Loss in Adoption.

When we entered the world of international adoption and decided that we would adopt from the Congo, I learned of many uncertainties that my heart wasn’t prepared for (and how can you really ever prepare your heart for the loss that can come?).

As I scoured blogs of other Congo adoptive families, it was not unusual to hear of a referral being lost. Birth family members came forward. Children went missing. Children died. There is very real risk involved in the world of adoption.

My husband only recently told me that a volunteer who began visiting our son’s orphanage shared with him (when she had him and Baby Boy over for dinner during Joel’s stay in DRC) that she did not think Baby Boy was going to survive. (I strongly believe that it was her intervention — he was only being fed twice a day as a newborn — that saved his life.) I recently spoke to another adoptive mom who saw and held him in November and did not think he was going to survive. He had some very frightening bouts with malaria and made many trips to the hospital during his time at the orphanage. Losing him was a real possibility for us, and the thought of it tore out my heart. While I fought for him in every way that I knew how from so great a distance, the reality was that he was living in a third world country far away from me, and there were so many things that were simply out of my control.

I’ve known a few families personally who have lost their referrals when the child is reunited with a birth parent or living relative. While these adoptive families rejoice when these children are reunited with birth families, their hearts also grieve their loss of the child that they had imagined being a part of their family. They have every right to grieve the child of their hearts.

I’m not writing this post because I have answers. I’m not writing this post because I am some time of expert in surviving loss in adoption — we were fortunate in that our adoption went very smoothly and quickly. I am writing because it is something that I think about and wrestle with — especially lately as corruption in adoption seems to be a hot button topic bringing about heated opinions and discussions on many a blog and forum.

One of my many prayesr for Baby Boy during the process was always that he would have a family, even if it didn’t end up being my family and even if a birth relative stepped forward. I knew that it would pierce my heart and that not a day would go by where I didn’t wonder how he was doing, but I also knew that in a perfect world, Baby Boy would be a part of his first family and the whole reason adoption exists is because sin is a part of our broken world.

Does this mean I guarded my heart? Does this mean I didn’t celebrate every milestone, fight for every document, pray fervently for him, talk about him constantly and love him freely? Nope. I was totally, recklessly, 100% in love with him and he completely consumed my thoughts during the six month wait to bring him home. I decorated his room, I made a baby book for him, and I purchased gifts and keepsakes for him. I went on with life as though he was coming home, though there was a part deep in my heart that knew it may not happen. But he had already lost so much and he needed  my love and he needed me to fight for him. (Let’s be real: your agency should advocate for you, but they will not fight for your child the way that you will.)

Some might argue that this was foolish — that, had the unthinkable happened and we had lost him, I had set myself up for a deeper grief. But it wasn’t about me and what I would go through. It was about him. Even if he had never come into our home and become part of our family, he deserved my love, my prayers, my grief, my heart. As someone in my adoption group wisely put it, the adoption process is much bigger than a child being part of our family. There are many factors involved, many people who are enduring loss — and the adoptive family may end up being one of them.

While I’m forever grateful that Baby Boy came home to us and feel undeservedly blessed for our smooth process, my heart goes out to those of you who have experienced loss in your adoption in some way, shape or form. It is a loss that I truly can’t imagine. May God give you strength in your journey as you play a piece of his redemptive story in whatever way He chooses to use you, whether it is to welcome a child into your home, to love, pray, and provide financial support for a child during a temporary orphanage stay before he is united with his family, or to do the same for a child before he meets his Savior. God is using YOU, even if you don’t understand how or why during this lifetime.

Though you are taking a risk, consider it an honor to be part of His greater plan.



  1. Leci Parker says:

    WOW! I have so much I want to say, yet at the same time…I’m speechless. What a testimony for Christ! God is planting seeds of adoption and/or foster care for my family. These seeds are overwhelming welcomed. Thank you for sharing!

    • That is wonderful to hear, Leci! I always hope that people will hear our story and open their hearts to considering adoption/foster care. Thanks so much for your encouraging words!

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