I can’t remember the exact age when I first thought I would struggle to bear children, though I distinctly recall having that thought sometime early on in high school. Maybe it was the overly-painful, difficult menstruation I experienced at too young an age, or perhaps just intuition, but somehow I knew. And I was right.
I also can’t remember the exact age when I knew I wanted to adopt a child, but I knew that if I ever made the decision to be a mother, I would want to adopt. I, of course, had no idea how long and painful and ultimately rewarding that road would be…there was no way I could really. I hadn’t traveled it yet.
Not too long after I married my ex-husband, we began talking about children. We were torn…do we have kids or don’t we? And, why not adopt? Why bring another child into this place…this world…filled with sadness and strife? Why not, instead, open our hearts to one that was already on its way and needed a home. Why not?
We couldn’t think of the reason, but the ease of “trying” the “old fashioned way” was too tempting, so we stopped “taking precautions.” One year, two years went by, and nothing. Not once did we ever get the two pink lines people talk about. And my stress about this was evident. I wanted to have a baby and couldn’t. I was sad.
As a result, people said what they always say, “Relax and it will happen.” This statement, among many others that have been hurled at me during my journey to and through motherhood, taught me many interesting lessons. The first: People can be well-meaning, yet remarkably, hopelessly ignorant. Relaxing, as any woman who has struggled with infertility will tell you, does absolutely nothing to help you conceive. Literally, absolutely nothing.
Four years into a disastrous and unfruitful fertility process, my marriage was shaky and my drive to be a mother palpable from neighboring states. It was at this point, my ex-husband and I began the “adoption process.” Yes, that is in quotes for a reason—because it is truly and completely like no other process in the world, and as I say to people express to me their interest in adopting children, it is also not for the faint of heart.
It is grueling and painful and overwhelming. After our pre-placement study, it took a year to be considered “active” by the adoption agency, and another 11 months to be matched with our first birth mother, Rosie.
Rosie was 5 weeks pregnant we when were matched with her. This “early match” as they called it was rare—according to our caseworker. They rarely matched women who weren’t in their last trimester, but Rosie had extenuating circumstances and was anxious to be matched.
She chose us. We met her. And I went immediately into pre-mommy mode. At the suggestion of our case-worker, we exchanged information with Rosie. I had hoped we might spend some time with her and get to know her. I wanted to know her…so I could tell our child about her. I was passionately married to the idea.
What I didn’t anticipate were 9 months of daily constant contact, but I tried to embrace it. I attended every doctor’s appointment, and often my ex attended with me. 9 months, and about ten 400-mile-round-trip visits later (Rosie and our agency were in a town 200 miles away), a precious little girl we named “Isabella” was born. 6 pounds, 6 ounces, and absolutely beautiful.
But, somehow, things weren’t right…and I felt it. I remember stepping out of the hospital room and calling my mom from the waiting area during Rosie’s long labor. I told her I had a bad feeling. I couldn’t place it, but I knew something was wrong. I felt it. Call it intuition…again. Because I was right.
Rosie began to waiver in her decision quickly after Izzy was born. She called me saying she couldn’t go through with it and then later called and said she could. She went back and forth like this for days. I felt like I was in the spin cycle of my washing machine…and I just wanted to die. I couldn’t control anything and literally everything was at stake.
My precious baby girl whose heartbeat I heard at the first sonogram and whose little hands I held in the NICU might never see the inside of her nursery…might never meet her grandparents…might never actually be ours. I tried to tell this to my heart, but it wouldn’t listen. I just couldn’t give up. So we waited and Rosie decided she could do it.
We could take Izzy home. So we did. We took her home and everyone fell in love with her—especially me. She was my baby girl in every way that mattered. Rosie had originally been scheduled to go to her relinquishment hearing 48 hours after Izzy was born, but amid the hurricane of indecision, the date was moved. We had Izzy for a week when we got the call that Rosie had decided to keep her.
So, with overwhelming grief and a compelling desire to mother my precious baby, I cared for her for another 11 hours until someone from the agency could come get her. I packed up the very first outfit I ever bought her, along with diapers and formula, wept uncontrollably, and tried to say good-bye.
I have not since that day, March 25th 2008, seen or heard from Rosie. I have no idea how Izzy is doing. I wish I did. Her removal from my arms was like a death—one for which I still grieve.
