In our church of about 130 people, we have around 15 very small kiddos, preschool-age and younger. Two of those are still in-mama, two are just a few weeks old, and two are not in-country yet. One of my close friends, who is also my exercise-buddy, is expecting a daughter in May. I get to see her tummy-bump get a bit more pronounced every day that we work out together, and I get to hear about midwife appointments, ultrasounds, heartbeats, and all the wonderful and not-so wonderful things that accompany pregnancy.
In an off-beat moment of odd reflection, I began to compare and contrast a traditional pregnancy with an adoption pregnancy.
“Trying to get pregnant” - Deciding to adopt. It’s an emotional desire with so many unknowns. It is a decision to make, but if it will actually happen or not is yet to be seen.
“Hey, we’re pregnant!” - We have filled out the initial paperwork, and we are in-process with an agency! It’s happening, we are taking steps, we have committed time, money and emotions and are looking towards holding a child in our arms! Yippee! It is a significant step, but there is still a long road ahead.
“Morning sickness.” - One of my favorite adoption shirts says “no morning sickness yet, but the papercuts are sure terrible.” There are no words to express the unending paperwork pile. It’s annoying, never-ending, overwhelming, always present, and always nagging. Just when you think that maybe you can see the end, another multi-page form knocks you silly. I remember melting in a puddle of tears telling Philip that I was not fit to be a mom because I couldn't even fill out paperwork correctly. Who knew that paperwork could be so emotional? Morning sickness: not just for mornings.
“Pregnancy” - Once you’re adopting, it’s a part of everything you do. Even though you function normally through the days, weeks, months, and years of the process, it’s still in the forefront of your mind. It becomes part of the grid through which you see life. People around you can’t always see the process, but as a mom “carrying” a child, you’re constantly aware of it. For me, this pregnancy has lasted about 3 ½ years.
“You’re showing!” - It’s sure fun to collect little things for your kiddo. Even though you may not know the age, gender, or personality of your small person, you start to accumulate a little “bump” of baby things. It’s as if the adoption is finally becoming real to you and to people around you. You have something to show for your efforts, besides the papercuts, of course.
“Boy or Girl?” - That ultrasound is like getting your referral: it reveals so much! Families find out the age and gender of their child or children, and they get a picture. They learn the health status and they may even have a better idea of when the child will be “born” (brought home). It’s an exciting time! We had asked for two kiddos, so when the news came in that we were indeed “twinning” and that our kids were 6 months apart, we were ecstatic!
“Nesting” - It’s the same. Completely the same.
“Miscarriage” - Though this is not part of every family story, it is a possible reality for both birth parents and adoptive parents. I would be remiss if I did not at least mention it. My friend and her husband had two sons in Eastern Europe. Just weeks before they brought James and Jordan home, James suddenly passed away. (You can read her blog post <here and here>). Pain, trauma, emotions, letdown. Anger, disappointment, confusion. An intense feeling of emptiness where there should have been a child. Don’t think for a moment that an adoptive parent feels less pain than a birth parent when a child is lost to death or to the government systems. The pain and grief is the same. Please respect it.
“9 months pregnant” - Oh my goodness, is this baby ever going to be born???? Are my kiddos ever going to be home?? I had been “expecting” for so long, and was SO ready to actually meet my children. Adoptive moms feel that they simply cannot wait another day, but they still have not begun labor. Ugh. It’s the worst ever.
“Baby shower!” - Yes, adoptive parents have baby showers just like traditional parents. There are things that we need for our kiddos that every other parent needs. Many adoptive families register at stores just like “pregnant” women do. We’re registered <here>.
“A contraction!!! It’s starting!!!” - Court. Being assigned a court date is intense. You pack up and travel to the place where you will meet your kids. Emotions are high, there is still a fear of loss, and much can go wrong or slow the process down. Emergencies still happen. But, if all goes according to plan, you’re in the end-stages of this process! It’s a nutty combination of excitement and panic.
“Water broke!” - You have met your children, and your heartstrings are going nuts. It’s getting more intense. This family-building thing is actually happening, and it’s happening soon, but the adoptive mom is not done yet. There is still some laboring to go, some time to wait. It is a time of complete preoccupation with your children. Tears come easily, and the adoptive mom may not want to see anyone because she’s an emotional disaster.
“Breathe and push!” - Those moments in which I will want nothing more than to keep a death-grip on my husband. I will need him staring me in the face helping me get through every moment, every decision, every step of the way. When we travel for Embassy, this will be the stage I will be in. All the years of papercuts, nesting, and emotions are all culminating in this brief time. This is it. This is the time to push and pray hard. This is the time when we take our children from the orphanage and become completely responsible for their every need. This is the changing point when our lives turn upside down for forever. We will actually look like the family of 4 that we are.
“It’s a….” - Girl and a boy! Yup, two kiddos at once, both of them will come out of the orphanage screaming bloody murder. At least, Jayce will. It is a traumatic time for the kids. No squeezing through a birth canal, but it is a rude entry into the cold, hard world in which we live. Their lives change, and they will need to adapt and grow, learning to live outside the routine of the orphanage.
“Rest, nest, and love” - Just as traditional families need some family time after the birth, adoptive families do as well. We love our family and friends, and we truly appreciate them rejoicing with us in our family-building endeavor. However, just as you would text a new birth-mom to see if it’s a good time to visit, adoptive families need the same courtesy.
“Breastfeeding” - Praise God that the similarities end here.
(Maternity photos copyright Galaxy Photo Studio 2013)