Some of you may know that our family went through a disrupted adoption this fall. Some call it a failed placement, but I don’t like that term. I don’t think it failed. I think that a baby’s mother fell in love with her gorgeous daughter and did what pretty much any mother would do.
She chose her child.
We love this mother, and this child, more than I could possibly ever express. From the moment we were first contacted about this potential adoption, I knew one thing. Of one thing I was absolutely certain– this mother loved her baby.
Loved a child she had never met.
She was willing and anxious to do the right thing for her child. Despite the pain and anguish it would inevitably cause her, she was willing. We had her come stay with us for a weekend, and we fell even more in love with her. Her gentle laugh, and her quiet strength won us over. We knew without a doubt that she would do the right thing.
When the baby girl was born, we all fell in love. Her silky black hair and soulful eyes captured everyone’s heart. We knew she was strong.
Her mother is strong, too. And while her decision to parent was shocking to us in that moment, it was still consistent with what we already knew about this woman: that she would do the right thing.
And she did.
She made a choice that was incredibly difficult. One I cannot even begin to imagine making. We know that she’s a fabulous mother, and we are so impressed with her resolve to do the best she can for her baby. I still stand by my initial impression of this mother: She loves her baby.
Anything that involves that much love cannot be labeled a failure. So no, I don’t call it a failed adoption.
I’ve been thinking about this lately– about how often we label things failures when they don’t go according to our plans.
About how much blame I placed on myself when my pregnancy wasn’t just right. Or when it started to fail. Or when it finally ended.
About how much failure I internalized as my daughter fought for her right to live.
About how unworthy I made myself feel each time I walked through the doors of the NICU.
I thought about the times I cried myself to sleep, blaming myself for every developmental delay, every milestone missed, every diagnosis acquired.
I thought about the guilt I still feel over the moments I missed with Caleb. The nights I wasn’t there to make him dinner. The days he had to calm his own fears, and fight his own monsters, since I was with his sister, and not him.
I stood in the baby aisle of the store today. The same baby aisle I stood in, purchasing items for a baby we anticipated. A month and a half ago, I left that same aisle in tears. Hurting, and mourning the loss of a child we still truly love. Trying to buy a baby shower present, I was defeated.
Today, I stood there picking out a present for a newly welcomed baby, celebrating the life that recently blessed a family member’s life. I wasn’t in pain. I wasn’t mourning.
I looked at the baby blankets we had purchased for that theoretical daughter and I smiled. Knowing her mother’s strength, knowing her own potential, I could do nothing but smile.
Our hearts still hurt, not for our loss, but for the circumstances that lead us there. The inability to bring a child into our home on our own accord is and will be painful.
But we rejoice for this new family, preparing to celebrate their first Christmas. We celebrate this mother, for loving her child, for doing what was right, despite the difficulties.
Preemie parents, there will be a day when prematurity does not feel like a failure. A day when we realize that an alternative path does not mean we somehow blundered away our only opportunity.
Someday, we will stand in that “baby aisle” and we will feel joy. Joy for all that we have learned. Joy for all that we have gained.
We may still wish that things had gone differently, but we will know we did not fail.
For truly, anything that involves that much love cannot be labeled a failure.