To give up a child

open handsAs I write this, our friends grieve that this is the last night they will be with their daughter. She was meant to grace the rest of their days, but tomorrow, just 5 days after her birth, her birth mother will come and take her back. What do you do with that kind of pain? Bury it, scream it, let it hollow out a rift in your heart that will never be the same? How do you process this kind of betrayal by another woman, and ultimately (it feels) by God?
I write this as an adoptive mom, someone who has been unable to bear a child, and is dependent on others to bear for me. We have been graced with two gifts, breaking the downward spiral of loss and unspeakable pain. These came out of the darkness of society: illegitimacy, abuse, family pressure, drug use, and disease. They came into the world with nothing except whatever benevolent laws existed at the time. They were taken while sleeping from the only cradle they knew and thrust into the arms of strangers who would decide their fate.
I got to meet the birth mom of our oldest son. A tearful Chinese speaking woman who asked good questions and worried that our son would feel alone. Three years later he still calls for us at night and begs us not to leave him. Normal toddler behavior, we’ve been told, but who knows for sure? After all, he has been left.
I saw SS for the last time before we left our son at the orphanage, not knowing for sure what she’d say to the judge, if she would go through with it, if we would ever see him again. “I hope you get him by your birthday”, she said with a sad smile, and we both cried. I tried to imagine the ripping pain in her heart. Her son. Later in a letter to him she said that when she had him she felt like she had the whole world. We heard that she had met with the judge. We got our final decree. And The Jade joined our family during the Autumn Moon festival of 2010. We still send SS pictures twice a year, and soon it will be time to send again. We pray for her, and hope she has moved on. We hope she can marry and have more children. But my heart will always be with hers. She gave me her firstborn son.
Our second son took us by surprise. We were called the day he was born. The birth mom was a product of childhood sexual abuse and the drug fueled escape that sometimes follows that. L had infections from her lifestyle and exposed her unborn son to these, along with weekly drug use. No prenatal care. Tested positive for cocaine in the hospital, and out of such brokenness our child came into this world. A thousand whys make you shake your head. Some would wonder why she even kept the pregnancy under such circumstances. But I think I know why. L had an ectopic pregnancy and lost her tube on one side. She was in her upper 30’s. A pregnancy was very unlikely. And yet it happened. In the middle of her broken used up life she was given a miracle. And she kept it. When her drug test came back she was faced with a choice: adoption or surrender to DHS and try to get clean and get him back. She faced her circumstances, and even harder, she saw herself truly, and she said “Please find a Christian family for my baby”. That sentence alone should shatter some stereotypes. Was L a good or a bad mother? The arguments for bad are many, but in the end we’re all a mixture of both. In the end, she had the courage to do the one thing that mattered most: she let him go.
So where does this leave my friends? Still waiting. Waiting for one future with one child to end. Waiting for the cyclone of emotions to settle into decipherable feelings. Waiting for that last “Oh, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry”. Waiting for life to go back to a new normal. They are the ones who will have to give up a child who has become theirs. To feel that wrenching pain made more desolate by not having another one that is their own to turn to for comfort.
I know. I know that pain. We have had to give up our children too, though under different circumstances. It is a dark night, a deep valley, that seems to never end. Ours lasted 4 years at its worst. So much false hope. So many heartbreaks. It brings me full circle, face to face with a reality we must understand about this life. Gain and loss are often two sides of the same coin. I lost my babies, so I could gain the ones I have now. Their birth mothers were given the miracle of pregnancy instead of me, yet I received the fruit. My friends will lose their little girl, and this birth mother won’t have to wonder what her life would be like if she had kept her daughter. The darkness feels like it will last forever, but we know the secret; darkness always ends in light. There will be a baby for them too. I know it. And when this child comes they will find peace about their loss. We are able to give up a child because we have hope. That stubborn weed that keeps rising from the cracks in our heart and bids us not give up. In the end we will know why.



2 thoughts on “To give up a child

  1. Joanna. I so much appreciate your fearless honesty. Facing reality in all its darkness and complexity, but with the hope of our Redeemer.


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