At this point, I was completely and wholly desperate. My arms were so empty and the ache was so intense that I was certain it might kill me. Our adoption attorney suggested I write a short profile letter with a picture explaining our story and send it to the local OBGYNs and hospitals. I was skeptical, but I did it anyway. It gave me something to do, and since I wasn’t anywhere near ready to take Izzy’s nursery down, I just shut the door and began working the profiles--it made me feel proactive. I couldn’t just sit and wait anymore—I had been waiting for years.
Yet, as the painful loss of Izzy became more real, my marriage became even weaker. I pulled away from my ex and he from me. I never really saw him grieve for her and it made me question whether or not he even wanted to be a dad. At that point, no one had called about the letters I had sent out and I was pretty sure the only way I’d ever be a mom was to give birth, so I convinced my ex that we should do in-vitro and we made that familiar 200-mile trip again, this time to the only fertility clinic in the state.
The doctor said I needed surgery before we even attempted in-vitro, and though my ex was resistant to the idea, we went forward anyway. Post-surgery the doctor indicated we needed to wait a couple of months before attempting any procedures. I was impatient and wanted to hurry it along, but that wasn’t going to happen, so again, we were waiting. Waiting. Always waiting.
A couple weeks before our first scheduled appointment for our in-vitro process, my ex and I decided to take a trip to Hawaii. It was coming up on my 30th birthday and we were in desperate need of a break. It was on that trip—on my birthday, June 11, 2008—while on a hike through a trail on the Napali Coast, that we got a call.
It was Mark, our adoption attorney. He said a woman had gone in the hospital in pre-term labor. He said she wanted to place her baby, a little boy, for adoption. They were able to stop her labor and she had read our letter. She chose us. Mark’s words bounced around my head and, standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I dropped the phone into the mud below. I was frozen. From that point on, the rest of the trip, I had this baby boy on my brain. My ex wasn’t sure—he was hesitant. Not me, though. I knew this was what was supposed to happen. It didn’t matter than that doctor gave us excellent chances of conceiving with in-vitro—this was it. This was the Universe telling us exactly what we were supposed to do. This little boy was meant for us.
We flew home a few days later and agreed to meet the woman from the hospital. I was so nervous. I think at one point I might have even thrown up. When we walked in, her smile lit up the room. My connection to her was instant and I knew it was right. My ex felt the same way. The next 6 weeks were hell. I was terrified and hopeful all at the same time. As I wept and grieved the loss of my Izzy, I took down her nursery and packed away her things. I boxed them up and began to create a new room. This time…it was blue.
The day Asher was born is forever etched into my memory. We were there for all of it. I watched his entrance into this world. It was amazing. I even got to cut the umbilical cord. His birth mom was amazing, she let me hold him and bathe him and feed him first. She was truly selfless. She was an angel. The first night in the hospital, I didn’t sleep. I heard every noise Asher made. I absorbed every breath, every sound. I couldn’t put him down. He was my little miracle. We went home the next day—our family was finally complete. But, our story didn’t end there.
Four months after Asher was born, and the day after his adoption was finalized, I found out that my ex had been having an affair, and the woman whom he’d been cheating with was pregnant. At that moment, in the midst of the greatest of joys, my world fell apart. And later, after months of visits with this new baby, numerous appointments with a marriage counselor, and many tears, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. Nothing was changing. It was only getting worse. It was a year from the day I found out that I left--5 days after our 7th anniversary. It was that day that I became a single mom.
I wrangled constantly with the guilt I had toward Asher’s amazing birthmother and our promise to her to give our precious baby a nuclear family. It ate at me constantly--I just couldn’t reconcile it. Sometimes, I still can’t.
But, after two years, a 500-mile move to Texas, and a year-long divorce, I know it will be okay. I know it because I have Asher and he has me. I know it because he is the thread that mended the tragedy that was my broken heart. He brought me back to the living and keeps me going.
He is the sun and the moon and every star in between. And, every night when I put him to bed, after we have read our books and sang our songs, I hug him tight and give him lots of kisses. “I have you and you have me, right?” I tell him. “Wight, mommy” he’ll say, with his precious mispronounced “r” and eyes glowing, smiling bright.
Right. Always and forever.
This is a guest post by Melissa Flanagan.