Adoption = Loss (Part 1)

This post is in response to Writing101’s prompt, Write about a loss.

When you adopt, everyone talks about the amazing blessing and the newly created family and the happily ever after.

Nobody talks about the loss.

For some of my adoptive friends, the loss came in the form of doctors and tears and in vitro and devastation.

One of my friends chose to marry a paraplegic, knowing the challenges but not truly understanding the coming sacrifice. As we grew older, she ached for a baby, wanted to experience childbirth.

We watch other women grow roundly taut, put our hands over the round belly to feel the child kick, experience the miracle from the outside.

Five years ago this summer, two weeks before turning thirty-three, I helped decorate for a dual baby shower. My brothers’ wives were expecting. Baby girls, both. The desolation that washed over me as I placed pink…everything…around the room frankly shocked me. Unexpected.

I thought I was fine with this.

Hubby and I both had adopted family members. My oldest cousin, whom I adored and idolized, was adopted. Hubby’s oldest sister, with whom he was (and remains) close, was adopted as an infant. When we started dating, even before voicing ideas of marriage, we talked of adopting. It was always a foregone conclusion.

After we married, we decided to pursue adoption first. With naive best intentions, we wanted the adopted children to know that they were not a “last resort,” but our first choice. Deciding (like the innocent newlyweds we were) to wait a few years, then contact an adoption agency, we settled into learning to live with each other. As time passed, I began to feel the empty space in our home and my heart, to ache for a child.

Then I began to ache, in general. I started to sleep anywhere, anytime. We went to a classic car show (which I usually enjoy) and I had to go back to our car. I slept in the back seat, in the parking lot, for over six hours. On Saturdays, I rarely functioned before noon. I dragged myself out of bed for church on Sunday, then came home to sleep. On weekdays, I napped during my lunch break.

I didn’t really have other symptoms, so thought I was just tired. Hubby thought he must have married a seriously lazy chick. For two years, I mentioned fatigue and generalized pain to the doctor during checkups, but he chalked it up to being an adult with a job. After a while, he diagnosed the fatigue and pain as depression and gave me a Wellbutrin prescription. I never took the pills.

In 2005, during the daily phone meeting with a coworker I’d never met (I supported most of the east coast as a recruiter for a bank), I mentioned attending a wedding that weekend. “It was so weird; I was outside, and suddenly I felt horrible. I hurt all over, and I thought I was going to pass out. It was awful. I went inside and sat down for a while, and after a while it just went away.” He perked up. “Was the sun shining? Were you in the shade?” I told him I’d been standing in the sun. “Get an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can. Make sure you mention the sun.”

Thinking this was a little odd, I nevertheless did as he instructed. My physician reacted as usual when I mentioned my complaints of fatigue and aches, but when I mentioned the sun, he whipped around on his little stool and stared at me thoughtfully. “I’m sending you to a specialist. It might be nothing.”

A week later, I was on potassium pills and heading to a rheumatologist. I still didn’t know what was happening. Arthritis? At my age?

Not arthritis. Lupus.

Take these meds. Stay out of the sun; UV rays are a trigger. Wear protective clothing and SPFLatexPaint. Avoid stress. Oh, and no grapefruit; it reacts with the medication.

NO GRAPEFRUIT? Of all the inconveniences, this was the one that broke my heart. My favorite fruit.

And how in heck can I avoid stress? At the time, I had a driving commute of over an hour each way. Traffic was not New York stressful, but it also wasn’t a Sunday drive.

I began working from home. I took my medication faithfully. Usually happy to be nut-brown in the summer, I hid from the sun. Too bad the vampire craze was still ten years away.

Two years in, with my long dark hair, pale skin and purple-encircled eyes, all I needed was glittery body dust to start TEAM CASEY! The Cullen family would have accepted me as one of their own.

One other repercussion of Lupus: babies. The doctor said, “If you’d like to get pregnant, you definitely can. There’s a 50% chance you could lose the baby in either the first or last trimester, but we can monitor things closely.” So, wait. Let me get this straight. Even if I make it through 8.5 months of pregnancy, the baby might die.

