Sunday, April 18, 2010

Private Disappointments

Being a member of the adoption community often means we tend to draw the attention of couples struggling to get pregnant. The tears they shed are the same ones Laurie and I endured years ago while undergoing fertility treatments. I’ve come to think of it as the type of bond soldiers in war form while sharing foxholes, one that other people wouldn’t understand unless they have been in the trenches too. Friends we haven’t talked to in years may spend months trying to conceive, and then all of a sudden they’re interested in intimate details of Isaac and Vivi’s birth story. How much did it cost? What kind of relationship do you have with the birth parents? Laurie and I don’t like to broadcast our children’s lives to just anyone, but these people are hungry for the quickest directions that will bring them a baby. Sometimes these couples go on to foster or adopt (even from our agency), but more often than not, a few months pass and the couple “magically” turns up pregnant.

This is what happened to friends of ours a few years ago. After two years of trying to conceive, and a few weeks of communicating with us about adoption, they announced their pregnancy in a mass email, saying, “God heard our prayers.” We didn’t hear much from them after that.

While we understood pregnancy kept them busy, Laurie and I couldn’t help but feel hurt that our connection became hypothetical. We had shared intimate details of our lives to people that no longer related to us and we couldn’t help feeling stupid.

Over the years, similar circumstances have come up and Laurie and I have learned to balance sharing elements of our story that are relevant and impactful without being too personal. But what still hurts is their announcement: God heard our prayers. I couldn’t help but silently ask if that meant that God did not hear ours.

It’s a dangerous theological question, one I know the couple did not intend in their announcement. But nevertheless, it suggests a lack of understanding I think is common, even sometimes within our own families.

For a year or so now, Laurie and I have wanted to adopt a third time. However, financial difficulties have hindered this from happening. This has not stopped our adoption agency from contacting us with potential placements. There are times when small agencies like ours only have a dozen or so families in waiting, most of whom want a Caucasian child. So, because we’re open to African American children, that means that when we see them on our caller ID, we take a deep breath, stare at the blinking light on our answering machine, and ask each other, “Do you want to push the play button or do you want me to do it?”

Two months ago, I came home from work and found Laurie standing in our kitchen beaming and holding a sign reading, “It’s a boy!” The agency had a mother-to-be who said she might want to place and the agency wanted to show our profile to her. It was the closest thing to the “I’m pregnant!” conversation we’d ever come, and it’s to my shame that I retreated to our study, where I pulled up our laptop, opened our online bank account, and tried to figure out how to come up with $20,000. I emerged a little while later and found Laurie on our bed, sad. I apologized and although she said it was okay, she cried out, “Other wives get to surprise their husbands by telling them they’re going to have a baby. Why haven’t we ever gotten to do that?”

I told her I wondered if those dads got excited or did what I did and panicked about money.

“But you know those home videos we’ve all seen where wives surprise their parents and in-laws on Christmas morning with sonogram pictures wrapped in a pretty package? I had a really good one planned for your mom.”

I rubbed her knee, unable to reconcile my emotions. I wondered if couples with multiple children and multiple credit cards went through this? If they got pregnant a third time, would their parents tell them they were irresponsible? Or would they rally around them? “We’re just thrilled to have another member of the family. We’re so happy for you guys. Don’t you worry about money. We’re going to be here every step of the way to help you with whatever you need.” Maybe I watched too many Lifetime movies.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the need to justify adopting another child while in debt. While I felt confident that we could raise the money to pay for the adoption, we still had the daily food, clothing, and diapers to worry about. Even when the agency called to tell us the mother-to-be had decided to parent, I think it was these issues that truly disappointed us.

Ultimately, the only thing Laurie and I have to justify is what God is calling us to do. Our job is to trust that His blessings will come if we are patient and discerning enough to recognize them if they aren’t what we expected. And if we ever question His blessings and how long they can take, I feel better when I remember all the ways in the past that He has answered our prayers- most importantly the very blessings that sleep down the hall, one in baseball sheets and the other in pink flowers.


Hannah said...

Wow. Thanks Goggy. You put into words so many things that have been ping-ponging around in my and my husband's hearts.

I may have to blog about some of them later. :) So thanks for the inspiration, I guess. :)



birthmothertalks said...

I can't not begin to understand how you guys feel, because I have never been in your shoes. However, not everyone can choose to just keep having more children. I had to settle for two, because we just couldn't flat afford them. I choose to not be able to get pregnant, because I hate birth control, but it was based on the fact that we can't afford more children. It hasn't been easy, because I had been dreaming of parenting a daughter but that wasn't something that I could do. So, while I can't relate to you 100%. I do the feeling of feeling that I can't just keep adding to my family. It was a decision my husband, now ex and I made at that time and the ironic part is that he can choose to have more kids and I can't. My current husband would have loved to have another child, but it's no longer an option for us.
Thanks for blogging about this topic.

mjohnson said...

Thank you so much for sharing. You wrote so well, what we've been thinking. We have 3 bio children and the Lord has called us to adopt(2 more we think).But upon first mention of this idea, oh, the questions, just as you shared. And that night I had to ask, "What would their response have been if I'd announced we were pregnant, and surprise it's twins" Everyone was open to us having a 4th, even asked occasionally. It makes you dig deep, especially when all your family members are believers. Obviously, if it were bio twins, there's no doubt it's God's will, but adoption... well that makes it seem like it's in our fleshly hands and not His. We never calculated the cost of the 1st 3, so I understand trying to let go of calculating when God is calling you to adopt. It's His plan, if He says it, He'll fund it. Great post.

Goggy Coffee said...

Hi birthmothertalks

Part of my story is that so few of us have any choices about anything that happens to us. We make plans and then they get jacked up somehow. And I certainly don't want to portray Laurie and myself as some kind of pity-party. We are thrilled that our life has turned out the way it has, but that doesn't mean that we're thrilled with every aspect. I think that's what God has called us to do: to find contentment regardless of the circumstances. And that's the battle that Laurie and I constantly share.

Thanks for your comment.

Laura said...

Love this blog! So glad I came across it. We have two bio children and are in the process of adopting a African American babygirl and are so excited! May God bless you and your wife.

Claudia said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks so much for writing this - the beginning, about people who connect and then no longer need you, really really resonated.

Painful to read. But wonderful all the same.

nick mucci said...

Goggy, thanks brother. i appreciate getting to hear these intimate pieces of your story.

Jackie said...

We have gotten "the talk" about finances after the birth of our 2 child. My FIL took my hubby aside and told him, "you can only afford 2 kids, you don't need any more" My husband told him "Thank you for your concern, but that is between me, my wife, and God"
After the announcement of #3, one family member said "don't they realize how expensive children are?"
We are open to more children, both biological AND adoption. Some people are supportive, most are not.

The Smittys said...

hey, just found your blog on our journey to adopt #4. thanks for sharing these thoughts. those feelings of disappointment and doubt tend to cloud the vision the Lord has for me. thanks man!