Sunday, June 1, 2014

8 Ways in Which Adoption and Pregnancy are Similar

It's easy to think there are huge differences between becoming a parent through conception and becoming a parent through adoption. The big obvious one is that women who can get pregnant carry their child with them for nine months, something adoptive mamas don't experience. Some people will even go so far as to say that adoptive parents aren't 100% parent because they haven't experienced the physical and emotional pains of a pregnancy. In their opinion, only pregnancy turns a woman into a real mom. But are we really all that different? Are our journeys that unalike?

Sure, we didn't carry that little one around with us for nine months, but we do still have lots in common. We at least experience many of the same feelings of excitement, freak-outedness, disappointment, heartache, impatience, and joy, just to name a few. Ok, so maybe our hormones aren't making us cry over the latest episode of The View or causing a serious banana split craving at two in the morning, but many of the emotions are identical.

To prove our point, I teamed up with Lisa from Little Moments to write this post about how surprisingly similar the domestic adoption process and pregnancy really are. Even though we are a bit more familiar with adoption, we know enough about TTC (trying to conceive) and all the pregnancy stuff our friends and family members have experienced that we think we know what we're talking about. :)

And now we present to you 8 ways in which domestic adoption and pregnancy are similar:

Deciding to show your profile // Deciding to try to get pregnant -- Stephanie
The moment you give your adoption agency the YES to show your profile, the whole game changes. You go from thinking, "Yeah, we'll be parents someday," to, "Yikes, we could be parents so soon!" It's a big shift and I remember feeling the same way when John and I decided it was time for us to start trying to get pregnant. In both situations, there's tons of excitement, a few fears here and there, and lots of nerves overall. In adoption you worry about things like, "Will this birthmom and baby be 'the one'? Will anyone ever like our profile? If she does pick us, will she stick with her plan?" When you're trying to get pregnant, your worries are more like, "Will this cycle be 'the one'? Will we ever get pregnant? If we do get pregnant, will our little one stick?" While the questions are slightly different, the feelings are absolutely the same. It's the moment you go from, "We're not quite ready to be parents," to, "LET'S DO THIS!" and that's quite an exciting, super-scary, life-altering jump.

The cover of our adoption profile

Waiting to hear back from your agency while your profile is being shown // The two week wait -- Stephanie
If you've ever tried to get pregnant, you know about that dreaded two week wait, those two weeks between ovulation and when you'd normally get your period, when you aren't sure if you're pregnant but are so hopeful you are. During the adoption process, after you decide to go ahead and show your profile to a birthmom, you experience quite the wait too. While the wait to hear back from your agency may not take exactly two weeks, the feelings of impatience and the constant day dreaming of what your future will be like with this possible child are absolutely just as present. It's also easy to waiver between extreme hope and utter despair, from, "This must be it!" to "This will never happen for us," in a matter of minutes. Oh, the waiting. Both trying to get pregnant and trying to adopt can have plenty of waiting involved, for sure. It's probably God's way of teaching us all patience, 'cause He knows we'll need it once those kiddos do come along.

Finding out you didn't match // Getting your period -- Stephanie
When you get the call from your agency that you didn't match with the birthmom and baby, it's very similar to the disappointment you feel when holding a negative pregnancy test in your hand or experiencing another cycle day 1. It's just one big bummer, one big case of dreams deferred yet again. I've had many ugly cries over getting my period and I've also had a bunch over not matching with a little guy we were almost sure we'd match with. "Why am I such a failure?" and, "Why is this happening to us?" are common thoughts in both adoption and TTC, especially when things don't work out the way you think they're going to. Yet, in both situations, you have to continue to find hope, even when it's the last thing you want to do. We pick ourselves back up, rely on family and friends to carry us through, and hold our heads mostly high as we try for another cycle or show our profiles once again. It's what makes all us infertiles and all us waiting-to-adopters even stronger than we could ever imagine.

Finding out you did match // Getting a BFP! -- Lisa
Whether you are sitting waiting for that little plus sign on a pregnancy test or jumping every time the phone rings, nothing quite compares to the news that you are officially anticipating the arrival of your child. When we found out we were in a match, I seriously needed to be scraped off the ceiling. No matter how much I would tell myself not to get too excited, I would find myself planning the next year of my life with a little one in tow. I can still clearly remember myself pacing the room as I spoke with our counselor, getting all the information. My hands were shaking, my heart pounding, and thoughts were racing through my head. It really doesn't matter whether you physically become pregnant or you are matched with a child, that initial excitement, jitters, and feelings of your stomach lifting up into your chest is such an incredible high.

