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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pregnancy after Infertility & Adoption Q&A

Were you SO EXCITED when you found out you were pregnant? It's what you had always wanted, wasn't it?
Well, the short answer is no. When I found myself pregnant, I wasn't immediately jumping for joy. I always expected that I would be over the moon to get pregnant, but I was very surprised by all the mixed feelings I was having. I was kind of mad about being pregnant for a few reasons. One of them was that we were now the poster family for "just adopt and then you'll get pregnant," which is the thing I hated hearing most of all when we were looking to adopt. But, it was more complicated than that. I also felt a lot of "survivors guilt" about getting pregnant without really trying when I have so many friends trying so desperately to get pregnant. It also confused me about how I fit into the infertility community now that I had spontaneously gotten pregnant. The biggest factor, which took me months to figure out, is that I knew that now I had experienced pregnancy and knew that it could happen, that I was going to have to mourn the loss of the ability to get pregnant all over again if it turned out we couldn't get pregnant again in the future. I felt like I was going to have the fight the battle of infertility all over again when I just thought I had defeated it.

I spent a lot of time in denial about the fact that I might be pregnant. When I finally did take a pregnancy test, it took me a minute to process what two lines meant. My first reaction wasn't excitement, but a reaction of "ok, how is this going to get taken away from me?" I didn't sleep the first night after I tested because I spent all night googling different ways that you can get a false positive on a pregnancy test. The next day I got a blood test that confirmed that I had high levels of HCG, but I was still suspicious. My next reaction was to be worried about having cancer because I knew from Brent's experience that HCG can also measure cancer growth. When I finally had a viability ultrasound and saw that I was indeed growing a baby and the baby wasn't in my tubes, I allowed myself to be a little bit excited, but couldn't shake the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

My pregnancy was no walk in the park either. I was sick, tired, and in pain for most of the pregnancy. The joy in my pregnancy was kind of sneaky. I can't tell where it began, but I know toward the end of my pregnancy, I felt more secure and actually enjoyed seeing myself with a baby bump and feeling the baby moving and kicking.

How did you feel about abandoning your adoption search when you got pregnant?
I was relieved that we didn't have to come up with upward of $30,000 for another adoption, but I actually found myself mourning the loss of the adoption process. That really surprised me because I really had to mourn the loss of being pregnant in order to move forward with adoption, but I didn't expect the inverse of that to be true as well.

For years, I didn't just want a baby, I wanted the whole package: I wanted the positive pregnancy test, the morning sickness, the stretch marks, the flutter of baby kicks inside me, the baby bump, the braxton hicks, timing my contractions, the rush to the hospital..I wanted to be pregnant. I wasn't blind to the fact that pregnancy wasn't easy, but it felt like a rite of passage as a woman to have the opportunity to create life. I felt like I was missing out on an essential part of being a woman by not being able to.

When we were first diagnosed with infertility, we told the doctor we weren't interested in fertility treatments and thought we'd adopt. The grief I felt as we left the doctor's office that day was surprising. My life has always been filled with very positive adoption experiences, but I was feeling very distinctly that I was getting the "consultation prize" by moving forward with adoption. With every step we made toward getting ready to adopt, I kept hoping to be one of those couples who miraculously gets pregnant against all odds, to rescue me from "having to adopt."

We reached a roadblock in our adoption home study when we realized we did not have the necessary health insurance and that neither of the small businesses we worked for offered any. We faced the reality that we could not move forward with adoption until one of us changed jobs. We explored our options for fertility treatment more seriously, but nothing ever felt right. Eventually, we went to a doctor that a friend recommended for an IVF consult. At that appointment, I had an ultrasound on my ovaries that was pretty painful. The pain got worse over the next 10 days and I went back to see the doctor to find out why. In those 10 days, I had developed a cyst on my ovary. I was referred to an OBGYN for treatment and my thoughts of IVF were put on hold.

