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:
This must be so difficult for you.
This isn’t fair.
We love you.
We're praying for 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.