After we lose a baby, all we can think about are our empty, aching arms. We long to fill our yearning heart and mind with a living, breathing baby. We were expecting to be a parent to a living child, so when our baby dies, it’s nearly impossible to reconcile our longing for a baby with the reality that they are gone. I’ve been there and I know those feelings all too well. Sometimes after loss we can forget that there are many ways to become a parent, and adoption doesn’t need to be a last resort.
Our first loss was seven years ago, and I look back on those early days with a new perspective. After first losing our son at 23 weeks gestation, we couldn’t wait to ‘try’ for another baby. When the doctor told us to wait two years, then amended it to one year, it seemed like an eternity. It was too long when I should have already had a baby in my arms.
Our doctor conceded that waiting until six months postpartum would allow sufficient time between the deliveries. Little did he know that I would again go into pre-term labor and deliver our baby girl at 24 weeks, a mere 11 months after our son. Born alive, she fought for four days before joining her brother in heaven. It was a crushing blow to lose two babies in less than a year. That was a very dark time and I started to lose our path.
This was not a road that my husband and I ever imagined being forced to take. I began to research every possible route that might turn us around on our lonely road, including surrogacy, adoption, and trying again for a third pregnancy. I left no option unexplored. I knew no baby would replace our James and Josie, but the longing to parent a living baby was almost too much to bear.
What I didn’t realize is that having a rainbow baby (a baby born after loss) is difficult regardless of the path you choose to follow. Emotions run the gamut from fear and anxiety to self-doubt and even self-loathing. These feelings are often based in the grief and trauma of the loss, rather than the journey ahead.
I hear from many families immediately after loss that adoption might be an option for them. If we can’t have a baby, then maybe we’ll ‘just adopt.’ The real question after loss that families should be asking is, “Am I ready to parent again?” regardless of pregnancy, surrogacy, or adoption. To prepare us for parenting again, our hearts and minds must first heal.
As my husband and I began to work on healing our wounded souls, we came to understand that one path doesn’t exclude another. My husband eloquently explained that we are on a journey together, forging a new path in life, and we could take an unexpected route to adopt a baby and continue our path together. Each time we would like to expand our family with another child, we can consider the options and choose what might work best for us. We haven’t closed any doors; we’ve purely opened many that we never thought possible.
Adoption comes with its challenges: the cost, the waiting, the piles of paperwork, the intrusive questions, and the possibility of birth parents choosing to parent after baby is born. Yet the blessing, the joy, and the healing have been worth every ounce of energy put towards those trials. The end result of having our daughter in our arms far outweighs all of the strife from the process.
The empathy I carry for my child’s birth mom and the loss she endured in placing her baby for adoption is a gift I’m able to offer that comes from a place of deep understanding after losing our first two babies. The love that has grown in my heart for our adopted daughter at home is a love so complete and unconditional that I sometimes forget she didn’t grow inside of me.
Adoption after loss is not talked about enough. It is not considered as a serious option by many families. In fact, it’s often considered a last resort. My daughter is not a last resort. She is not the result of ‘when all else failed,’ she is the new route we chose to take on our path.
Our path has seen many changes (and I haven’t found any shortcuts), yet we have found our route again and filled it with joy and adventure after losing two babies. If you are considering adoption as a serious option for expanding your family after loss, I urge you to go at it with your whole heart. You never know where your path will lead and what doors may open.
Emily is a very proud mom to two babies in heaven and one adopted miracle on earth. She is endlessly curious about feelings, emotions, and the ways of the world-much to her husband’s chagrin. In her free time Emily enjoys traveling, baking, and spending time with those she loves.