It took about 6 weeks of debilitating pain, and an ultrasound revealing that I had developed a second cyst, before I had a laparoscopy. I remember waking up from my surgery and being told that I not only had cysts removed, but a significant amount of endometriosis as well. Being diagnosed with endometriosis was the best and worst thing that happened to me. I was devastated because I  had just gotten excited about the possibility of finally being able to get pregnant only to have a new obstacle placed in our way. However, we felt that the endometriosis hurt our chances of conceiving enough that we didn't feel like we could risk our limited resources on trying IVF. Being diagnosed with endometriosis is what it took for me to finally accept that I was never going to be pregnant. After 3 1/2 years, I was finally ready to open my heart to adoption and not look back. Within a few months, we finally finished the homestudy we had started almost 2 years before. (Even after we had gotten the insurance in place, we lacked the motivation to finish until I had fully closed the door on pregnancy.)

Shortly after we finished our homestudy, we started witnessing the miracles that took place in order for us to adopt our son, Patrick. We were so in love with our new little baby and treasured the journey that took place for us to become a family. I went from feeling like adoption was the consolation prize to feeling so blessed and privileged to have the opportunity to experience the miracle of adoption.

When Patrick was just over a year old, we hopped on the bandwagon took advantage of the free profile the lds church was offering. We knew that when it was time to adopt again, things would fall into place like they had before. We'd had a live profile on for several months and we weren't getting any action. Patrick was scheduled to have his tonsils and adenoids out and tubes put in his ears in June. We had an action plan to start fundraising and advertising heavily after we got the surgery behind us. We were told to expect a 2 week recovery period before we really had our boy back again. Before he was feeling better, I started having pain like I did 3 years before with my endometriosis and cysts. I was really upset and was thinking that I would probably need surgery again. I had the thought, "maybe I'm pregnant" several times, but I mostly got mad at myself for thinking that way whenever I did. I took a pregnancy test so I could prove to myself that it was negative and to put an end to the those thoughts once and for all.

Once I passed the 12 week mark and stopped worrying so much about losing the pregnancy, I finally allowed myself to believe that maybe there was actually going to be a baby at the end of the entire process. It was a hard thing for me to wrap my head around. I had given up on believing that babies came from pregnancy and had moved on to my own reality that babies came phone calls and birth moms. Strangely enough, I found myself mourning the opportunity to adopt. I had fully expected that our next child was going to come to us through adoption and I was sad not to experience the same miracle journey of being brought to my child through nontraditional means. The biggest loss I was feeling was the over the absence of the overwhelming spiritual confirmation that we had when we adopted Patrick. It was very strange to feel 100% sure that the child I had had adopted was my son and was always meant to be, but to question if the child I was carrying inside me was really meant to be.

Did you feel a difference in how quickly you bonded to the child you gave birth to and the one you adopted?
The short answer is no. The processes that my two sons took to come to me are vastly different, but once they were here, the bonding process has felt pretty much the same: someone handed me a baby, told me I was his momma, and we worked on getting to know each other.

Here's the long answer: I spent a fair amount of time worrying about the fact that my relationship with Patrick was somehow going to be impacted by the fact that I was going to be giving birth to a baby after I had adopted him. I worried about feeling an instant connection with the new baby because I didn't feel an instant connection with him. It took a few days of caring for him to get out of my social worker/care taker mode and to really process the reality that I was his momma and that I was much more than someone who was there to schedule his doctor appointments and make sure he eats every 3 hours. I was worried that I would feel more connected to this baby.

But, the reality is that I had something Patrick son that I never really experienced with my Reuben. When we were presented our Patrick's profile, we looked at it and reviewed it with our logical minds and said to each other, "we aren't capable of caring for a child who will have so many needs." We talked about it together and fully intended to tell the social worker that we were not interested in adopting him. We were both at work that Monday morning and we called each other to confirm that we were saying no, and we both said to each other, "this will sound crazy, but saying no feels like the wrong thing to do." As we talked to each other on the phone, we both had this overpowering feeling that we needed to say yes to this little boy. We called the social worker together and told her that we had planned to say no to her, but that we were instead calling to say yes. The feeling stayed with us through the entire process and I can pretty much call that same feeling back any time I reflect on the miracle it took for us to adopt him. Even now as I am typing, I am overwhelmed with the same feeling we had that day.

