Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What It Feels Like To NOT Be Chosen

I remember peeing on a stick, the few ill-fated times that I did it when I didn't already know I was pregnant. I remember how the two minutes felt like an eternity, and when the NOT PREGNANT or single line materialized, I felt crushed.

Waiting for a decision update on a profile opportunity was kind of like that, only the stick took a week and a day to give up one line or two (one), to take so long to develop and then deliver highly disappointing results in a matter of seconds.

We received a profile opportunity call last Monday, while I was on February Break (I was wearing pants this time). It sounded great. There wasn't a ton of information, but there was enough for us to say Absolutely, Yes, Put us in the mix. 

Then it turned out to be a blind profile, although not the kind where once you hear all the details they go, SURPRISE! You've been CHOSEN! It was more like, "She's seen your book already, she's a fan, she's choosing between you and a couple other couples at this point." She had requested a bunch of books upon calling the agency, and ours was one of the few she really, really liked.

"You can be cautiously optimistic," our social worker told us.

This was super exciting, because even though a choice is a choice is a choice, it SEEMED like a choice between just a few books was more promising. And she really liked our book, which seemed even more promising.

She was due March 15th, which is rather soon. And the date of my special education annual review meetings to go over student's progress this year and their plans for next year, which caused me some stress but also a little subversive joy that I could miss all that hubbub for something much more exciting.

Unfortunately for me, even though I absolutely 100% knew that there was a chance this could NOT be our situation, I started dreaming. I started spinning out story after story about what might be going through the expectant mother's mind, about the many possibilities for a good call, about what it would feel like to become a mother in a month or less. (I also spun out all the many conjectures I had for how the call could go wrong, but that wasn't as fun.)

To put it plainly, I got super excited and hopeful. I passed "cautiously optimistic" and kept the possibility that this might not be us, that we might not be chosen in my back pocket, tucked in a drawer out of sight and only pulled it out every once in a while to temper my exuberance in feeling that maybe, just maybe, this might be our chance.

I spent quality time in the nursery. I organized the dresser that still held only instruction manuals and a box of wipes (a box I fear will be dried out by the time anything comes to pass for real, even though it's hermetically sealed), refolded all the onesies and put them in by months -- 0-3, 6, and 9-12. I put all the swaddlers and sleepsacks in their own drawer. I put most of the receiving blankets in a bottom drawer (so many receiving blankets for someone we have yet to receive...). I organized all our books and cleared out bathtime things and put them in a dedicated spot in the bathroom.

It felt good. It felt nest-y. In the back of my mind, I thought, "Maybe not, maybe not, maybe not..." but in the front I was giddily chortling, "But maybe so, maybe so, maybe so!"

We ordered our pack 'n play using baby shower gift cards. We figured out our finances for my leave, if that was going to come to pass.

I can't say that we hoped too much or that we planned too much, because had this been our match, we'd be ahead of the game with such a short time before the due date. It felt good to do things that we will need to do ANYWAY, REGARDLESS of outcome.

But I feel like I got carried away with visualizing this tiny mystery baby materializing in our home, with imagining the call to my principal that I was going to need a leave replacement sooner than later, imagining calls to family and friends and actually buying that stroller.

Yesterday marked a week of waiting, and I was nervous and anxious beyond the last profile opportunity (probably because that one had a due date of late May, and so I felt like a longer wait was probably going to be in the cards...while this one seemed a bit more urgent, what with the blind profiling and all). I steeled up my courage and willed myself to not sound insane, rambly, or super-desperate, and called our agency for an update. Not a decision update, just a check-in, a "any new information not related to the decision?" kind of a thing to get some reassurance at the least and maybe some new pieces to the puzzle at the most.

No updates, but I was told they were hoping to call within the next couple days.

And then today, at noonish, my phone rang and it was my agency's number. I was eating my lunch and there were students and coworkers present when I excused myself to the stairwell, the most private place I could find.

She chose someone else. She liked us quite a bit, but she had a feeling of connection with the other couple. And so we were runners-up, smaller crown but no baby.

At first I was okay, disappointed for sure, but I was feeling like, "Okay. This sucks, but like the first one, I can take it."

I had to immediately tell the coworkers I was eating with that it was a no, and their fallen faces reflected the tiny piece of me I was tamping deep down, and the shine in their eyes was like adding one of those tiny sponge animal capsules to water and my disappointment and even grief at a lost possibility grew and grew inside my chest until I threatened to burst. I tried so hard to compartmentalize, but the tears started welling and I put a bite of pasta with butternut squash sauce in my mouth but mini-sobbed a bit and aspirated and then blamed it on forgetting to swallow instead of tamping down sadness. I made a joke about Butternut Squash Pneumonia, had tears running down my face from choking (mostly) and excused myself to go call Bryce.

