After years of waiting, your adoption finally happens and you are a real honest-to-goodness mommy. You’ve been preparing for this— for years. You’ve been dreaming of this— for a lifetime. You are living your dream.
Life is good.
But then, seemingly out of the blue, you feel overwhelmed with a longing to have given birth and grief at what you have missed. Maybe these feelings are triggered by a friend’s pregnancy or some sappy commercial on TV. Maybe they are triggered seeing a new mom breastfeeding her baby at the park; or maybe by the talk around your parent’s table about who the grandkids look like. Maybe they just creeps up on its own with no known trigger.
I’m not sure what brought this on but I’m having a sad moment about the things I wasn’t present for or didn’t get to be a part of with our girlie. She is the best little human ever and I’m so grateful for her. It just makes me sad that I didn’t get to carry her, witness her birth or name her. I love that she has those connections with her Birth Mother and what they have is so special. I also love all the connections that I do have with my daughter and what we have together is precious and so special too. But I sometimes still wish I could have been a part of all the things that mothers who have kiddos biologically normally get to do, and then feel guilty.
Dirty Little Secret of Adoptive Parents
Some adoptive moms never look back once they adopt, but plenty do and most feel guilty. It feels like they are betraying their child that they love more than life itself to still wish for something or someone else.
- I have one son (adopted at birth). He’ll be 5 in 10 days. I was able to attend his birth mom’s last OB appointment. I was able to hear his heart beat and I have a copy of the ultrasound picture. I was at the hospital when he was born and held him within 10 minutes of his birth. My husband and I spent the night at the hospital and he stayed in our room. HOWEVER, I still feel like I missed out. I missed out on feeling him grow inside me. I never got to feel him kick me (well he’s made up for that…haha). So many things that women get to experience when they are able to carry a child, that we don’t.
- Most days are great. They are my babies and that’s all that matters. But then the stupid infertility nightmare rears its ugly head! Pregnancy was taken from me, and I didn’t choose it. And bottom line it just sucks!
- My son turned one last week. I was surprised by my emotions on his birthday. It reminded me of what I have lost. I missed his birth since he came to us at 10 days old (foster to adopt). My feelings of loss was like a little shadow on our celebration this year on his first birthday.
- Feeling a little depressed. Yes, I still have my little man, but is it selfish that I wish he came from me???
These feeling of wishing to have experienced pregnancy and birth are common; they aren’t dirty and they shouldn’t be a secret.
Matter of Degrees
Guilt and secrecy intensifies feelings. While it is very normal to occasionally feel a longing for what you didn’t get to experience, it’s another thing when this grief takes over your life.
This: “355 days out of the year he feels like mine and I’m so happy, but then the infertility pregnancy loss rears it’s ugly head occasionally.”
This: “Whenever I think that the one, first, basic, essential thing that a mother is supposed to do for her child is the thing I can’t do – it makes me cry. Like all day long cry. I know I’ll always be sad that I couldn’t give birth to my baby.”
Occasional sadness is normal and deserves a pity party and venting with friends who understand. Intense sadness that you can’t shake deserves professional help from someone that understands infertility grief. (Creating a Family has resources to help you find an infertility therapist.)
Ditch the Guilt
Human beings are wonderfully complex organisms. We can, and often do, hold more than one emotion at a time: Gratitude at having this wonderful perfect child in our lives and sadness that we didn’t give birth to him. Fulfillment in parenting this exact child and longing for the child that we will never have.
- I can be sad for what I lost and exuberant for what I’ve gained through adoption. I honestly don’t think my husband and I could make a better little person if we tried and believe me, we really tried!
No need to feel guilty for being human, unless you let the negative feelings take over what is good in your life. Get help if that becomes a concern.
Connect With Other Adoptive Parents
When we think we are the only one experiencing something, we feel weird and the problem feels bigger. It’s easy for emotions to start spiraling. “I should be so happy. This is what I’ve always wanted. I’m a bad mother for still wishing I could have given birth. My kid is going to be permanently screwed up because I feel this way. We’re talking years of therapy….”
Adoptions aren’t rare, but plenty of people who adopt don’t have other adoptive parents in their circle of friends or family. They don’t have someone they can call up and ask if they ever cried over a birth scene on stupid TV shows or wanted to smack their sister for going on and on about her labor. This isolation can lead you to believe that you are the only one who has ever felt this way.
The solution—find a support group.
If you are lucky enough to live in a big (ish) city you may be able to find an in person adoption support group. Some churches with active adoption ministries also have parent support groups even in smaller cities.
If you aren’t so lucky to have a support group nearby, don’t despair. Join the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. We’re here 24/7/365. Drop by whenever you need a reality check or a virtual hug.
- So glad I found you awesome ladies!! In my reality I am the only one I know in this boat and feel crazy half the time!!! I hate that anyone else has these feelings of sadness about not giving birth to their child, but knowing I’m not alone makes it just a little easier.
It Gets Better
The good news is that these feelings often get better with time. Pregnancy and birth stories diminishes as you and your peer group age, to be replaced by T-Ball and school stories. You will fell less left out.
Also, you will likely start seeing some of yourself in your child and appreciating some of the differences.
- As your little one grows, you’ll start seeing yourself in her/him. Things they say, faces they make. And you realize that while the genes might’ve come from someone else, you’ve given them the most important thing…the rest of their lives.
- I remember holding my newborn baby girl and sobbing asking God why I couldn’t have been the one to give her life. It was so devastating to me, at that time, to feel like I had nothing to do with the creation of this little person that I already loved so passionately. But what’s funny is that now, 4 years later, the fact that brought me so much pain in those first few months now fills me with so much happiness. I adore those dark gorgeous eyes that I could have never given her. I dote on her olive skin that would not have come from me. I love the way she moves her thin delicate frame with ease over the smallest balance beam while I fall over just walking on a sidewalk. Thank goodness she didn’t inherit my dopey genes, I would have just screwed her up! Haha!
These Feeling May Never Go Completely Away
Adoption is for life. The intensity of longing for the birth and pregnancy experience usually wanes, but may never go completely away. The desire to see your genes reflected in your child comes and goes as well. I spoke with a mom whose daughter (adopted) recently gave birth, and she said the experience was a weird mixture of joy and sadness. She wished she could have shared birthing stories with her child. She wished she could see her parents and grandparents reflected in this child. She also was ecstatic about her grandchild and thrilled that he wouldn’t have some of the negatives in her family medical history. Adoption is complex, but then so is life.
After adopting, do/did you still wish you could be pregnant?
(All quotes in this blog came from threads in the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group with all identifying information deleted.)
Image credit: Juan R. Martos