When we found out we were pregnant, I kept craving that same overwhelming feeling that I had with Patrick. I wanted to feel a confirmation that the child I was carrying inside me was meant for me. I realized logically that I wasn't likely to have that kind of confirmation because the situation was different. You don't really God to tell you that the baby you got miracle pregnant with is meant for you, but I had a hard time not feeling a bit lost without it. In fact, the night before I went to the hospital to be induced, Brent gave me a priesthood blessing. In that blessing, he promised me that I would feel that this baby was my own, which was something I really struggled to do my entire pregnancy. (How backward is that? haha!)

When I saw the doctor pull my son out and hold him up, I burst into tears and felt something inside me finally click. I think that was really the first time I fully processed on all levels that there was a baby inside me and that I was a mom again. He didn't cry like they wanted him to, so instead of getting to do skin to skin time right away, he was taken over to the corner where a team of medical professionals worked on him for several minutes. Brent took a picture of him and brought the camera over to me so I could see what he looked like. After about 30 minutes, he was brought to me so I could hold him for a few minutes before he was taken to the nursery to make sure he was stable. I enjoyed holding him, but I didn't feel the "instant connection" that I wondered about, then they took him off the nursery.  I was exhausted, sharking, and starving, so the nurse brought me a sandwich. I honestly have to say I probably felt more of a connection to the sandwich at that point (but I was really hungry). 

I got to hold him again for a few minutes when they transferred us over to the postpartum unit, but as soon as we got settled again, a nurse came to take him away to do some kind of exam on him. By that point, it was 4 am and we decided to let him spend the night in the nursery so we could get some sleep.

My point in all this story telling is that the first time I really got to spend some quality time with my new baby was about 8 am the next morning when they brought him back to my room at my request. I was sitting in my bed when they wheeled in his little bassinet and parked it next to me. I remember being struck at that moment by how it felt exactly the same as the first time I saw Patrick. Like I said before, the experiences were pretty much the same from that point forward: someone brought me a baby, told me I was his momma, and we worked on getting to know each other. The differences were that in one I had just completed a great physical challenge to get there and in the other I had completed a great emotional challenge.

I had heard a lot of people compare adopting a child to having a c-section versus a vaginal delivery. The heart of the message was that, "they come in different ways, but it doesn't matter how they came once they're here." I always kind of wondered if people were just being politically correct when they said that, but now I'm here to add my own testimony to that. The journeys I had to become a mother to my two sons are very different from one another, but that doesn't impact how I feel about them as their mother. I imagine if/when we have another child, whether he or she is adopted or a child that I give birth to myself, my journey will be different then too. No two births are the same and no two adoptions are the same. I wouldn't love one child more than the other because their births or adoptions were different. So I don't love either of my sons more than the other because the way they came to me differs.

Now that you've both given birth and adopted, which did you prefer?
I've been asked some version of this question in real life a few times, and I think I might disappoint people a bit with my answer. There are elements of both my experience with birth and my experience with adoption that I prefer one over the other. But, if/when we add another child to our family, we can't expect that would could replicate either of the experiences we had with our two sons.

If I lived in a magical world, I would combine my favorite elements of both my birth and adoption experiences and have my ideal situation. I would take from our birth experience the financial cost and the security of not having to worry about a birth parent changing their mind and combine it with the lack of physical discomfort and the opportunity we had to travel from our adoption experience.

When the time comes to add to our family again, I think our hearts could be open to both adoption and pregnancy. And when the path that our next child is to come to us becomes clear, I know we will be excited about some elements of the path we will be taking and we will feel the loss of some elements of the path we do not take.