And this is where I fell apart and could not compartmentalize anymore. He was so disappointed. He was almost angry, sort of an "ARGH, I totally thought we had this one! I let myself get so hopeful! Argh!" We both did. So much hope, and then the all-too-familiar feeling of the dashing.

Like I said before, I suck at keeping my own secrets. I told a whole bunch of people at school yesterday, but with a heavy caveat that THIS MIGHT NOT COME TO PASS, WE ARE JUST BEING CONSIDERED, because the more days that passed without a decision the less confident I became, but I still allowed myself hope. This meant I had to tell people as I came into contact with them that we weren't chosen. Again. And so my eyes were a bit swollen by my next teaching period and I hoped that blue-grey eyeliner and mascara weren't shadowing my eyes in a sad sort of way, and that I wouldn't overcompensate too much and look like an insane person who is overly chipper in hopes no one would notice the overwhelming sad sponge animal taking up all available space in the chest cavity. I think I did okay, although at one point I did entertain the thought of finding my principal and asking to leave, to go home and crawl into bed and hide away.

How did it feel to be passed over, even though we were SO CLOSE? To not be chosen for the second time in a row, although this time after feeling so positively about our chances? Not so great. I have this intense fear that we will always come in close, but no cigar...that we won't ever be the couple an expectant mother feels "connected to." Like househunting, when you have THE house that just speaks to you and you can't put a finger on what it is that makes it so special, versus a house that has all your requirements but is just missing that...Thing. God I hope we're not missing that Thing, whatever it is. I hope it's just that we haven't been introduced to the woman who is looking for just our kind of Thing.

It is extraordinarily encouraging that we have received two profile opportunities in five weeks. That after months and months of radio silence, it seems the cork has popped, the seal has been broken. Hopefully we get another call soon, and maybe the third time will be the charm.

There are so many positives to this situation:
- We are being profiled, the calls ARE coming in
- People actually like our book and it is getting action and good feedback (although no slam dunk yet)
- We are getting experience with profile calls and the godawful wait
- One of these days we will get THE call, and getting calls in the first place puts us closer to that day

Our social worker said she was looking forward to calling us again soon (although she might say that to every dejected waiting adoptive family), and said there was a lot to be encouraged about despite not being chosen.

Unfortunately, for now, I kind of don't want to focus on the silver linings. I want to stuff my face with Indian food for dinner and the orange-vanilla salt water taffy my mom brought us from Florida and wallow wallow wallow in my sorrow. Even though you can't lose something that wasn't yours to begin with, it feels like such a loss -- of a dream, of a situation I could fully envision, of a strength of hope I haven't felt in years.

We'll bounce back. I won't learn my lesson and cage up my feelings next time, I'll probably be just as exuberant if it looks just as promising. The sweetness of the hope and the preparation planning activities was worth the pain we feel now of not coming in first, not being the chosen ones. Someday we'll have the Thing, we'll have the connection, and we'll have whatever the mother of our baby envisions. We'll be the dream house for someone else, sometime in the future.

Just not today.

21 comments:

  1. I was hanging on your every word, feeling all the feels with you. Big big hugs. You've experienced a loss and deserve to stuff your face with vindaloo or saag paneer and naan. xoxo

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    1. Oh, thank you. I stuffed it with spicy chicken makhani and the deep fried yumminess that is Onion Bhaji. It was lovely. And filled up some of the space previously straining with sadness. Today is a better day. Thanks for the love!

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  2. Oh Jess. :( I'm so sorry lady. I'm echoing what Lori said and agree that you need time to grieve this loss. Because it is a loss and you will need time to heal. So do what you need to do. Scream, cry, hold on another close, watch bad TV, etc. We'll focus on the silver linings later. Thinking of you and wrapping you in love.

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    1. Thank you! I am far less sad today than yesterday, just a halo of disappointment lingering. I was too damn busy at school to have much time to think about it. I appreciate the love, I appreciate the encouragement to nurture and howl. Thanks for the commiseration, friend!

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  3. So sorry. It's hard to be cautiously optimistic: really, you either are or you aren't. I'm glad you did have reason for optimism, and I hope the big yes comes soon, whether that means the next profile call or a few more down the road. In the meantime it sucks, be good to yourself and heal.

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    1. So true. Maybe they should just get rid of the term "cautiously optimistic." Thank you so much for the thoughts and hopes!

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  4. Also there's another level of crappy as a teacher when you have to put a brave face on and keep being emotionally available. Or worry about making all kinds of preparations so you can leave. Not that other jobs are easy but ours can be tough. You sound like you handled it well; I know when I was under a lot of stress the past months I had moments where my mind just shut down, with perhaps predictable consequences.

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    1. Oh my gosh yes. You have to be "on" all the time, and there for your students (especially when your students are fragile or emotionally fraught themselves). Even when your world crashes down around you... I feel for your working through grief (literally) and trying to teach and grieve at the same time. It just takes so much out of you.

