The Day I Let Her Go

A NOTE TO THE READER: This is one post in a series of posts that will share the story of how I came to know and grew to love my daughters who were adopted at fourteen years old, mere days before they aged out of the adoption system. It does not reflect my feelings now. If you are joining me in the midst of the series, you can access the whole story by clicking on The Silent Months on the top menu bar of my blog. I choose to share my story to address a topic that is taboo in the adoption community. I share it to normalize the feelings that so many feel and yet are too ashamed to share. I share it to provide support to those who feel alone because there’s a big white elephant in the room, and no one can talk about it. I share it in support of adoption, in support of every single precious child waiting for a family, every one of which deserves to be loved and is lovable, every single one. Why can’t we talk about it? The feelings are real. The process of attachment can be easy and it can be painful, and the more we support parents who experience the painful side of adoption, the more we help the children. There are far too many disruptions, especially of older children, and if we as a community can come to see the feelings and the process as normal, perhaps we can provide support to those families and in doing so, help the children. Adoption is rooted in pain and loss, and often the process is painful. AND it’s okay. Before you offer your criticism, please read, Eliza Today, A Preface, and God’s Heart and Workers for His Harvest Field .

I woke up Sunday morning feeling a dread in the pit of my stomach that rose up into my throat and nearly completely closed off my airway. This was the day I was to go and tell Eliza I couldn’t be her mother.

Deep inside I had lost sight of God’s best for our lives. I had forgotten God’s promise to finish what He starts and the deep calling we had to be Eliza’s parents. Yet I was looking at the circumstances and not at God. I couldn’t see any way to be better than I was. And right then, I didn’t feel I could be very good for anyone.

I kept hearing reports about how well Eliza was doing with the family who had been taking care of the girls, and as much as I was thankful, I also saw it as confirmation that I couldn’t parent her as well as someone else could.

I had completely lost my confidence in my ability to be Eliza’s mother.

People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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This is my journal entry from that morning.

8/18/13, 6:01am
Today at 11am. I am supposed to tell Eliza that I cannot be her mother.
Last night late when I prayed with Steven, I encouraged him to talk about Eliza and his feelings.
He sobbed. He misses her. He wants her to come home.
And now Mark has changed his mind again. He thinks we need to try to do it.
Sometimes I feel that way too.
I wish we had more time before we had to make this decision.
I hear what everyone says, yet I still wonder if I’m right to even consider disrupting as an option. How can pushing a child away ever be the right decision?
I keep thinking of so many Bible verses.
“I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”
“Whatever you ask in my name, believe that you have recieved it, and it will be yours.”
And I have asked God to help me love her. Yet, I can’t.
Why? Is it the depravity of my heart? Have I not believed enough? Have I failed to look at Him and focus on His love.
Why can’t I love her?
Why was I so compelled to go to China for this child, only to have it end like this?
Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. We are called to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him. And yet the thought of laying down my life for Eliza nearly paralyzes me.
And that is what it would take for me to bring her home.
I cannot be her mother.
She drives me absolutely crazy. When I think of her standing outside my bedroom door, sitting at our table, hanging on me, reaching for my hand every thirty seconds, endlessly needing me so beyond what I can give, I feel as though my mind will explode.
I have rocked her every single day, yet the thought makes me bristle. I do not enjoy holding her. I long for the time to pass.
And how can I be so heartless?
The Bible teaches that all children are blessings in a family. And I have so lived my life trusting God’s view of children. I haven’t turned away one of His blessings.
Until now.
The Bible says, “Care for the orphans.”
And I can’t care for Eliza.
I have empathy for her, deep affection, compassion, but love?
I’m not so sure, but certainly not the warm fuzzy feeling of love.
And yet so many mothers and father’s struggle to love their biological children, and they don’t put them out of their families.
How can this option possibly be the right one? How can taking her away from the only family she has ever known be the right one?
How can I even consider it?
I don’t know what to do.
But it seems since I am so torn and don’t have peace over this, that I should not do it.
It feels like I am being asked to make a choice between two really awful options, and I feel like I can’t do it. I just can’t break her heart today.
And as much as it hurts, and even if it costs me my life, I think I have to break mine before I choose to break hers.

