An Empty Room, My Healing Heart

(Note: this is probably the most honest blog post I have ever written.  I love openness and authenticity but I am NOT the kind of person who likes publicly sharing my pain as I am processing it.  I would rather sob into my pillow quietly, fix my makeup, and plaster on a smile in the midst of it…and then share my story with its nice little bow once I can point to lessons learned and feel a little less vulnerable about it all.

However, this is our story and I wholeheartedly believe that the stories we don’t want to share are the ones we most need to share.  Hiding what’s going on anymore feels inauthentic and wrong, not to mention that half of our community knows about it anyway and I’m sick of staying in the house trying to avoid seeing someone who might ask about it.  Putting it out here just seems like an act of mercy to myself at this point and hopefully feels like an act of kindness to those of you wondering how we are and if and how you should approach us.  We are thankful for you and your love for our family, and we know that God will heal us in time so sharing the brokenness isn’t bad because it’s just the beginning point of His work.  Also, I am overwhelmingly grateful for my husband and his willingness and encouragement for me to share this very personal glimpse into our lives even as we work through it.  He never wants me to be anything less than my authentic self and I am grateful for that gift.)


How to begin.

How to begin to process everything that has happened over the last few months, joyful and exciting and scary—-and then the last few days, awful and tragic.

I’ve successfully avoided writing for a few days but something in me tells me that the only way out of this is through it.  And maybe I won’t share this but maybe I will, because our stories matter.

The long and the short of it is, I’m hurting.

I have a box of newborn clothes sitting on my counter.  A box that arrived on my doorstep today for a baby that was supposed to arrive a few days ago and then go home with me.

The baby—a 6 lb, 2 oz baby girl—Zoe’s biological sister—arrived on Friday.

But she didn’t go home with us as planned.

She went instead to her new home with her birth mom, who had a last minute change of heart that has basically broken mine.

The technical term is a failed adoption, not that labeling this somehow makes it easier to understand or process.

I still have my sweet Zoe, of course, and a host of other blessings that I gasp out grateful prayers for every day.  I am not lost or broken or wounded forever.  But I am wounded for now.  I am hurting now.  And everywhere I go, there are boxes on my doorstep and someone that hasn’t heard and asks “what’s going on with the baby?” and something I did for “the last time as a mom of one” that I’m doing again as a mom of one.

I know I will heal.  I know I will.

But right now I am feeling so broken.

Forgive me if I don’t seem like myself.  Forgive me if I’m avoiding you.  Forgive me if I just don’t want to talk about it or if I do past the point of where it’s comfortable for you.  I don’t know how to do this grief.  I don’t know what you do when you lose a child that wasn’t really yours but that you have prepared for, dreamed of, prayed for, built a nursery for.

But I’m finding out.

I’m finding out what happens when you hear a heartbeat one week and hear the pain in your social worker’s voice one week later.

I’m finding out what happens when you have your mom come for two weeks to help with your new baby and say goodbye two weeks later without her ever having met the baby, because it’s not your baby.

I’m finding out how you grieve as a mom, when you have to compartmentalize grieving and processing for nap time because you don’t want your child to see you cry.  I’m finding out the beauty of a closed door so you don’t have to see the nursery you lovingly prepared in all its emptiness.  You may call it escapism; I call it survival.

I’m finding out how you can feel thankful towards a woman for giving you your greatest happiness in one child and simultaneously feel angry that she has interrupted your happiness with that child by seeking you out, planting an idea of more, and then uprooting it.  I’m finding out how you can admire a woman’s sacrificial love for one child and abhor her selfishness in the case of another, how you can defend her vehemently to others because she’s Zoe’s mom and yet accuse her in your own mind because one loving decision doesn’t pardon a thoughtless one.

I’m finding out very firsthand that mothers don’t always make decisions with their children’s best interests in mind and I’m finding out just how sad it feels to realize that Zoe’s sister will never have the same safety, quality of life, or resources that Zoe will have.  I have always had such a heart for vulnerable girls…now I’m finding out what it feels like when the vulnerable girl is Zoe’s sister.

I’m finding out what it feels like when the open relationship with her birthmother that you’ve worked hard to cultivate and hoped to offer as a gift to your adopted child is altered and maybe even taken away through no fault or actions of your own.

