That was it. With one simple phone call, this adoption was over.
Except it wasn’t over, of course. It would take a long time before it was all truly over. Because my heart still ached for the daughter I thought would be mine, the baby I dreamed about and planned for and named and held. Because, although it had been us who made the decision to withdraw from the match, my mind couldn’t wrap itself around all that had happened in the past few days.
I dreaded the thought of going home. I couldn’t stand going into that nursery room, with all her pink clothes hanging in the closet and her name on the wall. I couldn’t stomach the thought of going back to Chicago without a baby. I couldn’t stand the thought of facing our friends and family, seeing the sympathy and the hurt in their faces.
When I expressed my feelings to Bill, he suggested we stay in town a few days and just take a little time to recoup. I realized that this was exactly what I needed, what we as a family needed – some time alone, just our little unit of three, to deal with our grief and disappointment together. I called my parents, who had been planning to come and help us out with Dylan while the baby recovered from surgery, and asked them to cancel their tickets. They were very disappointed, but I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing for my family.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made. We headed out to a nearby national park and stayed there for a few days, hiking and exploring the town and generally relaxing. Something about being in the middle of those mountains, the fresh air around us, seeing deer and other wildlife all around, proved therapeutic. The whole time I was there, I felt lighter, better, almost happy. I thought maybe the worst of my pain was over.
That feeling evaporated as soon as we arrived at the airport and I faced the cold fact that I was – in fact – coming home without my baby. I couldn’t stop the tears running down my face. The worst part was when we went through security and the TSA agent saw the empty infant carrier.
“Do you have another baby with you?” she asked, confused.
“We were supposed to,” I managed, before my eyes again filled with tears and I explained we had just undergone a failed adoption.
When we got home, I shut the door to the nursery room and didn’t open it again for several weeks. We’d asked our friends and family not to broach the subject of the adoption, and all of them graciously complied. As the weeks passed, and then the months, I found myself being able to open up about it a bit more.
However, a part of me had forever been affected. Our home study and the rest of our adoption paperwork would expire the following September, and I found myself thinking that I didn’t have it in me to start the process all over again. If we don’t get a match by then, I told Bill, maybe we’re just meant to be a family of three.
Then, in April, the phone rang…