This is the final segment of the story about our first adoption match. It was 2007, and my partner and I had been officially waiting to adopt for only three months before we got our first call. I’ve used a pseudonym to protect the prospective birth mom’s privacy. Click here to start at the beginning.
The next day, Saturday, we drove to a beach, hoping the sun would soothe us. It didn’t. The air was unseasonably cold, and the wind whipped sand all around. On Sunday, we passed the long day at the hotel with “The Devil Wears Prada”; it managed to make us laugh.
Time had stopped. I could temporarily forget what had happened, but when I remembered, it was awful all over again. I had never known grief like this before, and nothing had prepared me for the way it takes on a life of its own, like a small wild animal living inside of me. I cried a lot, intermittently, not knowing when it would creep up and sucker punch me again.
On Monday morning, the social worker called with the official final word. Lydia had decided to keep her baby. She didn’t want the birth father to take him, and her mother had agreed to help raise him.
Another heavy wave of grief rolled on top of me. But at least now we could go home. Before we could make our flight, we had to return the baby things to Target. There was no sense in lugging them back to Wisconsin.
We didn’t talk much in those hours, just got through.
For days and months afterward, the scent of Jude’s soft, little head lingered on my fingers. The imprint of his weight and warmth remained on my arms and chest.
It was brutal to re-enter the routine of work and home. On any given day, my thoughts careened wildly from whatever was going on at work to memories of Jude and the flood of emotions that followed. Sometimes I was able to retell the story without emotion, but sometimes a lump would unexpectedly rise in my throat and threaten a fresh breakdown.
Was this mourning? It felt like it, yet no one had died.
We had lost a baby who was never really ours. There is no template or ritual available to make sense of what happened. No body or ashes to dispose of. No ceremony to bring people together and start the process of healing.
It’s still largely ineffable to me—the entire experience of putting our lives on hold so suddenly, feeling closer to Lydia then I expected, spending all of those hours with Jude in a sterile hospital ward, imagining possible futures with him, and then losing him.
We didn’t hear a word from Lydia until two years later when she friended us on Facebook. She was happy to see pictures of our son Miles who came home to us on Christmas Day 2007. I told her that it had been hard for us, but that I was glad she could make the right decision, one that she wouldn’t regret.
It’s difficult to tell what her life is like now, but Lydia looks happy, even radiant, like the day we first met. I expected it to be upsetting to look at pictures of her son, but it wasn’t. He seems healthy, strong, and cheerful. There is no sign there of his father.
When I look at him I see another child—not Jude. He has a different name, and I have no doubt that he is a different person than the one who would have spent days and years growing with us as our son.
Jude didn’t die exactly, but in a way, he did disappear that day in Baltimore when I pressed my cheek against his and said goodbye.