Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part One
If you aren’t prepared for a raw and vulnerable look at brokenness, do not proceed. If you aren’t ready to navigate your faith within the mess of life, do not proceed. Leaving church on a warm September Sunday morning in 2015, my husband, Josiah, and I knew the message of having radical faith was just for us. After many years of battling infertility, we were eager to begin the adoption process. As many of you know, from 2015 to 2017, brought immense difficulty. During those years, we experienced three failed adoptions. Two of those adoptions were after time was spent in the hospital holding our miracle. The third, though no less important, ended before we boarded a plane. These three adoptions were costly to us emotionally, financially, mentally, and spiritually. Then, in February of 2017, on one last leap of faith, we flew across the country to get our fourth miracle. Surely, this one would be forever. Now, four months later, our arms are empty, our hearts are bleeding, and our home is stricken with the pain of silence.
Here is where you need to stop reading if you cannot refrain from shaking your fist at God. I already know what you are thinking. Stop, take a moment, and choose to find Him in this story. We met our beloved Quinn in the wee morning hours of February 18, 2017 when she was just two days old. On February 20, she was signed into our custody and three days later we returned home to the warmest and most loving welcome that any child could possibly have.
Because of our past experiences, we, of course, had fears that would persist. When fears arose, Josiah and I would remind each other of God’s promises. Even to the unbeliever, Quinn’s story seemed to make perfect sense. On April 12, we were notified that Quinn’s birth father had decided to parent. He began doing all of the necessary legal steps in spite of his previous poor choices. Our agency and the agency’s attorney had proof that her birth father knew of Quinn’s birth and chose to do nothing.
For the remainder of April until June 20, we had to continue to parent Quinn with a heavy cloud looming above. When we think of those months of parenting with the looming cloud overhead, we can take no credit. We’d always known that God gives grace, but only until recently have we really understood just how extensive His grace is. By His grace, we were able to parent her while knowing she could easily be taken. In those months, we never thought she’d be taken so we loved harder, prayed harder, and held her a little longer. After all, she was God’s fulfilled promise to us. We felt confident so we only shared the legal battle with my brother and sister-in-law who have always been mentors to Josiah and I.
When things became more legally unsettling, we took the advice of our attorney and agency and flew across the country for the fifth time, which includes previous adoptions, to stand before a judge and plead our case. On June 20, we walked into a crowded waiting room at a courthouse far from home. In a last attempt to reach an agreement before standing in front of a judge, we sat down and talked with the birth father and his family along with our attorney and agency. Pleasantries were exchanged, and then the tough talk began. We saw a young man with three of his relatives, including his own mother. As much as we communicated, shared, poured our hearts out, the birth father wanted more. As I looked up and saw Quinn’s birth grandmother cry into tissues, I knew this was something bigger than Josiah and I. When it became clear the birth family was firm, the court session began.
As we waited in a small, stuffy room for what seemed like eternity, Josiah and I said nothing to each other. I closed my eyes and prayed claiming every promise in God’s Word that was applicable to the situation we were in. Later, our agency worker and attorney returned to the room looking ashen pale. The judge had ruled that Quinn be returned to her birth family immediately. It seemed like you could knock our attorney over with a feather. In his twenty-some years of practice, he had never witnessed a judge make such a hasty decision especially given all the evidence that was reviewed. Through tears, our agency worker, whom we’ve grown to love, explained to us again what this verdict meant. In denial, I asked, “Ok, so how long will Quinn be gone?” Both she and the attorney replied, “indefinitely.” At this moment, I was confident that death would surely be soon for me. It was too much to endure.
As the agency worker began making preparations for someone to fly Quinn back to her birth state, the heat outside weighed heavy just like our grief. Once confirmation was given that an agency worker would fly to Nashville to pick up Quinn the next day, we asked the agency to contact the birth mother to have a meeting. Legally, the birth mother had to be notified of what had occurred. Josiah and I drove away from the courthouse feeling like death. Driving down a busy freeway, I buried my face in my hands, while screaming that I didn’t know how to give my baby back. Josiah, my rock of wisdom and strength, said through his own tears, “Sarah Beth, at least we can know that we’ve tried everything, at least we can know that we’ve been faithful, that we’ve glorified God in the process. I want to lay my head down at night knowing we did everything.”
