Friday, June 17, 2016

"Are you glad you don't have to be pregnant again?"

    I started this post in October. For two months, it underwent various edits in my draft folder, never feeling quite right or quite finished. After we brought Roo home, it became irrelevant. I stumbled upon it today and almost deleted it, never having figured out a way to express myself in a way that I was happy with. But instead, I decided that it needed posted. I know if I felt this way, perhaps others have, too. Maybe for some it is "Are you glad you don't have to go through fertility treatment any more?" with all of the sickness and pain that it can cause. Maybe for others on this journey, you won't have any idea what I am talking about and this post will make me seem either crazy or horribly selfish. I'm not very good at being transparent, so pressing the "publish" button on this one is proving itself to be remarkably difficult for me.

  Yesterday, one of my very best friends asked me what has to be the most honest question I've gotten during our adoption process: 

                                     "Are you glad you don't have to be pregnant again?"

   If you have read our story, you will know where this question came from. I was miserable during my pregnancy-- I had day after day of unrelenting sickness, and one complication after another that culminated in a syndrome that could have easily claimed both my life and my child's. Don't get me wrong, I was overjoyed to be pregnant, having accepted that it may never happen. I loved feeling my baby kick and squirm inside of me, loved hearing his heartbeat and watching him somersault around during my ultrasounds. But, throughout my entire pregnancy, I kept asking myself how I was ever going to find the strength to do this again (I also asked this question out loud to my husband from a ball on the bathroom floor several times). Then that problem was solved for me: I was told that there was a good chance I wouldn't survive another pregnancy after the damage done by the complications of my first. I would likely have the same complications, culminating in the same life-threatening syndrome, and there would be a big risk that my body wouldn't be strong enough to handle it a second time. My body simply couldn't deal with being pregnant.

      My friend had heard me express concern during my first pregnancy that, despite my desire to have a large family, I didn't know if I ever wanted to endure another pregnancy, another 40 weeks of constant sickness (of course I didn't know that it would only go on for 33 weeks at that time). So, naturally, she was curious if having a child through adoption felt like a relief in some ways.

   "Are you glad you don't have to be pregnant again?"
   In many ways, yes, I am. There is a huge part of me that is thankful that I will be able to have another child without another pregnancy. That being said, some days are hard. I am surrounded by pregnant women-- I have several friends and family members who are pregnant. Facebook posts about feeling the baby kick, seeing ultrasounds, and taking maternity pictures can cause moments of sadness. I'm at a point right now where I'm allowing myself to feel that emotion, reminding myself that it is okay to to accept that sometimes it hurts a little bit. Some days, expressing pure excitement and happiness for my friends who are pregnant feels fake. And, to be honest, on some days it is. Not fake in the sense that I am not happy for them, because I truly am. With all my heart I am. What I feel for them is not a fabricated emotion. But, fake in the sense that sometimes that is not the emotion that is at the surface. Sometimes, my happiness for them is under a blanket of my selfish longing that our story could be different. Sometimes, the happiness isn't at the surface just waiting to come out-- it must be coaxed, must be dug out. And sometimes, the energy to do that coaxing and digging is in short supply. At those times, the times that I always reflect on with both guilt and confusion, it is easier to fake the happiness, knowing that it really is in there and will show up to step into its proper place at some point, tardy as it may be.
     This combination of guilt and confusion has been both the easiest and most difficult emotion for me to wrap my head around throughout this strange, wonderful process that is adoption. The guilt is obvious: these are women I love, I should feel happy for them, at all points, in everything, period. The fact that sometimes that happiness can feel lost seems so selfish to me. But like I said, I'm working on allowing myself to hurt a little bit, and to know that some residual sadness is normal and okay.  The confusion relates to why these feelings are so dependent on the conversations being had by other people. The vast majority of the time, I can honestly say that I have coped with our situation and am at peace. Having another biological child was not God's plan for us, and He protected both my son and I during my "ordeal." I am excited about adopting, excited that our family will have such an amazing, unique story of God knitting us together. When I think about our adoption, the prevailing thought honestly and truly is not "I wish things could be different." And, getting back to the opening idea of this post, most thoughts about having a child through adoption lead me down a rabbit trail that at some point gets to "I'm so glad I don't have to go through pregnancy again." It is only during the exciting pregnancy moments that my friends are experiencing that I feel anything even tangentially related to self-pity, sorrow, sadness, or hurt. I was having an exciting pregnancy moment with a friend the other day, and was in the middle of the "fake happy until the real happy decides to show up here any minute" thing, and actually found myself saying to myself "Why am I feeling sad about this-- I don't even want to be pregnant again?"

"Are you glad you don't have to be pregnant again?"

      I realized months ago that I truly don't want to be pregnant again. I had to go for a follow-up visit to the specialist who saw me after my pregnancy, the one who told me to never get pregnant again unless I was prepared to gamble my life. At this time, we had our homestudy approved and had already applied for one situation and were strongly considering a couple others. On the day before my appointment, I asked myself a question: What if I go in there and he says that there had been a mistake-- that he had studied my charts and labs in more detail, and I probably would be okay if I wanted to try to have another baby? Would I want to forget the adoption and just try to get pregnant again? I realized that the answer was "no." Adopting feels right, feels like what we have always been meant to do. In contrast, the thought of being pregnant again feels strange and out of place at this point. I reminded myself of that thought the other day when I was trying to find the buried happiness for my friend, happiness that was being particularly stubborn about leaving its hiding place: "If God pressed paused right now and gave me the option of being in her position, would I want to be?" Again, the answer was a resounding "no." And it was at that point that I realized something.

"Are you glad you don't have to be pregnant again?"

    Yes. But, there is a part of me that feels cheated that the decision was not ours to make. So, when those moments arise that I have a hard time bringing the happiness that I have for my friends to the surface, it isn't out of jealousy. It isn't that I would give anything to be in their shoes, that more than anything else I long to carry a child again, that I resent them for having what I can't, or that I am not truly happy for the joy they are experiencing.  It is that I, in my moments of control-freak weakness, feel like one of the most important decisions of my life was taken from me. I love this unique journey that the Lord has entrusted us with, the freedom from the sickness and pain that accompanied carrying my child inside of me, and the little ones that my friends will be adding to this earth soon. I can honestly, without reservation, say that I am happy we are adopting and that I have accepted that I will not give birth to any of our future children. But sometimes, in moments of being surrounded by embodiments of all of my different "what ifs," the reminders of the loss that put us on this path find their intensity. 

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