My husband, Eric, and I had been married for ten years when we learned that we would never be biological parents. We had always dreamed of a house full of laughter and had never once considered that we would not have children. Once we made peace with the truth, we turned to adoption as a means to build a family. Adoption was not a foreign concept to us; it was just not something we had considered FOR us. Once we made the decision to grow our family via adoption, we never looked back.
A little over a year into the wait period, we were put in contact with an expectant mother, *Kristie, who was three months pregnant and was trying to decide what to do with her unborn child. She had heard of us through someone who knew our story and wanted to know if we would consider adopting her baby. In order to help her choose life, we agreed, but we put her in contact with our adoption agency so she could have the support that she would need during and after her pregnancy.
Months went by without a word from Kristie. Our social worker had tried in vain to reach her to encourage her to choose life, but she had dropped off the radar. Then suddenly four months later, we received a call from our social worker. Kristie had contacted them and wanted to move forward with the adoption plan. Our social worker warned us that if we chose to move forward, it would not be without risk. Kristie had been faltering on her decision but was currently planning on moving forward with the adoption plan. We also learned that at this point, she was seven months pregnant with a little girl. A few weeks later, we met Kristie, her husband, *Daryl, and their two children in our agency’s conference room. It was a pretty good meeting. We talked about future plans to visit and shared name ideas. We adored the name Savannah Hope. They liked a family name, Grace. We fell in love with the name Savannah Grace.
A few weeks later in the middle of the night, we received a call that Kristie was in labor in a hospital an hour away. We raced to get to the hospital because Kristie wanted me in the delivery room, and I was not about to miss that opportunity. After a night of listening to the fetal monitor piping Savannah’s heartbeat through the room, the doctors discharged Kristie. A few days later in the early hours of the morning, Kristie was admitted to the hospital, this time in active labor. We once again raced to the hospital. As we walked in the doors, the nurse said that that the baby was on her way. Eric waited outside the room, and I took my requested place at Kristie’s side. I took her hand and held it the entire delivery.
Then I saw the baby make her entrance into this world. Savannah Grace was born wrinkled, wiggling, squalling…and absolutely perfect. Right from the start, Kristie introduced Eric and me as Savannah’s parents. She told the nurses and doctors that we were adopting Savannah. After Kristie and Daryl held Savannah, they placed her in my arms. I was overjoyed. We spent a few more hours together but left mid-morning so that they could rest and have some private time with Savannah. Kristie invited us back to see her the next day. Our hearts clenched as we left the hospital, but we looked forward to the next day when we could once again hold Savannah.
The next morning we visited with Savannah and her family again. Plans and promises were made. Savannah would stay with Kristie one more night in the hospital and then be placed with an interim family until placement with us after the wait period. (In the state of Virginia, there is a ten-day revocation period in which birth families can choose to change the adoption plan and reclaim their parental rights). Ten days seemed like an eternity, but after waiting ten years, it was definitely doable. We kept busy preparing the nursery. I painted the walls a pale, creamy yellow and made purple/pink/yellow curtains with butterflies. We bought basic baby necessities and homecoming clothes. I even went to the fire station to have the car seat installed properly. We made a paper chain and wrote numbers 1-10 on it to help us count down. We knew all along that this was technically a legal-risk adoption, but Kristie was adamant that WE were Savannah’s parents. So we held on to hope.
A few days later we had plans to go to interim family’s home to see Savannah. It was a bright, sunny day. I was happily “feathering our little nest” when my phone rang. It was our social worker telling me that Kristie and Daryl were seriously considering changing their minds, and they would let us know by Monday. When we hung up, I called Eric to come home. I remember falling to the floor and dragging myself to the nursery. I don’t know how long I lay crying on the floor. I begged God to not take my girl from me when we had waited so long for a baby.