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I called my best friend. She was afraid for me. She could see how I’d deteriorated and grown so much weaker. Her words were kind and gentle. She encouraged me to rest in knowing God would care for Eliza when I couldn’t, and that I needed to trust Him. Perhaps I had done what I was supposed to do. Perhaps now it was time to let someone else love her.

I don’t know how I got in the car that day, or how I rode all the way to meet the girls, or what part of me took over and did what I felt I couldn’t, but somehow I did. Somehow the drive ended far too soon, and we arrived at the agreed upon meeting place. Both the girls came out to see us as we drove in. Evangeline hugged me and I went over to Eliza and hugged her too. She knew she wasn’t coming home with us because I wasn’t well enough and Evangeline had appointments.

Of course she suspected something. None of it made sense. Eliza was always a help to me in our home. It was my feelings and her voracious need for me, along with all the other needs that kept me from feeling like I could handle bringing her home. But how does one explain that to the daughter who has never had a mother?

Dear Reader, I did the unthinkable.

Below is the journal entry I wrote the morning after we left her with the respite family.

It feels so quiet here this morning.
It’s dark.
The sun’s rising later now, and somehow the darkness seems so very fitting.
Cappuccino’s lying across my arms as I type this with a knowing look of sadness in her eyes.
I’m sitting downstairs in the back room instead of hiding out in my bedroom, which all by itself, is telling of the enormity of the stress that’s been lifted off of me.
And yet it feels like there’s been a death, and I’m the one who caused it.
The blood is on my hands.
Everywhere I look I see her.
I see her playing with Cappuccino, helping me clip her nails, standing beside me in the kitchen, folding the clothes with me. I see her eyes and her sweet smile looking up at me and hear her saying the words, “I love you Mommy.”
I see her running in the yard with the children, chasing the geese into the road with the recklessness and innocence of a much younger child.
I think of her tiny body that I rubbed cream on every single day.
I feel the weight of her on my lap as I so faithfully rocked her.
I see the insecurity and frailty reflected in her eyes and feel her sadness.
Her bed sits there empty across the room from Victoria’s, void of the child who loved it, the child it cradled every night as she drifted off to sleep. It stands there like a monument to this child I couldn’t love, this child who needed me to be something I could not be no matter how badly I wanted to.
I see the lovely black and white decor of the room contrasted by the turquoise walls that we painted so specifically for her while she waited for us in China, and longed for the mother she thought I would be.
And I hate what I have done to her. I hate that no matter how hard I tried to love her, I couldn’t. I hate the way I felt when I saw her in the morning, when she called me, when she reached out for me and the best that I could offer was a forced, “I’m here, Eliza.”
I hate the way I hurt her.
I see the fear in her eyes as she sat yesterday across from me, waiting to hear the words the only mommy and daddy she ever knew had to tell her.
But she spoke first. “Mommy, I cry.”
And, “I miss Sophia.”
I wanted so desperately to comfort her, to tell her she would see Sophia soon, that it would all be okay again, and that I could love her like I should have, like she needed me to, like I wanted to.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I did the unthinkable.
I told her that I had to tell her something, that I couldn’t be her mother, that I tried so very hard and thought I could but that I can’t, and that I’m so very very sorry.
She looked startled and shocked as she tried to process the horrible words I spoke.
Then. I took the pearls I had bought for her in China out of my pocketbook and placed them in her hands. I wrapped her fingers around them and said, “Honey, I want you to have these. I bought them for you when we were in China.”
I told her I loved her.
And I walked out.
She reached for me and ran for the door, but her respite mother grabbed her. Eliza fell to the floor, and then I was gone.
She cried, a horrible, agonizing, moaning, primal cry.
We went outside and put her things in the car for her to take back to her new home, and I could still hear crying inside.
Then we left. We drove away from her. We left her there, crying, longing for us, in another mother’s arms.
And I can still hear her crying.
And it hurts so terribly.
I wish I could make it better.
I wish I could undo it all.
And the power to undo it all lies within my hands.
But the power to love her the way she needs to be loved eludes me, and I don’t understand that. I know the God of love. I know the One who loves perfectly, the giver of all love, and I’ve asked Him over and over again to fill my heart with His love for her.
And yet it seems He has sent another woman to love her now in my stead.
I’m so very thankful and broken all at the same time, and I pray that He will hold her and love her and protect her precious heart now even as I can’t and never could.

