I think the agencies do this on purpose. They get our hopes high and keep our minds busy to make the waiting time more tolerable. They don’t want to tell us there’s a high chance we’ll never be matched. Instead, they sign us up for training, get us to renew our fingerprints, and ask us to fill-out additional forms.
They give us hope when they sense that we’ve lost ours. They poke us awake when we’re ready to go to sleep. They drag us along this desert path, when all we want is to stop for a drink of water. They think they are helping by keeping us occupied, but really, they are holding us back from feeling normal again. They are not letting us enjoy being a childless couple. They keep ripping off the Band-Aid, making it impossible for our wounds to heal.
Just when I start to feel okay I get thrown into another whirlwind of hope. Rather than cry every day I begin to feel normal until I check my email and see one from my adoption practitioner. The email is just sitting there, waiting to pounce on me and ruin my day. Emails are just to-do lists or bad news. Phone calls are the good stuff, the real opportunities. I was hoping for a phone call, a ringing song of good news. Instead I get a ping, an email delivering facts.
I hesitate a few seconds, but the unknown is digging at me. I click on the message and do a quick initial scan looking for trigger words. I spot them. Unfortunately and next time. They leave a bitter taste in my mouth. My body temperature rises instantly. I feel on the edge of tears. My skin prickles hot. I grab a strand of hair and chew on it as I look away from the screen. After several seconds, I try again. I start from the beginning and read every word two, three times. The words start to blur on the screen in front of me as I see my hope vanish in thin air like the fog this morning, and tears cover my desk inches where my keyboard lies.
Driving to work with my husband this morning, we were anxious. Waiting for news like this is gut-wrenching, and we barely said two words to each other, almost acting more like we were in a fight. We had talked this morning about our hopes of getting some sort of feedback on our interest in a birth mother’s child, hoping to find out if we had been presented as one of the three profiles the birth mother would see. As we had talked, we were both excited and nervous about this potential huge change that could come to us over in the next few weeks. We try not to put all our hopes into this, knowing fully well that it is a long shot.
Originally, we had talked about not wanting to find out if we were being considered or not. But our agency had told us the way they did their work involved letting us know, so we just went with it, afraid we’d slip through the cracks if we didn’t agree. Now, I wish we would have said no.
I had almost pushed aside the empty nursery room across the hall. I had almost, for a moment, forgotten of its existence. I had begun to walk right by and not linger in front of it, my hand hovering above the doorknob, wanting to enter, but afraid of my emotions. I was able to walk down the hallway to my bedroom and not turn towards the door. I would imagine it as just another piece of the hallway, invisible and unreal. The light from outside shines underneath the crack of the white-painted door, emphasizing its emptiness. I get the same feeling every time we take any adoption training; in the same moment I can feel hope for the future, and hopelessness for what may never come. Feeling stupid and guilty for wanting more than I already have, knowing fully well that there are people out there who are praying for what I take for granted.
My finger lingers over the reply button on the screen. Not knowing what to say. Thank you? How do you thank someone for not picking us? It feels like they started a count down for a bomb, dropped it on our front step and then rang the doorbell and sat in their bomb-proof car and waited for us to thank them as we exploded in a million tiny pieces all over the yard.
I decide to leave it for later. Not finding the right words to say and not wanting to say something I would later regret. I go back and forth between disappointments and can’t help but feel hopeful for next time. Adoption matching is hard on the heart. It’s hard work on the emotions. I feel myself trying out every colour on the emotion wheel. Hope for next time, despair that it’ll never happen, depression that once again we didn’t get chosen, happy that we were presented, frustrated that we were rejected so quickly.
At home, I try to talk to my husband about the rejection I feel. He seems completely fine, sitting on the couch of our living room, eating his sandwich. I barely recognize him. He’s completely involved in a TV show about how they make gin out of ants and eating two pieces of white bread with mayonnaise as its center. I never knew he liked to eat that sort of thing before. When did he start? I look over to him and search his face for something familiar. How is it that he can’t see my despair? Is this is now my normal face?
I walk to the kitchen and notice the sink is full of dirty dishes. A few steps to the right and my husband’s dirty laundry is overflowing out of his two laundry baskets. My frustration builds and I have to steady myself on the kitchen counter. I know I’m only upset about not being picked as a match this morning and I shouldn’t take it out on him, but I can’t help feeling the poison fill my mouth and clouding my head. The negative thoughts start overpowering me and I start seeing every flaw and every mistake my husband has ever made. I hold back my words like one holds back an arrow on a bow, long enough to stop myself from saying something I might regret. I stomp out of the kitchen before my strength lets out and I give in to the darkness, leaving him in a confused state, half sandwich in hand, unsure of what’s wrong.
Ever since my husband and I married we learned that I tend to run away from situations such as this one. But he doesn’t always understand my signals, which frustrates me even more. I should just take his hands and tell him I need him right now, that this adoption rejection is too hard and that I need his support, but I can’t. I can’t let him see me as someone who is weak. I keep telling myself to be strong.
Feeling overwhelmed by the news of rejection I sink down into the chair next to the bassinet. My fingers trace the outline of the white onesie laying empty inside it. My left hand plays with the mobile that might one day hang over my baby’s smiling face. I wipe my tears with my other hand. Sitting in the dark, crying and rocking myself silently, I think of my child, out there somewhere, doing the same thing. Sitting alone, confused and frustrated, but hopeful to find me someday.