I’ve started and stopped writing this post so many times.
Which feels crazy when you realize that I’ve shared everything with you guys. I’ve talked about my facial paralysis, the struggles in my marriage and even about my plastic surgery. In a world where I share everything, I’ve hesitated to talk about this. Why?
Because it’s so incredibly painful for me. Because I’m at times angry, confused, scared and emotional. I worry about sharing with you guys in this state because I’m not sure this is the best version of me– I’m not sure that there’s value in what I’m thinking in this particular season. But at the same time, you guys have been here. You were here when we first started our adoption journey nearly five years ago in Ethiopia. You were here when it all fell apart and we decided to adopt out of foster care in LA county. You walked that hard road and prayed for us and with us as we navigated our first foster care placement. You cried with me when they left. You rejoiced with us when we got placement of our twin daughters… after four and a half years we all reveled in that experience together. I know you were with me because I felt the love and care from thousands of messages.
And five weeks later, when we learned that the twins would be leaving– when I had to pack little bags and say goodbye to girls I had already imagined college graduations for… you were there then too.
So now that we’re here, in this particular space, not sharing where we are in this journey feels wrong. Or maybe, disingenuous is a better word. If I only share the good stuff– if all you ever see are (mostly) happy updates and positive posts, then what does that make you believe about my life… or your own? If you only see good things, will you start to believe that it’s easy for me to be positive, to keep pushing forward because my life is always easy? If you don’t know the hard stuff, then how will you feel connected when you have to walk down your own hard road? I’ve asked myself those questions over and over for the last few months… which brings me here, to an update. Because y’all, if we’re going to do this life together as a tribe and if I’m going to encourage you to speak your truth, then I damn well better be willing to speak mine, even when it hurts.
I added an update to our adoption post a couple of weeks ago because so many of you were asking. I didn’t share where we are now because it feels like such a giant thing to unpack, but if you’re curious here’s where we’ve been over the last few months.
When the twins left I felt decimated. They were my babies. For five weeks they were mine and because I naively didn’t understand that they could be taken away, I went all-in. I loved them fiercely… I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much joy in my life as those days after we brought them home. So when that was ripped away, it broke my heart. I didn’t fully fall apart– I have three little boys who are counting on me to still be a mama, so I got up every day at the same time and even when it seemed like an impossible slog, I kept moving forward. On the inside? I felt like someone had died. For five weeks I had these beautiful daughters, and then one day they were just gone. Their nursery was still there, the bassinets, the baby wraps… it was all still there, but they weren’t. I didn’t know where they were or how they were. I wrote out this long schedule for them both: when they ate, slept, what music they liked at bedtime. Was anyone following it? I had no idea. I obsessed over the idea of seeing them again. I prayed for it all day, every day. I asked Dave to reach out to see if it was possible for us to visit them and everyone in DCFS acted like we were aliens for even considering it. That went against procedure. It wasn’t a possibility we were told. Please stop calling they said.
I felt shredded. I felt like I was being punished. I cried all the time.
I cried at work when I was in my office alone. I cried at night while Dave held me and tried so hard to comfort a pain he couldn’t understand. I cried and cried. I had an infinite capacity for tears.
I was angry at God. So angry at everything that had happened. I’ve felt that way before, years ago when my brother died I was angry then too. But this time, I stayed in conversation with God. Every day I would tell him how mad I was; I would yell at him that I didn’t understand and ask so many questions. Why would he bring us here? Was there a point to any of it? Ethiopia? Foster Care? Foster to adopt? Birdie and Scout and Atticus and Elliott? What was the point of them being with us if it didn’t last? Wasn’t that just more trauma to babies who were already traumatized? Why had we been putting ourselves through this heartache for four+ years? And through it all, I kept hearing back… it’s OK that you’re mad, I can take it, just keep talking to me.
In the midst of all of this pain and questions and wondering, we had something big to decide… were we going to continue to try and adopt.
My gut instinct was absolutely not.
International adoption and foster-to-adopt weren’t areas we felt comfortable exploring anymore, which left us with private adoption. Private adoption is something Dave wanted us to look into from the beginning, but I felt like there was a greater need in international or foster care. But now he was asking me to consider it again, and I needed to make a decision quickly. One of the hardest parts about adoption is how long it takes. So even if I wasn’t sure about moving forward, I recognized that if there was any chance we might want to in the future we’d need to start a new path as soon as possible. Home visits, blood work, applications, hundreds of pages to fill out– it takes a while, and unfortunately, none of it is transferable so we had to start from scratch. Also, we knew nothing about this world or how you even go about it. Did we go through a domestic agency? Should we get an attorney? It all felt so daunting in the midst of what we’d just gone through.
