Monday, February 7, 2011

Goodbye, Stephen.

While Bill tells our story so eloquently, I wanted to express our experiences in my own words as part of my own healing process.

On January 5, we were matched with a local birthmom. On January 13, we met her. On January 19, her son was born. I held birthmom's hand for the c-section. I was the first to hold him. I was the first to feed him. We named him together: Stephen Chanon Walker Murray. Stephen is my father's name, Bill's middle name, and the middle name of two preceding generations of Murrays. Chanon is the name that birthmom chose. She is Thai and it means "thirst for knowledge" in Thai. Walker is my mom's maiden name. He was born at a healthy 8 lbs. and 20.5 inches.

We spent every day, all day, at the hospital with birthmom and Stephen. While her friends and family came and went, we were there to care for her and to care for baby. To get her water when she was thirsty. To make a McDonald's run when she was hungry for non-hospital food. To comfort her when she was in pain or feeling sad. She was reassuring, wanting us to know that she wasn't changing her mind. She had been working with the agency for about seven months, and was confident in her decision to make an adoption plan.

She chose us because she wanted an open adoption. She wanted to visit Stephen and we wanted that, too. We wanted an involved birthmom. One who would help our child to understand the unique story that brought him to us. One who would help connect our child to his cultural heritage and biological family history. One who would be an extended part of our family -- "the new American family" as I joked in the hospital. We all laughed.

Because of DC paperwork, Stephen had to go with one of our agency's foster families before he could be in our custody. Marilyn and Chris and their niece Colleen took exceptional care of Stephen. He was loved, held, fed, washed and kissed. And we visited him nearly every day. It was more than an hour for us to go to the Virginia town where they live (and much more in traffic), but no distance was too far. When we were there, we fed and diapered him. We held him while he slept. We played with him and cooed with him when he was awake. We fell madly, wildly, head-over-heels in love with him. We may have been separated by genes, but we he was as much our child as if I had given birth to him myself.

I sent photos of him to birthmom and we exchanged texts often. We were setting up her first visit to see him since his birth. She was preparing to go back to work.

My friends threw me the most amazing, joyous baby shower. Friends sent boxes of their own children's clothing. We set up Stephen's nursery: crib, changing table, book cases. We renewed our Costco membership and bought wipes and formula. Bill installed the car seat. We reorganized our kitchen cabinets for all the bottles. We were ready to bring Stephen home.

And then, the call.

Birthmom changed her mind. She wants to parent the baby. An outcome that was so wildly beyond our imaginations, given the "perfect" situation and relationship that we had with her. With assurance from the agency that she was "doing well" and "looking forward to going back to work." Which may have been exactly what she was telling them, but clearly what wasn't going on in her mind.

Having never been able to make it beyond seven weeks of pregnancy myself, I can't imagine the onslaught of post-pregnancy hormones. And as someone who has done everything in her power to try and become a mother for the better part of the last five years, I can't imagine having to make the decision that the best option is for another person to raise your child. So I can only pretend to know birthmom's anguish. Her vulnerability. Her emotional pain, resonated in the physical pain from her c-section.

That pain was powerful. And timely. At her most vulnerable moment, she was influenced by family that it was best to keep him in the family. A changed financial situation gave her options that she hadn't had before.

I have a million questions. What happens to us? How will I ever move beyond this grief? Will he be okay? Will his mother, who shares an apartment with two other women, make sure that he has male role models? Will she end up raising him or will she feel (as she originally felt) that being a parent is too much? How long will it be before her financial support dries up? What will become of him then? Will any other child ever be so beautiful to us? Will we be able to keep our hearts open for another child after all we have been through? Why does the world hate us so much, preventing us from being parents at every turn? How do I forgive her for stealing our family name – the only boy’s name we ever chose, with connections to my family and to Bill’s?

Last Wednesday, at 12:00 noon, we said goodbye to Stephen Chanon Walker Murray. Our almost son, who will be in our hearts forever. I wish for you a life of joy, opportunity and meaning. Wherever you are, know that you are deeply loved.


  1. My deeeeepest, deepest sympathies, to you. How very sad, to say the least. My heart breaks for you and your husband.
    xo Kate

  2. If not for the fact that I am reading this at work I'd be bawling my eyes out again. Julie, you are an amazing woman. You have endured your share of (would-be/supposed-to-be) parent hardships. You have an incredible amount of love and empathy to regard the birth mom's feeling in all this. A lesser woman would not even acknowledge her feelings and emotions.

    I can't fathom the void and the chasm that is in your heart right now because of what happened with Stephen. Although it is hard to know now, and it's even more difficult to hear other say it, I know deep down in my heart, that the hole left in your being will be filled with beautiful, joyous light that comes from the gurgles and laughter of a child that you will call your own.

    Take time to care for the open wound that is left behind. The scar will be a testament of your unquestioning love for Stephen, the memories of his first days will be his legacy to you. One day the wound will heal and you will be ready, on your own time to open your heart again to be mom to your child.
    big hugs,

  3. So sorry Julie. I can't even begin to imagine the pain you are going through. Shelby

  4. Julie, Stacey here, Dave's friend. My heart hurts for you and Bill.

    Just like a bad romance, I can't imagine you'll let this situation close your heart to future happiness. Please don' and Bill have too much love to offer a child you may otherwise never experience it.

    Be well.

  5. Julie and Bill,
    My heart is breaking for you both. I can only say that the love of your family and friends and the love that you have for each other will see you through this incredibly difficult time. I have you always in my heart.

  6. Julie - Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us. There are so many people thinking of you and Bill and sending you strength to make it through these days. I wish there was something more to day. I don't know why the world is so cruel to a couple that is so deserving. - Colleen

  7. Words can not express how deeply sorry I am for this sad turn of events. You are a remarkably strong woman, however, and, in time and with Bill's love, you will begin to heal. You both are in my thoughts and prayers. -Nicole

  8. I know you don't know me Julie but my heart aches for you. I've met many mothers who have went through years of heart ache before finally being able to have a child. It's not fair that anyone can "have" a child while you guys have to jump through hoops and obstacles to finally get approved and then have yours taken away. My deepest condolences, may you and Bill find strength in each other during this very sad time. - Amy

  9. I heard this story, but wanted to read it myself. It is terrible how it all happened, with the rug being pulled from underneath you both, and your reaction and questions are certainly justified especially after such a long wait. It's hard to accept, but I guess your 1st kid is somewhere out there and I know you'll both love and raise a wonderful human being when they enter your lives. Time will heal some of what happened and I know in the end you'll be the mother and father you strive to become. Just know I am thinking of you guys and will support you any way I can through this.