During our adoption training we heard this phrase over and over: “adoption is all about loss.”
“Really?”, I thought, because that is not on the adverts for local authorities seeking adoptive parents. The adverts contain smiling photos of happy families and testimonials of lives transformed by their forever families.
However it is also about loss.
The child’s loss – enormous, and at times overwhelming.
The birth parents loss – tragic, the regret, the disbelief, the blame, the stigma, how does one live without their children?
The adoptive parents loss.
“Wait” I hear you say.” But the adoptive parents gain. The adoptive parents have the child. The adoptive parents have a family. And you have two healthy birth children.”
And since our journey to adoption did not involve the grief of infertility I did not consider myself someone who had “lost.”
One day, about 2 months after Star moved in, she and I went to Mothercare, to measure her feet and to buy some tights. We walked along the newborn baby aisle and suddenly I realised we were standing surrounded by white, pink and blue; bears, bunnies, toys, rattles, muslins, snuggle toys and I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. With tears spilling down my face, I looked at Star.
“If you had been mine,” I thought, “you would have had all of these things, the nice clean new baby clothes, warm blankets, newborn toys, I would have held you and treasured you and you would have been safe.”
“You would not have been afraid. You would not have had to go through so much pain.”
(And I know that I did get a chance to do all those things for Hannah and Ben. And for many adoptive parents they never get the chance to parent a baby, ever.)
Yet for me, in that moment, I knew grief. Punched in the stomach, nauseating – I can’t control these tears – grief.
Grief that I wasn’t there.
Grief for the damage done.
Grief for the pain she went through.
Grief that I could not prevent it happening.
Grief for what should have been and wasn’t.
And I realise that adoption is about loss for me too.