You see, the ending to this story isn't what we anticipated. Instead, the blissful end of July we were expecting has turned into another season of loss. A season where tears are bountiful, hearts are heavy and our souls feel worn. We thought we'd be adding a sweet daughter to our family and instead we are walking through another loss. The second in just 8 months.
The story begins at the end of April when a birth mother connected with us. She knew us through her cousin and wanted us to adopt her baby girl. Us! Confusion was the first emotion. Why us? We never planned on adopting an infant domestically; there are so many people waiting to adopt healthy infants and that was just not on our radar. However, after Gabe's adoption we did make the statement that the only way we'd adopt a newborn was if God brought a birth mother to us. Joy and guilt were the next emotions. Joy that we would be adding another child to our family, a precious daughter. Guilt that there were children in developing countries desperately needing a family and we were adopting a baby that thousands of couples in the US would quickly welcome into their family. After prayer and conversations with people we love and trust, we knew this precious one was meant for our family.
Now, let me digress. Each state in the US has different adoption laws. In Ohio there is a relinquishment period of 72 hours, in Georgia where our little love was going to be born there was a relinquishment period of 10 days, starting after the birth parents sign their surrender papers. The 10 days was a bit of a shock; we were dismayed by the long length of time but we knew God had brought us to this baby. Answering our request that a birth mother find us, providing scripture from friends to affirm what He has asked us to do and giving me a deep, silent desire of my heart - the gift of mothering one more newborn.
The past few months were spent preparing our lives, hearts and Gabe's heart for a new little sister. We had a surprise reveal to our families on Mother's Day where Gabe wore a shirt (and football helmet) for the big announcement. We discussed nursery colors, found a milk sharing program and bought sweet little baby girl clothes.
Those few months also provided us with time to get to know Miss J, our sweet girl's birth mother. Each discussion brought tears, laughter, love and an affirmation that we were meant to walk this road together. Her hopes and dreams that she shared for her daughter, while she wasn't able to provide them for her, the love she had for her was real and deep. Deep enough that she created a plan of adoption so that her little one could have everything in life growing up that she did not. Some of what she shared took my breath away and I knew without a doubt that adoption truly was the best and only option for both of them. God used these conversations to graft her fully into my heart. My prayers for Miss J went from good health for her and her baby to prayers that the Lord would pour into her heart, speak into her life and show her just how precious she is to Him.
Tuesday July 9th I received a phone call from Miss J. She was on her way to the hospital and would be delivering our girl soon. She was scared and alone and after a few clicks on the computer, Matt reserved me a ticket to Atlanta. A hastily packed bag and lots of reminders of what else Matt needed to pack before he made the trip later that night with Gabe and my mom, and I was on my way.
On my way to meet our girl. Our daughter. Our precious joy.
Divine intervention allowed for two adoption mama friends to pick me up from the airport and take me to the hospital. Less than an hour after touching down in Atlanta, I was with a nurse walking towards the nursery to see our baby. I was only allowed to see her through the nursery window but she was perfect. Honestly, she could have had two heads and six arms and I don't think I would have noticed. I was humbled by God's goodness that I was seeing our daughter just a few moments after entering this world.
I spent most of the night with Miss J and ended up sleeping in the hospital waiting room (after walking around Atlanta after a hotel didn't have my room for me and a whole debacle of trying to find a new room - that's a story for another time. Note to self - walking through a big city at 2:30 in the morning, alone, is not the brightest thing to do). Matt, my mom and Gabe pulled into Atlanta around 10am, we ate lunch and then headed to our hotel.
We were told we wouldn't be seeing Miss J or our girl until after the relinquishment papers were signed. Imagine our surprise when Miss J called and asked us to come up. Matt and I couldn't believe this surprise blessing and were so excited to officially meet our daughter.
Although I'd seen her through the glass nursery window, meeting her was something else. It felt sacred. It felt holy. It is a moment we will never, ever forget.
You see, I didn't care if we ever had a daughter. Gabriel is an absolute joy and I was perfectly fine with being a mom of only boys. But then those first moments of holding our girl, they completed me in a way I wasn't expecting. She filled a hole in our lives that I hadn't realized existed until she was already filling it. Absolute perfection is the only way to describe her; sweet soft skin, a head full of dark brown locks, glorious little eye brows and long, delicate fingers. Our love for her was immediate, it was deep and it was an everlasting kind of love.
Because of certain adoption laws in Georgia, Miss J didn't sign the paperwork until Saturday meaning the first day of the 10 day relinquishment period wouldn't start until Sunday, July 14. We couldn't wait to get the adoption agency and after what seemed like a lifetime, she was in our arms.