Calling my brother and sister-in-law who had been keeping Quinn during our trip was nearly impossible. They were given the impossible task of explaining to their own two children that Quinn would be going away. They were also given the impossible task of bringing Quinn to the airport. My brother, mustering all the strength he had, told his two children, who adored Quinn, and prepared for the airport the next day. After that phone call, Josiah and I met Quinn’s birth mother for the first time and met her birth grandmother for the second time. Upon seeing Quinn’s birth mom, I opened my arms and we embraced. I saw a confused and torn young person. This meeting included the agency workers and the attorney. Much was discussed, questions were asked, and information was dissected. It was quickly apparent that although the birth mother and grandmother loved us, they were sympathetic of the birth father.
The attorney discussed heavy issues concerning how things would proceed with the birth father. At the heaviest moment, I asked everyone to stop talking and give me the floor. With Josiah beside me, I explained the prayers Josiah and I had prayed all these months, I explained just how certain he and I were that all this, no matter the mess of it, was supposed to happen. Ultimately, I explained that our hope is in something greater and that the pain this situation was going to cause would be impossible to endure without our faith. After some silence, the meeting essentially ended with our attorney speaking to us privately about the little chance of fighting this successfully we had. This was especially true after hearing both sides of the birth family.
Little sleep came to Josiah and I that night as we prepared to say goodbye to Quinn the next day at the Nashville airport. What are you supposed to say to each other on a long flight home knowing your life is about to be turned upside down…again. We really said nothing other than an occasional, “Are you ok?” With the answer already known, we just stared straight ahead preparing to say goodbye to that sweet face we’d loved from the day she was born. Upon landing, we notified the agency worker where to meet us at the airport for the hand-off. When we approached my brother and sister-in-law sitting with Quinn in the waiting area, we could barely breathe. As tears hit like bullets, Josiah took Quinn from my sister-in-law’s arms and we took her into a private family bathroom and locked the door. We kissed Quinn, told her how much we loved her, and how much we would pray for her. Josiah lifted her up to play “airplane” one more time. Laughing and grinning, Quinn looked at us both. In that bathroom, agony, grief and pain were palpable. Josiah handed her to me, and I embraced her and placed her close to my chest where she laid for so many months. I wanted her to feel my heartbeat one more time.
Walking back to where we would hand her off to the agency worker was torture. I was unable to speak so my sister-in-law explained Quinn’s schedule to her, gave her enough supplies to make the trip, and packed her up. After one last kiss, we walked away. As my sister-in-law pushed an empty stroller beside me, we walked away in silence in the midst of sickening grief.
What now? Yes, we can fight this legal issue. However, we are not fighting it for two primary reasons. First, the judge reviewed most of our evidence in court on June 20. The judge was certainly unmoved by any of it. Secondly and most importantly, when Quinn grew older and began asking questions like any healthy adopted child would, we would have to explain to her that her birth father wanted her and came for her, but we wanted her too so we fought and took her away from him. As parents, Josiah and I could not do that and did not think it would be healthy for Quinn. This reason is similar to the story of King Solomon in the book of 1 Kings chapter 3 where he threatens to cut the baby in half to settle a dispute between two women arguing who the real mother was. The real mother wanted no harm to the baby. We want Quinn’s best interest to prevail.
At this point, you may have burning questions as to why the legal system did this or that, or why we did not do this or that, or why the agency did or did not do something. But, the more important burning questions to ask are those of what God is doing. All of us will experience suffering in our life. For us, it feels like suffering is unbalanced. We see others become parents so easily. We see adoptions unfold perfectly. We see others advance, gain, or receive, while we’re left picking up our shattered pieces. It is so easy to want to look up, shake your fist at heaven and question the goodness of God. We must guard our grief. We’re able to guard our grief when we remember that we have a High Priest who makes intercession for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, who has been through more than we’ve been through, and who can format mercy to fit our needs. Hebrews 4: 14-16 The day after losing Quinn my devotional said, “It is impossible to thank Him and curse Him at the same time.” Although difficult, we choose to thank Him.
Why this? Every night before putting Quinn to sleep, Josiah and I would lay her down on our bed as we kneeled with our hands on her and asked God to intervene on our behalf. We claimed His promises, we quoted scripture, and we refused to doubt or to fear. In fact, before walking into court on June 20, Josiah and I prayed asking the Holy Spirit to dwell among us and to intervene. Each time I kissed Quinn goodnight in her sweet slumber and uttered, “In Jesus name, allow us to parent this child,” God heard me. But, he didn’t allow us to parent her forever. We prayed all things in Jesus’ name knowing His Word tells us that if we do so, He’ll grant our request. But, He didn’t grant our request. He didn’t give us the outcome we wanted. The notebook of scriptures I read that morning out loud to the both of us in the hotel room didn’t work the way we thought they would or should. Why? Why has God removed Quinn from a home whose primary goal was to raise her to know the transformative power of the Gospel? She will have her needs met in her new home, and she will be loved. However, we don’t know if she will be exposed to the Gospel. Why has God allowed us to go through the absolutely painful period of suffering that we’ve endured since 2015 on our journey to adopt? Why did he allow years of infertility prior to 2015? Why has He allowed our financial resources for adoption to be totally depleted?