I cannot tell you how incredible my husband was during this time period. If you ask most adoptive couples they’ll tell you that the wife originally came up with the idea. Men statistically struggle with the idea of adoption at first. Certainly, there are exceptions to the rule but most of the time women are the ones who push for it. I was the one who pushed for international adoption and later, I was the one who urged him to consider foster to adopt. Now, I was wrung out and incapable of feeling hopeful and Dave was the one encouraging me to reconsider. I think I’ll remember that conversation for the rest of my life… me sobbing in the backyard where the kids couldn’t hear us and him fighting for our dream of having a daughter. “Yes, it’s hard! But our dream didn’t go away because it got hard Rachel. We’re going to have a daughter even if it takes longer… the time will pass anyway. We can’t give up!” It was Dave who did the research on an adoption attorney. It was Dave who called friends and colleagues and doctors offices to get referrals on where we should go. It’s Dave who’s sitting in the floor while I type this. He’s got paperwork spread out in every direction on the first day of his holiday break while he uploads document after document for our new adoption agency.
In the last two months, we’ve signed up with an adoption agency and an adoption attorney. The private adoption process feels more daunting to me than anything we’ve done before. In this process a birth mom chooses you to be the parents of her child– which means that we’re in competition with thousands of couples all over the country. It also means that whenever a mother comes up who has criteria that matches with ours, I get a call from our attorney who then asks me to call a stranger and have the most surreal conversation of both of our lives. This has happened three times in the last two months. I think the optimistic view should be that we’ve had three opportunities in such a short time– but the truth, because I’m trying to be totally honest with you, is that these experiences feel brutal. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s impossible not to get excited when I talk to a birth mom. I hear her due date and listen to her story and I start to think, “Oh my gosh, what if this is the one? What if we’ll have a baby in April?”
And then we aren’t the family and I feel foolish for being hopeful. I start to wonder if this is all a big waste of time or a painful experiment that leads nowhere. Are we ever going to have a daughter? Should we still want one? And my sadness, is it disrespectful when I have three beautiful boys and there are other families who don’t have any? Last night I sat in our bathroom and cried while my mind was spinning with all of these questions. Today I can tell you truthfully, I don’t have any answers.
What I do have is faith.
Sometimes that faith is tenuous, I feel like I’m barely holding onto it. But it’s still there, that small voice that urges me to keep trying. Just one more step, I hear God whisper. Tomorrow will be better, Dave tells me. Someday you’ll hold your daughter in your arms and you’ll understand that you waited for her, I remind myself.
Right now, I’m walking in faith and the truth is my steps aren’t bold or filled with the bravado I had at the beginning of this journey nearly five years ago. My faith walk is cautious and unsure. I am blindly stumbling my way down a path I cannot see. I am choosing to move forward because, while I know I will find pain I also know I will find strength. I can look at the last six months or five years and I can choose to be angry. Or, I can look at this journey and recognize all that we’ve been given.
We’ve been given awareness of the orphan crisis both domestically and internationally. We have donated time and money and prayer and resources to helping with something that wasn’t even on our radar before. That is why I walk in faith.
We’ve gotten to know and love four little girls and even if we never see them again, our lives are better because we were connected for a time. That is why I walk in faith.
We’ve gotten a stronger marriage. If you go through this much together it will either make you stronger or break you apart. Dave and I have sat in a foxhole of paperwork and interviews and blood tests and invasive questions. Later, we learned on-the-job how to care for toddlers with severe trauma and newborn twins who screamed all night. We have laughed and cried and come out the other side stronger. That is why I walk in faith.
I can think of so many good things that have come out of everything that’s happened– it’s what gives me the courage to take another step. It’s why I’ll keep calling birth moms even if it means being disappointed when it doesn’t work out. It’s why I’ll keep praying for our daughter wherever she is or however long it takes us to meet her. It’s why I’ll stay hopeful even when I’m feeling weary. It’s why I’ll keep telling our story even when it’s painful to talk about. Becuase at the end of all of this, I don’t want you to see someone who went through a long, intense process to adopt a little girl. I want you to see someone who kept showing up again and again, even when it was tearing her apart. I want you to see someone who kept walking in faith because she understood that God’s plan for her life was magnificent– even if it was never easy.