If you knew you would eventually get pregnant, would you still have adopted Patrick? Would you adopt again now that you've had a child of "your own?"
Absolutely 100% yes!  As I've reflected on the journey we've been through with our infertility, I believe that one of the main reasons we experienced infertility is so that we would turn to adoption and be able to adopt Patrick. I know that it is a part of God's plan for us to adopt Patrick and for him to be our son. I don't believe that if we decided not to adopt for some reason and that if we waited and eventually got pregnant that we would have the same little spirit in our family. I believe that the way that Patrick came to earth and to our family is how it was always meant to be.

 And if it's part of God's plan for us to adopt again, then we will! That being said, unless we get some spiritual juju that points us back to adoption right now, we'll probably try the pregnancy route again for the next baby. If that doesn't work out, we will prayerfully consider where we're supposed to go next. If it's adoption, then that's where we'll go.

Now that you've experienced pregnancy and birth, how do you feel about your infertility?
I feel like I'm in both a better and worse place with my infertility than I was before I got pregnant.
Before I saw those two pink lines, I was at peace with my infertility and at peace with the way I was planning to grow our family. Adopting didn't cure my infertility, but it did give me children which was what I really wanted. Getting pregnant threw me for a loop and I had to re-evaluate a lot of things, but it also validated a lot of things for me.

The first is that the way I was physically feeling when I was actually pregnant was exactly the same as the way I was feeling dozens of times when I was thinking I might be pregnant. All the years when I was hoping that some kind of miracle had happened when I was feeling nauseous for no apparent reason or when I was extra tired or had soreness in certain areas, I would beat myself up afterward for being so eager to be pregnant that I misinterpreted my symptoms. It was very validating to have a positive pregnancy test from the same symptoms that had caused me to test dozens of times before and it helped me let go of a lot of the shame and frustration I felt toward myself.

The second thing it validated was that losing the opportunity to be pregnant and give birth was something worth mourning. When people get wind of the fact you can't get pregnant, a lot of well meaning people will tell you that you're not missing out on much and start going on about how terrible it is to having morning sickness and to develop stretch marks and how your body is never the same after giving birth. I always knew that people were trying to help me feel better when they said stuff like this to me, but it always made me kind of wonder if I the grief I felt about the loss of the opportunity to experience those things was valid.

When I first got pregnant, I think I really fought those feelings internally again. I wasn't happy to be pregnant at first and mostly viewed it as a gateway to another kind of loss that I was likely going to be experiencing. And then there was the nausea, the vertigo, the fatigue, the mental fogginess, the pain I experienced with walking and bending, the sleepless nights, the inability to give my existing child the attention he deserved... but at the same time, I knew on some level that was I was experiencing was still special. Even in my grouchiness, I knew that I was finally experiencing the rite of passage that I had been mourning for such a long time. I was creating life within myself and that was worth experiencing, even if it was kind of miserable.

The idea of giving birth really scared me for a long time. I avoided thinking about it for the first half of my pregnancy, but as my due date drew closer, the reality that the baby was going to have to come out somehow set in and I felt more accepting of it as well, but in a "let's get this over with" kind of way. I was induced with Reuben so going to the hospital was actually a very peaceful experience. My labor and delivery went so much smoother than I had imagined. I spent several days after the birth replaying the day over in my mind again and again. I was left with lingering feelings of hoping that I have the opportunity to experience the process over again.

I am both excited and scared at the prospect of trying to get pregnant again in the future. Like I said before, I think losing the opportunity to be pregnant and give birth is something worth mourning. I am excited at the prospect of being able to experience the entire process over again, but at the same time, I'm scared because I know there is no guarantee that just because we got pregnant once that we'll be able to do it again. I don't look forward to the anxiety of taking a pregnancy test or the grief that comes each month that we don't have success and the fear of it never working out again. I was in a place of peace with the fact that it's not easy for us to get pregnant and I feel like I will have to work to get back to that place again.


Joy said...

M'Recia this is so beautifully written. I cried and laughed. There is a lot of peace in here that will touch many. Your openness helps the rest of us learn how to be more sensitive. I love your little family and also add my witness that Patrick and Reuben are where Heavenly Father sent them.

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