I once wrote a post on our adoption blog about what it is like to be waiting to adopt your first child. I woke up yesterday morning feeling desolate and thinking of my high school Greek mythology class and decided I should write a post about what it's like going through a failed adoption. As a disclaimer, there are many, many versions of how an adoption falls apart and so this post is very specific to our failed adoption which happened after the baby was born and we had held him, named him, introduced him to our daughter, taken family pictures and introduced him in person to almost our entire families as well as on Facebook, and loved him as our own for four days.
In Greek mythology, there was an immortal named Prometheus. He was a Titan and he is regarded for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind after he stole fire for them. In the western tradition, Prometheus represents human striving and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences. During the Romantic Era, Prometheus was regarded as the "lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy." (Note: I am supplementing my recollection of my Greek mythology class by resorting to Wikipedia. Not very scholarly of me, I know, but I wanted to tell the story of Prometheus with at least some degree of detail that my brain just won't conjure up for me at the moment.)
Zeus punished Prometheus with an eternal torment for stealing fire and giving it to mankind: he chained Prometheus to a rock and sent an eagle every day to feed on his liver. Because Prometheus was immortal, his liver grew back every night and the next day he suffered the same fate of having his liver eaten again.
I feel like Prometheus. I feel like perhaps I overreached in thinking that this little boy could be my son. That the idea of an infertile woman like myself having a big family (as if my dream of four children is all that big) was too much to want or hope for. We felt like our efforts to adopt this baby boy would improve his life, our lives, and even his birthmom's life (even though we knew it would cost her so much to place him - we aren't insensitive to the sacrifice and pain it takes on a birthmom's part to go through placement).
In my mind, the eagle from the Prometheus myth is infertility and she swoops in to pluck out my liver (or my heart rather) more often than you would think possible for someone who has known since she was 15 that she would never be able to get pregnant. It happened at lunch at Cafe Rio when I literally felt trapped by pregnant women or women carrying carseats with infants all around me - it was a dizzying, sickening experience and I don't know how anyone lives in Utah and gets through a failed adoption with any degree of sanity because of the overwhelming abundance of fruitful wombs.
I thought I could handle a quick in-and-out at Gymboree to return the things I had bought for the baby so that I didn't have to pack them in my suitcase and unpack them again in California and go through the pain of returning them there. But when the salesclerk started asking the standard questions of "was the item too small? was there anything wrong with the item?" I found myself literally doubled over in the middle of the store bawling out the whole story of the failed adoption in an incomprehensible gush of nonsense words and snot while my mom tried to let the poor clerk know she hadn't said or done anything wrong.
The cursed infertility eagle visited me again at the splash park when I thanked my sister for being there for me this past weekend and being excited for us when we thought this baby boy was going to be our son. She said multiple times while things were looking so sure and solid that she was "jealous" of me and as I hugged her I started feeling bad for not worrying about her feelings and my mom's feelings and my in-laws and other family members and their struggles going through this too (and their other burdens such as the Utah wildfires that forced my in-laws to evacuate their home the day before the Fourth of July). I tried to stop the tears from coming there at the splash park, but they came just the same there in the blazing hot Utah sun while the mountains burned black as my heart.
He is a week old today and I can still feel the phantom of the wristband that I wore for three days that granted me access to him in the nursery and it kills me. I can't scrub off that feeling on my left wrist in the shower no matter how hard I try.
I loathe being this volatile.
One moment I am feeling strong and can go to a movie with my sister or play with my nieces, and the next moment I feel my throat clench and I am choking back a sob. I have been trying to keep it together around Clara because I don't want to traumatize her through all of this. Our sweet girl has just been so, so wonderful this past week. She just adores her Grandma Cece (probably because she gets anything she wants like walks in her stroller way past bedtime or having grandma pull her out of her crib and read her books until I got home from a movie at 10:45 p.m.).
And it is not just me either. Paul had to go back to California and he told me that on Tuesday night there was a knock on the door and our bishopric (local church leaders) had come by unexpectedly. They hadn't heard that the birthmom had changed her mind - they were just there to talk to Paul about a new calling. Paul said that he cried the entire time he told the whole story of what had happened. I am so thankful for our church and for leaders and friends who are prompted by the spirit.
I know that we will heal eventually. I feel comforted so much of the day - the majority of the time right now, actually, and I feel very close to my Heavenly Father. I even actually feel the healing occurring in some ways and getting home to California has been the biggest relief. Reading everyone's comments and feeling the indignation and even outrage on our behalf was a balm to my soul.
Paul and I worried about being self-pitying until we realized that what we are feeling is not self-pity - it is grief. And it is okay to feel grief - lots of people grieve and get on with everything else in life.
Paul and I have a recovery plan though. It involves temple attendance, a trip to Disneyland for Clara, family walks in the warm July evenings, and farmer's market apricots. It involves miles on the treadmill for me and maybe even a commitment to do a race in the not-too-distant future. It involves hikes in the mountains for Paul. Our recovery plan includes recognizing situations where we know we will hurt and preparing ourselves mentally and emotionally beforehand or avoiding them altogether if we have to (I am thinking friends' baby showers are off-limits for me for a little bit).
It also involves stepping back from our adoption plans and waiting for just a bit - maybe one month, maybe more - until we feel like we wouldn't totally lose it if a new birthmom contacted us. It involves editing the previous post (or creating a new version of it and unpublishing the original) and hopefully taking this blog public again.
Prometheus was eventually freed from his torment. I know that we will be too.