On Failed Adoptions and Happy Endings

Realizing that the plan for our family came to be after our best plans failed.

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A year ago I sat in the living room of a good friend. The glow of impending motherhood was upon me as I carefully sorted through her baby clothes. I had finally permitted myself to gather a few things for a 1-year-old we believed would be joining our family very soon. My friend and I talked at length about adoption: the process, the fears, and the hope. As we sorted through clothes, I told her about the little one coming into our home. We looked at photos on my phone and shared the excitement of change and growth.

My husband and I, along with our 7-year-old daughter, were days away from welcoming a darling 1-year-old into our home. She was in foster care with some of her family members who had approached us about adopting her. They loved her dearly and were taking fantastic care of her, but felt that she would thrive as a permanent part of our family. We’d spend many months of the previous year planning and preparing. We’d traveled out of state several times to meet the caseworker and the foster family, attend court hearings, and most importantly, to get to know a darling brown-eyed little girl.

We were guarded and cautious, but despite my best efforts, she had carved a neat little spot in my heart, and the love I felt for her grew stronger each time I saw her, played with her, and held her sleeping in my arms. Though I knew it was risky, I imagined her in our home, as a part of our family. I imagined what she would look like as she grew and how our daughter would be as a big sister. Yes, I knew there were risks involved. I made peace with the risks involved in adoption years ago; it isn’t my favorite part of adoption, but a part nonetheless.

We believed that the months and months of waiting and wondering were over and we were willing to admit to ourselves, and others, that this little girl would be joining our family in just a few short days. I’d even allowed myself to make a quilt the previous weekend.

The foster family was planning to travel from their home state to ours. They wanted to see where we lived, spend some time with us, and give the baby a chance to transition to her new home and family. The necessary paperwork had been completed and we had received the final approval for her to move from one state to another. We looked forward to their visit and planned activities, meals, and sleeping arrangements.

After deciding on a small box of clothes, I hesitated and asked my friend if she would mind holding on to them for a few days. As excited and anxious as I was, there was still that little portion of me that felt cautious. I still felt the need to protect my heart and my family. I made arrangements to pick up the clothes in a few days, after the baby had arrived.

I was walking out the door of my friend’s home when my phone rang. It was an out-of-state call from the baby’s caseworker. My daughter ran back inside the house to play, and I sat on the front step of my friend’s home to speak with the caseworker. He did not have good news. I won’t rehash all the details, but actions were taken out of his control.

And just like that, our hopes and plans were gone.

He explained in detail what had transpired and assured us that there was no chance the outcome could be in our favor. The case worker was very kind. He was apologetic and wished us luck in our adoption ventures. I was in a bit of a stupor. It was unreal to imagine that something we had taken months to build and prepare for was done and gone in a 14-minute phone call.

I got off the phone and quickly collected my daughter. We drove the short distance home, and I was consumed with the daunting task of telling my daughter that she was not going to have a new sister after all. Later that evening after my husband was home from work we told her. There really isn’t an easy way to deliver news like that. She was upset and teary, as was I. The questions she had were heartbreaking, and the days and weeks that followed were filled with difficult conversations and more tears. “Did the judge not think our family was good enough?” “Who will take care of her?” “Will she come next year?” and on and on. We tried to explain the situation the best we could, but foster care legalities are often difficult for adults to understand, let alone children.

My parents joined us for the weekend and listened to the tearful ramblings of my broken heart. They spent time with our daughter and were a fantastic distraction from our sad state. Their visit was good for my soul and a great kickoff on our road to healing.

A year later, life is different than we ever imagined it would be. That darling little girl remains with her foster family, where she is loved and nurtured. It wasn’t quick, but healing came for my husband, me, and most importantly, our daughter. A great therapist was instrumental in helping us help her sort through her thoughts and feelings. And while this particular situation did not end as we had planned and hoped, a short (but very long) month later, we were surprised with a phone call that a baby girl had been born and her birth mother had selected our family. We did, after all, add a little sister to our family. It wasn’t the one we planned to adopt, but we have learned that the best things happen when plans go awry.

Everything turned out just the way it should, as it almost always does. It wasn’t easy for us to see that in the midst of our heartache, but we know now that events unfolded in our lives precisely the way they were meant to. Adoption is miraculous that way.