“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.

I was hurting, and I did hurt Eliza, but praise God the story did not end there. Somehow amidst the hurting and the pain and the vulnerability, amidst all the brokenness, a spark of pure love began to grow in my heart for my precious daughter that, in time, blossomed into something too beautiful for words. I found what I’d been looking for all along, but had somehow missed, in a single rose, my rose, a little water, and so many tears.

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Blessings!

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14 comments

  1. Rhonda Schuler says:

    Oh Diane….The pure pain you have shared. I feel as if a friend is telling me her darkest secrets. I respect you more and more with every reading. I love how you are helping explain it with the storybook. What hidden lessons….I am sending you a huge hug. I needed to let some emotions go today and you have helped me. Much love to you and your beautiful daughter Eliza.

  2. jodi says:

    If this helps at all…As an adoption survivor myself, I can identify with her pain and trauma, so that’s the place I’m speaking from. You don’t need to be her mother. You just need to be. To love her like Jesus and let Him fill in the spaces where you can’t. Neither you nor anyone else can replace her original mother, or any adopted child’s original mother, so don’t try and carry that burden…just release it and love her.

  3. Penny says:

    What Rhonda said….to read of your pain and hers is just wrenching. Living it….I can’t imagine (or don’t want to). Thinking of you all as you share this.

  4. Mindy says:

    My heart breaks reading all that you’ve written. Not for you, though, Diane. My heart breaks for Eliza, for this beautiful girl whose private hell has been plastered on the Internet for anyone to see. Who is not yet an adult and thus cannot give you informed permission to share incredibly painful details about her life. “Helping others” cannot possibly be so important that it is worth what you have done to this child you profess to love now. If you had wanted to share your story – which might be valuable to others struggling to bond with an older child – you could have done so in such a way that Eliza’s privacy was protected. You could have written your story without identifying information, without close-up photos of her face. YOU may not care that the pain you put this child through is out there, YOU may feel like you are strong enough to take whatever backlash YOU receive for it, if it helps others. And if you hadn’t so horribly violated your sweet girl’s privacy – something she can now NEVER get back, no matter how long she lives – I might agree with you. As it is, as another adoptive mother whose children are now grown, I shudder at what you’ve done. And my heart breaks again, for all your daughter has lost – again. Happy ending or not, so much of this was NOT your story to tell.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Diane, you are so brave to share your journey. How many adoptive parents are struggling with similar issues? I am praying that your willingness to speak about what is true even when it is not pretty, still raw, still shows us all as broken– is what it may take to help another mom to just hang on and wait for love to grow.

  6. Amy says:

    Mindy, I’m not looking for a debate, but I believe the Father wants us as believers to share our struggles, hurt, and vulnerability with one another so that we can “carry the cross” (burdens) with each other and point to the Father when one can not see past their struggles! Love is not always easy. I struggle with one of my own biological kids to be kind and loving even though our personalities butt heads often and sometimes I really “feel” like I don’t like her….even though I love her! I have to constantly work at it, and get encouragement from others. There is only shame in secrecy. I for one want to use my struggles and mistakes as EXAMPLES to my children to help them learn to make wise choices. There is beauty in transparency. Thank you Diane for writing this.

    • Mindy says:

      Amy, Diane is welcome to share HER struggles. HERS. But she has laid out Eliza’s pain and suffering for the world to see. That. Is. Not. Right. I’m sorry, but I don’t give a whit what your religion wants – because It’s not about that. It’s about a vulnerable child who lost one family, lost her culture, gained a family and nearly lost this one, and NONE of her story belongs to her. None of it.

