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.


Giving Up on Adopted Child

I wanted to walk away from my foster-adopted son.  I wanted to send him away.  Our therapist said this was good.  What?!?!

Silent One came to us as a traumatized six-year-old.  A lot of the hurt, anger, grief, sadness, and shame was wadded into a tight ball and thrown directly at me.  Not because of me personally, but because traumatized kids often take their difficult feelings about others and their situation and transfer it onto the new mother figure.  So I was the target for being hit, punched, kicked, bit, having my hair pulled, etc.  This was on top of Silent One’s challenging behaviors, like running away or hours-long tantrums.  There were no soft moments where he turned to me for a hug or said he loved me.

[Please don’t freak out if you are thinking of fostering or adopting.  A therapist said Silent One’s case was one of the most difficult, complex ones she had seen working within the foster care system.  And he’s a wonderful, loving kid now.  See my earlier post Worst Case…or Best Thing Ever.]

I was sick of trying to love him when he constantly rejected and tried to hurt me.  I had done everything I knew how for over two years.  I was ready to walk away.

“Good,” said our family therapist.

Good?  Good?  What kind of adoptive mom walks away?

“Good,” said the therapist.  “Because you deserve a break.  Because you deserve to be cherished.  Because Silent One will miss your attention.”

So I went away for a long weekend without the family.  And when I came back I ignored Silent One.  I didn’t do anything nice for him.  Not one single thing.

At first, Silent One was happy and did whatever he wanted, more or less.  Then he decided he didn’t like being shut out.  He tried more meanness and tantrums and fits to see if he could force me to pay attention.  But that strengthened my resolve to ignore him.

Then, something came over Silent One.  After two years of purposely being mean to me, Silent One began to seek me out.  He tried to make eye contact.  He reached out to touch me for a millisecond.  He tried being a “good boy” by copying some of his sister’s actions like putting away his toys.

I went to the therapist.  Please, please, I said.  He’s melting my heart.  I can’t ignore him any more.  I love him, I love him, I love him.

“Yes,” said the therapist.  “You love him.  He loves you.  And now he knows relationships are reciprocal and he needs to do his part to get and give love.”

That was the beginning of our true healing.  And now Silent One and I have a beautiful relationship that is the envy of many of our friends.

This post is part of Adoption Talk Link Up.  Check it out to find more great bloggers chatting about their adoption experiences.