May 03

Designing a Pregnancy

This morning there’s an outreach activity at our church where we’ll be packing up baby supplies for new mothers who can’t afford or don’t have access to diapers, onesies and such. When I walked into the store with my list of things I needed to get, it all came flooding back to me. I’m sharing this very personal story hoping that those of you who know someone in this position might be able to share this post. It’s the post I wish someone had shared with me 15 years ago.

In 2002, around the 4 1/2 year mark in our journey to become parents, I began to think it wasn’t meant to be. Domestic adoption was out because I was told I was too old (39) if we wanted a healthy baby. China was our best bet, we were told, but there was a website that calculated the time frames each group was getting their referrals (the assignment of the child the couple would adopt) and it was slowing down. We were aware that at anytime the door to adoptions could slam in our faces and we’d have to start all over again with a different program. When a woman gives birth, there are six months after that first trimester to plan, shop, have showers and daydream about parenthood. In our case we were told that we’d know seven weeks before we traveled to meet our prospective child. That’s not much time to prepare especially because the child could be anywhere from 6 months old to 3 years old. Having lost as a child two siblings to third trimester miscarriages and having a couple in our adoption group whose child had died unexpectedly during the adoption process, I knew that things happen when it comes to giving birth and adopting babies so it was important for me not to get ahead of myself.

Then there was a day in April 2002 in which in the middle of the workday I burst in to tears and told Bill, “I need to go to Target. I need to look at strollers and car seats and cute baby clothes. I can’t stand it any longer, not being able to look forward to this. We’ve waited soooo long. I need to design a pregnancy for myself. It won’t last very long but it includes walking around the baby department at Target and officially getting my hopes up. I need to paint the nursery and pick fabric for curtains and act as though this is going to happen. I will deal with disappointment if it happens but for now, I need to feather my nest because one way or another, I need to believe that we’re going to have a baby.” A couple of weeks later we got the official word that we’d be traveling in late May to meet our daughter.

For those of us who grew up dreaming about a pregnancy only to learn that dream will never be realized, we need another plan. We need to be able to celebrate this milestone with a ritual and excitement and joy. My advice to anyone waiting to adopt a child is to design yourself a beautiful pregnancy. Whatever that means to you. Dare to be excited. Not being excited won’t change the outcome. Figure out how to rethink what it means to bring a baby into your family. What do you need to do to feel that you’re expecting? By the way, seriously, do some strength training classes for your back and upper body because you’ll be lifting and carrying around a baby who might not be an infant. We went from nothing to carrying around a 19 lb baby. Then there’s the awkwardness of caring a child in a carseat and hauling around strollers and such. Seriously. Take a strength training class with someone who knows what they are doing. Your back with thank you.

Start dreaming about the parent you want to be and although this route may not be what you dreamed about, we adoptive parents don’t love our kids any less than the biological ones. You can do this. And it will be wonderful.