      If Eliza wants to write or tell her own story when she is an adult, that’s fine. If, when Eliza is grown, Diane were to ask her permission to share her story openly, that’s fine. But the intimate, painful details of this child’s life should not be Internet fodder.

      Diane – or any adoptive parent – is free to share HER story. But ONLY hers. She should have told it in a separate blog, under a pseudonym, with only non-identifying photos and changed names. It’s too late now. She is not the first adoptive parent to do this; and it is a travesty every time it happens. Our children are the only ones who have no say in their own stories. The very least we can do is preserve their stories as THEIR OWN, so that when they grow up, they have some say in how it is told, IF it is told.

      This isn’t news to DIane, btw. She’s been told by many fellow adoptive parents that this is wildly inappropriate, but it doesn’t phase her. And I find that sad. She writes it, she promotes it. She could have removed all of this from her blog, and at least staunched the bleeding, so to speak – and started writing her story privately, until it was finished, at which point she could promote it for publication (because that is no doubt her goal), separate from this blog. I find it sad that she has placed her own needs above Eliza’s, and I hope other adoptive parents considering such a “tell-all” do not follow in her footsteps.

  7. Rosa J. says:

    Diane, first let me tell you, you are a fine and engaging writer (though my suggestion, never, ever quote a Twilight character – it really diminishes the power of your own words and it, is, you know a Twilight quote).
    And also, It is brave to share your darkest hours and probably helpful to others. However, I’m confused,, why didn’t your husband take you to see a therapist, a parenting specialist, or some sort of mental health professional — you were severely and dangerously depressed, were having a mental breakdown, and sick — 40 pounds is not joke – and obviously not capable of making good decisions. Depression and anxiety are an real illnesses and it seems you were not getting help with that.

    Okay, now that said, I’m going to repeat something I said the last time I read the blog a few months ago. (And I came back hoping that you had heard what actual adoptees were saying and that you were no longer publishing identifible information about your daughter) PLEASE remove all identifying features from this blog. Switch over to an anonymous format.
    Even if the story seems like it ends well for you, this blog and the fact that everyone who ever meets Eliza will now know very personal and difficult things, and no matter what happens, will see her a bit as you described in your darkest moments, and also know about her deepest pain. It is wrong. Very, very wrong. She is not old enough to give informed consent. And the private medical details of your other daughter have been put on the internet. Again, that is her story to tell. She owns it. Not you, or at least not in a way that allows you to identify her publically.

    Also, by your foreshadowing, I assume that things are a million times better, and I am glad for that, but your blog is unclear on something. It sounds like you barely knew the family you left your daughters with. It sounds like they were friends of friends? I don’t get it — I realize that you were having a mental breakdown and so had diminished capacity, but your husband the father of these girls, where was he in all of this? How could he, being in reasonable mental health, agree to rehome his daughter without serious consulting with child psychologists, adoption experts, the adoption agency, etc. Did he have no idea how this should be approached? Did he have no awareness of how this might should be handled? Did he actually think that blurting out to your daughter that you no longer would be her mother was in any way to her benefit? (again, I do understand that you were having a dark breakdown, but he was not. ) Would he have left his bio children with virtual strangers and tell them he was no longer going to be able to take care of them?
    And, you and your family were approved for adoption, not them, so I don’t understand how leaving your legal daughter, how giving up parenting rights to unapproved people, was even vaguely legal. Isn’t it against adoption law? Again, I get that you were in a very dark place and not thinking with a rational mind, but again, what about Eliza’s father?

