Emily is four today. Four; I could be the mama of a four year old. I hope that she is having a beautiful four year old birthday. Grief, mourning. They come in so many different forms and are experienced so differently by each of us. I have found that few know how to share the grief of a failed adoption. Most mamas can imagine to some extent the devastation of the loss of a child, many have experienced miscarriage, or know first hand the road of infertility. I too have known the pain of infertility and have cried through the birth of a child not developed enough to safely leave my womb. I am in no way lessening them, just saying that for me, our adoption loss was somehow lonelier. Most just didn’t understand*.
I wish that I could really explain the searing pain at some of the comments we received, such as; “Its so nice that you have one of your own now”. I never responded, usually I couldn’t, but I wanted to fiercely answer, “ She was my own”. “I dreamt of cuddling her in this corner, smelling her baby scent.” “That freezer half full of carefully frozen milk represents hours of pumping so that I could breastfeed her.” “Dan spent hours joyfully and thankfully working a job far from any of the things he imagined doing so that we could be approved to bring her home.” “We loved her before we even knew about her.” “She was our own.” Mostly, I just wished that there was some understanding that grieving our loss didn’t mean that we didn’t celebrate the child to be born seven months later.**
The relief and praise I felt when we were told that Emily had be born well and healthy was mingled with pain due to the words that she was at home with a wonderful, loving couple who were thrilled to be parents. I cling to that, trusting that she has a great family that cherishes the gift of her. But, I won’t lie, I wanted to bring her home to our family, to know her as more than “Emily”. I wanted to combine Emily with the name that we had carefully chosen, just as her birth mama wanted.
I know this doesn’t seem very celebratory and is more focused on my process of grieving than the joy of a little girl turning four. I am joyful for her today and I will pray for her many times before the day is done. Yet the reality is that we have few details and these that we do have aren’t meant to be shared.
I wrote this not knowing if I would post it, somewhat just writing to process. But, I know only two other couples who have experienced adoption loss and I have seen the same unspoken grief in their eyes. I also know that we have many friends who plan to someday adopt; it is likely that some of them will experience this as well. You as readers may know someone going through it. Share their grief as best and sensitively as you are able but share it. Keep in mind that even if they, like us, never even got to meet that little one, they have already invested so much of themselves and given so much love. Even the most seemingly awkward sharing of grief is better than ignoring it. I can’t tell you how much healing happened for me when I looked into the eyes of one other person who didn’t “understand” but who held my gaze and let me see the gloss of tears in her eyes for our pain.
It is things like that which allow me, on this day when the birthday banner remains folded, to smile and say, “ Happy Birthday, sweet Emily! We are celebrating your four years too!”
*I want to say that I know for some who read my blog, I know that you were part of our lives then too. In writing this, I am in no way wishing for you to feel guilty or attacked. I wish that we would have known then how to express the loss we were experiencing and been able to better ask others for comfort.
**For those wondering, a brief outline. I was said to be ‘infertile’ even as a teenager. Though advised to take the route of fertility treatments, we knew that we wanted to grow our family through adoption. In our second year of marriage, we had completed our adoption process and had moved to the waiting for the call. We received it, only to discover that through the process of my work to breastfeed our little one, I had also become pregnant. Aneliese had already been growing inside for some time when Emily was born. Because of the legalities of having two so close in age, we were unable to complete the adoption and bring Emily home.