My heart sank as I watched her walk out of the room. She had birthed this beautiful child and was leaving empty handed. I was completely unprepared for the wave of grief that hit me as I realized this may be the only time we would ever meet. This is adoption.
By the time we met our daughter, we had experienced 3 years of infertility and 1 year of a tumultuous adoption process. Our tender hearts had been shredded with the pain of waiting and felt the dull ache start to erode our hope. It’s common for eroded hope to turn into fear, which is part of our story.
Black, White, Just Right was the first book that I purchased when pregnant with our first baby. I wanted her to know from before she breathed her first breath that who we are as a family and who she is as a biracial child, was more than just right. I’m a Brooklyn girl born of Caribbean immigrant parents and my husband is meat and potatoes Midwestern boy born of farmers. It’s amazing how our love for children, especially those who have a more difficult beginning, brought us together.
She was beautiful. I fell deeper in love the moment the nurse placed her on my belly and I saw her for the first time; all pink and soft and beautiful. Over the next week while she remained with the agency’s foster mom, I visited and held her, committing every bit of her to memory. I told her everything I could, knowing she wouldn’t remember but explaining, nonetheless, about how much I loved her, and how I agonized over the decision to make the adoption plan.
As someone who lives a busy life, I consider myself like many people. Sleep often evades me because I’m running through my list of tasks for the week. Either that or my brain has decided to replay that embarrassing memory from first grade—one or the other.
Sleep didn’t start evading me for darker reasons until I moved away from my family.
Are you really going to share with all these people about your struggles with bonding with your daughter?
When asked to write this blog post, initially, I was so excited for the opportunity but then these questions crept into my mind. I found myself intimidated by my own inexperience and shortcomings. I thought there was nothing in my experience worth reading about.
Reflecting on my life over the last 6 years, some major events have taken place—four houses, three dogs, two children, and complete career changes for me and my husband. There is another significant event that also occurred, yet it is not visible or tangible like the others: a thought shift in how I view open adoptions.
When we began the adoption process almost 7 years ago, I wanted this clear-cut, simple, closed adoption. I longed to be matched with a birth mother who would have a baby, hand him or her over to me sweetly swaddled, and walk out of the hospital without wanting any further contact.I thought that would be the ideal adoption. It would be mess-free, drama-free, and easy to navigate. It would just be our little family of three.
It’s 4 am and I can’t sleep. Tomorrow, our family will go back on the list. Tomorrow, or a day soon after, I will become a mom to a child that I’ve never met. I’ve been here before, tossing and turning, listing in my mind all the things I would be doing to prepare my home for a child if I had the luxury of knowing their age, gender, clothing size, favorite breakfast food…I’ve spent sleepless nights like this before every new placement.
I remember sitting on the couch crying and feeling utterly defeated. I mean I just wanted my kids to wear those cute matching dresses to church. How did I get here? Not on the couch crying over my spoiled efforts, I mean clearly a dress or two doused in Arby’s sauce may not be salvageable. It was more than that, in that moment. I was just plain exhausted. Just over one solid year ago, I was sitting on the same couch in a different house crying over yet another pregnancy lost. No one could tell me why I lost every baby. They did not have to sit in the silence of my childless home. I just wanted to be a mom. Family is very important to me.
Often, in international adoption, the timing is the biggest misconception adoptive parents are led to believe. I think most countries have good intention for matching a child with prospective parents, and maybe they even have good intentions on making an adoption happen in a relatively timely fashion. However, if you are looking into international adoption and you are wanting to grow your family within months or even a year, stop now, turn around and look the other way. International adoption may not be right for you at this time. I’m not saying you should turn your back on the possibility completely, just make sure you rethink your expectations before pursuing it.
Courtney Rae arrived at my home, clutching a bag of toys and clothes. Her eyes darted around the room as she took in her new surroundings. Courtney Rae looked at her relinquishing foster mother, and then focused her eyes on me. Her new foster/pre-adoption mother. Standing firm, she angrily declared, “I hate you. You stink and this house stinks too!”
Our first night together was consumed with a little girl’s rage as Rae kicked the walls and screamed, “I don’t have any mama!” Exhausted and drenched in perspiration, she finally fell asleep. It was at this point that I approached her and began stroking her head and touching her fingers and toes, in awe. I fought back tears of sorrow as she, even in a deep sleep, clutched her jaw and tightened her face.