Adoptive mother: “You know how it is”

My husband and I were talking to a waitress the other day in an airport who noticed we had a young toddler with us. We were making small talk when she mentioned to my husband and I that she was pregnant and due with a boy in just a few weeks. She mentioned that she was so tired, due to her pregnancy, and made a comment directed at me, “Well, you know how it is.” I didn’t reply to her comment but rather nodded politely as if I completely understood. Two years ago, before adopting our son, that small, innocent comment would have sent me reeling and I likely would have ended up in the fetal position on my bed crying my eyes out because no, I really don’t “know how that is” being deemed infertile after trying unsuccessfully for years to get pregnant. But miraculously the comment this time didn’t even phase me. In fact, I remember thinking at the time how much things have changed and how funny it is that that things aren’t always as they appear in life.

When I first brought our son home after adopting him from birth, I would tell everyone around me that he was adopted. It just seemed dishonest of me to let people assume incorrectly that the baby came from my genes after they had made a comment about him such as how cute he was. I was way too honest of a person to let the innocent comments like that pass. However, as time goes on I find myself letting more and more of those innocent comments go. It’s not that I’m trying to hide the fact that he is adopted or that I don’t think about their comments every time I hear them – because I do – believe me I do. It’s just easier now to nod my head and agree with people’s comments and leave it at that.

A couple years ago, I remembering hearing that adopting a child does not take away the pain of not being able to have your own biological child but it does however lessen the pain. I was very glad I heard that statement before adopting my son because I found it to be very true. Adoption does however allow you to be a parent anyway despite being infertile.

Since adopting my son, I have had tinges of pain brought on by innocent comments from people, however, I find these days that the pain passes much faster and doesn’t hurt as deeply. It only takes looking at my healthy, beautiful, adopted son to help put things in perspective.  Having a biological child is not everything, and I truly believe that raising an adopted child can be every bit as rewarding as raising your own biological child.

Looking at the woman in the airport made me wonder about her situation. I had no idea what kind of home life her unborn child was about to be born into. Possibly it was a good situation but I suspected it may not have been an ideal situation or she may not have been working an early shift as a waitress in a Texas airport at that stage in her pregnancy. Either way, it proves the point that you don’t always know how it is for another person. What appears one way on the outside is not always what you think it is.

Adoptive mother: Questions about open adoption

I often get questions from people about our open adoption. Questions are usually those based on fear. For example: “Aren’t you afraid that the birthmother will want him back?”, “Aren’t you afraid that your son will be confused about who his ‘real’ mother is if spends time with his birthmother?”, and “Aren’t you afraid she will step in someday and try to parent him?” These questions come from various sources, even people who have adopted themselves but have not gone through an open adoption. I’m used to these sorts of questions and I understand people’s concerns as I too asked similar questions when my husband and I pursued our own adoption. However, having recently gone through an open adoption and being in regular contact with my son’s birthmother I can honestly say “No, I’m not afraid of any of those things.” Letting fear get in the way of things is not what a successful open adoption is all about.

Open adoption means opening up to the birth family in whatever way all involved feel comfortable. When I first heard about what an open adoption was about, I admit, I was terrified and did not want to open up my life to a stranger. Luckily my husband and I worked with an agency in our area who took the time to educate us on the benefits of an open adoption verses a closed adoption and in our training sessions with them we realized being open was a very good thing for everyone in the long run. By the time we were officially on the list to adopt a child our minds had transformed so much that both my husband and I commented that if we didn’t have a chance to be involved in some way with the birthparents then we weren’t sure we’d want to adopt that particular child.

Perhaps because I’ve been immersed in the adoption world for a fews years now I forget that not everyone knows what I do about adoption and questions that I get from other people still catch me off guard at times. Two months ago, a hairdresser who was cutting my 1 1/2 year old son’s hair found out he was adopted and asked me, “Why didn’t his birthparents love him?” This particular question was so astounding to me because it was clear how terribly misunderstood adoption is. Why didn’t they love him? Are you kidding me? His birthparents have nothing BUT love for him. Clearly this person just really didn’t get the sole essence of open adoption which is in a nutshell, immense love. I assure you, a birthmother that didn’t love her child would never in a million years go through the painful process of birthing her child; find suitable adoptive parents to raise her child; and then give her child to them – only to have her choice be misunderstood by society later on.

My son’s birthparents put faith in us to raise their child when we could not have a child of our own. They gave us the biggest gift anyone could ever give another person – a family. How could we as adoptive parents be fearful of the very people who gave us this gift and put such huge faith and trust in us? To deny them the simple pleasure of seeing how their child is doing over the years to me is clearly not an option.

