I sit and stare at the computer screen. I really don’t know how to begin. Though peace has filled my heart, it’s an experience that still brings me great sadness and pain. It’s true–you can feel a lingering pain while still having peace fill your heart. I’ve had the reassurance it was the right decision, yet I continue to mourn. I may always.
It’s difficult for me to go into the details of one of these situations in particular, so please allow me the luxury of being somewhat vague, while still explaining what happened and why we came to our decision.
When you start the process of adopting–fill out of the paperwork, do all the background checks, have caseworkers come and check out your home, and begin the waiting period–you never imagine you’d be the one to turn down a beautiful opportunity. Never had it occurred to me when we began our adoption journey 10 years ago that we would be the ones to say no to an expectant mother. Never. And yet, it has happened. In fact, it has happened more than once.
When our daughter was born we struggled with if we should say yes or not. Our oldest daughter was biologically born into our family. She has a genetic condition which has left her severely disabled. Samantha was so young and struggling with uncontrolable seizures, among other things. We began the adoption process and only eight months later we got a phone call to fly out to Michigan to meet our new daughter. I was unsure if we would be able to care for both children. It had all just happened so much faster than we anticipated. The caseworker shared something that has helped me a number of times. She told us that the baby girl was okay and that we should take a couple days to think and pray. She then said, “If it’s not right for you, it’s right for someone else.” Those words spoke peace to my mind and heart. It turned out that it was right for us and it was pretty incredible the special bond that our two daughters had from the beginning–as if Callie was meant to be in our family from before time began. But those words have rang through my memory many times as we are faced with different potential situations.
Another excellent piece of advice we were given by one of our caseworkers was to use both your heart AND your head when making a decision about a child. He very accurately told me that I go with my heart, neglecting important details that would affect our lives, our children, and a birth family, while my husband tends to go only with his head, shut off from the heart. And yet, our caseworker warned me, that in situations when we are unsure, we should opt to not rely solely on the heart but to lean more with our head. The heart is good, but if we don’t use our head to analyze an entire situation, we could really find ourselves in trouble when making a life changing decision such as an adoption placement. With adoption, it’s easy to think, especially if you have been waiting a long time, that the one situation comes up is your one chance. This is it. And if you mess this one up, then that’s it. No more. You’ve hit the end of the road. I struggled with that.
During one situation, we were chosen by two expectant mothers about 15 minutes apart! We were given the difficult decision of choosing which one. We felt we couldn’t possibly choose and after a lot of prayer, talked to the caseworker and said that, though it wasn’t our plan, if these mothers were okay with it, we’d adopt both. One mother was thrilled, the other said no. So we had to decide. It was heart-wrenching. How do you decide one baby over the other? Ultimately we made a decision and broke the heart of the other birth mother. The caseworker called us a couple times and tried to convince us otherwise. Looking back, it was extremely unprofessional, but it was just so painful. We didn’t want to be the cause of this mother’s pain, and it made us wonder if we had made the wrong decision. Yet we were flooded with peace. After the other mom gave birth, her own mother said she was raising the baby, and that was it. We said no to a placement and were left empty handed. It was excruciating, but peace replaced that pain.
More recently, we were approached by our last agency. Though we aren’t currently pursuing adoption, someone requested us. She was due soon and with twins. We have four children, our oldest severely disabled, each with their own challenges that we sometimes struggle to help them with, and our youngest not even a year old at the time we were called. “If it’s not right for you, it’s right for someone else.” But I really wanted it to be right for us. My husband and I talked. We talked some more. We took time to think about it alone. We sought divine help…pleaded for it. Use your heart and your head, but lead with your head. Ultimately, it wasn’t right. I believe there are exceptions to the rule and that sometimes when we don’t know how things could possibly work out–they do because it’s how it’s supposed to be. But, those are exceptions. We need to be smart. And this wasn’t a smart decision. We all would have suffered greatly taking on twin babies at this point in our lives. My heart still aches and occasionally I cry. And yet, I know that for whatever reason, this wasn’t the exception. When we called the caseworker and told her our decision, she was kind. Hours later, the expectant mother was matched with a family. It was right for someone else. And my heart aside, which it needed to be in this case, I knew it was the right decision for us.
I struggle with this topic and sharing pieces of our past with it. I wonder if I’m ungrateful or selfish. And since I have a strong faith in God and a greater plan, I wonder if I’m really doing what He wants me to do. Yes, we have had peace…but I’m unable to fully allow myself to let the peace take over and erase the pain.
I have learned a few things from our experiences. Though I struggle with some of my emotions connected to them, I don’t regret our decision. I know it was right for our family.
It’s hard for me to understand that sometimes, these choices are just that. Choices. We can choose. Saying no is nothing to be ashamed of…and yet I’ve had several personal phone calls with couples not wanting to say yes to a decision but feeling like they have to. When they confide in me, I share with them these experiences and the advice we received from wise caseworkers who have been working with hundreds of families. If an expectant mother can choose you, you can also choose to accept that placement or not. You may cry….but you can say no and still know it’s the right thing.