Tuesday, June 20, 2006

what not to say: a primer

As we're preparing to leave our home, I've thought a lot about the memories we've made and experiences we've lived while here. And I've been thinking about our failed adoption a lot. More than I've expected to at this point, almost nine months out. If you've read my early archives, you might have read a little about the twins we lost. We were matched with their birthmom 1 month before she was due. We spent a week with her in PA before the birth. I spent 16 hours with her the day the were born. I held the boys when they were minutes old. We held them and loved them for three days. We named them. Benjamin and Elijah. Ben and Eli. If what you read earlier was from the January archives, you got a very rosy picture of the situation. I was in a very hopeful period then. Now realisim has set in completely. I can't go back and read what I wrote then because I'm afraid that I might be upset with myself for being so silly, so hopeful. Why am I writing this now? Because in reflecting on that period, I heard a lot of comments that dug the knife in deeper, and I allowed myself to be hurt more. I was never mad because of what was said, just hurt. Now, this far out, I realize even more than I did at the time that most people have very little - if any - experience with this type of situation. So, here's some things not to say. "At least you have one at home." The failed adoption was like a death to us. We hoped and prayed for a child, then found out we would be parents to twins! We planned for a month for those twins, who we both knew were boys from the minute we were matched (the birthmom didn't know the gender of either baby until birth). We held the babies, took pictures, named them, announced their birth to family and friends via phone and e-mail, received baby gifts, wrote thank-you notes, bought clothes and bottles and formula. And then, when they were three days old, they were gone forever. If we had birthed those children and lost them to death at three days old, their loss would not have been made easier by coming home to Jacob. "It was meant to be." We'll just leave that one at that. This isn't something that anyone going through a difficult time is comforted by hearing. "Maybe you can raise them on the other side of the veil." I didn't want to raise them on the other side of the veil. I wanted those babies in my arms. Right then. Right now. "It must be what's best." 1 - even if that was true, that is a hurtful thing to hear: their current situation is better for them than what they could've had with you. 2 - it's far from the truth. The boys were taken out of the hospital into a very dangerous, perilous situation which I won't detail right now. "Maybe this happened so they could have someone to pray for them forever." Ouch. God would put us in a situation to lose a ton of money, lots of hope (temporarily), and go through an almost unbearable amount of pain just to make sure there would be two people to always pray for these boys? Not that it's an impossible scenario, but I choose to believe that God wouldn't do that. He didn't do that in this situation. "You'll be ok soon/this too shall pass." Healing comes over time for any pain, that is true. But when you're in the midst of intense sadness, confusion and despair, this comment just feels like someone is trying to dismiss all your very real emotions.


At 6/20/2006 11:10:00 AM, Blogger Trista said...

I don't know if I've commented before. I've been reading your blog for a few months (I can't remember how I found it). I am also an adoptive mom to two - mine are nine months apart and are currently both two.

I love this post. My husband and I had a failed adoption almost 3 years ago, and it doesn't feel any differently right now than it did then. In an effort to help (I hope), people say the stupidest things instead of doing what you need - keeping silent, giving you a hug, or just praying for you.

Hopefully, you are educating a few people by writing.

At 6/20/2006 01:47:00 PM, Blogger Awesome Mom said...

You are too right. I went through a simmilar thing when my son was born with his heart defect. I mourned the perfect healthy child that I had imagine and hoped he would be. We were even told by the social worker at the hospital to allow the mourning. Things like that tend to confuse well meaning people. I just smile and move on because I know that they mean well.

At 6/20/2006 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Tigersue said...

I'm sorry this happened to you. Not just the change of mind on the mothers part, but all the comments from well meaning people that just don't understand.

As a nurse working with newborns it was frustrating to see all the teenage moms keep their babies. I could say nothing, to influence their choice and I always wondered what kind of life that child was going to.

Maybe because I have had infertility issues it bothers me more. What ever the case you shall always grieve and wonder. I can't believe some of the comments, because you are not guaranteed to have those children in the next life. That is even more the reason to grieve and have sorrow. All I can say is hang in there, and even though this happend Heavenly Father loves you dearly. This was not punishment, unfortunately it is life. :(

At 6/20/2006 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Rachau said...

