Has it been a week already? It feels like it was just yesterday that I gave birth, and at the same time, it feels like a lifetime has passed me by.
Now it finally comes crashing in, the imminent wave of grief that was looming over me in the final days of my pregnancy like a stalker keeping a watchful eye on his innocent prey. I knew it was inevitable, and I even confided in Max’s adoptive mother Tina shortly before giving birth to him, “I know I’m going to feel sad, but I don’t right now; I’m actually excited and happy for you and Markus.” And I meant every word. I was, however, a little ill-prepared for what was to come.
As I lay on the OR table and the C-section began, Tina sat next to me, held my hand, and we looked at each other. When the doctor told Markus to get the camera ready, Tina and I looked at each other as if to say This is it! I’m surprised I didn’t break her tiny hand when I squeezed it. When Max’s shrill cry suddenly filled the room, I began to sob as well, shaking violently, uncontrollably with emotion. I jokingly told Tina later that I did the “ugly cry.” Dr. Schwartz held him up for us to see and I was in absolute awe of my second son. Except, I knew he wasn’t really mine. He never was to begin with, and I knew that. That didn’t stop me from loving him any less and I tried not to think about it at the time.
I willed each day in the hospital not to pass with every fiber of my being. It was one less day I had to hold, cuddle, kiss, talk to, look at, and spend time with Max. It was one less day with Tina and Markus, one less day with my new family. I would’ve gladly stopped taking my pain meds, worn the thin and scratchy hospital gowns, and slept in that uncomfortable hospital bed for an entire year just to have one more day with them. One.
The day came when I had to let go, legally speaking. My adoption counselor Mary came in and, after an exchange of warm greetings, sat in front of me and pulled out a small stack of papers. Compared to the insurmountable joy and grief it simultaneously represented, on the surface, this was all just legal mumbo jumbo. We went over it page by page, until we came across the one that, once signed, would legally make that innocent angel Markus and Tina’s child. Not mine.
Tears began to fill my eyes and stream steadily down my face. Mary stopped mid-way through the page. “Do you want me to sit next to you?” she asked me softly, my pain becoming hers. We’d been on this journey together and now was not the time to turn down her help. I shook my head up and down vigorously as I couldn’t speak because now, my chest was heaving and I was hyperventilating. I gasped for air as I grabbed her leg to steady myself. I blinked away my tears and forced myself to slow my breathing long enough to sign the paper. I then turned my head, closed my eyes, and pushed the paper toward Mary before I gave myself the opportunity to be selfish and take control of a situation I had no business taking control of. This was all in God’s hands.
This is a pain I’ve never felt before. It is literally very fresh. It is foreign. It is scary. It is not like the death of a loved one. I’ve lost many loved ones to death in the 27 years I’ve been alive, and I’m familiar with that pain. I know that you have to let go completely and when you find acceptance in your loved one’s death, you find peace. Adoption is different than death. You don’t completely hold on, but you don’t completely let go. You have to find a balance, and that, I’ve realized, might take a while.
I think this whole thing is about balance. Not grieving too much, but recognizing my pain and giving it a voice. Allowing myself to think about it, but not letting it consume me. Working hard to achieve my goals, but having a little fun sometimes, too. Finding this balance is taking care of myself. I know it won’t always hurt this badly, and as I’ve learned, all pain in life has a purpose. This pain will ultimately help me help others.