Thursday, January 13, 2011


It all started with an ectopic pregnancy last January.

After a few months of fertility treatments, I was thrilled to get the news that I was pregnant.  I was visiting my sister in St. Louis when I got the phone call with my blood test results.  Of course, we let ourselves get too excited too soon.  We went out and bought a maternity shirt and journal.  We giggled and planned and talked about baby names.

But then I got another phone call.

“Hi, Rachel.  This is Dr. S’s office again.  We are looking at your blood work, and there’s something a little alarming going on with the numbers.  We’d like you to come to the office right away when you get back in town.  And in the mean time, if you feel any sharp pains, go straight to the emergency room.”


When I got back to New York, I spent the next week going to the doctor every day.  Each day, they would take blood and give me an internal ultrasound to try to determine whether or not the pregnancy was in my fallopian tube.  Each day, the prognosis changed.  One day it was, “Actually everything looks good, but come back tomorrow, just in case,” so I would go home and rejoice.  But then the following day, it would be, “Uh oh…things aren’t looking too good; if this pregnancy ruptures your tube, you could die of internal bleeding,”  so I would go home and cry.  This went on for days—I blocked out exactly how many—back and forth, up and down, hope and tears—until I found myself sobbing on an examination table in the doctor’s office, my dreams of an October baby dissolving with two shots of methotrexate.


It happened again in September—not exactly the same way but with many of the same emotions.

I got the first email at school through our adoption website.  When I read the words, my heart jumped, and I ran next door to tell my favorite colleague.  “Dear Rachel and Ryan, My niece passed away over a year ago and she had a little baby girl.  It is time for her to find her new parents and I have looked at your profile 20 times.  I would really like to speak with you and get to know you better. Please contact when you can…”

We exchanged emails for weeks—meaningful, memorable, Spirit-filled emails.  She sent photos, told us stories about the baby, said she’d been searching for the right couple for almost a year before she found our profile.  I fell in love with the beautiful blondie, smiling with her hot pink cupcakes on her second birthday.  We told our families and our closest friends, and everyone couldn’t wait; it was just a matter of time before this little girl was going to be part of our family forever.

But then her great-aunt stopped communicating with us.

The emails, which had come consistently almost every day, just stopped coming.  As the days ticked by, I grew more and more anxious.  I checked my email every five minutes; I wondered if I should be worried; I checked my email again; I knew something was wrong.  I cried; I questioned God; I wondered why I had felt so good about this—had felt such a burning confirmation—when it was only going to lead me to heartbreak.  I told God that I have always tried to be obedient, I have always done my best, and couldn’t He just help this to work out?

He couldn’t.  Or He didn’t.  Or He allowed someone to make a different choice.


It happened again in December.

Ryan read her email to me as I drove home from school.  She was 36 weeks pregnant—36!—and she was sure that she had chosen us to adopt her daughter.  Excited but now careful, we only told a few friends and family.  We talked to her the next day on the phone, and two days later, we drove seven hours to meet her.  She was wonderful.  We went to the Olive Garden and chatted over fettuccine alfredo.  Her parents had hot cocoa and apple torte waiting for us when we got back to their house, and we all sat around talking about adoption and God’s plan for us.

But then we talked to an adoption lawyer.

We knew her situation was complex due to a birth father in jail, but it turned out to be so much scarier and more complicated than any of us had bargained for.  We talked through every option.  We prayed and worried and questioned.  I lay awake, staring at the ceiling and thinking.  I didn’t cry—I was too tired for that.  In the end, the New York state laws made it impossible to move forward, so she chose an adoptive couple in another state, and I folded up the little orange peacoat that my sister gave me as an early Christmas present and put it in the closet.


It happened again last night.

We got her first email just before Christmas.  We didn’t let ourselves get too invested—we didn’t even tell our families.  But as the weeks passed, I started to allow myself to get hopeful: she told me about her mom, who had also passed away when she was young; we talked on the phone and laughed and discussed life as if we were old friends; she said this felt as if it was “meant to be.”  Between her emails and phone calls, I worried.  When she didn’t write for a week, I thought she had surely changed her mind.  But when we talked again, she said that she was certain.  She said that she wanted us to be the first to hold the baby when he/she came into the world; she asked us what names we had picked out; we hung up the phone thanking her profusely for trusting us to love her little baby, who was due in only three weeks.

But the next day—the very next day—we got a call from our social worker.

I was sitting in the back office of a friend’s apartment when I heard the news: She had picked someone else.  In the less than 24 hours since we had talked to her, a couple whom she had communicated with previously contacted her and said that they wanted the baby.  And she decided on them. 

I put my head on the desk and wept.  I asked myself why she hadn’t told us that there was another couple.  I asked myself if I will ever be able to feel excited about a pregnancy or an adoption possibility again.  I asked myself why it is so difficult to decipher God's will for my life.

I pulled myself together in the bathroom—splashed water on my face, waited for the red swelling to subside.   I came out and chatted with our friends like nothing was wrong.  I didn’t want to talk about it.  I didn’t want to relive the entire story and answer all the questions.  I didn’t want to hear them say what everyone says: “It will all work out,” or “Just have faith—it’s all in the Lord’s hands,” or “It will happen when it’s supposed to.”  As true as those words may be, they aren’t helpful.  Those words trivialize the pain that I am feeling now, in this moment.  Those words make me feel so alone.

Eventually, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  With my head on Ryan’s shoulder, I told them everything.  They skipped the well-meaning platitudes and said just what I needed to hear:

We're sorry.

