the expectant mother immediately. She was a very sweet young girl, expecting a baby girl, and had kept her pregnancy a secret for the most part. So secret, she had only told her family about it a few weeks prior to birth! For those two weeks that we were matched, we took her to appointments, tried to be as involved as possible to help her, took care of any needs she had, and show her that we were willing and happy to make an open adoption work. We thought it was a great match.
We were the people she called when she went into labor. It was 10pm at night. We took her to the hospital. She labored all night and day. It was so hard for her. I was by her side, and I was so happy she was OK with that too. I had the honor of watching our baby girl be born that next day, and I was the first one that held her and saw her. I wondered with adoption if love would be automatic or not, and I was so happy that in the moment she was in my arms, I just knew she was meant to be ours and my husband and I just cried many tears of joy at this miracle and beautiful child. Instantaneous love. We were blown away. We were also able to name her the name we had loved for so long and care for her right away.
The hospital was very accommodating and treated her with lots of respect, and kindness and they even treated us like new parents and even gave us our own room with the baby! We spent the next two days in blissful wonderment of our new baby girl. We could see birth mom was struggling with sadness (she was just a few doors down), so we let her see the baby whenever she needed while she was there. Come discharge day, the nurses felt it best if we ensured we were all discharged separately, so that birth mom could be at peace. It was sad to see her leave the hospital from our window and know what selfless act she had just made in helping us become parents. You could see her pain.
Coming home with a baby was an amazing experience. She was so perfect. She hardly cried, ate really well, and mostly slept. We loved to just hold her and stare at her. We talked to her about all the things we could do and things she could achieve. I distinctly remember one night at dinner crying so much because I just couldn’t believe it was finally OUR time…we finally had good news and a daughter to love forever. And we were really good parents!
It had been the best four days of our life.
It was a Monday afternoon that I was upstairs in our bedroom feeding and rocking our baby girl. I hadn’t seen my husband in awhile, which struck me as odd, as we both were next to this baby like 24/7. So I decided to go downstairs and check up on him. I couldn’t find him right away. Then I heard him. I heard these sounds I had never heard before. Guttural, painful noises. I finally figured he was in the bathroom and rushed in to make sure he was OK. When I opened the door, I saw him…hunched over, a phone to his ear, and his face in so much pain. I’d never seen him like this before.
She was still in my arms. “No” I thought. It can’t be that. One of our parents must have just died or something. As horrible as that sounds, that’s just the only thing I could come to terms with as I was already trying to bargain with life. I asked him what was wrong. And all he could muster out was, “She changed her mind”. Honestly, I don’t remember much after this point. I was numb. I heard him pleading with the social worker, “Please, no, please…”
I looked down at this perfect girl, and started to scream. I fell to my knees. No worries, she was OK and still managed to sleep so peacefully among these two people going through all stages of grief. I still remember those sounds we made. There were no words. Only haunting sounds that escaped us our mouths. Our faces hardly recognizable from the tears and swelling.
I don’t know how long it was, but eventually our social worker came to our door. I couldn’t let the baby go. She asked if she could borrow our car seat and some baby items to just transport her back to her mother…and that made me SO angry. All that you have to go through to be home-study approved to be shown as “fit parents” and this woman was completely unprepared to bring back a child – and they allowed that?!? Probably not the right reaction, but I just want to be honest in my feelings. In any case, it bought us more time as they went out to buy those items. I needed those items with me. It would be months that I would spend just smelling them and touching them to be closer to her.
Eventually she came back, and brought a grief counselor. But it wasn’t the right time to talk. All we could do was continue to make these horrific wrenching sounds and cry and wail “WHY???” and “PLEASE….NOOOO, don’t take her from us, she’s our daughter!!!”.
Of course we knew it was a risk that this could happen with parental placement adoption – but it’s so rare we of course thought it would never happen to us. The lawyer said out of 1000 adoption, it had happened to him 8 times. For our social worker, it was the first disruption she had ever experienced.
The time came. She had to take the baby (still sleeping soundly!) from my arms. I could never let go. And we followed them outside, still screaming. It caused enough of a scene in our neighborhood the neighbors came flocking over to embrace us. Everyone was devastated. And just like that, they drove away.
I wish I could say that there was peace and closure, but there never really was. As accepting as we were about open adoption, to this day we have never once received an update on the girl we parented and loved unconditionally with all our hearts for four days. Well, we do know that she never changed the first and middle name we gave her, so she at least has that gift from us. So I sincerely hope her life is good and happy. I have since had to forgive her in my heart, because who wouldn’t love that perfect little creature? I’m sure she was just as devastated when she had to place her with us. It was her right after all to take the 10 days that she needed to make a decision.
