Kansas, no offense to anyone from there, but let’s be honest, there really isn’t much there to speak of. Well, we did see a lot of corn and I do love me a good cob once in a while. Oh, and our birth family was there… there is that! Our initial meeting was as you’d imagine, awkward. Seriously, what did you expect under the circumstances? Did you think it might be like the movies where we run toward each other through a pink haze accompanied by a full orchestra in the background? We knocked on their door and were met by three people who were strangers to us. The birth mother and I looked at each for several moments wondering where to begin. Deciding to make the first move, I tentatively pulled her into an embrace. It only took a moment before she responded in kind and we were laughing and hugging as we remembered the camaraderie we had shared these many months over the phone. I was so happy; it seemed that all of my fears about their potential dislike for us were unfounded. We were all invited to the home of the adoption agency owners, where we were staying, for a barbecue lunch. The local zoo was next on the list to give our boys an opportunity to play after which we’d cap the day off with a nice dinner out. All on our tab, of course, but we didn’t mind. We were just relieved that things seemed to be going so well.
Our day together was pleasant and easy. She was in her final month of pregnancy so traipsing around the zoo in the middle of August may not have been the best idea, but she seemed content to sit and chat with me while our husbands chased the boys from one animal enclosure to the next. We sat for some time in companionable silence when she turned to me and said that she was really glad we had come. I was touched; it meant a lot to hear her say that. She had no idea of the stress and anxiety I had felt in getting to this point. I decided not to place that burden at her feet and instead started asking questions about how she envisioned things going at the hospital. Did she merely want us in the building or did she want me present for the birth? When she expressed her desires that I be in the room to witness the birth I was ecstatic! She asked if we had settled on a name yet and I shared that information with her. This always made me nervous, what if she didn’t like the name? She loved it.
We took them home after our attempts at cramming a lifetime of getting to know one another into one short day. We lingered over our goodbye’s chatting comfortably in their front yard. Dusk fell and it was time to head back. We discussed how things were going to play out in the coming weeks. She was hoping to set a date to be induced as the time grew near, about 4 weeks from now. She emphasized again how much she wanted me present for the birth and so we decided that daily phone calls might be the best way to proceed in the following weeks. Lasting and heart-felt hugs were exchanged all around with several “see you in a few weeks” mentioned as we climbed back into our car. Waving until we could no longer see each other, we turned the corner out of their neighborhood and left feeling that things couldn’t have gone better; all things considered of course.
The rest of our trip passed in a blur. At home I was a whirlwind of preparations. We were still about three weeks out but I couldn’t help myself; I was too keyed up to contain it. Each day consisted of a phone call with the birth mother exchanging updates and our feelings of trepidation and excitement. Around this time we also received a phone call from the agency about their car. Apparently it had died and the agency was suggesting that we purchase yet another one. I must admit I was more than a little miffed. I couldn’t decide whether this request was coming from the birth family or if it was simply the agency owner who was insisting on it. The birth mother had not mentioned a word about it during our daily chats. At length I discovered that the agency owner felt bad that she had allowed the birth father to make such a poor choice with our money to begin with. She and I decided together that she should go to their home in person and flesh out exactly what needed to be done. While keeping me on the line she investigated the situation and it was decided that if we sent an additional $1000 another car could be purchased for less than what it would take to repair the other one. Oh the joys of adoption. Greg and I felt we had no other choice; she would need a way to the hospital, which was an hour away, when the time came. So with the first glimmer of doubt, Greg and I sent the additional money.
At this point the money, time, emotion, and, most especially, the love we had invested in this little family was nothing short of phenomenal. In the mean time the due date was fast-approaching. What we expected would be the final month’s worth of living expenses was transferred to the appropriate accounts and we were scraping the bottom of our barrel. We decided that driving as opposed to flying back would be more gentle on our strained bank account. I communicated this idea to the birth mother and she was on board as long as we agreed to fly there if she went into labor unexpectedly. Her Dr told her that she could set a date to be induced once she was dilated to a certain point and one week away from her mid-September due date she let me know she had scheduled her induction with the hospital for that following Monday.
