My partner and I experienced five adoption failures in 14 months. Five. Three failed foster care situations that we were told were going to end in adoption, and two failed infant adoptions, where a birth mom chose us to be parents and changed her mind at birth (or before). Miraculously we're still together, still able to get through the day, and still pursuing adoption to grow our family. How? A few factors, to be sure, but definitely because of the things I remind myself when an adoption falls through.
My daughter joined our family five weeks after my partner and I started our adoption journey, in a completely miraculous, simple, smooth situation. As adoption goes, it was the easiest. We certainly hadn't started thinking about a second child when our agency called and asked if we would consider adopting an 8-month-old boy. He had been at a foster home since his birth and his case was going to adoption. The foster family was unable to adopt him, and our agency wanted us to consider welcoming him into our family. We considered, prayed, and said yes. We met him (he was so sweet, so strong, and so big, wearing 18-month clothes already) and expected we would take him home forever just a few days later. Hours before he was scheduled to arrive, we heard from our caseworker that the foster family had done a run-around the agency and found another family (friends of theirs) and convinced CPS to allow him to go there.
That was our first failed adoption situation. It was brief, while a few of the others were not, but it was still exhausting, especially considering we had a 5-week-old newborn at home. Over the course of the next year, we learned so much about what it takes to go through a failed adoption and come out the other side still feeling whole.
It's Important To Grieve
While you may not have held a baby in your arms, or you may not have held your baby in your arms, you are grieving a very real loss. You are grieving the loss of a person you thought would be joining your family. It's very difficult for people who have not gone through a failed adoption to understand what it feels like, but do not let that minimize what you are going through. You pictured this life with your family and in your home, and you have to readjust your whole picture of your future for your new reality.
I Will Heal
You will one day heal. It is possible to heal from the loss of a failed adoption, although it sometimes takes some work. Sometimes it just takes time. Sometimes it takes counseling. Sometimes it takes all three.
I Don't Have To Talk About It
The day we found out our first infant adoption wasn't going to happen, I couldn't face the idea of talking to anyone and explaining why the thing we had been looking forward to for months wasn't going to happen. I could barely stop crying when I thought about it, so talking about it was pretty far off.
I Can Eat All The Chocolate
M&Ms fix most things for me, or at least give me a boost. So does wine, but that's not always appropriate at 9 a.m in the morning. Find your version of M&Ms and stock up. Now is the time.
I Need To Connect With My Partner
You are both grieving, not always at the same pace or in the same way. You've both been under stress and have suffered a great loss. Stay connected or reconnect with your partner after adoption loss.
I Won't Always Experience A Failed Adoption
Know that because your adoption plan ended this way this time, doesn't mean it will happen this way in the future. The biggest thing that helped me keep going and stay peaceful was to remember that it was OK, and not silly, to allow myself to be excited when and if we were in the same situation again. The last thing I wanted was to one day try to explain to my future child that I wasn't excited for their impending arrival, because I was scared of getting hurt again.
I Can Keep Everything I Bought For The Baby If I Want To...
You can keep the things you bought for that baby forever if you want. I bought one or two little things for each arrival and I still have some of them. I returned a handful of things, but I kept at least one thing to remember each baby who would have been.
...Or You Can Return It Today & Buy More Chocolate
If you don't want a reminder, return everything and buy more damn chocolate or wine or, well, you get the idea. Whatever you need to cope, you do that.
It's OK To Not Look Forward
It's OK to not look forward straight away or even until you're ready. While I'm normally the type of person who needs to look to the next thing or take some sort of action in order to get over something disappointing, I knew that wasn't going to work in order to heal from adoption loss. Looking forward to the next potential adoption situation wasn't going to be enough to help me be whole again.
The Baby's Birth Mom Isn't Evil
Because a birth mom changed her mind does not mean that she is evil. It does mean that your heart is broken, but she had an impossible choice to make and didn't choose the one that benefited you. Through all of those situations, it helped to remind myself not to vilify the birth mom.