Brian- January 27, 2019. She was born “sunny-side up” and she certainly was nothing short of a perfectly radiant bundle of sunshine. For what seemed like an eternity, we had been working with a local agency, seeking to have a baby placed with our family through open adoption. We had been expecting her arrival over the past four and a half months after being chosen by a pair of birth parents.
In that short amount of time, we had prepared for a lifetime with her. A lifetime which included a few years of late night bottle feedings and diaper changes. Years of playing taxi to ballet and Jiu-Jitsu classes. Years of guarding her against “unworthy” boyfriends. If I was lucky, I’d have many, many years of her being “Daddy’s little girl.” And without a doubt, years…a lifetime of unconditional love.
In less than 48 hours, we experienced the greatest of joys in this life: Becoming a parent to a perfect newborn angel. Then just as quickly came the experience of what has to be the ultimate fear and nightmare for an adopting parent: to have that child taken from you, without any recourse. Our birth-mother changed her mind a few hours before signing her over to us, deciding instead to keep our daughter for herself.
I have never felt as helpless and useless as a man or as a father than I did at that point. I was reduced to tears, begging and pleading for her to allow us to keep our Elise. To no avail. I’ve never felt so ashamed and undeserving of the title of “father” or “dad” than I do now. I walked out of that hospital without my daughter. What kind of man does that? What kind of parent would allow that? There are questions and scenarios that play non-stop in the background of my mind while I try to act strong for my wife and my son.
For the past week I have screwed on a happy face that hides soul crushing sadness and emptiness being without my little girl. But I do so because I need to stay strong in case she comes back to me. Strong enough to never let her go again. Never let anyone take her from me again. And if she never comes back to me in this life, I need to stay strong, so that my love for her will always be clear, never clouded by doubt, & never be in question by myself or others. Strong enough for me to feel worthy enough to have been blessed to hold her for those precious few hours.
I decided to put together a blog as a way to vent, maybe sort out feelings, and as a way to share our continuing journey with friends and family who initially shared in our joyful journey through adoption and parenthood. We were told that failed adoptions such as ours, occur fairly rarely, only 2-3% of all open adoptions. So for those others who fall in the 2-3% with us, perhaps this blog will allow you to find someone else who can relate to your story.
My wife, Diane, will also be co-publishing this blog. I think it’s important for both of us to be able to tell our stories and recognize that although we share the same journey, it isn’t always experienced the same way(s). And that includes the journey forward. Sometimes we’ll talk on a topic or aspect of our journey. Sometimes it may have more background as to what lead us to open adoption in the first place. Sometimes we’ll just vent feelings. Whether it’s incoherent ramblings, or near poetic prose, it will always be presented with the intent that our forever, undying, and unconditional love for our daughter, Elise Jeannine, be at the heart of it all. Thank you for your love, support, and understanding. We welcome you along with us on our continued journey….whichever way the wind blows.
As this blog begins, I don’t even know where we are in our own story – are we in the middle, with our happy ending somewhere in the not-so-distant future? Are we at the end, where we throw in the towel and decide that the universe has been trying to give us signs all along and it’s time to give up on our desire to have a child together? Or are right at the beginning, with years of heartache and pain to come? If we knew which chapter we were on, maybe it would be easier to figure out how to “be” in this moment.
Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Around the country, my friends and family are going to be gathering together, eating fried appetizers and cheering for the Rams or the Patriots, hoping the commercials are funny, heart-warming, or controversial. I was looking forward to this Super Bowl – I knew our daughter would be here by now, and that no one would be expecting us to come over or be social as we enjoyed soaking in her newborn-ness. We were going to have the game on in the background, but really be focused on her, our perfect Elise. Instead, Brian and I are at home and together, but the day looks so different than the one we had imagined.
It’s been exactly one week since Elise was born – the happiest, most joyful day in my entire life – 1/27/19. One week ago I was making calls and writing social media posts about her arrival. I could feel the support and joy of hundreds of people who knew about this part of our journey and were genuinely thrilled for our family. And then six days ago, our world was shattered.
The shock and emptiness and despair and grief and pain and anger and sadness that comes from a failed adoption is something that really can’t be put into words. But yet, Brian and I will try. Maybe it will be therapeutic. Maybe we’ll abandon this whole idea in a few weeks as we try to “move forward.” I really don’t know what this will look like.
This blog is going to mean going back to some of the darkest places I have ever known – revisiting those feelings that I thought I’d never have to experience again, because I thought our loss was over. Our story starts long before Elise. For me, the story starts with a conversation Brian and I had before we even started dating – but that’s a story for another day.
I’m not sure if anyone will ever read our posts – I hope they do, because I know how much it means to me to know that we aren’t alone. But even if it’s just for ourselves, we want to honor every part of our journey. So that’s where we begin.