For me, this was equivalent to saying, “Hey, send your toddler into that four-lane highway. She might get hit by a truck, but there’s only a 50% chance.” Both Hubby and I thought the odds were just too great. Some of my friends had a burning desire to experience a baby growing inside them, but for me, “having” a baby had never been important, and thankfully Hubby felt the same way.

The Lupus solidified our decision to adopt. Overall, the loss I felt was not that “we couldn’t” create a new life; the loss, for me, was that I could no longer say there was no medical reason we chose adoption. Although that was still technically true, for some reason I still felt a bit cheated.

And occasionally, as during the baby shower, I felt the loss of all of it. We had decided to delay—or even, possibly, to forego—a biological child, but having that decision effectively removed from our hands…

But our loss was nothing.

For us to adopt our children, they had to lose everything.

Children seem to be born with an innate ability to forgive the most atrocious behavior. No matter how badly someone treats a child, the child still feels an attachment. Our kids continued to see their birth parents on a weekly basis until they were five and seven, then…nothing. Social services cut off the visits (with no explanation to the children), knowing they were coming to us.

They lost their birth family. Extended family. Familiar surroundings. Connections.

I explained it to a friend (who was frustrated with my children’s behavior) this way:

Imagine you live with a husband who isn’t generally the nicest guy but you’re used to each other and you understand the expectations of your relationship.

Five years into your marriage, a complete stranger swoops in, announcing that he’s no good for you. You must move to a new home with a new husband.

You stay with this new man for a few weeks, but again, the stranger arrives, packing all your things into her car with no explanation. You move to a third home. After a couple months, when you’re almost settled, here she comes again to take you away.

You stay with this fourth husband for a year and a half. You begin to believe in stability. He’s fairly nice—nicer, in fact, than your first husband. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re okay. You think he likes you, and you start thinking this might work out.

But no.

The stranger reappears. As you drive away from your fourth husband, he smiles brightly and waves. How can he be happy you’re leaving? You thought he liked you.

Now, seriously…if this happened, would you be a well-adjusted, normal individual? Or would you spend the next years waiting for that crazy lady to show up and drag you off? Would you continue to try to make connections, or push others away? Would you have a grip on reality?

Because the above story is exactly what happened to my babies.

My children lost their stability, their ability to trust, their feeling of safety, their sanity.

We are finally making headway, after almost four years, but before we could begin to help them, our children experienced utter loss.

Adoption is a gift, don’t get me wrong. But before it all,

Adoption= Loss.

About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'll give it to you straight. Success, failure, truth.

Posted on April 11, 2015, in Adoption, Writing101 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. HI Casey
    You are a gifted writer and a very strong woman. I salute you for the courage to put it out here for all to read. I was there with you as I read the story and could feel your pain.

    You have a very keen understanding of the problems adopted children experience and explain the problem of moving from one parent to another very well.

    There is a continuation here that I would love to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments and for reading! One of my (many) goals is to help others understand what children in trauma experience. I’m so glad it’s working! 🙂 This is a 3-part piece for Writing 101, so once they assign the other parts, I’ll be writing those. Stay tuned! (And again, thanks for reading.) 🙂

      Like

  2. Hi Casey,

    Lupus is a terrible disease and my family knows the soul destroying pain that comes with losing a child just as their life is meant to begin. It’s been 22 years, and my brother and his wife still feel the loss as if it was yesterday.

    I applaud you and your strength and can see the sunlight sparkling off your fairy dust sprinkled skin. It sparkles through via the love you have for your children. Treasure them, they are the most precious of gifts we ever receive, regardless of how we came by the gift.

    I loved the way you wove your condition into the story. It kept me reading where other stories can loose my interest. I love the way you write, keep up the good work – all of it.

    Clare

    Like

  3. So much to say about this.

    Your story helps me understand what a dear friend is experiencing. She and her husband have fostered a number of young boys and adopted two of them. The youngest can at times, have terrifying outbursts that seem disproportionate to what is happening. Now it makes sense. He is in a good place. They love him and will never give up on him.

