Loss Along the Way (#1 in a series)
When Gunnar was only a month old, I remember clearly knowing I wanted our family to grow again AND SOON. Thanks to my much more logical husband, we waited until Gunnar’s first birthday had past to contact Bethany about applying again. When Gunnar was 16 months old, in March 2007, we were approved for our 2nd adoption. The wait began with excitement and expectency.
Five months later on August 18, 2007, we received the call. Our son had been born and was on his way to our home! We had no idea he was coming prior to this call, but thirty minutes later and less than 48 hours old, Garrison David was in our arms. It was a Saturday. We were unshowered, our home unclean and messy, and our joy unbridled. We stuck Gunnar in the high chair with some strawberries and hoped that would satisfy his need for lunch. But, when Garrison arrived, Gunnar could not be torn away from his new “baby.” We were all so excited we couldn’t sleep for several days. We just had a party! People came to meet him. We took him places. He was a treasure we wanted to share with everyone.
Garrison was with us five days when we received the call I had never allowed my mind to consider. Garrison’s birthmom had changed her mind.* My stomach dropped to the floor while my body began dumping adrenaline into my veins. I felt sick and dizzy and I knew my world had just changed and would never be the same again. I wanted to go back 2 minutes. Just 2 minutes ago, I was tidying up the house while Garrison slept and Steve & Gunnar had run out to on an errand. Just 2 minutes ago, my life was more full than I dared hope. Just 2 minutes ago I was full of joy.
For many months I had been dreaming about what form our family might take. I knew I hoped to have a girl at some point, but I thought a brother close to the same age as Gunnar might be really fun. In fact, Garrison’s arrival seemed perfect to me! They would share a room. They would only be one year apart in school. They would play together and be close friends as adults. Maybe one would be athletic while one artistic. Maybe they both would be smart or love music. I had dreams for Garrison. I had dreams for our family.
And, those dreams were dead.
We received that life altering call around 5:00 on a Wednesday evening. At Steve’s urging, we continued to bond with Garrison as if he were staying. We bathed him so gently, smoothed on yummy smelling baby lotion, and wrapped him in a blanket my grandma had given Gunnar two years earlier. We snuggled him late into the night and finally put him in his bassinet. I’m so thankful for a wise husband who wouldn’t let me just meet the baby’s needs but encouraged me to continue to love him. Having that night to say “goodbye” was a gift. A gift I didn’t recognize as such at the time, but one I clung to in the days after and still treasure today. Even at the time, we were glad we had the privilege to have him if only for 5 days.
The next morning, we drove Garrison to Bethany where we handed him back to his birthmom. I’ve never done something so hard in all my life. I think I will keep those moments tucked away but, I will say I entered a new depth of grief at that moment. Prior to this day, I did not understand the term “wailing.” I could picture what it looked like, but I did not know what it felt like. Now I do.
The grief rolled in and over me to the point I was immobilized. In the days following, I remember looking at Gunnar in his high chair and wondering what it was that I was supposed to feed him. I walked around in a daze. I couldn’t bring myself to put away the bassinet, bottles, blankets, burp clothes, clothes, and all the gifts. But, I also couldn’t stand to watch Gunnar run to the bassinet every morning, every day after nap time, and every time he came home from being gone. He was so excited to see Baby. He would grab the edge of the bassinet and struggle to get himself high enough to peer into the bassinet. The moments just before he would see inside were the best, because I could believe Garrison was in there. But, when he found it empty, he just looked at me with questions and sadness. I had to put everything away.
Was leaving our family best for Garrison? Uh, no. Was I angry at his birthmom? Uh, yes. Angry doesn’t really describe how I felt. I remember saying, “I hate her.” And, I did. I hoped Garrison cried the whole way home. He had not cried much at our house, and I knew a little crying would actually be good for his lungs. I only sent the formula can that was currently open. I only sent a few diapers. I only sent one extra outfit. I only sent one extra pacifier. I wanted her to know right away how much it cost to take care of a baby. Angry? More like livid. How could she undo all the work she had done in preparing her adoption plan? Why was she taking him from me?
Who can blame her? She wanted to raise her child! What a noble desire! I don’t know when I came to this answer, but it certainly wasn’t right away.
Some have compared our loss to that of foster families. I used to be offended by this, but I’ve realized that there are definitely some similarities as foster families give their whole heart away too. But, there is still a difference. Garrison was my son. I never considered that I might be asked to let him go. Some have said losing a child in this way is like losing a child to death. Yes, in some ways. But, he’s alive! He’s just dead to me and my life. There’s really no way to describe this type of loss. It’s a loss all its own. And, because of that, it can be very lonely.
I’m not one for clichés. In fact, one that really gets under my skin is, “God is in control.” Do we realize what we are saying! This is not some trite phrase to toss out when your friend’s heart has been ripped out! This is not something to mention flippantly. What a concept to really consider from all angles. The God of the universe and beyond is in control! What does it mean that God was in control of this situation? To tell you the truth, I still don’t know God’s role in this story. But, through my wrestling with this experience, I have come to a complete belief, trust, faith, and dependence on knowing that
God is Sovereign.
I’ve blurred out Garrison’s face just in case someone might recognize him.
*In the state of AR every birthmom has the legal right to change her mind within 10 days of signing the release for her child. We knew this risk when we received him from the hospital. We chose to accept this legal risk, but we were unwilling to do it again. So, we knew that if we had another baby, it would be only after the 10 days. I’ve recently heard there’s a recent ammendment to the law saying that a birthmother can choose to shorten this to 5 days.