Five Days in May

An Adoptive Couple's Journey of the Heart 

Cody and Jenny                                                                 

We’d been waiting a little over three years when we received the phone call that every adoptive parent anxiously anticipates – you’ve been chosen. 

The birth mom was in labour and our little bundle would be arriving that day! We frantically phoned parents, called our employers to let them know we wouldn’t be in the next day (and in Jenny’s case that she wouldn’t be in for the next year!) then ran to grab the last minute essentials for welcoming a new baby into our home. The excitement was nearly overwhelming.

Labour and delivery went smoothly and we were welcomed into the hospital room right after the birth of our beautiful baby girl. This was our first time meeting the birth parents and the emotions that everyone experienced while we held our daughter for the first time are something we’ll never forget. How, after only moments, could we be so in love with our daughter?  It had finally happened, our family had grown by one. Together we discussed our short list of names and made it official, our daughter’s name would be Claire.

We found it difficult to express the level of gratitude and happiness we felt to these two people who we’d only just met. We wanted them to know that we were good people that they could trust. We wanted them to feel how committed we were to loving and caring for this sweet baby. Just saying the words didn’t seem like enough.

Something a lot of adoptive parents think and worry about is their relationship with their child’s birth parents. Will we have anything in common? Will we want the same type of relationship? We came away from our first meeting feeling completely overwhelmed by the warmth and love that we already felt for these two people and how much love they already had for us. We felt the weight of the responsibility and we were ready to live up to every expectation. Watching the birth family say goodbye to Claire was one of the most emotional moments of our lives. We had so much respect for the strength and courage it took to decide that someone else would be Claire’s mom and dad.

We started to call our closest friends and family to share the good news. “We have a daughter, her name is Claire, and she’s happy and healthy! The birth parents? They’re wonderful and have been so welcoming to us”. Everyone who supported us through this journey now got to experience our joy along with us. 

The first few days were stressful but we started to settle into a routine and thought, “Yes, we can do this”. We sent a few pictures in an email to the birth mom who wanted to see where Claire would be sleeping. We wanted her to see the bassinet right next to our bed and hoped it would help her to know that Claire was safe and close to us.

Those first days flew by! We thought often of Claire’s birth parents and were sending them all our good thoughts and love. On day 5 Cody left the house to run a few errands. While he was out, he took a call from a private number – on the other end was our social worker from Adoption Options. It didn’t even register that she could be calling about a revocation. Everything stood still as we received the awful news. Turning around and driving home to face Jenny was devastating.

We spent some time with Claire in the nursery, just the three of us, while we tried to collect ourselves. The birth parents were already at the Adoption Options’ office and were waiting for us to bring Claire in as soon as possible. This was the first time in our lives that we experienced a loss of this significance. The type of loss that brings you to your knees, that brings forward uncontrollable sobs. What we remember most about this moment was the overwhelming feeling of love that we had for each other. There was love and trust that we would take care of one another, no matter what. 

Within 90 minutes we were sitting in a room with the birth parents, our social worker from Adoption Options and baby Claire. We were feeling the same emotions and same sense of loss that they must have felt in the hospital five days earlier. Later, one of the most common questions we would get from friends and family was about how angry we must have been with the birth parents. However, in that moment there was no anger, just a strong sense of concern for Claire. We shared with her birth parents as many details as possible from the past five days; the formula she was eating, what her daily schedule looked like, how she liked to be swaddled. Our only concern was Claire and making sure that we shared everything we’d learnt. We wanted them to know the great start we’d given her and we wanted nothing more than for them to succeed. It was clear that this was heartbreaking for them as well. 

We spoke with our social worker for a few minutes before going home. She helped us formulate our plan for the coming hours, days and weeks. Apart from our parents, there isn’t anyone who has ever saw us so vulnerable. Her hugs, kind words and giving us permission to grieve were so helpful. We remember feeling such loss, emptiness and even embarrassment that the adoption was revoked. Words cannot describe how terrible it felt to drive home with an empty car seat or walking by the closed door of the nursery. We were constantly thinking of Claire, worried if she was alright, hoping that she was happy with her birth parents, and even wondering if her name was still Claire.

 

To help us cope, we decided to get out of town for a few days. We left friends, family, and some of the heartache behind while we took time for the two of us to talk, support each other, and work through the emotions that we were feeling. 

The months after we returned home were not easy. Friends and family were unsure of how to react. Others who did not yet know of the revocation asked “how’s the little one doing?” or “are you getting any sleep with the baby?” While answering these questions was difficult, we continued to be advocates for birth parents, remained committed to the process and still believed we would eventually be parents. Thinking about all the what if’s was also something we struggled with. What if we had gotten to spend more time with the birth parents before Claire was born? What if we had emailed or texted them more during those first days? Giving up that pursuit for answers and just accepting that some things are beyond our control helped us move forward to a place of excitement and anticipation again.

While we had discussed the possibility of a revocation with our family and close friends, we realized afterwards that we hadn’t spoken about it enough. There was confusion on their part about what happens next. Did we go back to “the bottom” of the list? Would it be another three years? Had we changed our mind about adoption? The answers to these questions all seemed obvious to us but more than a few family members needed clarification. 

Then, on a hot sunny day in August, we received another call, this time from Adoption Option’s Calgary office. We’d been matched and a beautiful, healthy baby girl had just been born.  While the excitement was immense, it was almost secondary to the incredible anxiety we felt. These contrasting emotions felt strange – trying to be realistic about the potential of another revocation and trying not to deny ourselves the joy of a new baby. Knowing we were dealing with another instant placement brought back feelings of uncertainty around how we would survive another 10-day waiting period. We decided not to share the news so widely and spent much of the time at home getting to know our little girl. She helped us understand why as adoptive parents we put our hearts on the line and accept the risk of having them broken. 

Every other joy in our lives is now compared to the feeling of hitting day 11. Knowing that we’d made it and that the incredibly painful journey that had led us to this point had been worth every tear. We have an amazing daughter and a relationship with her birth parents that we cherish so much. Everything feels right. This is the moment we were waiting for; we have the daughter we were destined to raise. Part of overcoming the difficulty of Claire’s revocation was understanding that it’s also part of Olivia’s adoption story. The path that led us to Olivia includes those 5 days with Claire and all the pain and heartbreak after. Those decisions in May set the stage for what was still to come. Looking at Olivia now as she turns 6 months old, it’s hard to imagine life any other way.

Cody and Jenny