Since we keep getting a lot of the same questions over and over, I figured I’d try to answer a few. Recapping everything can be really exhausting, although as always, we appreciate the support.
Is there a chance you could get Elise back?
Anything is possible, and at this point, nothing would surprise us. There are only a handful of scenarios where that would play out. The first would be an intervention by a third party forcing the birthmother to either place her child for adoption or have her go into foster care. The second would be that the supports that the birthmother believes are in place fall apart, she becomes overwhelmed, reconsiders adoption, and feels comfortable enough to reach out to us.
Is she (the birthmother) allowed to do that (change her mind)?
Yes. Birthmothers in any adoption scenario are 100% allowed to change their mind after the birth of their child. A child cannot be promised or guaranteed to an adoptive family ahead of time. An adoption can’t take place and paperwork can’t be signed until after the child is born. Every adoption scenario is a risk. No adoptive parent begins this process without taking that risk. And no birthmother can be forced to hand over her child. We knew all of this when we started on our journey. Our confidence was extremely high, given previous successful adoption placements by the birthmother, her unwavering desire for the best life for her daughter, our mutual understanding of open adoption, and her dire living circumstances.
Can you sue the birthmother for the expenses you incurred?
Adoptive parents are allowed to financially support birthmothers with certain restrictions and for certain timeframes. We definitely did this due to her lack of support and poor financial situation during pregnancy. I truthfully don’t know if we would be “allowed” to sue her – probably, but really, there is no point. She has nothing. For the sake of our precious Elise, (who we want to have the best possible chance at a good life), this means letting them move on with their lives, financially and otherwise. We have the education and ability to make and save money. This birthmother (at this point) does not.
This is, of course, the most common question (whether or not people ask it directly). To begin to answer this, let me firmly state and we do not believe this was a part of any sort of “mastermind” plot. We don’t feel we were used or mislead over the past 4 months. Period. We truly believe that our birthmother always intended to follow through with the adoption. Everyone involved in the adoption was completely shocked by her change of heart. Immediately before, and immediately after Elise’s birth, we were assured of the decision through various conversations with her. “Are you guys going to pierce her ears?” was one question I remember her asking us about 10 hours after the birth. We had no idea what was coming. At that point, I don’t think she knew that she would be changing her mind.
The change in her decision came after two family members, who had previously been absent or nearly absent in her life, came forward with promises of love and support for birthmother and baby. Why now? Why this child? Because she looks like the birthfather did when he was born? Where were you when she needed help during her pregnancy? Why didn’t you offer to do X, Y, and Z? You blocked her from calling you for a year, but NOW you want to be involved and repair the relationship?! My desire to say these things to people is strong, but instead I write them here.
Ultimately, Brian and I never stood a chance against the words she had waited so long to hear. Reason and common sense and past history and past behavior and logic could not compete with these promises of a brighter tomorrow. It’s infuriating and sad to think back on. She had been so strong in her convictions from Day 1. To see that all crumble in a few conversations is something that will live with me for a long time.
While she never had a conversation with me about her ultimate decision, she did have conversations with Brian, the other adoptive mom, our adoption worker, and two social workers. I’ll never forget the hospital social worker telling me, “That family really did a number on her.” Ughhhh!! Am I supposed to feel better knowing that she was essentially manipulated?
So that’s the “what happened” answer, as best as I can give it. Maybe time will give me more clarity, but it’s been a week, so that’s where I’m at right now.
I think Diane pretty much handled a few of the biggest questions posed thus far. At least, the biggest questions I think most people feel comfortable asking anyways. So I’m going to address a couple FWAQs (Frequently WANTED to Ask Questions) and answer them as honestly as possible. Keep in mind that I can’t truly speak for my wife, Diane. I can only speak on my behalf and speak my interpretation of the actions, events, etc. that I’ve seen.
How are you doing? How are you coping?
