Tuesday, September 11, 2012

on adoption and loss.

It is so natural, as families progress toward a much-wanted child, to become attached to the child who is very much theirs in their hearts.

Although we are not yet our future son's parents, we feel extremely connected to him and cannot wait to welcome him into our family.  We understand that there are things that could go wrong.  Though unlikely, he could become very sick and die, there could be problems with his paperwork that leave us unable to adopt him, or who knows what else.  Until the moment he is legally "ours", we will hope and wait and pray that things go smoothly and that he is soon a true member of our family.

Sometimes, however, things do go wrong.

Children die while parents are pursuing their adoption.  Sometimes, a much-wanted child is discovered to have needs that are incompatible with the family's resources and they must walk away.  At other times, families travel to their future child's country of origin, only to realize that the child (for whatever reason) will not fit into their family.

It is heartbreaking, I'm sure, when this happens.  I have never personally experienced this, so I can only assume that it is incredibly difficult.  I know that, should something happen to our future son in Bulgaria, we will feel as if we lost a member of our family and be sad.  We will heal, of course, but we will likely never fully forget that little boy.

However, throughout the Blogosphere, I have read family accounts of the loss they feel in adoption...and I often hear it compared to the loss (the death of) a child.

Although I realize that these families are feeling tremendous grief as they unburden their souls, I take strong issue with that comparison.  Though I haven't experienced a loss in adoption, I have very much experienced the loss of a child...and while I deeply sympathize with families who have "lost" a child they had hoped would be theirs through the adoption process, it is simply not the same as the death of a child.

It is not the same as carrying a tiny, so-hoped-for life in your body for twenty one weeks...and meeting your twin boys far too soon in a hospital, holding their little bodies as they slowly die in your arms.


When, as a father, you gaze upon your beautiful second born son, who even in his tiny form carries the distinctive trait of your hands and your wife's chin...and, as his father, know that you can do nothing but hold him until he is gone...yes, this is what the death of a child is like.
When you are struggling to hold back tears as you take your first (and only) "family" photograph, knowing at that moment that your dreams are forever shattered and your life is forever changed; that you will include these precious lives in every obituary ("preceded in death by....") and will memorialize your children in every family tree, then you know the death of a child.
When you are able - not to advocate for your failed adoption (to find another family for the child that is not meant to be yours) - but can sit, feeling lifeless, in front of a tombstone, knowing that you will never see your children again in this world...that there is no "family" to "find" them...then you know the death of a child.
When your only connection to your children as their father is to stand stoically in front of their final resting place, knowing that the hopes and dreams you had for your sons on this earth are over; as you "grieve forward" for everything you will never know...when all you can do is hold your wife's hand over the casket that contains the remains of your soul...then you know the pain of the death of a child.
Losing a child by way of failed adoption is a hard thing.  Of course it is.  That pain is unique and important and should be acknowledged.  It is not a simple thing to just "move on" and forget. 
But the pain of burying two of your children...children who are gone forever, who remain a permanent and forever piece of your family...children whose faces you will never see again...children whose likes, dislikes...whose futures will never be known...
No.  This is not the same.
These are my sons, Jacob Anthony & Zachary Ethan.
These were our sons, in whom we were most pleased.  We prayed daily for their safe arrival after beating the infertility odds.  They were our firstborn children, and they died when I inexplicably went into preterm labor that couldn't be stopped.  They weighed 14 and 15 ounces.  They were 10 1/2 and 11 inches long.  They were born at 1:21 PM and 2:35 PM on March 14th, 2008. These statistics - the very little I can tell you about them - are emblazoned on my heart and I can recite them as quickly and as easily as I can my own phone number. They are Chelsea's older brothers, and she can tell you that they "live in Heaven".  I will never know if they would have liked Thomas the Tank Engine or Elmo or Diego cartoons.  I will never know what their futures would have been...because their futures ended after just two hours of life. 
There are thousands - literally thousands - of stories like my own, and stories quite different.  Young children who die of cancer or car accidents.  Little ones who grace their parent's lives for just a while and then are gone.  This is what the death of a child is like.  No matter the pain caused in adoption, whether it is a loss of a potential child or a disruption, it is not the same as the loss of a child.  That loss is unique in its own right, and neither should be compared, because there is no comparison.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'a plan to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11)
Through all, God was still good, even if I didn't think He was for a period of time.
(Our daughter, Chelsea Hope...born a year and two months after her brother's passed away...including a ten-day stint in the NICU)
Chelsea now, on her third birthday:

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts"  (Isaiah 55:9)
I don't know why my children died.  I don't know....and I must accept that I will never know.
Something I do know is that, had my beautiful twins lived, we would have likely had our little Chelsea and we never would have adopted.  Three children would have been enough for me. 
Ask me which I would rather have, and I cannot answer you.  I can only say this:
"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)
"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten, the great locust and the young locust, the other locust and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you."  (Joel 2:25)
There is no substitute for my "missing" sons.  EVER.  They can not be replaced by having more children or other children or adopting a hundred children.  Anyone who thinks otherwise has not lost a child.  There is no replacement.
But there is this.
Please.  Grieve the sadness of the child you lost in adoption.  It is okay.  But, please.  Never compare it to the death of a child.
"For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted the petition that I asked of Him.  Therefore, I have lent him to the Lord.  As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord."  (1 Samuel 1:27-28)




  1. I think it's important to recognize that losing a child in different ways can't be compared at all - not worse, or easier, or any of those words, because they're each in a category all their own.

    One of my best friends gave birth to a little girl with Trisomy 18. Eva lived for 100 days. Then she died, cradled between her mother and father in bed. I went to her memorial service. I hugged my friend as she cried over the baby she would never hold again on this earth. I cannot imagine that kind of loss.

    Another of my friends miscarried at 3 months. Her baby was very much loved and wanted, and she grieved terribly. She had another child later who would not have been born if not for the miscarriage... and that precious little girl, even as they hold her every day, they remember the precious little one who came before her. I do not know that kind of loss.

    I've known families like you speak of, who have experienced disruptions... horrible ones... and
    they feel a hole in their families every day, because their child, who they raised for years, can no longer safely live with them. I've known families who have been so close to bringing a child home only to have them pass away... to never get to hold them... that must be a horrible pain.

    The pain I know is different. It is for no one who has not experienced it to decide whether it's better or worse than any other experience, because it's in a category of its own. It's just a different pain. Just like people love their spouses, and their children, and their friends, all in different ways. The pain I know, is raising a child for years, being the one she called "Mommy", no matter how many times I tried to tell her I was Katie... getting a marigold from her with a card that said "Happy Mother's Day". Holding her while she cried over the trauma she had experienced. Hearing her admit her darkest, most heartbreaking secret. Trying to help her. Crying for her. Then having her ripped away, over and over, knowing that where she is she is not safe, she is being hurt, and there's not a single thing I can do about it. I don't even know if I'll ever see her again, the girl I love as though she were my own daughter. THAT is my pain. And it's not better, or worse, or harder, or easier, or any of those kinds of comparitive words, because it's just *different*. Nobody can quantify anyone else's pain. A lot of things are said to try to make people feel better in the face of loss, any kind of loss, and some of them fail to heed the knowledge that there is no comparison, there is no game of 'whose pain is worse', no two grief processes are exactly alike. This is what I wish people would realize. Every situation, every loss, is unique, and cannot, in any way, be compared to another.

    I am so sorry you can't hold your sons. They are beautiful. They are in the arms of the angels... and I know you know that you will see them again... but that's little comfort when you wish you could hold them now. Please accept my deepest condolences. No one should have to go through what you have. Love to you. <3

  2. I truly sympathize with you on the loss of your sons. I cannot imagine your grief. By the same token, you cannot really imagine or judge the depth of the grief of another. There are no arbitrary rules about how a person can and cannot compare the grief that results in the loss of a child no matter what the cause. It's just not your right to determine how others may compare their grief. I truly am sorry for your loss. But you can only speak in truth about your loss. You cannot truly speak about someone else's loss and tell them that is so different from yours. You simply aren't them, and their hearts don't beat in your body. Please feel free to have your own feelings, and let others have theirs and speak about theirs in any way they wish. God bless you.


Kind comments are welcomed. Poorly researched, ill-informed, horrifically biased comments are exploded. :)