After a little bit of a rough start (Gabe fell asleep in the car and woke up a little sad) Gabe was as smitten as we were with our sweet girl. Every sound she'd make, Gabe would check on her and say "okay baby" He showed her his favorite toys and tried to get her to dance to Junior Asparagus on the iPad. For only a few days old, she had some great dance moves. Gabe was going to be a great big brother.
Everything about her was perfect. She wanted a bottle every 3-4 hours, was smiling (and no it wasn't gas) and didn't care if you changed her diaper. Her coos were sweet, we barely heard her cry and she had her days and nights reversed. While I love my sleep, I was so grateful that we had those hours together at night. Hours to just look into each other's eyes, time for me to pray over her, sing to her and tell her all about our hopes and dreams for her. Spending all night awake with her and then watching her sleep during the day - pure and utter bliss.
Matt had to come back to Ohio for work Sunday afternoon and we hunkered down at the hotel to wait out the 10 day relinquishment period and then for the Interstate Adoption paperwork to be completed. My mom's cousin and her daughter came to wait out a few days with us and we all spend Sunday night marveling at our sweet girl and laughing at Gabe's antics.
Monday dawned early and we prepared to go take in the hotels super delicious complimentary breakfast. And then the phone rang. I missed the call by seconds and saw it was our caseworker, C. Not thinking much of it, I hit the call back button and waited. The second she answered, I knew. There was the long, pregnant pause and then the crack of her voice as she said "I'm so sorry, Meredith."
Miss J had changed her mind. And while we knew this could happen and we tried to prepare our hearts as much as possible, we were not prepared for this. There is no way you can keep your heart prepared to lose your daughter, when she's resting in your arms. It is just. not. possible. In an instant our hopes and dreams for our daughter died. The life we had envisioned back home came crashing down. We lost our daughter. Gabe lost his sister. My mom, who graciously came down to Georgia with us, lost her granddaughter. Intellectually I know she didn't die, but for us, the grief is so real, so strong and losing her... we lost a beloved child.
After calling Matt to tell him the news, I had just 3 hours to spend with our girl. Three hours to fill her with enough love to last a life time, three hours to say every prayer I could think of over and to whisper scripture verses into her ears. Three hours. It was not nearly enough time. My thankfulness for her days and nights being reversed soared. Just three hours. The tears wouldn't stop. My heart felt like it stopped beating. And my sweet Gabe, he had no idea what was happening, why he had to say goodbye to his baby sister and why Mommy was so sad.
C came. She let me carry our girl out to her car and then gave me a few extra minutes to love on her. From the first time I saw her through that glass nursery window until the second I put her in the car I would tell her frequently "I will love you forever, I will love you for always." And even though she's no longer ours, we always will, love her forever and love her for always.
Blindly we made our way home. We stopped halfway to sleep and give Gabe a break from being in the car. Although my mom offered to drive, I drove the whole way. Driving was the only way I was holding myself together. Coming home to an empty house with just my sweet boy broke me in two. Falling into Matt's arms when he walked through the door and him not leaving my side for the next few days propelled me on.
On but not forward.
Moving forward means leaving behind our sweet girl. The girl who we love completely, stole our hearts and completed us in ways we didn't expect. While she was only ours for a few days, she was ours. We loved her from the time we knew of her and a week apart isn't going to change that.
Where does that leave us? Besides heartbroken and weary, it leaves us with hope.
Right now, the hope is hard to find sometimes. Occasionally I don't believe it's even there but now and then, we find it again. It sparks up. It's in Gabe's smile and laughter, it's in the morning sunrise and freshly laundered bed linens. I would be lying if I said I understood why God brought us to this situation to experience another loss. We may never come to a point where we understand losing our girl.
But understanding is not an underlying factor in faith. God brought us to this little girl. For a second time in 8 months he has asked us to stand in the gap for one of his children; to love them and pray for them for the rest of their lives. Most times I want to scream at him, ask him how he could do this to us. Again. I'm mad that the life we could have given her; a daddy, a mom, a belly that would have always been filled with good food, a house filled with love and a foundation in Christ was stolen from us. From her. I hate what we lost but I'm filled with rage when I think about everything she lost.
My predominant feeling is grief and sadness. Periodically though, I feel glimpses of gratitude; gratefulness that He allowed us to have her at all. Thankful that he continues to entrust us, however briefly, with such prized possessions. Beholden that He loves us and His plans for our future our good. And when these periodic moments are few and far between, we have family and friends to remind us of these as they pray for and encourage us through this shattering loss.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
We know that this isn't the end of our story... our hearts are weary and worn but we are trusting in a future in which God's plan for our family will be revealed.