How can I recover from a failed adoption?

As I discuss in another post — my wife and I have been unable to have children through what is now over 20 years of marriage. We had been praying, thinking, and talking about adoption for many of those years. But God never really seemed to place in us a strong desire to adopt. We had always been open to it, but never fully felt called to it.

In addition to never having a strong passion for adoption, several friends of ours have had adoptions fail in very painful and discouraging ways. Birth parents changing their minds at the last minute. Birth parents changing their minds after a baby had already been in an adopted family’s home for several weeks. International adoptions have gone incredibly awry. Adoption agencies have gone bankrupt, taking tens of thousands of hard-earned dollars with them. All these stories essentially gave us the attitude of, “the only way we are going to adopt is if someone drops a baby off on our doorstep.”

So about that…a few years ago, the opportunity to adopt was presented to us. It was as close to a baby being dropped off on our doorstep as we could get. We weren’t seeking the adoption. The birth parents sought us. We immediately accepted their offer to adopt their baby and began the legal adoption process. God seemed to confirm that this was His will multiple times by things we were concerned about being completely taken care of. My wife and I prayed about it and received nothing but confirmation. We had told our family, extended family, church family, and friends — and everyone was excited for us and praying for us. We had a name picked out. We were only 7 weeks away from finally becoming parents…

…and then the birth parents changed their minds. Now, we were not angry at the birth parents. We never completely understood why they were giving the baby up for adoption in the first place. Their reasoning for changing their minds was that they decided to commit to each other as a couple and to raising the baby together. Those things were not true when they first decided to give the baby up for adoption. So, their change of mind was completely understandable to us, and, we probably even agreed with their decision.

But, why?!? Why, God?!? Why did you present that opportunity to us? Why did you bring this into our lives and then allow it to end in the very way that was causing us to not seriously consider adoption in the first place?

To be completely honest, my first reaction was anger towards God. It felt like an especially cruel joke had just been played on us. It didn’t make any sense. I was angry at how hurt I was, but even more angry at seeing how hurt my wife was. The words I spoke to so many people about how wonderful God was for giving us the perfect “baby on the doorstep” story kept echoing in my mind like an evil laugh.

To make matters worse, a year or so later, the birth parents ended up getting a divorce due to the father being abusive. Then, to make matters even worse, we have been through three other failed adoptions. In the second attempt, the father refused to sign the adoption papers. In the third attempt, the young woman decided to give the baby to someone else. The fourth one turned out to be a scam. In each process we became increasingly guarded. Each failure hurt less than the previous one. I recall when the fourth possibility was presented to us feeling a twinge of anger in response. Four failed adoption experiences over the course of a few years was an utterly miserable experience.

Now, here I am a few years after the last adoption opportunity was presented to us. The anger has passed. The sadness has mostly passed. I trust that God had a good reason for bringing us through those experiences. I still have no idea what that reasons were, but I know God had a purpose. I trust Him, unequivocally. I still would rather the events had never happened, but they happened, so I need to continue to learn and grow from them.

So, what’s the point of this blog post? What’s my advice for Christians struggling after a failed adoption (or adoptions)? I still don’t know. Ask me again in a few more years. The best thing I can think of is:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

S. Michael Houdmann

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How can I recover from a failed adoption?