I was so excited; I had everything ready to go for our road trip. The boys’ room was finished, all of our supplies were out, and the baby clothes were hanging neatly in the closet. The luggage was stacked by the door and all that was needed were the last-minute items. I spoke with the birth mom on Thursday and she and I agreed that we should leave that weekend in order to make sure we were there for the birth. I hung up the phone with the promise that I would call her the next morning, Friday, to give her the details of our travel plans. I could hardly sleep that night. We had decided to leave first thing Saturday morning, driving as far as we could that day, finally arriving in Kansas before noon on Sunday. All was set and the blessed anticipation was both thrilling and killing me!
The following morning I anxiously picked up my phone to call the birth mother as planned. There was no answer so I left a quick message asking her to call. In the back of my mind I worried that she had already gone into labor and that we were missing it! I called a few more times that morning leaving messages each time. I tried the agency in case they had heard something but couldn’t reach them either. I forced myself to remain calm despite the fact that my unease was mounting. I had been given an opportunity to earn some extra money by picking up a friend’s son from school each day and watching him for a short time until she got home from work. Friday’s were “early-out” days so around noon I packed Sean into the car and parked in front of the school to wait. It was my habit to get there early in order to procure a spot that allowed me an easy “get away.” All of you car pooling mothers out there will know what I mean by this. While waiting, I decided to try the birth mother once more. Her husband picked up the phone and immediately said, “Hasn’t anyone from the agency talked with you yet?”
I will pause here, don’t hate me. I have been overly emotional the past few days and I realized this morning that it was because this part of our story was brewing on the horizon. I woke up this morning and knew that it was time to extract it from my mind and share it here. You can probably guess what is coming… This part is so very difficult for me to type that my heart is pounding and I can feel my breathing coming just a little quicker. Even after all of this time it evokes an overwhelming visceral reaction. The birth father proceeded to tell me that they had changed their minds… she just didn’t feel that she could go through with it… and no, she didn’t want to speak with me… ever… they felt it was better that this be the last conversation we had. A pause, of course I was quietly sobbing. I couldn’t quite grasp the reality. It wasn’t sinking in. I stupidly said, “We were going to leave tomorrow morning…” No response. Me again, “What are you saying?” “She doesn’t feel that she can go through with it,” he says. Another long pause as I try to wrap my mind around what is happening. He asks, “Are you ok?” The anger and shock finally begin to surface but I decide to keep it in check. “Well, no, I am not ok, but will you please at least tell “blank” that I love her? Tell her that I hope everything works out?” The silence on the other line is absolutely excruciating. He finally says, “Yes, I will tell her… I’d better go now.” I left him with a numb, “Ok, goodbye.” That was the last time I spoke with them. All other conversations were through the agency as if we were criminals who had done something wrong; I was no longer welcome in my friend’s life.
There I was waiting to pick up my friend’s boy from school. I had nowhere to escape and I had to pull myself together quickly. With just minutes to spare I called Greg. He laughed, only from the incredulity of it, and I’m ashamed to admit that hearing him laugh was my final breaking point. I lashed out, not at him in particular, though he took the brunt. I started yelling, all of that tightly controlled anger came gushing out in waves. By the time I was done my throat was raw and I had clawed desperately at the skin around my eyes in my anxiety to hold back the crushing grief. I hung up the phone and pasted the most unconvincing smile on my face as my friend’s child came running to the car. He hopped in and I haltingly asked him how his day had been. As we were driving away from the school my cell phone rang, it was the agency, not the agency in Kansas, but the national agency who had matched us with this family. I threw my phone back into my purse, I knew exactly why they were calling and I was on overload.