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  5. I agree with everyone above. Oh Jess I am so sorry. I know this really bites the big one. You deserve all the time you need to wallow and grieve and eat all the naan bread in the world. You are doing a really hard thing putting yourself out there to basically be judged by strangers. Don't discredit or minimize that because that is SO hard to do. So you need time to regroup and steel yourself up for the next time.
    Ilove how you guys did sweet things in preparation while waiting for a decision. I don't know how you would ever NOT be hopeful in that situation and just do nothing.
    I am very sorry this wasn't the situation for you. Sending lots of love and prayers your way.

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    1. Thank you for the love and the encouragement to wallow... I have to pass on the bread though (I have celiac, that would add a whole new level of pain into the mix, ha ha). :) Thank you for the love and prayers, and yeah, it was really nice to plan for a baby we thought was coming sooner than later, but who is definitely coming at some point. Even when it's hard, hope is the way to go.

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  6. Oh, I'm sorry. I suppose there is some consolation in being runner-up, but it also feels like it might be even worse to be thisclose. Of course you embraced the possibility with an open and full heart--just like you've embraced every step of this adoption journey. Your time will come, someone will find your book and feel that connection with you. And when they do, that child will be the luckiest child in the world. You two are phenomenal.

    PS: I tried to comment yesterday about the cost of formula, but my comments never showed up. I have the hardest time commenting on blogger blogs, I don't know why. My points were it costs about $100-$125 per month, look for good sales at Target (love the $10 gift cards), use store coupons and manufacturers coupons (Enfamill and Similac send them) and ask your pediatrician for samples. Finally anyone who judges you for not breastfeeding--eff 'em.

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    1. I put your formula comments up -- for some reason they didn't come to my email, but I was able to find them in "awaiting moderation." Thank you for your sympathies and encouragement! We feel like we will be so lucky to have this mystery baby out there somewhere. THanks for the compliments, totally blushing over here! :)

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  7. Also...you might have touched on this on here before but I can't find it, but I was curious..how do they decide on which books to give out when doing a blind profile? So when this birth mother called, how to they decide whose books to show her? How does that even work?

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    1. I actually have no idea how they choose the exact books, but they look at the details given and they look at your child-interest grids and have a bunch of books that match up, and then I don't know from there. I don't know if every matching book goes, or if they pick a handful and how they choose those. I was told there is no "waiting list," it doesn't matter how long you've been waiting (or how short), if the situation is right for you then your book can be shown at any time. SOmetimes there are parameters from expectant moms, like "I want a couple younger than 35" or "They must live within a radius of Buffalo" or "Must be practicing Christians," and then that narrows the field a bit, too. Supposedly it's like a strange matching of things and there aren't that many families that have exactly the same parameters, so it wouldn't be a group of 100 to sift through. I think. Really I guess I don't exactly know how it works! Now I'm going to have to ask! :)

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  8. I'm so sorry. Definitely a time to do whatever makes you feel better and not think about silver linings at all. That phrase "cautiously optimistic" should be retired or something - I think it's almost impossible to be moderate when you want something so much and you're so close.

    Thinking of you and continuing to hope for you and Bryce.

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    1. Absolutely. I agree, how do you moderate what is either going to be the best thing ever or another bump in the road? Thank you for your thoughts!

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  9. Oh, Jess, I am so sorry. I felt like I was feeling your feelings with you as I was reading this, and completely broke down when you had to tell Bryce. Telling the husbands the bad news always makes you feel sad for two.

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    1. Oh, thank you. It does suck telling the other person just as invested as you that things didn't work out. I love how you put that..."sad for two." Thank you for your sympathy, and your empathy. This will pass, but man it's hard.

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  10. Oh what a bummer. I'm so sorry that you guys weren't selected but I do think that it is a good sign that you have had two potential opportunities lately! Take care of yourself.

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  11. Uggg...I had guessed you were in the middle of a wait based on your last post and was really hoping this was the one! So hard! I'm so sorry.

    I like to think that your chances just keep getting better though...I mean, 2 families whose books were in the mix with yours have now been chosen, so maybe somehow in that complicated matrix of interests and such there are fewer people "like you"?? I don't know. But I'm pulling for you guys!!! Someone is bound to see how great you are... you WILL be the dream home...

    Keep hoping, like you said you will. Because there is joy in the hope, even if it feels like it is always crushed by devasting news. That's were the sadness lives...in the bumps, in the setbacks, in the bad news. And it's unavoidable...it's not hope's fault.

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  12. I'm sorry to hear you guys were not picked for the second call. Feel all the feels you need. Let it run out of your system so you are better able to be back in that hopeful place. Facing difficult feelings is not easy and best to go through them. It is a good reminder from "Going on a Bear Hunt." Love that book!

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