We were ecstatic when the call came in. The adoption agency we were working with had matched us with a birth mom and the outlook was very good. We were even invited to meet her, along with one of the agency’s social workers, at a local restaurant for lunch. We were nervous, but, we accepted.
In short, our time with her was beyond what we could have imagined or dreamed. We fell in love with her and she walked away from us feeling confident and ready to proceed. That was February. In early April, just a week before the baby was due, she changed her mind and disappeared, leaving us with nothing. If the plans we had made, and the dreams we were dreaming, were a building built with precision and ingenuity, we were watching it crumble floor by floor, right before our eyes, and we were devastated.
The adoption process brings with it the risk of failure. As much as I hate it, and wish I could make it not so, it’s the honest truth. Your birth mother may change her mind, even at the last second. The country you’re adopting from may close their gates and forbid adoptions at the drop of a hat. The child you’ve loved through trauma and pain, and planned to adopt once parental rights were terminated in foster care, may be swooped away and placed with an aunt in another state!
We’ve felt the crushing blow of this and we have many friends who have too. We’ve asked ourselves why? We’ve stood alone in anger and frustration, shaken our fists at the heavens and demanded an answer. We’ve sat with, and grieved with, families who have been rendered helpless by a birth mother’s change of heart, a judge’s ruling, or a country’s closure at the last second. Here’s what we’ve learned to do…
- Grieve.You’ve lost something. And that “something” was real. This was your child, your dream, your future. Never let anyone downplay a failed adoption because it wasn’t a biological child. Miscarriages are devastating, no question. We’ve dealt with that too. But the same loss, the same emotion, and the same pain exists with failed adoptions. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to feel the loss. And, it’s okay to go through this for a while if need be.
- Wait. Wait before you immediately jump back into the adoption process. I really can’t tell you how long you should wait, because every situation is different. But, you need to give yourself some time to heal. You never want adoption to be driven by a deep loss, like a failed adoption. The time you wait should be a time for processing, searching, healing, and restoration.
- Lean. Find someone you can lean on through dark days. You want this person to be someone who gets it and won’t try to fix things with clever sayings or Bible verses. One of the healthiest things you can do through the adoption process, but especially if things fall apart, is find a support system. These are people who know what you’re going through as a pre-adoptive or adoptive parent. Stay away from people who don’t have a healthy understanding of adoption, or do not get why you’re doing it. Trust the folks who are in the same trench, dreaming the same dreams, or perhaps have felt the same loss as you have.
- Hope. When the time is right, after you’ve grieved for a while or waited for some time, find hope again. Why? Because there is hope. The failed adoption is not your last hope, nor is it your last chance. Trust me. We have walked through this and we found hope. Our family is a story of hope. While we grieved the loss of the adoptions that fell through, we couldn’t imagine, nor picture, our family any different or any better. God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought the children we are raising, into our home.
A story unfolding.
I’ve often told foster and adoptive parents that they have no idea what story their family will tell the world. I believe this with all of my heart because I believe in foster care and adoption. There were times we almost gave up, ended our license, and threw in the towel. I’m glad we didn’t. We would’ve missed out on some amazing blessings.
On that fateful April day, when the agency called to tell us our birth mother had changed her mind, we were devastated. We almost quit on the spot. All we could see was desperation and loss. After all, in our finite minds, we usually can only see our immediate surroundings, especially in tragedy. What we didn’t realize, however, was that just north of where we lived a little boy had been born just 2 weeks before everything fell apart on us.
One year later, we picked him up from his current foster home and brought him home. He would become our forever son in the years that followed. In the middle of our failed adoption, another, much bigger story was unfolding. We couldn’t see it at the time! Today, 7 years later, I couldn’t imagine life without my son. I share this for one reason: You have no idea what your family’s story will be a year from now, 2 years from now, or 5 years from now. Hang on. Wait. Find hope!
Have you ever been through a failed adoption? Share your story with us.