    Love your writing style and your sense of humor. Love that you are a person of faith who is not afraid to be exactly who you are and to say so. I also love that you have important stories to share and you are sharing them.
    —Diana

    Like

  4. You understand. That is rare. Profound grief is where it all starts. Good for you and good for the babies you love.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have worked with these babies for 20 years. Good for what you are doing! It is crazy hard some times. Bless you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, Casey! This is so brilliant. As usual, it is well told. You take us and actively involve us in your story. The illustration about continual loss — using marriage — is so good and helps us understand what your kids went through long before they had a home with you. And the lupis! I don’t know how you manage! You are a walking example of “amazing grace!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, one of my best friends in college called me “Grace,” and I’ve been asked if it’s my middle name, but not for that reason. They call me that as a joke, because I so often barely manage to walk without tripping. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and being involved from half a world away. It means more than you know!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. OH this squeezed my heart with emotion! I have 2 dear friends who were never able to conceive, one chose adoption and are so happy they did. But you are right, it still hurts and catches you off guard sometimes that the decision to conceive was taken from you. Hugs and prayers! And oh the way you described to your friend about why your children acted a certain way! I love the illustrations you use to get a point across. Tears would have been running down my cheek if I would have been that friend, those poor kids and so glad again that they have you and your dear husband to bless them!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Understanding love! I remember reading and inspiring post and wondering why I was not seeing more. Realised it was not appearing in my reader for I had not clicked follow !!
    Done now .. and look forward to reading of your journey of love. Best to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing both sides of the story. X

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your babies are lucky you adopted them. I often feel adopted babies are lucky because their parents have chosen them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for your post. My son and his wife want to adopt one day so I’m going to share your story with them. I want them to see adoption through experienced eyes! I would love them to do it and your stories make me want it even more. After so much loss, there is a lot to give.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad! That’s why I started writing (other than the fact that Hubby kept bugging me to do it…ha ha)–to help other people in a similar situation know they’re not alone, and to educate those who are willing to follow the path (and their family and friends). If we can help them prepare in some small way, it’s all worth it. If they–or you–have any questions, please feel free to email me.
      adoption.equals@gmail.com

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow Casey, I never thought of that before but you are absolutely right. These children have been devastated by having their known family ripped from them. Your children are very fortunately to have a mother that understands that. This post is excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Adoption turns two losses into a postive! Like in math where two negative numbers when multiplied become positive….. Although it doesn’t minimize the original losses.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Casey, I was drawn to your story because I my own daughter was adopted 40 years ago. She was 5 days old and came to us directly from the hospital following her birth. I understand your comment that adoption=loss but for my daughter, and those like her who were infants, I think the loss is one of heredity rather than family. She has a family, one as authentic as if she had been born of us. Your words gave me something to think about and that is always a good thing.

    Now for my structural comments, not unkindly offered, but rather as an observation. After the initial few paragraphs, you began to explain your medical condition and I began wondering if I had wandered into a different story. I found the Lupus information wonderful and I wish you would have made a separate story just on that with only a reference to your medical condition in the adoption story. That are both strong and deserve their independent blogs.

    You have a lot of offer your readers, don’t shortchange them by combining two stories into one.

    I look forward to reading more from you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Dee, for your heartfelt comments and also for the structural analysis (I truly appreciate both). I understand what you’re saying, and honestly the post didn’t come out exactly as I’d hoped, but I included the Lupus part because it’s part of my loss.

      It may seem like semantics to say it brought a loss when we were already planning to adopt, but the loss I felt was over the ability to tell our children that there was no reason other than “you” for the adoption. And it has come up in our conversations; the kids will, at times, say, “well, you just adopted because you have Lupus and that’s dangerous for babies.” Nope, that’s NOT the reason. I don’t think I’m explaining it very well, but because of my personal experience with grown adoptee friends who felt like “second choice,” (even though that probably wasn’t the case), creating a situation where our kids felt like our “first choice” was very important to me, and I felt like the Lupus stole that from me. Not sure if that makes sense.

      And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with adoption being a second or third choice (just like there’s nothing wrong with in vitro being second choice); it was just a deeply personal desire of mine.

      Thank you so much for reading and for being a part of the conversation! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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