The Unsuccessful Match

When I write I try to be as transparent about the adoption process as possible while still respecting that MUCH of our story is not ours to tell, it’s R's. Perhaps I’m sharing this memory to provide perspective for family members of waiting adoptive couples. Or maybe it’s for waiting adoptive couples in order to help navigate the waiting. Maybe I wrote it because it’s a story that still weighs heavily on my heart.

Failed matches are part of the adoption process. Here is our story. I wrote this on Oct. 1st of this year:

I woke up today with a feeling. I knew somewhere deep in my bones that it had been a year since our failed adoption match.

What a difference a year makes, huh?

R did not replace the baby boy we were matched with last October 1st. Jax and Xander were two names we were thinking about for that baby. Once that baby was no longer our baby- those names were off the table for future matches. Those names belonged to the baby we thought was ours.

I still grieve for the loss of the baby boy we were initially matched with last October. I said a little prayer this morning for him and his family. I hope he is thriving.

We got the magical call on October 1 at 2:30pm. I know exactly where I was in Park Slope when our social worker gave me the news. We had been matched! I sat down on the sidewalk and cried. It was happening. I went straight to the most expensive toy store in Park Slope and bought E the most expensive swaddle blanket as a way to surprise him with the news. I told the shop clerk we were expecting. We had a due date. We cheered together.

The next few days were a blur; Celebrating the news via phone calls, FaceTime, and email with our nearest and dearest. Finally, we gave ourselves permission to be excited, we had news to share and by golly, we shouted it from the rooftops.

2 days later, I gave notice at work. A wonderful feeling. We were supposed to receive all sorts of paperwork from our agency that afternoon via email.

No paperwork came.

I called E and asked him to check in with our social worker. 15 minutes later E called back. It was not good. It was bad. The news took my breath away. I shut down my computer, walked to the elevator, exited the building, and walked to the train. The subway ride home was a blur. I finally took a breath once I locked myself in the apartment.

For the next few days I shut out the world. I stayed on the couch and wept. I wept for Ethan and I, I wept out of embarrassment because we had to take the good news back from all our loved ones, I wept for the baby, I wept for the birth mom who must have been so scared to learn about the baby’s condition, I wept because I wondered if we WERE supposed to parent this baby?

I wept because I thought the waiting was over.

Two therapists told me (no, I don’t have 2 therapists- but so what if I did?) that I was grieving the loss of a child. It was like an adoption miscarriage for lack of a better term. The adoption process is complex. I do not claim to know the joy of seeing a positive sign on a pregnancy test, or the grief of losing a child I was carrying. I do know the joy of the match phone call and the grief of a failed adoption match. Grief and tragedy can be very isolating. For me, this was the hardest part of the adoption process. I felt like I had lost a child. There was absolutely no, “well thank God, we really dodged a bullet” feeling…although well meaning people did say the equivalent.

My mom, my cousin, and my sister in law pulled me through. The calls, the love, the lunchtime movie and wine dates-they held me close and understood my grief.

Failed matches happen. I always assumed that if we were to be part of a failed match, it would be because the birth mom decided not to place her child. That would hurt, but perhaps it would be a different hurt. The fact that E and I had to say no was a hard hard thing. I still wonder, was I meant to parent that baby? Rationally, I know the answer. We could not have provided for that baby emotionally, financially, nor would living in an urban environment be fair to the child, but my heart still wonders.

I do not equate that failed match with R. It doesn’t occur to me to think, well because that match didn’t work out, R came along. Somehow they remain two different paths. Two different stories. Two different baby boys.

R uses the swaddle blanket I initially bought to surprise E with. Every time I take it out, I can’t help but think of that excitement of the match phone call and the anguish that followed. Mostly, I think of that baby boy.

People wondered why I didn’t want baby things when we were matched with R’s birth mom. I just couldn’t. What if it didn’t happen? What if it was another failed match? All those baby things would somehow always belong to who would have been our R.

Our R. Gosh he makes perfect sense.

When R uses that swaddle blanket it feels to me like he’s borrowing it from the first baby we were matched with. The moment passes, but that thought is always there.

The avoidance of baby things once we were matched with R’s birth mom was very intentional. Moving forward would be too difficult if the match didn’t work out. Or so I thought. Who really knows. What I do know is that so much about the adoption process is about self preservation and protection as you wait. During our match period with R’s birth mom, baby things were too much for me. Too scary. Going to Buy Buy Baby? Forget about it. No chance in hell. I was too scared R wasn’t ours. Some friends and family did not respect our gift giving wishes. Perhaps they needed to give gifts to make the baby real for them. It made it too real for us.

And so, I continue to think about our failed match. It is a part of our story. Part of adoption. A dear friend of mine decided to change the term “failed match” to “unsuccessful match”. It is waaaay better. It wasn’t a failure. No one failed. Everyone was trying to do what was in the best interest of that baby, which, is really what adoption is about.