This must be so difficult for you.

This isn’t fair.

We love you.

We're praying for you.

Ryan and I went home and lay on our bed in a stupor.  We didn’t cry anymore. 

When a heart gets broken, does it feel numb and empty?  Because that’s the only way I can think to describe how I feel today.


  1. You are such an amazing writer, and such an amazing woman. I am amazed that you made just an immense topic with such enormously complex details so concise. This is so touching and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing it. I love you.

  2. And, yes, I think you nailed it on the head. When a heart is broken it feels numb and lost. That is EXACTLY how I felt the fall after mom died and I got my heart broken. Dead inside. This suck, sissy. I'm sorry!

  3. Rachel, I am so sorry. My heart aches for you. I wish there were anything at all I could do for you. I AM praying, and if I know of anyone who needs a mama for their baby, I will guide them to you, but in the meantime, I'm just so sorry. Love you.

  4. I am so sorry that things have worked out how they have. Thanks for sharing the experience with all of us.

  5. It's not the end yet, but that doesn't make it hurt less now. I'm so sorry. I love you.

  6. I am sorry. And you know that there are lots of children that need a good home like yours!

  7. I thought about you a lot when preparing my Sunday school lesson last week. I wondered how the adoption process was going. It sounds nightmarish. I think birth moms choosing parents should read this and realize the impact they have on those that they give hope to. We still pray for you nightly. I'm so sorry for all the pain you've gone through.

  8. Oh man, I'm sorry. We will continue to pray for you two! I'm so sorry this has been so difficult!!

  9. Rachel, my heart just aches for both of you. Through each story you shared, I could feel that heart break. I wish there were more I could do, but I will definitely keep you in my prayers.

    On another note, this may sound weird, but your faith and gospel knowledge have been a huge inspiration to me lately. I think about you often and how faithful you are. I am in awe at the way you seem to find the perfect scripture verses to help you through trials. I now have a deep desire to start reading and STUDYING my scriptures, in the hope that I can gain some of the faith and knowledge that you have. You are an inspiration to me, and also so many others. Love you!!!!

  10. There aren't very many women mentioned in the Bible. Most of the ones that are, though, are dealing with fertility issues. Think about it: Elizabeth, Mary, the woman with an issue of blood, Hannah, Sarah, Rachel. And I don't think that's just to say that, hey, it's something that many women deal with. There are more common things that could have been included in the Bible, but for whatever reason, this is the commonality that they all have.
    I don't really know why, but I was thinking that it really brings out our strongest emotions and really reveals who we are as women. Hannah and Rachel were both the "favorite" wives of their husbands. They knew it and were grateful for it, but they still deeply wanted and needed children. And all the jealousy and resentment that they overcame when the other wives were just popping out babies left and right... it shows what kind of women they were. All these women drew close to the Lord, through their trials-- and their good times too.
    I don't think the message of these women's stories in the Bible is just "pray hard and you'll have a baby." That's neither true nor very inspirational. But maybe one reason their stories are canonized is that God is mindful of all people, and God hears our prayers, especially in times of tribulations when our hearts are ripped open and open to His love.
    I'm not writing this to make you "feel all better" but just because it's something I have been thinking about and thought you might find it interesting to ponder as well.

  11. So, I read your post at about 9pm and now its 10:20pm. I wanted to leave you a comment to let you know that I am thinking about you guys and everything you have gone through lately. The problem is I just can't think of the right thing to say...and I guess that is because there just isn't much that can be said. You are SO's unfair, and well it just SUCKS for lack of a more eloquent word. If you need a friend to cry with, laugh with, or EAT with please let me be first in line!

  12. I wish I could write something really profound that would help your pain to go away, or at least help you feel better. I am so sorry to hear all that you have gone through the past several months! You are amazing and I know that you will be an amazing mother and father some day. In the mean time, you're in my thoughts and prayers! xoxo

  13. Ahhh Rachel. I am so sorry for your ups and downs and moments of hope that have not come to fruition. Thank you for sharing your thoughts though. That has to be difficult. I have gone through a heart break of a different kind recently and it is comforting to know that there are others who feel the "numb" and "lost" feeling. While it's nice to know I"m not alone in feeling such thing, I'm sorry that you have to feel it too. I love you and will keep you in my prayers.

  14. I'm sorry Rach. I've only known the half of it, I hope that writing this has been therapeutic. (the cursor keeps blinking at me to write more but I don't know what to write) I cannot even comprehend the heart break you are feeling right now. My heart aches for you.
    I love love love you.

  15. i am crying in my classroom as i read this. i am so, so sorry. you will be an amazing mother, rachel.

    your biggest fan

  16. Oh Rachel, you are so brave to write this post. I think about you all the time, but I always struggle to say anything to you about what your going through because I honestly have no idea how painful this process can possibly be for you, but you let me get a little glimpse when you write posts like this. I'm so sorry because if there is anyone that deserves what you desire it is you and Ryan. You also make me feel like what I feel are my own monumental trials are pretty little. What I kept thinking as I read those stories is that the people you have been in communication with must have no idea how heartbreaking it is for you to be the side your on...the one waiting and hoping as opposed to the one looking.

  17. Sending you my love and prayers. Oh, Rachel! I wish I could make everything perfect for you. We are so sorry for all the trials and hardship that you and Ryan have experienced this last year. I wish I could give you a big hug and cry with you, but instead I will pray for your baby to find you. WE love you!!!


I love hearing from you!! Thanks for the comment!