Friends, the very friends who introduced us to NHFC and orphan hosting, were in Eastern Europe to adopt their daughter. Like us, they went with the hope of an additional daughter but wistfully came home without her. There were two sisters...and only one is sleeping in her new bed in the US tonight.
It is a bittersweet time for our friends.
We also had a bittersweet adoption.
Many of you probably don't know that our adoption process actually included three girls. Stacey and Michelle have an older sister who although available for adoption ultimately decided against joining our family.
It was the right choice and we have no regrets. Yet there still is hurt, concern, and "What ifs". She will never be my daughter but she will always be the sister of my daughters.
We went into the adoption pretty much knowing she wasn't going to come. Due to adoption laws and our hope that she may just change her mind, we proceeded as though we were adopting her. Every piece of paper, every form, every essay, every interview, every dollar amount included her.
In our case, we decided to publicly share only our plans to adopt Stacey and Michelle. We accurately knew it would be easier to explain an extra bonus daughter than a publicly "failed" adoption.
Our adoption process took literally just a week less than one year to complete. Many of the delays we faced were because we were separating siblings. For very good reason, it is difficult to separate siblings. There were days, in fact there were whole months, we thought that we may have to wait to adopt Michelle and Stacey until after their sister was legally too old to be adopted which would have been over a year.
It would mean that our children, who were begging us to come get them, would have to wait all that much longer in an orphanage. Financially this would also mean that our paperwork would expire and we would have to pay for the whole process again.
To most people we put on a happy face and said that we were slowly but successfully working our way towards adoption day. To our children, the two in the US and the two waiting for us in Ukr*ine, we gave carefully worded assurances and acted positive. To each other we hardly let ourselves "go there"...to the place where this all fell apart rather we filled quiet moments with bad habits such as vegging out to tv or consuming vast amounts of calories. We couldn't be naive or enjoy the careless bliss that ignorance allows.
Sickeningly we learned the lesson of separating siblings the hard way. A foster care experience prepared us for this. For us to understand that:
- family is forever (even crappy ones)
- not always living together is better
- That is okay that it works out that way.
- everyone you love isn't always safe.
- (Not just parents but siblings too)
- sometimes you have different paths
- sometimes you love someone but they are poison for your heart
- sometimes you love someone and they love you but you can't express that
- horrific events have horrific consequences
- healing can't always happen if you are together
- love can and will always be there
- grief looks and feels different for each person
- you will always grieve for the loss of your first family
- you may always wonder "what if"
- you can belong to more than one family at a time
- you can accept love from more than one place
- blood/proximity/love doesn't make a family
Is separating siblings controversial? Certainly.
If it is an "All or nothing" adoption, one person saying declining means everyone doesn't get to be adopted. Often times these rules are put into place in order to protect the older siblings...because they are "less desirable."
(Don't pretend you don't know what I mean: everyone wants a healthy baby...possibly a toddler...rarely a preschooler.)
Adoption like so many other things in life is subjective. Please know that most families who are adopting older children are already taking a conscious and carefully considered risk, they aren't going in with visions of a perfect family.
They aren't casually participating in sibling separation.
Taking my daughters away from their home country and from their birth family (even though they lived in an orphanage and hadn't lived as a family for most of their lives) is one of the hardest things I have ever done. The girls saw me grieve their loss with them while we were there. Yes it is their loss but they are my children and what breaks their heart breaks mine. As a mom, I know they will grieve this loss over and over again at different times in their lives. They would even tease me about my tears, but they know, that I know this whole part simply sucks.
Yeah, I said sucks.
Because it does.
Adoption is a phoenix rising from the ashes of another family.
More than one phoenix may leave the ashes as the same time.
They may not migrate to the same place
but they will have always started from the same place.
My heart is raw because a scab was picked this week. I hurt for me, I hurt for my girls, and I hurt for my friends.
They will always have a wound.