Part Three in six-part series about domestic adoption saga

This personal essay by Sheri Rich is one in the six-part series about her family's amazing domestic adoption saga. A listing of the other installments appears at the end of each article.

Emily When J left the hospital, she placed Justin in my daughter's arms, saying, "This is your little brother." Hannah took these words to heart.

We were able to bring Justin home four days later. I stayed up all night standing guard with him, fearing that something might happen if I closed my eyes. The next morning, I took Hannah to school and returned home to my first day of being a new mommy. The phone rang; it was my husband. In a concerned and caring way he said, "I am on my way home to you. She wants him back."

The phone dropped from my hands as I wailed, "Nooo!" At that moment my parents pulled into the driveway. Inside they found me backed into a corner crying, "She wants him back." I'll never forget the look on their faces. They saw a side of me that tore them apart. My mother kept repeating, "Give me the baby. You are hurting him." I wasn't hurting him; I was holding onto him with all my love, not wanting to give him back. I thought he was mine. My father finally screamed at me, and that's when the reality of the situation completely hit me. My father said, "It is her baby, and you are going to have to give him back." Helplessly I responded, "But I can't; he is mine."

Steve arrived, and we each spent time alone with Justin. J was on her way to our house to pick up her son. I remember sitting with Justin, holding his little hands, knowing I would never hold them again, a part of me giving up. J arrived and took Justin without saying one word to me; she just glared angrily. Her husband walked over in tears, hugged me and said how sorry he was that this had happened.

The pain I felt that day was so unlike anything I had felt before; a part of me died. Dealing with my daughter's subsequent pain was even more devastating.

When the moment came to pick up Hannah from school, I was close to a breakdown. I feared how she would handle this. She was so happy to have Justin. Just eight years old, she truly believed Justin was her baby brother.

Steve told her the bad news on their way home from school. I could see the disbelief on her sweet little face. I thought, "Oh my dear God, what have I done to her? How could I ever forgive myself?" As the night wore on, I saw my little girl express her pain in the most heart-wrenching ways. My dear Hannah, she never even got to say good-bye; he was just gone. She wouldn't go to school or church. Her grades dropped from As to Ds. This had truly broken her heart. It killed me to see her suffer. I couldn't make it better. Moms are supposed to make things all better, but I couldn't make anything better this time.

My husband reacted with determination: He would take over and find us a baby, and that would heal us all. He worked with our facilitator. I stood back, knowing he wouldn't survive. He was a beginner, and I was the trained one with so many battle wounds I'd stopped counting. Of course, as I suspected, he didn't last long.

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