I have been looking forward to this day. As much as I have loved the journey of documenting this adoption story, I am ready to write the last page. It is one of my favorite pages of this story because it includes you all- my beautiful community that surrounded us in the blackest night.
Have you read the first 7 posts in this series? If not, I would recommend that you stop and get caught up. If you subscribe to my email list, you will get my posts right in your inbox. I want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who have shared my blog. I have received countless messages from men and women all over the country and have connected with some families who have gone through something similar. Thank you for helping me share this story.
In my last post, we had just given BabyG back to her birthmom and became a family of three once again.
I remember going home that night and walking back into the house. To the left of the door was her swing. On the couch, there was a forgotten hair bow and pair of socks. In the kitchen sink, bottles waited to be washed. In her room, her crib with the pink sheet was empty.
A panicky grief started to well up in my throat.
Justin and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We decided, almost wordlessly, that we would go through the house and pick up anything of hers and put it in her room. As fast as we could, we literally threw everything in there in a huge pile and shut the door.
I am realizing that it is the ultimate challenge for a writer to describe the first few days after such an extreme loss. I am usually so in tune with my emotions and surroundings. But during the days that followed, I was completely numb. I felt like I couldn’t get my feet on solid ground- like I was always slipping or falling sideways.
We were completely irrational. Once Jack got back home from Justin’s parent’s house the next day, we found ourselves at Kohls buying Christmas pajamas. We decided we would start a new tradition of looking at lights in PJs. This is what people do, right?
The following day, Justin couldn’t get out of bed. The grief had hit him full force and he was struggling. Word had started to spread about what happened and our amazing extended family pulled some last minute strings to get us tickets for a Christmas show in town called Traditions of Christmas (by Christian Community Theater). It was a show that both Justin and I had performed in during our younger years. I urged Justin to get ready and that getting out of the house would cheer him up. Ultimately, he conceded. Jack had a wonderful time seeing Santa and hearing the Christmas story (with a live camel!!).
After the show, so many of our dear friends came up and hugged us. They were warm and strong hugs that felt like family. They came from friends that Justin and I grew up with- the ones whose houses we used to toilet paper and went to Disneyland with every chance we had. It was their parents, and even grandparents, that came up to us that day- many with tears in their eyes- that made me feel like I was home. And so loved.
Some of those friends took us out later that night. I remember looking over at Justin and seeing him smile and laugh. It was exactly where we needed to be.
A few days later, Mandie organized a bowling night with that same group of people. That day, I was the one who didn’t want to get out of bed. She told me to get dressed and promised me that a night with the old gang would be better than milling around an empty house.
We arrived at the bowling alley and one by one these friends arrived. Some had to work early the next day and some were likely busy preparing for Christmas with their families. But here they were. They showed up when we needed them most.
2014 hadn’t been particularly kind to most of us. We arrived at that bowling alley a little beaten up and weary from the road. Some of us were right in the middle of our grief and all of us were longing for a new year. Despite the sound of clattering pins and the smell of worn in shoes and cheap bowling alley beer, I experienced true community that night. No, it wasn’t in a church with pews and stained glass. But, I think it was the type of community that Jesus intended us to have.
There were no pretenses- only honesty. There were no right answers- only broken people sitting together in the struggle. And we didn’t need answers. All we needed was to sit with the ones who knew us best and just be together. There were some tears. There was a lot of laughter. It was the kind of night that fills you up from the inside out.
And as each day passed, our community continued to reach out and love on us in the most brilliant and tangible ways. On Christmas day, our families gracefully listened to all of our ramblings, through tears of grief. I remember watching my niece open up a gift of ballet shoes and I had to walk out of the room in tears. These little girl moments stung the most.
They offered to watch Jack anytime we needed, while Justin and I tried our best to get through the day as humans, let alone as parents. Although he had surprisingly appeared to be unaffected when BabyG left, Jack would run in every morning and grab the baby monitor and ask where she was. We tried our best to explain it over and over to him.
My sister in law and dear friend, Beth, cancelled the baby shower she had started to organize with my mom and sister. Instead, she set up a site for donations for all the people asking how they could help. Even though the adoption was over and the support for our birthmom had been paid, there was no magical refund on its way. We were out thousands of dollars.
I can’t even tell begin to thank all of you who gave to us financially. Along with all the dollars that began to ease some of the stress during those few days, your messages of love and prayers were life giving. I read every single one over and over. We felt so lifted up and loved.
Our church family was the same. They pitched in to help us get out of town on a trip during New Years. They cried and grieved with us. Again- when nothing made sense, the literal hands and feet of the people of God held us up and steadied us as we tried to take our first steps into our life after loss.
A few days before New Year’s, Justin and I packed up the car and headed off to the stunning mountains of Lake Tahoe. A nine hour drive stood between us and our destination, and as we drove each mile, our home and all the grief started to feel farther and farther away.
We let ourselves grieve at our own pace. We listened to the entire series of Serial while eating Cheetos, Kit Kats, and Diet Coke. We listened to podcasts and entire albums without speaking. We sat in the silence and watched the scenery. We had deep talks about God. We held hands as we drove into the snowy, mountain town.
I wouldn’t say it was a happy trip, but it was a healing one. We certainly had some joyful moments, but it was the first step of many in our grieving process. We often refer to that time as “our cocoon.” We felt like it was us against the world and we clung to each other more tightly than ever before. As we drove up the coast of California, I knew he was the only one who could remotely come close to knowing how I felt.
Rough days were certainly ahead. But even though we both felt so utterly alone, we had each other.
As the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Day, I said goodbye to the worst year of my life. After losing a baby at 8 weeks and an infant after 20 days, I was more than happy to say farewell.
Good riddance, 2014.
On Friday, January 2nd, we pulled into our driveway, unpacked our car, and hugged our sweet boy.
And I wish I could tell you that life just went on like normal. But those of you who know loss understand that it was only the beginning. I plan to write a series about grief and how it changed my marriage, my faith and my friendships. After all, grief seems to settle in the deepest and hardest to reach places.
But, it was the start of a new year. And I had no idea what was right around the corner…