A dear friend of mine just had a baby. Not only is she one of the prettiest little babies I've ever seen, but she's also a real miracle baby, born to two people who were told there was basically no chance of getting pregnant. After a period of grieving, researching, and praying, this couple had moved forward with the adoption process, not unlike David and I, after I experienced secondary infertility.
Before their portfolio could be shown to any birthmothers though, my friend Sarah found out she was pregnant. God opened her womb! And while she was thrilled, it was also a bit of an adjustment to shift her heart from adoption mode to pregnancy mode. The response from those around her didn't help this challenging heart shift.
Those of us who have experienced infertility (even after having a baby), made a plan and moved forward with adoption, and then were surprised to get pregnant and deliver a biological baby, have often been met with comments from people who seem to think that it was inevitable to get pregnant because we were relaxed, or our minds were off it, or because it just seems to happen.
Sarah wrote this letter as a response to those people (often strangers or acquaintances), reminding them that it is God alone who opens the womb. Infertile people who adopt are not bound to get pregnant. It does happen, but I've also seen him open the womb of friends who were infertile and went through years of IVF to have their first babies (rather than adoption), only to have a surprise pregnancy later. I've also seen people who adopt, and never conceive again.
God is bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine. I hope my thoughts and Sarah's letter help you to better understand the heart of those who have both adopted and conceived a baby. We don't love those babies any differently, they are both ours, and they are equally special parts of our family.
An open letter to those with friends who got pregnant after adopting, or starting the adoption process:
I have been putting off writing this because I am worried I won't get it right. But I need to say it. This is from my heart as someone who has dealt with infertility and has gone through the grieving and letting go process.
It may seem strange that I still identify with infertility now that I am pregnant but it doesn't go away. Not when you have so vividly gone through the heartbreak of being told how unlikely it is that you will become a parent biologically. Not when you have gone through months of grieving and giving it up to God after hearing said news. Those months don't just disappear when you get pregnant (or adopt.)
What I want to write to you about is the phrase that people think is helpful or comforting or that is somehow gives hope to those in the midst of infertility or adoption. That dreaded phrase of, "Oh, you'll get pregnant once you adopt," or, "Once you stop trying you'll get pregnant"-- there are many variations to this phrase. It's meant as an off-hand encouragement, but in reality, it's not.
I want to try and bring some light as to why this phrase is oh-so-unhelpful and in fact, sometimes hurtful. I did not ever plan on writing this before I got pregnant but since I did I suddenly worried people would use our story on their friends struggling with infertility or going through adoption.
I wanted to instantly forbid anyone from ever saying, "well, our friends Rob and Sarah thought they couldn't have any kids and as soon as they were approved for adoption she got pregnant-- you'll totally get pregnant!"
I'm glad I didn't write this letter when that's all I had to say. Because I know now that that is just another post called "What not to say to…" And as helpful as those can be they don't always try to explain the heart of things.
I had this happen to me when we decided to not pursue fertility treatments but instead pursue adoption. A well-meaning friend told me of a story of his friends who got pregnant after adopting and pronounced that we too would get pregnant. Although most of what I want to say is from the heart I will give you one statistic; only 5% of couples who have dealt with infertility and have gone on to adoption have gotten pregnant. So why does it seem like it happens to so many more?
Because no one goes around telling the other stories. "I had this friend who struggled with infertility and went on to adoption and never got pregnant." It's not sensational and for some, it seems sad.
I had come to a place in my heart where I was okay with this becoming my story. In fact when we found out we were pregnant I was so confused and even let down a little. I had come to peace with plan I thought God had set before us and then He changed it on me. I was annoyed, too, because now I was going to have to hear over and over that which I have heard many times, "Oh, that always happens!"
Here's why this response hurts and why I hope you choose to say something else next time. I won't try to speak for other women or couples so I will try to just pull from my own emotions (not hard I am pregnant after all!) For me it was two things.
First, this response says that adoption is second best. When you say "adopt and you'll get pregnant" it seems to insinuate that pregnancy is the end goal. Can't get pregnant? Try adopting and it will cure all your infertility issues and then you'll get the child you really want. This hurts me because I was passionate about adoption before we even had fertility issues. I knew someday I wanted to adopt. I am also passionate in the belief that love for a child is the same no matter what; adopted or biological.
Second, this response gives a false hope. This is the one that in my grief probably made me the most mad. I wanted to scream "YOU don't know if I'll ever get pregnant. YOU don't even know all the fertility issues we have! YOU don't know the plan God has for us!" It was like everyone wanted me to keep holding out hope for something that really might not ever come.
For me there was no closure in that type of thinking. Yes, I had to trust that if God wanted to open my womb He could, but in that hard time, I could not just keep on hoping. I need to move on and look to a new future. And when I did, I loved that future!
I didn't want people to keep bringing up what I had used to envision for us. That was old news. God had a new and exciting plan for us and I wanted to focus on that. Why couldn't everyone else? When I said, "We're adopting!" why couldn't people say "Wow! That's so exciting! Tell me all about it!" Or "How is that going? Can I help in any way?"
I loved it when people would focus on our new future with me. When they would ask me for updates regularly. Cheer with me when paper work went fast. Hug me when I realized how long our wait might be. These people didn't focus on the future that couldn't be but on the one that was right in front of us! Those people rock!
I encourage you to do that for your friends. Be with them in their current situation. Help them focus on the future that is.
If someday they do become pregnant by the grace of God celebrate with them but don't focus on what could be or might be. Rob and I still plan on adopting. In fact I may have cried a few tears that we wouldn't get to meet "Little T" (our future adopted child) as soon as I thought.
I continue to anticipate May 2015 when we can get back on the waiting list. Not because the child growing in me now is less than, but for a long time Little T has been more real to me. I worry that in the excitement of the child due to be born soon, people will forget about our other child that will grow inside another lady.
I pray that my friends and family will continue to support the future we see before us, not the one that might be.
I'm so thankful for my friend Sarah communicated what was totally on my heart after I got pregnant with Hallee when Brody was just five months old. My story and my infertility was a little different as I had had four miscarriages before Hallee (I always say that getting pregnant wasn't our problem so much as staying pregnant). But now I always say that that was just the road God took us down to bring Brody to our family. You can read all about our adoption journey here.
Related: when your friends do adopt, use this awesome video as a guide of what not to say to them.
Photo of Sarah by Alexander Pavone.