HI a freind told me about this ring.You don't know who i am.But i do understand where you are coming from.We are also trying to adopt.We have had two that have fallen through with us.People do say stupid things that can take your breath away!I wish you comfort at this time.I just wanted to reply and let you know someone does care!

At 6/20/2006 10:33:00 PM, Blogger Bek said...

Our timelines are the same...and I still look back at that time and remember when it hurt to just breathe.

I know that all of those things were meant in kindness...but it is hard to hear them anyway. It is better for people to just say nothing (and accompany it w/ chocolate). Sorry you lost your boys and even though you got your Josh, they will always be your boys too.

I keep telling myself that someday I will understand why things worked out the way they did....(for those that don't know me..my we had my son's bio brother and later his mom chose to parent). I keep waiting for that day. Until then, I cry. :-)

At 6/21/2006 04:31:00 AM, Anonymous krista said...

I can't believe people said those things. Wow.

Except "it was meant to be" I can puicture people saying that one, but the other ones? Wow.

people don't mean to be idiots, but they are.

At 6/21/2006 05:45:00 AM, Blogger shewearsplaid said...

Wow. I am not even sure what the "other side of the veil" means but if it is as I think, "after death" - well, that's just creepy. And weird. And not very comforting.

I have been on the receiving end of a lot of well intentioned yet mind-numbingly lame comments since Dad died. The experience however teaches you how to NOT be one of those people.

At 6/21/2006 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

I just found you from WFMW and I'm browsing around. This was a great, honest post.

I would love your thoughts on what is appropriate to say? I think that these are the same responses we tend to give and hear with miscarriage. I did have one of those, and "I'm sorry" really was good enough for me to hear, so I do try to remember that when I'm saying it to someone. It never seems like enough, so we add these other stupid things to try to explain the inexplicable.

At 6/21/2006 07:41:00 AM, Blogger Julie said...

Thanks, Jennifer. I'm tempted to say that a failed adoption is very much like a miscarriage, but hesitant to do so since I've not experienced miscarriage, and don't want anyone who has experienced that to be offended at my drawing the conclusion.

The best thing I heard was "I am so sorry." Also, just sitting next to me, letting me cry and asking me if I wanted to talk helped. Sometimes I did want to talk, but was afraid other people didn't want to listen, or watch the tears. I also had a couple very kind friends bring over dinner and treats and clean my house before we got home. To come home with the two empty car seats was totally devestating, but walking into a clean house seeing the cupboards and fridge full of food really, really took the edge off - it was two big things I didn't have to think about!

I totally understood that the people who made the comments that hurt were usually kind hearted people who felt the need to say more than just "wow, that's terrible." All I needed was to have my feelings and emotions heard and acknowledged, not dismissed.

At 6/21/2006 07:57:00 PM, Blogger Bek said...

Julie...I had both within a few months of each other. It was MORE difficult to loose the baby that I had held, fed and loved. Not that the miscarriage wasn't the loss of a real person too...but at least for loosing the idea of a baby was not quite as devistating as not having the actual child...and it was worse b/c the child wasn't dead...it just wasn't with me. It was all confusing and all awful. I'm sorry, or I can't imagine or even "I don't know what to say" is just fine. :-)

I love your posts........

At 6/21/2006 08:15:00 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Thank you for that. I have always felt so presumptuous and almost guilty saying that I could be grouped into the same category as women who have miscarried. It helps to hear someone who has, so unfortunately, been on both sides.

This quote of yours: "it was worse b/c the child wasn't dead...it just wasn't with me" was what I kept thinking over and over in my head and when I said it out loud once, the person I said it to almost looked horrified that it came out of my mouth. Hearing you say it helps me feel justified.

I love that we can bond together with other women in this "sisterhood" - I just wish it were a happier one.

At 6/28/2006 10:18:00 PM, Blogger owlhaven said...

We had a failed domestic adoption too-- I only saw the baby for a couple minutes, but we'd planned on adopting her for a month, flew across the country when the mom was in labor, and ended up spending Christmas away fom family. Coming home with that empty carseat was really tough. That was right before we got our first Ethiopian daughter. Sorry you went thru this...



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