Monday, November 11, 2013

The Joy & the Pain

I'm struggling to begin this post. 

Here's the truth: Saturday I met my daughter, which made it amazing and special and fabulous and one of the best days of my life. But the day did not play out how we expected it to, and so it ended up to also be sad and heartbreaking and emotional, and a hard, hard day that I would never want to live through again. Ever.  

Let me back up. 

When we were matched with Georgia's birthmom, we were told that she wanted a closed adoption. She asked the agency to choose an adoptive family for her daughter, and she never even looked at the family profile that I worked so hard on, wanting it to give the woman who would give us her child the confidence she needed to know that she was making the right decision. 

This baby is the second baby our birthmom has placed with our agency, and they had wonderful things to say about her. I was a little bit sad at the thought of not ever getting to meet her, but grateful to avoid extra drama. And knowing that she had placed a baby before, rather recently... I wasn't worried at all about her waivering. 

We have a technically open adoption with Penelope's birthmom, but we have no direct contact with her and at the moment our agency has lost contact with her completely.  But I pray that someday, far down the road, Penelope will get to meet her birthmom and I will get to hug her again and thank her inadequately {because I could never express my love for her adequately}. 

I hoped to have a similar situation with Georgia's birthmom, so I was fine with her not wanting an open adoption. I know many people have very open relationships with their children's birthmoms and I think it's amazing that some families can function that way, but it's not for me. 

When we adopted Penelope everything happened really fast, and even though her birthmom had never placed a child for adoption before, I never once worried about whether or not she would sign the papers relinquishing her rights. She delivered Penelope in the morning, and checked out of the hospital that evening, so we felt confident that she was ready to sign and wasn't waivering. In Utah, the birthmom cannot sign the papers until 24 hours after delivery, but once they do it is final. So we had a very short wait, confident and not stressful, and she signed as soon as she could. 

I went into this adoption naively expecting the same kind of experience. 

When we got the call last Thursday telling us that she was in labor, it was so fun and exciting!  I texted Nathan "rock 'n roll" and he was quickly on his way home from work. Two of my friends rushed over to help us pack up. I called my sister and told her to get ready to leave soon. I texted my sister-in-law to tell her we'd be dropping off the dog in a little bit. It was a mad dash, but in a couple of hours we were on the road, on our way to get our baby. 

A few minutes after getting on the freeway we got a text saying that the baby was born. 

There was lots of texting with the agency about our little girl, but no indication that there was anything to be concerned about. 

We stopped that night in Henderson, Nevada and got a little bit of sleep. The next morning we set out for Utah. 

The agency told us that we wouldn't be able to come to the hospital until the birthmom checked out {since she didn't want to meet us}, which would not be until the next day.  So we took our time getting the rest of the 500 miles to Salt Lake City. 

We checked into our hotel, relaxed, and anticipated meeting our daughter in the morning. They told us she was signing papers at 11am and then we would be able to head to the hospital. 

That night I got a text from an IG friend who happened to also be adopting a baby through our agency {that had been born in the same hospital, the same day} and who had also just arrived in Utah. They had gotten to meet their birthmom and baby, but she asked us to pray because the birthmom was struggling to sign. She had planned to do it that day, but hadn't, and they were praying that she would choose to sign in the morning. 

I said out loud to my family: "I'm so glad that's not something we have had to worry about."  

The next morning we got ready to go meet our daughter. We were expecting a call around noon telling us that she had signed and we could head to the hospital. 

But at 12:30 we still hadn't heard anything. We decided to eat lunch, still thinking that at any moment we would get the call and be heading to the hospital.  

Then I got a phone call that I didn't want to get. It was the agency telling me that our birthmom was really struggling with signing the papers. I was devastated. We had just sat down to eat and I was on the verge of a complete breakdown. I think I ate five bites of my pasta. 

The next three hours we spent wandering around Salt Lake City. We had checked out of our hotel and were supposed to be checking into our rental house that night, but facing the possibility of having to head back home to California without a baby, we didn't want to go into the house yet. 

About an hour later I got a text from our agency asking for a picture of our family. Then they wanted to know how old Nathan and I are. I wanted to throw up. 

It was two more hours before we heard anything else. Those were some of the worst hours of my life. 

I ached for our birthmom. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to place your child for adoption. To sign away your rights to your own flesh and blood. To know you may never see that child again. There cannot be anything harder. 

I ached for our agency. I don't know how they walk through these situations daily. How do you do that?  How do you advocate for the birthmom and the adoptive family at the same time?  How do you face telling an adoptive family that has driven 1,000 miles to meet their daughter that they will be driving home without her? 