I’m finding out how you work through these things as a couple, and how it’s different than working through other losses.  Other losses we’ve faced have affected only one of us strongly, so the other has been able to be a partner and supporter to the griever.  I’m finding out what it feels like when both of us are grieving equally but differently.

I’m finding out what financial loss feels like when you’re a stay at home mom married to a pastor and, let’s face it, you only have so much in savings and you’re only going to accumulate so much more.  I’m finding out what “our money is God’s money anyway” means when you spend it on what you feel called to spend it on and…crickets.  No obvious ROI, no obviously changed lives, no extra family member, no tangible anything.  Just boring obedience and a bunch of questions.

And I guess that describes this stage well…a bunch of questions.  What the WHAT was any of this? We felt very strongly we were on the right track by agreeing to adopt Zoe’s biological sibling…does that mean her birth mom was on the wrong track or that we are awful at knowing where the right track is or none of the above? (David actually has a good answer for this one) What is the purpose of pain and why does God allow it? (Random deep questions come up but I don’t actually want to have any deep discussions) What do we do next? What does this mean for our family? What will I feel in 5 minutes and can I handle it? (Probably different and I’m finding that yes, I am handling it)

The one thing I don’t question is this: the goodness of the Lord.  He wants good for this baby; He wants good for us; He wants good for Zoe’s birth mom (and we do as well…we don’t wish her poorly at all.)  Although I truly believe that the “good” He wanted was to place this baby into our family, He doesn’t control our actions like we are puppets and as a result, a different decision was made.

But He is big enough to redeem any situation and He is big enough to bring “good” out of “not the best” decisions and situations.

And so I will stop wishing for something better and let Him use what is.

I pray He works through our pain to make it have a point, because no pain is wasted when we hand it over to God.  I pray He works through Zoe’s birth mom’s struggles to grow and shape her.  I pray He develops her love for this child into something pure-hearted and gives her wisdom and ability to provide a better home life for this child than what is available now.  I pray that He gives us wisdom about our next steps.  I pray that He helps us find every secret place where unforgiveness is buried, dig it out, and give that gift of peace to ourselves and to her.  I pray He helps us heal and become whole again.  I thank Him for my even deeper appreciation for the gift of the child we already hold and the man that holds her with me.  I thank Him for my family, for our friends, for our community, for the gift of writing that helps me finally understand and express my feelings, for the material possessions that haven’t been taken away and for the relationship I have with Him that can never be taken away.  And I trust.  Trust Him to walk me through the ugliness, trust Him to handle my questions and sorrow and pain, trust Him to make something beautiful out of our story…as He always does. 

I don’t know how to begin to process everything. But this is where I choose to start.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength.
–Habakkuk 3:17-19a

8 thoughts on “An Empty Room, My Healing Heart

  1. Dear Sweet Sarah,
    My heart breaks for you, and David and Zoe. I am thinking of you and wishing you strength and healing. I hope that by sharing your grief, and letting others help you carry it, you find it is easier to bear. Sending you love and strength.

  2. Losing a child…like you have. or as I have with the loss of the life that I held within me…is the most incredcible, gutteral pain, in the true biblical meaning , that one who has not experienced it can fully understand…and it never leaves….
    but one day it does not cut your heart out. And God uses this pain that is part of you to build something even greater…this I have seen in all that has unfolded in Haiti and Uganda for me…
    but as a mother, it is so hard…..
    know that you will build amazing things……..and know that your hurting this day i ok….
    sending you love….

  3. Sarah, I am so very sorry. I so wish there were words I could say to ease your hurt. Thank you for your transparency; you truly have a beautiful heart. I am praying for you as it heals.
    Psalm 36:7–I know God is holding that baby girl in the refuge of His wings.

  4. Sarah, I am so very sorry. I so wish there were words I could say to ease your hurt. Thank you for your transparency; you truly have a beautiful heart. I am praying for you as it heals.
    Psalm 36:7–I know God is holding that baby girl in the refuge of His wings.

  5. Sarah, I am so sorry for your loss, friend. I will be praying that God will heal and restore your peace. While I am in no way thankful for this situation, I am thankful that you have a solid foundation and faith in the Lord. It is only He that will get you through. You are wise beyond your years. And you are an inspiration. I learned so much by just reading your words in this post. Keep trusting HIm. Hugs, friend!

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