Adoption anxiety // Morning sickness and cravings -- Stephanie
When we were waiting to hear from our agency about a potential match, I experienced some serious anxiety. It was so bad I could feel it in my throat. Have you ever experienced that kind of anxiety? It's the kind that makes you feel like your heart could just explode at any second. The kind that makes it nearly impossible to eat anything. The kind that makes your mind race, your stomach turn, your heart beat way too fast. It doesn't feel good at all. While I've never experienced morning sickness or pregnancy cravings, and I'm sure they're probably a bit worse than the anxiety I felt, it was still a very physical pain that I couldn't control. I've never been that much of a ball of nerves in my entire life! The only relief for me was finally hearing from our agency. Even though it wasn't the news we wanted to hear, it was still a relief to have an answer, to have a clearer picture for our future. As for cravings and morning sickness, sometimes the only relief is getting past a certain point in the pregnancy or delivering that baby. In both adoption and pregnancy, I'm sure all of us future-parents would agree: the physical pain that can accompany the waiting (or baby growing) is just plane lame, but in the end, worth it! More on that later, though.

Meeting the birth parents // Your first ultrasound -- Lisa
I would compare a match meeting (meeting the birth parent(s)) to going in for an ultrasound. In fact, sometimes this may be a time that you get to see an ultrasound picture. This is the point when everything becomes real. Just like I'm sure it can be hard to believe you are pregnant before showing and before hearing that little heartbeat, I feel like a match doesn't really feel like it's actually happening until there is a face to the name on all that paperwork. It's so easy in adoption to start to envision the worst case scenario. "Maybe they won't like us when they actually meet us. What if I say the wrong thing and everything goes horribly wrong? What if they change their minds and we lose the possibility of bringing home our little one? What if the situation is scarier either medically or through circumstances than we expected?" Those are just a few of the millions of fears that have danced through my head before a match meeting.

BUT just like that moment of hearing a healthy heartbeat, a successful match meeting brings all that excitement back again. For me, these experiences have been love at first sight. Just hearing about the baby through the initial presentation of information brings about that automatic mother's love in me. I have also experienced a similar feeling in my relationship with the birth parents. We have been blessed to really connect with the birth parents we have been matched with, especially Nate's birthmom. I feel like we have that common bond of a mother's love, and as a woman I feel like we can truly appreciate the incredible gift and sacrifice this woman is making. For us, match meetings have been very positive experiences that have eased our fears and connected us to our child in a very special way, very much like an ultrasound would in a pregnancy.

Grief in adoption // Grief in pregnancy -- Lisa
One thing that I never really thought about going into adoption was the potential of a loss. Yes, I knew that an adoption could fall through, but I figured that chances of it happening were pretty slim. Unfortunately, that's not the case. In adoption, there can be several different instances in which we experience loss, whether it is through not being chosen by a birth parent or a birth parent choosing to parent.

Stephanie and I were a bit hesitant on how to approach the topic of loss since it is such an emotional and personal experience. Sadly, we can experience losses through both pregnancy and adoption. Those losses are unique, but they are losses. Most if not all mothers, no matter how they are expecting, fear these losses. For me, it was my absolute worst fear, to experience what our agency calls a "change of heart" in which the birth parents choose to parent their child. Even though we do not experience the physical presence of our child in the womb, there is immediately an emotional presence. No matter how much an agency does to prepare you, it still hits you like a brick.

Unfortunately, I feel like many of these losses through miscarriage or adoption loss still aren't really talked about. For me, I felt like it was very much a silent struggle. I felt like I could be upset, but shouldn't be for very long. I don't want to directly compare a pregnancy loss to an adoption loss because each is unique for every person and situation. I just think it's important that we recognize the gravity of these losses. These children are imprinted on our hearts whether we knew them only in our hearts, carried them for a short time, or held them in our arms. For me, I'm past the grief. It doesn't impact my love for my sweet son by any means, but I will always have a little place in my heart for that sweet little baby who was almost physically ours.

Forgetting all the pain of the adoption process // Forgetting all the pain of childbirth the moment you hold your forever baby in your arms -- Lisa
I always hear mothers talk about how they forgot about the intensity of the pain of childbirth once their child is in their arms. The love for your child just kind of takes over and wipes away the memory of the awful pain. The beautiful thing about adoption is that the same phenomenon happens. No, you don't entirely forget the pain of the wait (and don't particularly look forward to it again in the future), but suddenly it all was worth it. Every last tear I cried and moment of prayer begging on my knees was just a small sacrifice for this little one. The pain of not being matched, an adoption falling through, and months of hearing not a single thing immediately subsided when I laid eyes on my sweet little boy. Being with him brings me so much joy, and joy that overshadows all the pain on the road to get here. And that is why going in again for another adoption journey doesn't sound so bad. In fact, it sounds like a great idea!