I can’t bring justice in expressing the pain and devastation of losing a child you’ve held and loved. No, she didn’t die, so I know it’s “different”. But the trauma of having held a baby in your arms and then have those same arms be empty again moments later is absolutely the worst feeling in the world.
Needless to say, we hid away for a couple of months. No one really knows what to say or how to deal with this type of loss. I don’t blame anyone for that, I wouldn’t either. But the absolute WORST was hearing “Things happen for a reason”. Oh such bullshit. Please don’t ever tell someone experiencing a loss that or that it’s some part of a magical plan. Perhaps it’s true, but just don’t say it to them. It’s like a huge slap in the face. But, I have to say, that on a positive note, my husband and I promised that this would not break us. We were going to be there for each other. We held onto each other tightly that night and for many nights to come. And in a way, it was the most beautiful thing to see our love and caring for one another grow exponentially. We became a stronger unit. We know now that nothing could break us.
I am not the type of person to “take time”. I only feel better when I’m working towards the next thing. So we worked hard to find another match. We got another call a few months later for a mom due in summer! Yes! But then she changed her mind as well – but at least she hadn’t given birth yet. A few other potentials just had warning flags all over them. We could not risk it again. What the hell? People say “just adopt” like it’s this freaking easy thing because there’s a plethora of babies needing homes. I’m here to tell you my friends, that it is absolutely not the case. So please don’t tell anyone to “Just adopt”. It is one of the hardest things anyone could ever do – on both sides. You have to open your lives and home up for some stranger to “approve” you fit for parenting and then deal with all the demands and roller coaster emotions of a match (mind you, we did actually love our agency). I’m sure if we had stuck with it something would have worked out, but we threw up the white flag. I had NO idea how hard adoption was going to be.
We had lost all of our savings on the adoption (yes, you lose everything in a disruption), but we happily racked up some more debt to go back on the IVF route. We were very lucky that after two cycles, we were pregnant. We are now expecting two girls, due any day now. We love them with all of our hearts. But even now, well-meaning people ask us “Is this your first?” and I’m not really sure how to answer that (taking suggestions). And, I want to stay pregnant forever because I fear that when we bring these girls home, someone will call and knock on our door again and it will all be over once more. Silly, right? I suppose that’s what PTSD does to you.
We are so thankful for all the outpouring of love and support from our families and friends…and my support groups I have in person and online. I have to find some gratitude in our story, for my husband and I are closer than we’ve ever been. I do wish I didn’t have to change so much. Honestly, I’m still not a great friend most times, family member, and employee most days…it takes all I have to just keep breathing sometimes and not be overwhelmed with the pain of the past. If you know someone grieving, just keep checking in on them, even if they don’t respond. Tell them you’re thinking about them. We appreciated it more than people will ever realize.
Besides for some catharsis (and honoring the few days we were parents), I wanted to share this story because I’m here to tell you that bad times don’t last forever. Yes, they unfortunately seem to return to all of us every so often, but what I’ve learned is that there is much beauty and happiness to be found on many days if we can find it in ourselves to take a moment to appreciate it…it helps. Life is a series of hard moments. It’s in between life’s disasters that we must savor, savor, savor. It’s hard, I know! But it helps to continue breathing when all you want to do is give up and die, because that would be easier to deal with (at least I thought that way for awhile). Be closer to your significant other. Cuddle with your puppies. Tell people you love them, be kind to each other, indulge, find things to treat yourself with each day…it’s the good moments that will ultimately carry you through life’s disasters. We made our story quite public and open, and were touched by the responses and outpouring of love. Others can and will help carry you through too.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I know my story is just one of many. My heart breaks because many are still waiting for their good news. If you are struggling with these same things, please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. There is a community out there that will help. You are most definitely NOT ALONE. Have I conquered infertility and loss? Not at all. I will always be the woman who lost so much trying to get where I am today, and will always need extra help to have a family. It’s a very odd place to be among the waiting room of women at the doctor’s office who have no idea how lucky they are…and on the other side to be around other infertility sisters who are still struggling and that understandably keep their distance from me now too that I am expecting babies. I understand it completely. You will make it through hard times if you can just focus on making it to the next minute. When things are tough, remember how resilient you are to have just made it to today…to this very moment. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” And sometimes, that’s just breathing. Sending much love out to all of you. Hang on, better times are ahead…don’t miss them.