The Child I Didn’t Adopt


Twelve years ago, we traveled to a foreign country to adopt our son Silent One when he was six years old.  Sassy was three, and, as our biological child, was already a long-standing member of the family.  What my children don’t know is that for 24 hours, they had a sister.


We had just come back from our overseas trip to bring Silent One home as the newest member of the family.  We were sitting in the office of the American adoption agency we had used, discussing the benefits of applying for a U.S. birth certificate and how to change Silent One’s last name since a snafu had resulted in him receiving the wrong one (not ours!).

Excited to have met Silent One’s birth family, we shared that in addition to meeting his first mom, we were able to meet his brother and the family who was adopting him. The adoption worker reached out to touch my arm and said she was sorry that it didn’t work out for us to adopt both brothers.

And then the whammy!

She reached for a file on her desk and handed it to us.  I opened the folder.  Inside were pictures of the cutest baby girl, nestled in a pink blanket.  I looked up at the worker.

“I know that you wanted to adopt siblings, and that it was heart-wrenching when you were only able to adopt Silent One even though his first mother made adoption plans for her other sons, too.  This healthy baby girl was just referred to our agency.  If you’re interested, we are willing to place her with you.  There is no need for additional home studies or most other paperwork.  The adoption fee would be reduced to the sibling rate. She should be able to come home to you pretty quickly.”

My husband and I looked at each other.  I wanted to scream “yes! yes! yes!”  But we didn’t want to be rash, so we said we needed a little bit of time to discuss it.

We left the agency.  In the car,we quickly decided that we wanted to make this little baby girl ours. We called back and told the adoption worker that we were accepting the referral and arranged to go back the next day to sign papers.

The next day arrived and we were driving back to the adoption agency.

Inside me a storm was raging.  I so, so, so wanted to adopt that baby.  This child landed in our laps as if it was meant to be, and I really wanted a larger family.  But I was also imagining what it would be like to go from having one child to three.  We had just learned that Silent One had experienced major trauma, and knew that parenting him would be more challenging than average.  Sassy had been my only child for three years, and her life would be impacted by living with a new brother who was processing the bad things that had happened to him.

My husband and I talked some more.  Ultimately, we decided not to adopt her to make sure that we had plenty of time to devote to transitioning Silent One home, getting him the help that he needed, and still having energy left over for Sassy.  We knew that healthy baby girls were in high demand and she’d have no problem finding a different family to call her own.  We were young and had plenty of time to adopt other children in the future.

We never did adopt anyone else.

And I’ve never stopped missing the girl who was mine for a day.  Over the last decade, I’ve pulled her pictures out and said a prayer for her well-being many times.  I’ve never forgotten her name.  Delmy.


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