Why did Andrew and I decide to adopt immediately after losing our first baby instead of trying another pregnancy? Making the decision to adopt is always a personal decision, but here is the exact reasoning behind our choice:
After the autopsy, the doctors told us that Matthew suffered from an autosomal recessive condition. This meant that the chances of re-occurrence were one in four for each pregnancy. Some of our physicians, even friends and family, encouraged us to “try again.”
After all, they reasoned, there was a seventy-five percent chance that the next baby would be okay. To them, a one-in-four risk of a sick baby was an abstract. To me, it had already been a reality once, and it was not a number to take lightly. As someone once said, once it happens to you, the chance is one hundred percent in your experience.
Take a look at this more closely. Imagine that, in order to go home with her baby, a mother must first send him to the other side of the country. She will meet her baby at the destination and then they can live their lives together. To get to the other side of the country, her baby can take one of four airplanes.
Three of the planes will make the trip safely. One will not. On the doomed plane, there will be no survivors. Midway through the flight, the mother will learn whether or not her baby is on the doomed plane. There will be nothing she can do once the flight has taken off.
She will have no options to save her baby, no parachutes or emergency landings or rescue missions. But, hey, there is a seventy-five percent chance her baby will not be on the doomed plane, so why not give it a try?
Would any parent place her baby on one of those four airplanes without searching for alternatives? What if the only way she could ever take her baby home was by first putting him on one of those planes?
Even knowing that only one of the four planes would go down, could she take that chance, the agony of waiting to find out her baby’s fate and the helplessness that may ensue?
That scenario is what re-occurrence risk meant to me.
Any pregnancy of mine represents those airplanes. Before putting my next baby on a plane, I searched and asked, please is there any other way?
And someone replied, well, actually, there is another way. There is a train. But the train is a lot more complicated than a nonstop flight. See, you will have to take one train and your child will have to take a different train, and eventually you will need to find each other on the other side of the country.
The train ride will last much longer than a flight. It will be
unpredictable, with sudden stops and starts. Far fewer people take the
train, and many people think the train “isn’t for them.”
train, you will meet many different people along the way, and maybe
you’ll even get off at the wrong stop a few times and need a lot of
encouragement to get back on the train because you are so frightened
Your child will travel through places he or she has never been and will
rely on the kindness of strangers to survive. You, too, will rely on
the kindness of strangers. Just when you are feeling as if you cannot
bear another moment of this search for your child, you will meet
someone who is searching too.
You agree to keep your eyes out for each
other’s children. You see their pain, and maybe it is even worse than
yours, and you think, there but for the grace of God go I, and you are
grateful for what you have, and you keep riding the train.
And then one day you hear that your child was spotted on a nearby
train! You rejoice! You make plans to meet, you wire a frantic
message for the conductor to hold that child at the next stop; we’re
coming we’re coming!!! But when you get there it was a mistake, it was
not your child after all, and you grieve horribly and then start
Weeks go by, then months. There are sightings of your child, glimpses
that keep your hope alive. You are amazed to hear that people you do
not even know are praying for you to find your child; people in dozens
of states are searching for your child on every train that goes by.
The people at the train station offer you maps, blankets, coffee. The
townspeople in some of the small towns offer you lodging and food,
prayers and tears of compassion for your pain.
And you wait. And you ride.
Sometimes it feels as if nothing is
happening, as if you are not moving toward anything or anyone, simply
riding aimlessly. The agony of waiting.
But you hang in there,
because you know with certainty, your child will meet you on the other
side of the country, and oh the celebrations that will follow when you
can live your lives together and it will happen for you because others
who have ridden the trains before you have told you that it is true and
you must have faith and you must believe.
And when you finally find your child and hold her in your arms, the
real soft aliveness of her, the gorgeous being that is your baby, the
miracle the relief the awe that she inspires in you and the disbelief
that after so long it is suddenly over.
You have found her and time stops and grown men and women stare as they
bear witness to the unification of parent and child and everyone weeps
with joy and it is a life moment that many will never know, an
intensity of emotion likened to winning a gold medal at the Olympics,
this moment that you have lived for all your life, it is here and your
whole life’s purpose was to find this child and you have and it makes
up for everything.
Adoption is the train ride. Andrew and I made the choice to take the
train, with all of its uncertainties and stops and wrong turns, rather
than take the plane ride with its uncertainties, because the only thing
we were certain of at that point in our lives was that we did not
want to face a one-in-four chance of certain death for the next baby.
There are babies entering this world every day that need a loving
home. Ours was a loving home that needed a baby.
And, quite simply,
that is how we decided to adopt.