In adoption the adoptive parents are often viewed as saviors. What many people don’t realize is the adoptive parents don’t view it that way at all. In fact, in my husband’s and my case we view the birthparents as being the saviors. If it weren’t for them I shudder to think about where I’d be right now. But I do like how our son’s birthmother put it in one of her emails to me: “We, all 4 of us, saved our son. And maybe our son is saving all of us in return. Maybe we are all saving each other.” So true. Our little boy has saved me. If I died tomorrow he would have saved me from the deepest, darkest despair. It’s amazing to think that one person, even a little baby, can make such as huge difference in this world simply by being. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson a birth of a child can teach us, that simply by “being” each and every one of us is making a difference in this world.

Adoptive mother: Being on the other side

This past Saturday my husband and I spoke at an adoption informational meeting that is required for any person wanting to adopt from the agency we went through. I very much remember being at that same meeting myself 3 years ago and hearing other couples talk to us about their adoption experiences. How nice it is now to be on the other side of things.

Adoption is not an easy road for most people. It was helpful for me as we started our journey to hear other couples’ stories about their road to adoption. Even though the reality of adoption was hard to hear, it was nice to go into our adoption wait with eyes wide open. I hope our story that we shared on Saturday was helpful for the 16 people we talked to.

Our journey to becoming parents took us 4 years. We started off our journey getting pregnant in a short amount of time, only to end in an early miscarriage. What we thought was good news (the fact that we could get pregnant fairly easily) turned out to be the beginning of a very long road of frustration of failed attempts to have a family which included: post-pardom depression from a miscarriage; a couple years of disappointment as we tried and failed again and again to get/stay pregnant; 4 intensive months of failed fertility treatments; and finally taking the steps to get ourselves onto an adoption waiting list.

Once on a list for adoption our wait was 2 years. It was difficult to wait and not know when or if our wait would ever end. There were a handful of potential matches that came to us over those 2 years – one or two serious potentials and others that fell through the cracks. All of these possibilities required sole searching and brought up emotions in us that sometimes I didn’t know I was capable of feeling. (For instance sheer rage at one instance after hearing about a birthmom that was using illegal drugs in the hospital right before the delivery of her baby.) The longer the wait was the more we seriously began to consider living our lives child free.

In the end we did get our baby and now that the wait is over I can honestly say it was worth the wait. We have a precious child who I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. We appreciate every moment with him so much – more than we ever would if our road to parenthood had been easier. We’ve learned early on not to take our “gift” for granted.

My husband, Scott, summed it up best to the group on Saturday when he said, “Basically…it really, really sucked for a long time. Then it was great.”

Adoptive mother: Infertility is more than a medical issue

Infertility: A misunderstood, devastating, heart-wrenching, seemingly never-ending, giant pothole in the road of life. When finally resolved (which someday it will be) you can look back at this time and see that it was indeed a blimp in your road of life. The pothole never goes away, however, you move farther from it and can move on in your life – however you’ve chosen to do so.

We are now in the midst of National Infertility Awareness Week, a week that the majority of the population doesn’t even know exists but for those like myself that suffer with infertility, it’s a week that is very much appreciated., a major advocate of infertility awareness, has chosen a theme for this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week: “Don’t Ignore Infertility.” I personally think this theme is brilliant.

People do not realize how being infertile can have such a huge impact on a person or couple’s life(ves) and how the seriousness of infertility is often overlooked. Many aspects of a person life is affected by infertility. Friend and family relationships are often strained as a result of different viewpoints on infertility and there are misunderstandings on how impacting infertility can be on someone’s life. Many fertile people view infertility as no big deal (you can always adopt or do fertility treatments right?), when in actuality it is a huge deal and costly to adopt and not a sure thing; and fertility treatments may not be the right choice or an option for everyone not to mention the high price tag. People often don’t talk openly about infertility issues since it is somewhat of a private matter in people’s lives. This results in individuals suffering silently and insurance companies not viewing infertility coverages as valid medical issues.

We live in a very family-oriented society. If you don’t know what I mean, take a look around you. Everywhere you look people and companies support family and children. When someone is infertile and can’t have a family – or if someone chooses to not have a family – then they are left out of mainstream. They are in a minority group that most people don’t understand. Being infertile put me in that minority when I didn’t want to be there. Since I was not able to have a family on my own, my husband and I looked at all of our options: fertility treatments, adoption, surrogacy, and living child free. Living child free for me was a choice I did not like because I felt that I would be missing out on so much that life had to offer. In the end, my husband and I chose to pursue an adoption and we were lucky enough to be picked by birthparents to parent their child. Had I not been chosen to be the adoptive parent to my son, I might very likely be living child free today in a very family-oriented world.

I’m not saying that people couldn’t be happy childless. They can and they do. I’m just saying that being infertile when you want to have a family makes having infertility much more than just the medical issue of being “infertile.” It represents disappointment, lost dreams, ongoing pain, lost friendships, strained relationships, low self esteem, and unfairness that continues on and on and on and on – until somehow, over time, you come to a resolution. The best description I’ve ever heard about infertility is “living without” because you do go without many of the things that other people with children experience.

So in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week I am writing this blog in hopes to educate people a little bit about infertility and why it is something that should be taken seriously.