Sometimes it’s easier to write about a dark season after the pain has subsided a bit. Other times the pain gives a boost of creativity, and the words flow easier. I’ve found myself telling the story about our failed adoption match a few times recently, and I no longer feel sick to my stomach when I do so. Well, not *as* sick to my stomach. The enormity of my emotions from that time, and the pain of having it fall through, still overwhelms me at times. God has been so good to bring significant healing since last December/January. I would like to share about it a bit in this space because I know our story, although unique, isn’t uncommon.
On December 18, 2013, almost one year ago, we got the phone call. The call that every adoptive couple dreams of. It was about 4 pm, and even though we had been waiting for over two years at that point, it was still the last call I expected to get that evening.
“You guys were chosen!” said our case worker on the other line.
“It’s a sibling group of three children.”
Three children. Wow. My heart was beating so fast.
Adam wasn’t home from work yet. I feverishly typed up notes as quickly as I could, attempting to take in every single word about theses three precious children. I didn’t want to miss one detail.
I kept listening…
“A little boy (4), his younger brother (2) and their sister (1).” They needed to stay together. Their names were given to me, but no pictures were available yet. They were all doing surprisingly well for their circumstances.
It had been six months since we officially decided we would consider taking sibling groups of three. We knew it was a good possibility we could be chosen for one this size, being as we were one of only a small handful of couples in the entire state who were open to doing so.
Even still, the news that we were chosen for three took my breath away. If I was the fainting type, I probably would have keeled over in that moment.
We had been pleading with God to grow our family by Christmas. The high amount of activity our family profile had been experiencing that month, and constant phone calls and emails from our case worker, pointed to us being matched very soon. It seemed as if God may have been answering our prayers. We were thrilled.
Yet, at the same time, I was completely overwhelmed.
I was excited, don’t get me wrong. But at that point I was definitely more scared than excited. No doubt, these children would be an enormous blessing, and precious lives to be cherished and treasured in our family.
But three?! Holy cow. This was getting real.
We would trust God to give us peace as we moved forward by faith. It was all we knew to do. One step at a time towards our “instant family.”
Two days later we were at our local Department of Children and Families office, meeting with case workers and the kids foster mom. My pen couldn’t move fast enough as I wrote down as many details as I could about their story.
It was overwhelming, but we continued moving forward, trusting that God had a bigger purpose in us being matched with these precious kiddos.
Christmas came and went and we shared our news, and pictures of the children, with extended family and friends. With the start of the new year we began preparations for their upcoming visits and arrival into our family.
With the help of DCF, we put together a schedule for their transition into our home over the next 3 weeks. A few short visits, a day trip with the oldest, and eventually an overnight visit before they would be permanently placed with us on January 27, 2014.
I’ll be completely honest, our emotions were all over the place. The roller coaster ride of our two and a half year wait was nothing compared to the emotions we felt as we prepared for three little ones to enter our world. The wait for peace grew longer and longer, but we kept moving forward by faith.
I spent many days preparing for them, rearranging furniture in our second bedroom so all three of them could sleep in the same room at first. We purchased three car seats, a double stroller, a high chair, toy bins, bunk beds, bedding, bibs, and more. We talked about possibly getting a minivan. And we purged. Holy cow, did we purge. We got rid of so much stuff that we just didn’t need, maximizing the space in our tiny little home.
Excitement was beginning to build as we put one foot in front of the other, tangibly preparing for their arrival.
Then, we received another phone call.
New information was given to us about the kids. The sugar-coated outer layer was beginning to chip away. Things weren’t as lovely as they seemed. It wasn’t surprising to us though. Adoption is full of sorrow and brokenness. This is the world we agreed to dive head first into when we chose to adopt.
We needed to think things over. Slow things down. It was all happening too fast (which is ironic as I type this because our little J arrived with only four hours notice). We were very unsure if we would be the best match for these kids.
We halted the plan and scheduled a few more meetings with DCF, a trip to the oldest boy’s preschool, and a late night visit to their foster home (after the kids were all asleep upstairs), to talk with their foster parents more.
We pleaded with God to give us clarity. To give us peace. With His peace we knew we could do anything He asked of us. Even this.
The peace finally came. The burden was lifted. It happened when we made one final phone call. The phone call that ended our pursuit of these three little ones.
We realized that we were not the right family for them, for a variety of reasons. That had become clear and we were grateful. It was time to move on.
That was excruciatingly difficult to do. Move on, that is. We had been waiting for SO. LONG. We were given the opportunity to welcome *three* gifts from God into our home. Our love for them had grown so much already. Yet, we knew we couldn’t give them what they needed.
Sure, they would be loved like crazy, sacrificially (by God’s grace), but love isn’t enough. I know many of you are probably shocked to read that, but, it’s true. “Love is enough” is a very popular myth in adoption circles, among many other misconceptions. Many couples bring home their children believing that they can love the trauma away, and are floored when the child doesn’t “grow out of it” or “get over it.” It’s a recipe for disaster, and many adoptions have failed due to this dangerous thinking.
We are only human. We have been given unique capacities, gifts, strengths and weaknesses. When faced with the needs of these three children, we had to weigh each one very carefully. Our deceitful hearts said “Take them! It will be ok! You’ve been waiting so long!” The wisdom given by God after much pleading said “Lay down your pride. Humble yourselves. God will take care of them.”
A godly friend directed me to Proverbs 3:27 during this time – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” This verse opened my eyes to the fact that we do not have to adopt these three children. There was immense freedom in realizing that it truly was not in our power to do it.
We knew we couldn’t do it, and that broke our hearts.
The weeks afterwards were some of the darkest I’ve experienced. I was losing hope. I didn’t know if God would ever give us children. I was angry with Him. So angry. I don’t know why we had to go through all of that. I still don’t know why. Even today, when I recall that season, the pain is still very real.
On top of all that, the following months were near silent. Our case worker rarely called, and our profile wasn’t being shown as much. We feared that “saying no” to those three had hurt us in the eyes of the state, and might hinder us from being matched again.
However, that pain, that season, and that experience of pursuing those three little ones was, without a doubt, a gift. It was a privilege to go through something so excruciating, and so confusing. I know that sounds strange. To the watching world, it certainly is. For us, that pain brought us closer to Jesus. It’s a joy to suffer with him, and to wait on Him, trusting that He only gives His children *good* things.
We kept waiting. Trusting. Praying. Six more months went by before we would get another life changing phone call. God’s promise to give His children good things came on a Monday evening, hours after our Cape Cod vacation had ended, in the shape of the coolest 2.5 year old boy we’ve ever met.
Nothing is final with J yet (and we still have a while before we know the outcome of his case), but was he worth the wait? The pain? The whole heart-wrenching experience with the three kids we had to move on from?
Without a doubt.