    • Mark says:

      I was going to refrain from commenting because, although I am a part of it, this is not my story. Quite honestly, I don’t want to share my story – my wife offers much more grace to people than I ever could. I’m afraid I would get bogged down returning any of the arrows slung my way by the few, but VERY vocal, negative minority. That would only succeed in bad feelings and never getting around to finishing the story – when you roll around in the mud with pigs, and all. However, I felt compelled now, after a few comments were left questioning me, my motives, my feelings and actions (or lack thereof), to break my silence. For some reason, there is one particular person out there that believes she is owed a detailed explanation of what I did or did not do as our family went through this difficult time. This particular person, again, for reasons unknown, stated in her comments that she knew what my emotional, mental or physical state of mind was during this time, and wanted to know why, or why not, I took certain steps to ensure a happy ending of butterflies and puppies. (Yes, sarcasm drips from that last statement.) Well, Rosa, I have some troubling news for you: not only do you have absolutely no clue what I was thinking, doing or feeling during those months, you actually do not deserve an explanation as to what those feelings or actions were. This is not my story, AND this story is not yet completed. You have no idea how many adoptive parents we spoke with, how many adoption therapists we spoke with, nor how many times we spoke with our agency. For you to come here and state what my mental condition was and what I did or didn’t do is the epitome of arrogance (not to mention obnoxious). You seem to have all the answers; might I suggest you start your own blog and share your thoughts on these topics. This is Diane’s blog, it is her forum for this topic. It is not yours, and you do not have the right to post whatever you want, as if you were privy to all that went on. Diane is in the midst of telling her story in order to help the huge number of adoptive parents that have gone through these difficult times, but were too intimidated by people like Mindy to dare speak the truth. You neither have the power to use this forum as your own, nor do you deserve that right. I don’t care what you think of me – I don’t know you at all. But I do care that you have attempted to question my motives or my actions or my thoughts and feelings during this time when you have no clue as to what they were or are now; you cannot hijack my wife’s story in order to further your own agenda. Your comment was unapproved while Diane thought of a way to “lovingly” respond. I have no such desire, as you had no desire to respectfully question or suggest helpful steps, but instead decided to take the “where was your husband in all of this?” approach. Guess what? I was here the whole time, doing what I needed to do for my family. Not for you, or anyone else that didn’t matter. So, if that gets your dander up, go out back, drink some iced tea, and contemplate how to make your life better while others live their lives. Oh, and by the way, not allowing comments on someone’s personal blog implies that you have some God-given right to post on someone’s else’s work. But you don’t.

  8. Claudia says:

    Dear Diane,
    I have been reading your stories during my holiday in France, haven’t been able to comment so far. My goodness, what a struggle this must have been for you!I could almost feel your pain, and Eliza’s… It is all so double. Thank you for sharing your story, big hug to your beautiful family…
    Warm regards, Claudia xx

  9. Jen kitzmiller says:

    My husband and I have (1) daughter from Thailand and have dreamed of a sister for her. Has she been placed with a new family yet? Could we adopt her? If you have any information you could forward to us, we’d be very grateful. Thanks so much and may God help your heart to find peace during this difficult time.

  10. Mary says:

    Diane, your sharing of your dark time has helped me to hope that God can change my heart too. I also struggle to love an adopted daughter who is needy 24/7. And I get completely buried with guilt because of it. No matter what I do I cannot make myself love her like a mother should even though I go through the motions of a mother. Please don’t be discouraged by those who do not understand and who themselves lack the compassion that can only be gained from an experience like yours. God is using your willingness to share the truth in a mighty way. Thank you.

    • Kara says:

      I stumbled on this blog by chance…and I`m so glad that I did. We are in the process of our first adoption, a little girl with Down Syndrome from China, and I NEEDED to read this, to see the other side of adoption. This isn`t talked about much, if at all. It`s always supposed to be roses and sunshine and good endings…but it`s real life, and real life is messy and hard, and it doesn`t always turn out how it`s supposed to…in the beginning anyways. I can see a good ending coming out of this, and I`m so glad! My biggest fear with our adoption is that I won`t be able to bond the way I want to with our little girl and I won`t be able to handle everything that goes with bonding. Just trusting in Jesus to work everything out and that I will make it through with His help! Blessings!

  11. Marjorie says:

    Diane, I’ve followed your story since before you traveled to China. I just wanted to offer ((hugs)) and to thank you and Eliza for sharing. I think there is tremendous value in what you have to say.

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