When Eric came home, we held each other and cried. We prayed that God would hear our prayers and please not take this little one whom we loved so desperately. It was a very long weekend. We did not tell anyone what had happened. We chose instead to weep and pray for God’s will for us, for Savannah, and for Kristie and Daryl. Through our prayers, God whispered to our hearts that Savannah was never really ours to begin with, but she was, and always would be, HIS. He was there from the very beginning. He was there as she grew in Kristie’s womb. He was there when her anxious mother made a desperate call to strangers to seek help for her unborn child. God was there when Kristie chose to give LIFE instead of end life, and God is with her even now. God also reminded us that HE would be with her for the rest of her days. Our job, maybe the sole purpose we had in meeting Savannah and her family, was to be “her” personal prayer warriors the rest of her life.
Monday morning rolled around, but no call came. Later in the afternoon, the dreaded phone call sounded. Our social worker delivered the heartbreaking news that Kristie and Daryl had decided to parent and had revoked the adoption plan. Just like that, the dream of parenting Savannah was gone. It was day seven of the revocation period. So close to the wait’s end. Our hearts were incredibly broken. We had loved this baby for six months. I had watched her be born and saw her take her first breath. I had held her and heard her heartbeat. She was our girl…and then she wasn’t. She was alive and well, but she would never be coming home to us. She came into our lives and then flew away like a butterfly.
The next three months were the darkest months of my life. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day fell in the months following the disrupted adoption. Those holidays were especially difficult that year. I went through the motions of life, but I refused to tell everyone that I was okay when I wasn’t. It was so HARD. I knew that God was with Savannah. I knew that He loved her more than I did, but the aching loss of empty arms and broken heart dragged me into the pit of depression. Darkness surrounded me, and I could not find my way out. I honestly can’t remember much about this time. My brain was so clouded with grief that any form of light was shut out. The one thing I could remember, and the only thing I could hang on to, was this: God is good. I did not understand why He allowed pain to happen, but I knew that God is good. He can be nothing else. He is God, and He does not change. HE IS and always will be GOOD. Grasping that solitary thought, and struggling to face each day, the darkness began to lift, and I began to emerge from my depression. Some days were harder than others, but I clung to the knowledge that God was still good.
On June 29, about three months after losing Savannah, Eric and I decided to go to a water park and let loose. It was the best day that we had had in months. We laughed and played like a bunch of kids. We had so much fun enjoying the water, the sunshine, and each other that laughter flooded our hearts again. On the way home from the park, my cell phone rang. It was our social worker. I shook as I put her on speaker phone. She told us about a little boy who had been born on June 8 and had been placed with an interim care family until his own family could be found. She wanted to know if we would be interested. Eric and I looked at each other and without hesitation said, “Yes!” Her next words are forever etched in my heart, “Well then, he’s yours.” The birth mother had already picked us. He was ours! We had to wait five whole days to meet our Joshua. Due to the atypical nature of his situation, the interim family had taken him with them on a trip and would not be home until late on July 2. But on July 3, Joshua Caden was placed in my arms. Here was a little boy who had no family, and we were a family that had no children. It was a perfect fit. I had waited my whole life for that moment. Every heartache that led us to that point became worth it at the sight and FEEL of that tiny, brown-haired bundle of joy.
Even now, almost six years after losing Savannah, I still grieve the loss of the privilege of parenting her. I cannot think of her without a twinge in my heart. Sometimes I cry for her, but I always pray for her. Whenever I see a butterfly, I remember my butterfly girl who flew away from us. I also am so grateful that Kristie chose LIFE for Savannah. I pray that one day, I’ll meet Savannah again. I also still cling to the fact that God’s character cannot change. He was good then, and He is still good now. He knows all the plans He has for us. He cannot be anything less than good. What I could not see then, I see now. If we had been able to parent Savannah, we would never have gotten the joy of parenting our Joshua. This brown-eyed boy makes every day an adventure. I would not trade the pain that led us to Joshua, but I still would take Savannah in a heartbeat. She was, and always will be, my butterfly girl—my gift from God that taught me to trust Him in the darkness and believe in His goodness.
*names changed for privacy
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