Where from? All believers know their help comes from the Lord. It is basic doctrinal knowledge. Until you are in the midst of pain and suffering, it doesn’t register completely. There is absolutely no way we could have journeyed this far without a supernatural strength from above. Although we do have a High Priest who knows our plight, we are still faced with the task to endure. All believers know God gives grace. Again, it is basic doctrinal knowledge. It is only by God’s magnificent grace that we were able to parent in such uncertainty. It was grace that allowed us to handle a courtroom. It was grace that allowed us to scoop up our child and tell her goodbye in a bathroom just to walk away and see strangers scolding or carrying a child they have no idea how fortunate they are to have. We loved Quinn with all we had. She was the joy, light and love of our lives. Walking that airport hallway to give her away was just an ounce of the pain that God experienced when His son, innocent and holy, walked up the hill of Golgotha to be crucified for you and me. Jesus lived 33 years, and Quinn lived with us for exactly four months.
Though my pain is incredibly incomparable to His, we have a new appreciation of what God did for us by giving us His son. When we arrived home, we felt a pain that I wish on no one. I went straight to her nursery and grabbed her favorite pacifier. Then, I grabbed the pajamas she had just been wearing and inhaled her sweet smell. She is gone. We are broken and shattered, but not without hope and grace. It’s grace that helped us walk into our home full of Quinn’s things. Her nursery, her clothes in the laundry room, her pictures on the wall. Though our home is empty, our hearts are not.
I know you’re thinking why would a good, loving God do this to people? God didn’t want this to happen, but we live in a fallen, broken world. He didn’t take joy in watching us walk away from our baby in an airport. He doesn’t take joy in the tears flowing as I type this. He did allow it, but we can rest assured that what He does is always for our good and for His glory. Quinn’s story is horribly painful, but her story will reach many lives. As my brother told me, “Quinn’s story will point others to the Gospel.” My human side is tired of losing so others can learn. However, it is not my place to know why or to understand. It’s just our job to trust. God doesn’t break our hearts to bring them back the same. Josiah and I are far from perfect. We’re a mess each day, but I can tell you this experience has changed our hearts, and we hope our hearts look more like His.
What we need?
First, use our story to evaluate your own life. Do you have enough grasp on God and His Word to weather the storm you will inevitably face? Let our story motivate you to be ever ready to praise Him, thank Him, and worship Him when you really want to shake your fist at heaven.
Secondly, don’t interact with us as if Quinn never existed. She isn’t a taboo topic. She has part of our heart forever and ever.
Third, share our story to whomever, whenever, or however. This is your permission to do so. We’ve vowed to speak out on all God has and will continue to do through this journey.
Fourth, please filter your questions and assumptions. Please try not to assume that a person or an agency dropped the ball. Though we’ll always speak of Quinn with love and fondness, please don’t ask questions that you really do not have to know the answer to. Some of you might think that this is the exact reason we shouldn’t have posted pictures of Quinn on social media. We disagree. We felt that by not doing so we were limiting God. We embraced her as ours for forever from moment one. We trusted Him to bring her to us, and we trusted Him to keep her with us.
Fifth, use our story to encourage you to take risks. Be willing to take risks and to be hurt. If you want great things in your life, you have to be willing to get hurt.
Lastly, pray for us as we try to determine what is next for us. We know that God has called us to be parents, but at this point, we are depleted of all resources to make adoption possible. It is uncomfortable to discuss how much we’ve lost since 2015, but just know it is enormous. Pray that God will make a way. He is good and faithful.
Thank you all in advance for your thoughts and prayers. The prayers of those who have known this story before now have given us so much strength. God’s presence has been so evident and the prayers of His people have been so palpable in our lives. They have carried us, and will continue to carry us. Though Quinn isn’t near, she is part of us. Because we are children of the most high King, He is near to us in this hour of darkness and for all eternity.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Part 2 - Beauty From Ashes