In 2009, in an adoption chat group, I met a fellow waiting Rwanda Mama, Allie Brannon. We began emailing—sharing our hearts, progress with paperwork, fears for the journey ahead. Adoption is a vast sea of unanswered questions and timid hope, a place that offers no guarantee of solid ground on the other side. Amid these turbulent waters, my friendship with Allie became an anchor. As the frustrations and disappointments piled up, as we poured out our aching hearts through email, we discovered that rare gift of connection that goes beyond friendship to sisterhood.
I’m thrilled to welcome Allie as a guest blogger. Not only is she a cherished sister, she is also a fabulous writer, profound thinker, and inspiring lover of Jesus. Her desire to glorify him infuses her life with purpose, making her a powerful influence on the many lives she touches, including mine.
Guest post by Allie Brannon
We Follow; We Wait
Last week, some dear friends of ours suffered a failed adoption. In the domestic adoption world, this is the term for being matched with a child, and then the adoption falling through. It is horribly painful. I know because we went through it ourselves just over a year ago.
We followed a long and twisted road to get to our third son, Mason. The journey started in August of 2011 (we had just brought our daughter Laina home from Rwanda three months earlier), and we believed this time we were headed to Uganda. In fact, I was headed for Uganda, and spent a week there in November of that year. In the course of the confusing and at times heartbreaking next few months, we tried our best to follow Jesus and as best we know, He was pointing us to domestic adoption instead. We switched our homestudy over to domestic in February of 2012. Mason, who was to be our son, would be conceived the next month.
The need is great in America for families who want to adopt children of minority races. We were told by our adoption consultants that this meant a very short wait for us. A few weeks to a few months at most. But God, who alone puts the lonely in families, had chosen us for Mason, and he wasn’t born yet. So in the meantime, we waited month after month. Our profile was shown a heart-breaking seventeen times. Why, we wondered, if the need is great, are we not matched? The waiting, the constant dashing of hopes, the surrendering daily to His plan and His will—it was wearing on us.
One September morning, I got a text. A friend of a friend knew of a baby girl born the week before in Florida. Here was the number of the attorney; would I like to call her? Breathlessly, I did. I talked to the attorney for twenty minutes or so, and she told me the baby girl’s story. The birth mom was looking for very specific things in a family. We met every single one of those desires. The birth mom had chosen a rather unusual name for her daughter and wanted it to be kept. The name was one letter away from the name we were waiting to use on our little girl. It was freaky how many things lined up. In between calls to the attorney and doing paperwork, I breathlessly updated Jeremy on the progress—the mom had chosen us. We needed to be in Florida the very next day.
That night, the baby’s mom and I began texting. She was sweet and timid, and I was nervous, but we had a connection. She asked me questions about how we planned to raise her daughter. And then she sent me a picture of the beautiful baby girl. I still have that picture. She was beautiful. The next morning, we excitedly left for Florida. The whole way down we talked—to each other about middle names, to our families and friends letting them know what was going on, to the attorney, and to the mom. Everything looked so promising. We knew better than to be certain she was ours before papers were signed, but the attorney assured us repeatedly that the mom had chosen us.
The next day, everything began to crumble.
I called the attorney to find out where we were to meet the mom and her family. The attorney casually dropped the information that she would be meeting with another family, too, and choosing between us. What? You told us this was a done deal. You told us we were matched. My heart froze, and didn’t unfreeze until after we met the mom and her family. After we met that beautiful baby that we had already begun to love. After we drove home, replaying in our minds how the meeting went. After, the next day, when the attorney called and said simply, “She chose the other family. They don’t have kids yet.”
Then my heart broke.
Broken and Blessed
We returned the dress we bought for her, and the necklace with her birthstone that we had planned to give to her birth mom. We went home without her, a long, nine hour trip that would have been so joyful if she had been in the back seat and was instead so sad. Sweet friends brought us meals. I skipped out of church early so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I prayed and cried and wrote. I grieved losing this baby, and also losing the relationship with her mama, who was a precious girl. I grieved that this baby was not my daughter.
Our profile was shown to several more women before we got the news that we had been chosen. A baby boy would be born in Utah, two months after our failed adoption. We would meet him the day after his birth, and bring our son Mason home a week later. God placed him in our family, and he is a joy. Cory, my five-year-old, said the other day that Mason is charming, and he’s absolutely right. His grin, his dimples, the way he hides his face in my shoulder…he is our boy.
And sometimes, I still miss that baby girl. While I know logically that if we had adopted her, we never would have had Mason, emotions are not logical. When I think of our friends whose grief is still so fresh, I will not tell them that one day it will all make sense, because sometimes things don’t make sense. Sometimes it’s not our job to make sense of life. It would be easy to say that our September adoption failed because we were to be Mason’s family—but then, why did it happen to begin with? Why not just skip that pain and wait a few more months until Mason was in our arms? We don’t know.
When we remember that we are but tiny stitches in the great tapestry that God has been weaving since the beginning of time, we realize that everything—life, sorrow, failed adoptions—is far more complicated and far more connected than we can fathom. And this will be true until that day when the tapestry is complete and the Weaver turns it over, and we see that what seemed a tangle of threads is now a beautiful picture: of Him. It’s His story, and we get to play a tiny part, and that part contains more joy and sorrow than we can understand and the reasons fail us but the hope remains.
The hope is this: the brokenness, the hurt, the death, the sickness, the violence, the injustice, the poverty…somehow in His unending goodness, unfathomable creativity, impossible wisdom, and ceaseless love, He buys all that back, redeems it, and makes it into exactly the threads He uses to craft His masterpiece. And it is our good. Because He is our good.
Allie Brannon writes about adoption, parenting, theology, suffering, and the intricacies of following Jesus down whatever path He leads. She loves crafting creative nonfiction but has a firm belief in the ability of story to communicate great truths as well. So she writes both. She is a wife and mother of four (two by adoption). When she’s not writing, she can be found homeschooling her kids, doing something church-related, reading, drinking chai, or (occasionally) hiding from her very noisy children. Allie writes at kallisonbrannon.com. You can also connect with her on Instagram at @kallisonbrannon.