At home I forced myself to carry out the mundane daily routines with the boys. I could hardly breathe. I was sick, physically sick to my stomach. Each time I had to venture into our bedroom I had to step over the luggage. I put Sean down for his nap and there was that damn crib, the clothes, the baby swing. I could hardly hold myself together. It felt as if I had been ripped apart from the inside out. I imagined that my insides had been reduced to mere shreds of flesh and blood. My heart felt as if it would stop beating any moment. In my grief I thought of my dear friend Julie who passed away during the climax of my devastating experiences with endometriosis. I thought about my hysterectomy, the baby we had lost earlier that year, the money, the time, the friendship, this baby… I have lost a lot in my life. I have been through hard things, but I must say this was probably one of the most difficult trials I have ever been asked to endure. All of the previous losses I had suffered came crashing down on top of this and I felt as if I would fly apart, crushed by the weight of the burden. I was stripped down bare in every way. We were close to destitute after the money we had invested. I was emotionally drained from the preparations and happy anxiety, only to have it all ripped out from under me.
I gave up acting normal, put on a movie for my friend’s son, and while Sean napped I stole away into my bedroom. There, surrounded by our luggage containing the baby things I had packed as well as special gifts I was to give to the birth family, I pushed a pillow into my face and sobbed. Great heaving, gut-wrenching sobs of raw pain and anguish. I didn’t want the kids to hear me but I couldn’t hold all of the anger, shock, sadness, hopelessness, and fear in any longer. I had to throw that pillow away by the time I was done. I pushed every raw and awful emotion I was feeling into that poor, hapless hunk of stuffing. At some point I was on my knees praying one of the mightiest and most soul-searching prayers I’ve every prayed. I asked for strength, peace, understanding, and help. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this alone. I needed to feel the love of my Heavenly Father. In that moment I heard a knock at our front door. I had lost track of time, it was my friend coming to fetch her son. She took one look at me and immediately guessed what had happened. She held me as I cried; expressing anger and grief on my behalf. You may think it a coincidence but, to me, she was an angel sent from heaven to hold me in her arms.
The adoption agency had called multiple times by now and once my friend left I called them back. I told them that I had already spoken with the birth father. They were very apologetic and asked if we would be interested in considering other situations if they could guarantee that it would actually work out. I was dumbfounded; I knew they were trying to make it right. All I could do was weep as I muttered things like, “Can’t answer that… we’ve lost so much money… probably can’t afford to start over again… what do I do from here?” The social worker let me go on for a bit and finally answered, “Well you do the only thing you can do, you move on.” Her advice seemed so simple and yet it was so much more complicated than anyone could have prepared me for.
I went to my parent’s house seeking comfort. Sometime between trying to act normal for the kids and ruining my pillow I had called my mom. I told them that I just couldn’t face the house full of baby things and luggage knowing that I would need to unpack. It was awful; I was passing through a range of emotions so quickly I could hardly keep track of what was going on. Disconnected from reality in one moment and then held prisoner by devastation the next. My mom, knowing that we were financially destitute with not a thing to show for it, offered to pay for a short trip for the weekend. We chose to go north to Yellowstone, Greg and I had fond memories there with Sean. It was where he had finally spoken his first words.
Greg left work early and, as quickly as I could manage so as not to look at the reminders of the baby, I rearranged a couple of our bags, packed the cooler and we left. It was one of the longest drives we’ve ever made. In a way it was both good and bad to be trapped in the car with our emotions spilling out all over. There were many phone calls with both the national agency and the owner of the agency in Kansas. I kept hoping that we would get a phone call saying they had changed their minds again. We were told that it did happen; sometimes when the mother had the baby she would realize that adoption was the right choice for her after all. Every time my cell phone rang I would have to control the expectations and anxieties when I saw it was one of the agencies. Greg and I spent the hours driving endlessly going over our actions wondering where we had gone wrong. There were no right answers but when your heart is breaking it is difficult to see through the pain of the moment. In hind-sight I realized that the hardest realities to accept in life are the ones that just don’t make sense. We hadn’t done anything wrong, if anything we had done everything right so why hadn’t it worked? I’m sure I will never fully understand the reasoning behind what happened until after this lifetime.
There were many dark days ahead, some that I thought I would never survive. Alas, I am, once again, writing a novel instead of a post so I will leave you here today. This post has exhausted me, so where did we go from here? I’ll share that another time…