I wrote a little bit about this in another post (see The One That Got Away: Memories of a Failed Adoption for some of the background info I won't cover again here) almost a year ago, and in that post I said I would write more about the story later. Well, today is the five year anniversary of that incredibly painful day when we had to hand over our little guy and I want to tell you a little bit more about that week. I can't tell you everything. I still have trouble writing about it. But I will give you the highlights.
I will start with Monday, December 3, 2011. I was at a retirement get-together at work. It was a casual thing, so I had arranged to have Isaac with me. The paternity test had finally been ordered and we were awaiting results. Isaac was snuggled in his carrier on my chest. It was mid-afternoon and I decided to leave, when I noticed a missed call on my phone. My heart immediately began to pound as I recognized the social workers number. I called voice mail as I walked to my car, hardly able to breathe. I knew as soon as I heard her voice that she wasn't delivering good news. The test was positive and our little Isaac was to returned to his father after almost five months of being our baby. I was in shock. I just kept saying "oh no, oh no, oh my gosh" as I walked to my car trying to keep it together. I was physically shaking as I strapped him into his seat. I don't know why the tears didn't come, as I'm usually pretty quick to cry. I called the social worker back but she didn't answer. I didn't call John because I wanted him to come home before he heard the news, as I knew he would be upset. I called my friend, Genie, and told her, still unable to cry. Somehow I made it home. John is normally home like clockwork around 4:15, but wouldn't you know that today he decided to go buy new running shoes and didn't get home until almost 7:00. I was dying. Adrenaline was pumping for hours. I wanted to be calm so I wouldn't freak Isaac out, but my world was crashing in. So many years of trying to have a baby. So many years of failed fertility treatments. I had hoped and prayed so hard that the test would be negative. It wasn't. My stomach was in knots. How was I going to break this to John. I was feeding Isaac at the table when I heard his car pull up. He walked up to the front door which was open and was upbeat as usual. He stopped at the front door and noticed something was wrong. "What's up?" I said "The test was positive." He said "Oh no! Are you serious?!" I said I was and he walked back into the yard and broke down. And that's when my tears came. And they didn't stop for four days, and even then, it was for short periods of time. I am not exaggerating when I say I cried for four days straight. I couldn't stop. I didn't go to work. I couldn't focus on anything. I couldn't eat or sleep or pull myself together. John went to work. I think it helped him to keep a routine. I couldn't gather myself enough to even get out of the house. The dam had broken and there was too much force behind the rushing water to allow anything to even begin to fix it. I prayed harder than ever, but I knew the answer was no. I tracked down the biological father's e-mail and wrote him a long letter--a last plea that he might consider leaving him with us. I knew it was probably in vain, but had to try. We had an exchange of e-mails and I came to terms with the fact that it wasn't going to happen. We did agree that he would do a transition over the weekend instead of just showing up and taking Isaac home. I was grateful. Friends and family fasted for us on Thursday (a practice in my religion of abstaining for food and water for two meals in order to focus on drawing closer to God, especially when there is a particular desire for help). I think that is the only thing that got me through it. I woke Friday morning December 7 (our own personal D-day) and was able to dry my eyes for the first time all week, and focus on the day ahead. Isaac's father and grandmother would be arriving that evening. This whole thing wasn't his fault and I didn't want to feel angry or show any harsh feelings towards them. I didn't want to show how hurt I was. I knew this was hard for him, too, and he had been robbed of these first few precious months with his son. We were all victims. I'm leaving out so many details, but to make a long story a little shorter, when they arrived and he walked in the living room and knelt down to see his son, I was so touched. I even snapped a picture for him. I could see the joy on his face and I felt the healing begin. It would take years, but that is when it started. We talked for two hours--Me, John, Isaac's father and grandmother. We filled in all the gaps for each other on what had been going on and the lies that Isaac's mother had told. It was a wonderful conversation. We were still heartbroken over what would have to happen over the next 48 hours, and I still held out hopes that maybe he would change his mind, but we were beginning to accept it. The next morning, they took Isaac for a few hours and then brought him back for a nap. They took him again that afternoon, and brought him home for one last night with us. My mother flew in that night to be with us, and I am so grateful for that. I finished Isaac's scrapbook--got it all caught up with all the pictures we had taken and all the journaling, so his father could have a record of the months he had missed. We packed up everything we had for Isaac--all the gifts given to us by friends at two different baby showers. We gave them everything except three things. One was the little onesie I had made for him that said "Superman was adopted." I put it on a teddy bear my brother and his wife had sent us, and that bear still has it on today in my son's room. The other thing was a little brown and cream striped sleeper he had worn. I saw it in the box of stuff and took it out and tucked it away. It smelled like Isaac and I wanted to keep it. The funny thing was that John asked me later where that had gone because he wanted to save it. I thought he might be upset that I was keeping it. I smiled and told him I had already taken it and saved it.
Saturday night in the middle of the night, Isaac woke up screaming and was inconsolable. It was the weirdest thing. He had never done that before and it was upsetting to me. It was as if he knew a big change was coming. I held him and we stared out of our bedroom window at the moon together as I talked to him. He finally settled and we put him in bed with us--something we had never done--and he slept the rest of the night with us.
Sunday, December 9th was the day. They were supposed to come get him at 10 a.m. I tried to keep Isaac awake, but he was so tired. I was sick to my stomach. John was pacing waiting for them. Isaac fell asleep right before they got there and I was worried about sending him off asleep and just having him wake up in a car on a five hour drive with two people he really didn't know. One of the hardest things about this whole day was thinking that he would feel we had abandoned him. As far as he knew, we were his parents, and then one day, we hand him over to someone else. That bothered me for months, and actually, it still does. They got there, and I lost it. I felt the fear wash over my face as I knew the moment had come to say goodbye. Isaac's father would tell me later that it was the worst day for him, knowing he had to take him away from us. His mother cried and kept saying "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." I told her it was okay, that it wasn't her fault. I said we would be fine. She had a niece who had struggled with infertility, so she had some idea of what this meant to us. I woke Isaac up, slid him into his carrier and kissed him goodbye and they left. it was 10:30 in the morning and it was over. I wasn't a mother any more.
I laid on the sofa in tears and shock for awhile. A few friends stopped in to check on us, and by the afternoon, I felt like I was pulling myself together. But grief is like the ocean. It washes over you and then recedes for a time and then hits again, and sometimes the waves are lighter and sometimes it's like a Tsunami and you think you won't recover. I cried every single day for months. I couldn't sleep at night. I worked and worked to the late hours hoping I would be so exhausted I would just crash. No such luck. I would lay in bed and hold that little bear with the onesie like it was my baby boy, and just cry. Christmas was the worst. I had been so close to my first Christmas with a child, and that had been ripped out of my hands. John was just as bad as I was. It was a tough time in our lives and a tough time in our marriage. But we survived.
Oh, there is so much more to tell, but I will end this story here for now. December 9th hasn't come and gone since then without revisiting that weekend. And although life is good now, and I love my little guy, nothing will ever take the place of my first child. I think about him every day. I keep in touch here and there with his father and I see pictures of him and he is handsome and perfect. I don't know why we had to experience that horrible event, but we did. I understand grief and loss now more than I ever did before and that has made me more compassionate and kind, so I suppose that's the silver lining. Isaac's father gave him a new first name, but kept Isaac as his middle name, which I thought was a beautiful gesture. His middle name had been John, but that allowed me to give D that middle name instead, so it worked out. Five years, though, and I can feel that pain as if it had happened this morning, at 10:30 a.m.