Lisa and Dan right before they brought Nathan home from the hospital.

We hope that after reading this post, all you adoptive or future-adoptive parents now feel as though you can reclaim some of the stuff we sometimes feel we missed out on by not being able to conceive or carry our child. And if you're a parent who only knows parenthood through conception, we hope this post has shown how our different paths to parenthood are actually alike in many ways. May we all be blessed by the joys of parenthood and always find support in one another.

JA-FA Photo, Inc.

Lisa is a newly adoptive mama of sweet little Nathan and ridiculously blessed to be married to her husband, Dan. They currently live in the suburbs of Chicago. They enjoy spending time with close friends and family, playing board games, mini golfing, checking out new water parks when they travel, and now of course watching their little man grow. Check out Lisa's blog "Little Moments" to learn more about her adoption journey, reflections on adoption, and now learning the ropes as a Catholic mom.


  1. I experienced that stomach turn and heart in throat that 24 hours we waited to hear about that potential adoption situation. The anxiety was intense. The sadness of not being chosen was just as intense. It hurts. When we tried adoption the first time and we knew a expectant mom was looking at our profile and we got the call that she chose another couple...I was inconsolable. I did get my hopes up. Now on this new journey...when we weren't chosen...I didn't cry. I was sad, I felt rejected but I guess I just have been through this too many times I'm not surprised. I never thought about not getting chosen as a loss...So much to deal with whether pregnant or adopting huh?

    1. Absolutely! When you don't match or when a match falls through, it really feels like a loss. All the plans you've been making in your mind for your future are gone in an instant. And all the purchases you've made for your possible little one are just reminders of what you don't have. Adoption is surely not easy, but hopefully worth it! And yes, that anxiety is terrible!!

  2. I am going to have to read this again, because this post is JUST. THAT. GOOD!!!!! The post nails the emotions and progress perfectly! Especially that moment where you meet your baby and it is just SO.WORTH.IT!!! I balled. I remembered that feeling. ALL the feelings.
    I cannot love this post enough! Phenomenal! Great! Brilliant! Must.Be.SHARED!!! :-D

    1. ALL the feelings!! I'm so happy you connected with everything we've written here. Thank you for such positive feedback. :) I especially love that our last point really hit home for you, because it means you're on the other side of all the adoption pain. So happy you have your little guy!

  3. Love this! Our friends who have adopted three children said that they like to think of the adoption process as their "labor." So they explained to us, "some people have really difficult pregnancies, morning sickness and then horrible long labor followed by a c-section...sometimes the adoption process is painful like that, sometimes it's long, sometimes it falls through, various things can happen but that's our labor"....not exact quote but something along those lines! Anyhoo, it's June! Are you guys officially on the list now? I finally finished our profile book that took me forever and a day and sent it to our agency this morning to be approved. It's all approved and I'm sending it off to be printed this evening. Then we will be officially on the list, hooray!

    1. I love your friend's explanation. It's so true! Some of us will have it easy and some of us will have it really rough. It's hard not to be jealous of those who have it easy, though. :P

      I just called our agency yesterday and told them we're all set to go!! I didn't ask if they were working with any birthmoms now though... I was too afraid of the answer. Ha! I'm a chicken, apparently. Anyway, I told them we're going on a trip next week (a mission trip with my youth group) and as soon as we're back, we're ready! Wows!! Let's do this! :D

      SOOOO excited that you finished your profile! And that you are SO close to being on the waiting list! Wahoo!!!! I'd love to see your profile if you don't mind sharing. I bet it's fantastic!

  4. Great post! Some of our friends call adoption "Paper Pregnancy," which seems to fit your description. While I part of me expects adoption to be easier than infertility, I am trying to stay realistic. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    1. Yes, I love that term! Whether you're pregnant OR you're waiting with an agency, you're expecting in my opinion. :) I sure was hoping adoption would be easier, and I think in some ways it still is... especially knowing with almost certainty that there will be a baby on the other side of this long adoption wait, whereas with infertility, you never quite know if it'll happen. But there are certainly struggles and mega-emotions too! Thanks for reading!

  5. I think it's great you highlighted some of the similarities, especially since it seems like most of the culture consiously or unconsciously regards adoption as a second class way to build a family.

    1. Yes, very true! It's a bummer that becoming parents thru adoption and becoming parents thru conception aren't viewed equally in our culture. Adoption certainly has different challenges, but it doesn't make it a less desirable way to build a family in my opinion. All little ones need love, no matter if you grew 'em or adopted 'em, ya know?


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