Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Invisible Grief

I've been somewhat blue lately, and this evening I realized why. I'm coming up on the invisible anniversary. Why do I call it the invisible anniversary? Well, because it is. I lost something, it was early August when everything came crashing down...a few years ago. 2003, I think.

We'd done our home study and spent almost a year on tenterhooks. Every time the phone rang, my heart skipped a beat. But it was never that phone call. We wanted to adopt. We wanted to intentionally become a bi-racial family. Our hearts were open. Our wallet was open. Our family was open. We were going to name him Samuel. We'd done our homework, worked through stuff on special needs adoption. We'd heard the statistics: All these babies that "nobody wants" languishing in foster care. So, we wanted to give our lives and our love.

What a build up.

And there was the call from the social worker. A baby. A birth mother. A scheduled phone interview and a plane ride the next morning, and a baby for us. The social worker said it was a done deal. The birth mother was desperate to find someone and we were first in line. It was all good and we were IT.

At the appointed time, we called. She was in the shower, a relative said. We called back. And we got hung up on. We called the social worker...the one who said this was it. This was not it. Most definitely not it.

This was the third or fourth time we'd been down this dead-end. But this time it was worse, for some reason. I stopped believing that the statistics we'd heard were true. Nobody wanted us. There was always someone better, more "qualified"...richer.

So the next morning, when I started putting our clothes away, emptying the suitcase and putting it back in the attic, one of my kids asked me what I was doing. No Sammy. It didn't happen.

The children wailed. I have this memory of small children with heads tilted back, crying their guts out in disappointment and grief. We'd been praying for so long. And it just never happened.

Could we go on?

We decided to wait. Not pursue any out-of-state adoption possibilities, and wait on our local agency. After all, the director told us that most families got a placement within a year. So we waited.

January came and went. Time for us to renew our home study and no one contacted us to get that ball rolling. Nothing but silence. It was as though we'd never even been there. We decided that this was somehow a message to us.

Our kids could not take the roller coaster of anticipation and disappointment. We could not take it, either.

A year later, after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, we got a letter from the Adoption agency: they were trying to figure out why none of the birth mothers ever picked our file...but they were confident the right child for us was still out there somewhere.

We wrote back: Don't bother. I was too ill to even contemplate adoption. The dream was over.

And there is this very very very real sense of loss. I feel really sad about it. I always wanted to adopt, and God said "no".

But it's like all our friends just breathed a collective sigh of relief when things went sour with these hopes and dreams.

I can't talk about this loss when women compare miscarriage stories, or infant death stories. My grief is less specific, less defined. Less mine. There was never actually a child of mine that I lost. Just a child of someone else's that never was mine to begin with. Just a bit of my heart. Just a bit of openness that got dropped in the dirt and forgotten.

And people telling us that it's for the best, even though it's probably true, just hurts, and makes me feel like all kinds of a fool for putting myself out there. Like asking someone you have a crush on out, and getting publicly turned down and humiliated. That's what it feels like.

And even the knowing that it would have done me in, physically, if it had worked out does not comfort me, either. Just makes me think of all the dreams and plans and hopes that constantly go by the wayside in my life because of my illness.

I need space to grieve. This was real for me, and it still hurts. It's only been four years, and they say grief takes seven.

10 comments:

Joyful Days said...

Oh Alana. I think that grief is just as specific. Grief is in your heart and there was a child in your heart. And in your children's hearts.

Surely I don't know the whys and cannot comprehend how badly that hurts. But I am so very sorry.

Michelle Melania said...

Alana, I am so sorry to hear about this. I didn't know that you had tried to adopt at one point, but I imagine that grief must feel very similar to that of losing a child or having a miscarriage. So, please do not say that yours is somehow less worthy of grief. To lose the dream of something is a great loss- especially to lose the dream of a child.

I will be praying for you and your family. I am sorry that you have had such a great loss.

Anonymous said...

Alana, I remember when you were going through this. You have every right to be sad. The adoption agency missed out on a great family. Terry (OHM)

Alana said...

Thanks y'all!

Liz in Seattle said...

Alana,

I lost two babies to miscarriage, one on Christmas morning. I don't know why this happened. Your grief is no less valid. Think of it this way: if two separate people each lost their parent, they would have similar, but at the same time very different grief.

I'm really sorry about all of this. No pat answers here, except maybe a suggestion to get an icon of Christ and the children (it helped me).

Hugs to you.

Paige said...

It wasn't you; it happens a lot with government adoptions. Sometimes it's racial, sad as that is. I knew of two cases in Memphis where the birth families actually preferred the kids to grow up in foster care than be adopted and "raised in another culture." Nevermind that most of the foster families were white, too, but likely less qualified and less committed.

Sometimes I think it's just an immature reaction on the part of the birth mother to someone else wanting the baby. It's like when a kid doesn't care about a toy until their sibling shows an interest in it, and then suddenly they're willing to fight over it. An acquaintance of ours had an unwanted pregnancy a couple of years ago, and was talking about abortion. I offered to adopt the baby, and she started talking about how I made less money than her, was busier, etc., and she would rather keep it. That situation turned out fine--she is now a toddler being raised by her father (mom's desire to mother didn't last very long, but at least it lasted past the abortion window). But my point is that she cared so little about the child that she would kill it, until someone else expressed an interest. Bizarre and illogical as that is, I think it's the thought process behind more than a few failed adoption attempts.

I don't know if it helps, but I doubt if any part of it was personal against you or your family.

Dollymama said...

I'm so sorry. Take the time you need to grieve, even if others don't get it or seemed relieved.

I don't think I actually ever heard your entire story about this before. Wow.

Hugs...

elizabeth said...

that is hard. i remember professors from my university going through this - they had even met the child - and the mother recanted. it is a very hard thing and very real.

prayers for you this day.

Anonymous said...

Alana,
I so understand your grief. I have felt the same way over the years as I have struggled with infertility. I have accepted the fact that I will never bare children of my own. I do have my moments of sadness and grief at times. I am here if you ever want to talk about it!
Love,
Joi

Knancy said...

I think I understand a little of what you are feeling. Last spring we took in a 6 yr. old neighbor boy in a difficult family situation. We had already previously grown fond of him as he liked to hang out with my husband and "fix stuff". We'd only had him a couple of weeks when he was yanked out and sent to extended family in CA. I was devastated and grieved much as I did when my mom died. The intensity of it suprised me as I didn't realize how attached I had become to him. Anyway, anniversaries like this tend to jump up and bite you when you're not looking. Loss is loss.
Oh, and I have fibromyalgia too.