I ached for us. I didn't want to drive home with an empty carseat. I was mad at God. My sister and my husband were telling me that maybe this had to happen so that I could have compassion for other families that have gone through failed adoptions. I said, "I don't want to help people anymore. I'm tired of being the one to experience the heartache so I can help other people. For once I just want to avoid the heartache." I was nauseous and heartsick. 

After two hours of driving aimlessly, we pulled into a parking lot in downtown Salt Lake City. It had been too long. We were convinced that she wasn't going to sign. We knew they were going to call us and tell us it was over. I cried. We sat.

When the phone rang and it was the agency, I almost threw up. I answered, ready for her to tell me that we would not be getting that baby. 

Only that's not what she said. 

"She signed."  

I burst into tears and Nathan and I just hugged each other and cried. She signed. Georgia would be coming home. 

I was relieved, elated, and hopelessly sad for the birthmom. I'm guessing that was one of the hardest things she will ever have to do in her life. And it was hard to know that our joy was her pain. 

We don't know what happened to change her mind. We will probably never know. When we saw the women from our agency that night they told us that her mind was made up. She was taking that baby home to parent. But she didn't. She signed instead. I believe that the only answer is that God intervened. Somehow he spoke to her heart and confirmed the decision that she had made to begin with. And I am praying that He will continue to confirm her decision, and that in the weeks and months and years to come she will be grateful that she signed. 

Adoption is hard. As I have said before, it is not for the faint of heart. But oh, the amazing, amazing blessings that it reaps. 

There are only a few situations in life that I can think of where there is such a dichotomy of emotions. Organ donorship would be another one. Someone has to die for someone to be saved. Joy and pain. 

Christ died so that we could be saved from our sin. He had to die so that we could be saved. I have a whole new perspective on that sacrifice now. The sacrifice of a child. 

I am forever changed. 


  1. Emmy, I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face..I am so happy for you and so sad for her mom. You said it so perfectly that your joy was her pain. God is so good, and this is just what I needed to read today. To quit feeling sorry for myself that I'm having a rough time with my son, and be thankful that I have him. And a God who gave his ONLY son to save me!!

  2. My sweet {new} friend. Thank you for bearing it ALL. For answering the call to adopt, for being obedient and faithful to the Lord and most of all, being transparent with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I keep your family in my prayers and am thankful to God for being so detailed oriented to put you in my life for no other reason to be the encourager to answer our own call to adopt. xo

  3. I almost got sick to my stomach reading this and all you went thru :(( we just brought home our daughter through adoption 10 weeks ago and she is such a blessing to our life. I bet the birth mom saw your picture and God confirmed in her heart that you guys would take care of her sweet baby girl :) so happy for you guys and love following you on Instagram! You should follow my journey too! @omigrace24

  4. Tears. And no words. But a million thoughts of how God is good. And even though I might not see Him in a situation, He is always there. Always. What a story- blessings to you for having the courage to share!!


  5. So blessed to read this. Our God is so faithful. I am so encouraged by your journey and faith in God on our journey to adopt our sweet little baby. We are still in the homestudy process, but once we are finished I'd love to join in on your fundraising. Much love to you!

  6. wow. this is an amazing story. We have been praying about adoption one day and the Lord has confirmed to me that it is his will that we will adopt one day. It must be so hard for the birthmom and for the adoptive mom. I know I have 2 babies now and I could never give away such a precious blessing from the Lord. I know it has to be the hardest decision that a birthmom would ever have to make. I can feel the emotions from you by just reading this and what you must have been feeling like. So thankful for such a loving God that has such wonderful plans for our lives. Thank you for sharing this, I know that we will one day have these same emotions come up when we are in an adoption journey. What is your email? Would love to talk to you more and get more info on adoption.

  7. We adopted our first 14 years ago...the joy and heartache of the day we met him is as fresh as if it was yesterday. In our state, the birth mom has to wait five day before signing the surrender papers. Five days of struggle, fear, and pain for everyone. On the second day, we were told that she was really undecided and unsure. She was discharged from the hospital and took the baby home with her for the night. I was sure that he would not be ours and we would drive 14 hours back home to a nursery that would remain empty. But, God intervened. Two days later, she placed her son in my arms and gave me the greatest gift one woman can give to another. Joy and pain so intense in one moment. In a letter I have saved for my son, she tells him of those days and the hard decision she made. She tells him of her assurance that God was with her and that she made the right decision. I pray every day that she still believes it.