Adoption: From Pain Comes a Sparkling Love

An adoptive mother shares her story of multiple failed matches and what a blessing it was to finally be placed with a baby: 'Our son Leo is worth every tear any of us shed, and so much more'

happy mother and baby

The phone was ringing again, but I couldn’t bring myself to answer it. I sat on my couch, ignoring the constant ringing as my nearly 2-year-old son watched too many cartoons. The pain was overwhelming.

Typically when you are a hopeful adoptive couple and your adoption agency calls you, multiple times, you answer the phone. But heartache and depression can do strange things to a person. It’s something we were never prepared for, and still something that is rarely talked about in adoption circles. Most potential adoptive couples will go through at least one failed match. No one prepares you for the emotional toll of that experience. 

Three years earlier, in 2007, I had become pregnant with our oldest son. After a pregnancy rife with health complications, he was miraculously delivered via emergency caesarean section at 35 weeks. We were sternly warned by doctors to never attempt another pregnancy. Just over a year later, we had completed our mountains of adoption paperwork, a home study, and were ready to welcome a new little one into our family.

Despite our meticulous preparation, nothing could prepare us for what the following year would bring. 

By October, we had been matched with three different potential birth families. All of them ultimately decided against placing. While we respected these families, their rights and their decisions, each situation left cracks in our hearts.

In September, we met Anna* and Mitch*. They were a sweet teenage couple from Spokane. Both were foster kids and had decided on adoption for their child because they weren’t ready to become parents. We drove to Spokane to spend a weekend with them and had a wonderful time getting to know them. We believed, at long last, that we had found the birth family we had been searching for. We returned home from that weekend full of hope and excitement. Papers were signed, and the nursery was readied. We planned to name him Cyrus.

And then, we were blindsided. 

The details are painful, the memories blurred through tears and insomnia. My mother-in-law came to stay with our son while we traveled to Spokane for several days. We learned that Mitch was not the baby’s father. He would not return our phone calls. Just days before the baby’s birth, Anna had been evicted from the foster home where she had been living and was now homeless. Devon*, the actual father, came into the picture. He didn’t want to meet us, but he didn’t want to be a father, either.

They were all terrified, and so were we. We knew that it was our job to be the adults as we attempted to navigate a world we didn’t understand with kids in circumstances no teen should ever have to face.

Our son Leo is worth every tear any of us shed, and so much more. Parenting is hard, no matter how you become a parent, and my son is the epitome of a 5-year-old boy, but every now and then, I am blessed with a reminder of that miracle.

We did our best to be graceful, offering support where we could, arranging counseling, finding resources. However, in the end, Devon blocked the adoption. He agreed adoption would be the best thing for the baby, but his time in foster care had wounded him. He could not reconcile his own feelings of abandonment with relinquishing his parental rights, even if he was not ready for the responsibility that came with those rights. Our hearts ached for him.

The birth was complicated, and the baby boy went to the NICU; we never got to hold him. We helped prepare a room in a kind woman’s house where Anna would eventually bring her baby home. We visited her in the hospital. We did all we could for her before leaving. Our hearts ached for her. 

With an empty infant carrier in the backseat that symbolized our crumbled hopes, the five-hour drive from Spokane to Seattle felt like a lifetime.

We pulled down all of our adoption profiles. Those cracks in our hearts created throughout the spring and summer split wide open, leaving me with an emptiness and a pain I can’t put into words.

This is where we found ourselves when the agency called, called again, then called again, and eventually sent an email saying, “CALL US!!!” The urgency was lost on me. I finally called after three days.

We believe that God had taken us to the edge of our abilities to endure so that when he delivered us from our sorrow, we would recognize our miracle, our angel. 

The agency gave me a name, an email and a phone number. The young woman was expecting, due in February. She was placing; she had chosen us to parent her baby. There were no loose ends; it was an ideal match.

I was terrified. 

First, we emailed her, then made a phone call. Her story was heartbreaking, but she told it with grace and composure. She knew our history. She knew we were scared. She calmed us, assured us.

She was in a trying situation, yet she comforted us. It all felt so backward. We felt guilty for needing that kind of strength from her, but she never wavered.

The author's two sons.

“He chose you. You are his parents,” she told us, explaining that her baby had jumped and kicked while viewing our profile, something he had never done before or since.

Six weeks later, we flew to Fairbanks, Alaska, where I met Lisa* for the first time. It was as if I had always known her. We even look like sisters, both of us tall, with dark curly hair and light olive skin.

Five years later, we still call Lisa our angel. She is Aunty Lisa to our boys, who know she is Leo’s birth mama and are so proud of her. We enjoy a wonderful open adoption and wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Adoption is a miracle born of the ashes of tragedy. 

Our son Leo is worth every tear any of us shed, and so much more. Parenting is hard, no matter how you become a parent, and my son is the epitome of a 5-year-old boy, but every now and then, I am blessed with a reminder of that miracle. 

Leo has Lisa’s eyes, and sometimes when he looks up from his toy dinosaurs or begs me to dance with him in the kitchen, those beautiful blue eyes sparkle. It’s in those moments that I am reminded that the most beautiful things come from the most painful experiences.

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