We’re doing horribly and we’re coping as best we can. Just being honest. As I mentioned earlier, every day so far has been a struggle to keep my mind from drifting towards those precious few hours of holding our daughter in my arms. It’s an even greater struggle to keep from sinking into the deep waters of despair and hopelessness, thinking of the overwhelming odds of a less than favorable outcome presented by this situation. Perhaps the greatest struggle of all, for me thus far however, has been the immense feelings of guilt and shame I have for a number of reasons: 1) I feel guilt and shame as if I did not do enough to keep our daughter safe, with us. Although I know stopping short of some sort of physical altercation or violent act of desperation, was the right thing to do, I continually find myself second-guessing every part I played in the drama which unfolded during those few hours. Did I do enough? Did I do too much at some point? Did I miss an open window of opportunity that was THE deciding factor in pushing the birth-mom’s decision the “wrong” way? 2) I feel guilt and shame for putting forth the appearance that I am ok and that I am dealing well with all of this, and that I am altogether optimistic and hopeful and holding true to faith. I feel like a fraud and less than honorable when it comes to expressing and conveying openly to others how deeply I love that little girl and how empty a huge part of my heart and soul is without her. 3) The greatest level of guilt and shame I feel is not being able to fully be there for my wife and fix this for her. I can’t bring Elise home to her. I can’t fix the odds of things working out in our favor. I can fix things around the house. I’ve fixed leaky faucets, fixed broken furniture. I’ve put together bookshelves and even lifted a 400lb jukebox on my own. The only things I’m half way decent at…the one time she really needs me to…I can’t fix her. I can’t put her broken heart back together. I can’t lift her spirits. I had one job. And I failed. I know she will be the first to defend me from myself on these points and that is one of many reasons I love her. It is odd to think how in synch we were (and are) with each other, sharing our feelings of love for everything involving Elise. Yet it has been more than challenging trying to connect with each other’s processing of pain and sense of loss.
In the end, I’m sure we will learn to cope more appropriately and perhaps even heal a bit. Enough to keep our hearts from bleeding out and maybe reduce it to a slow, trickle of hurt and sadness. Until then we’ll do our best and be relieved to just get through another day while holding on to the slimmest of slim chances there will be no need for another disheartening blog entry.
What are your plans moving forward?
That’s an interesting question, since “moving forward” infers some sort of moving on from the situation. In this instance, it’s hard to say we’re doing either. I student teach all day and then go to work until the evening. Occasionally, I will train or go to the gym after that and get home for dinner, a short wind down, and then off to bed to wake up early and repeat it all over again. It has kept me quite distracted and proven a good way for me to avoid honest reflection. Diane, on the other hand, had already taken maternity leave and has had quite a lot of down time to be by herself and in her own head dealing with all this. I don’t feel as if either of us are ready to move on or move forward. Not without Elise. So to answer the question, I don’t think either of us really have any plans for this situation. We’re sort of in a limbo state and neither of us are in a rush to get out of it.
Would you mind if I shared your story?
Actually, not a single person has asked me this question, but I think it would be a great question to ask. And I will answer it with a resounding, “Not at all.” We have been blessed with a great many friends and family members in our lives. So many of those people have been with us on our journey as we have hoped to extend our family over the past 6 years. They have been with us through the good and the bad. While the initial intent of this blog was for self-reflection, we realized the opportunity was there to keep our friends and family updated on our situation, if there was any update to be given. We felt we wanted to keep sharing our story with them, however it might turn out. We have always realized the value of friends and family during times of celebration but we have come to acknowledge the greater value of their love and support during difficult and trying times of need. Out of that was born the idea that we should also be open to sharing our story with those outside friends and family. Open to those who find themselves in similar heartbreaking situations or know of someone who is dealing with one. Perhaps our words might be informative. Perhaps our words might be relatable. Perhaps the words just might be comforting. Whatever the case may be, we would be fine having it shared with anyone who might benefit from it or know someone who might find it valuable in some way. Although we are living through a great sense of loss, we do recognize how blessed our life has been. And while we hope this blog helps us find some sense of healing for ourselves, it would be amazing to think that our story could be something positive for someone else. So please feel free to share the site or post(s) if you know someone who could use it.