What I want you to know: Getting pregnant after adopting

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Maralee Bradley.

that's what she said new

Just a year into my young marriage my husband and I received an infertility diagnosis.

In some ways it was devastating, but we also felt confident that we were supposed to adopt our first child. Well, eventually we got on the same page and felt confident about that. As just about any honest post about infertility and adoption will tell you, there's a grief process to go through and spouses rarely work through that all at the same pace. For us, I was almost immediately ready to move to adoption, but my husband took some convincing. I couldn't convince him, it had to be a work of faith. I actually had to give him a month where I promised not to bring up adoption at all so he could really think about it for himself and not just hear me in his ear telling him why this was right for us. After that month, he was ready to move forward with adoption, although there were still a lot of decisions left to be made.

Fast forward eight years. We had unsuccessfully tried some infertility treatments, had experienced two ectopic pregnancies, and had eventually come to a point of peace about adoption being the only way we would add to our family. Three adoptions (one international, two through foster care) later, we were now a VERY multiracial crew- one West African son, one Native American son, one Mexican daughter - and adoption had become a vital part of our identity as a family. I co-lead an infertility support group through our church and was also very involved with children's welfare issues through the foster care system. We had grieved our infertility and had moved past it into a beautiful new phase of our life.

And then I found out I was pregnant.

 This is not the moment of joy you might imagine it would be. After "trying" to get pregnant for nearly a decade, here was a positive pregnancy test right in front of me. Then there was a heartbeat. Instead of feeling the joy I expected, I felt totally overwhelmed.

How could I go through a pregnancy, childbirth, and then raise a new baby with three other kids all under the age of five? I worried about my physical health: I was not the 22 year-old I once was when we were first trying to get pregnant. I felt intense guilt: would my kids resent me for being pregnant? Would my kids resent this child for being biologically related to us?

I had always imagined one day when I really submitted control of this issue back to God, He might grant me this desire of my heart. I never imagined that when I submitted it to Him, it would be with such a peace that I really wouldn't desire the very thing I had cried and prayed for. And all during the pregnancy I carried the scars and fears from having lost two babies before.

I was also very sensitive about the things other people would say or ask. There was sometimes a subtle (or not so subtle) implication that this child was now the reward we'd earned for adopting the others. This was really hurtful.

I also heard an amazing amount of stories from total strangers about how other people had adopted and then had children "of their own". Their own? What were my adopted children if not my own? It was frustrating to me to think somebody thought my adopted kids were some kind of last-ditch fertility treatment that had paid off. People also made the natural assumption that I must be thrilled to finally be pregnant which kept me from being able to share my honest feelings.

I struggled to embrace this pregnancy and the baby I was growing. I felt like it separated me from the support of the infertility community I had come to rely on. I was frustrated at myself for not being more excited about the pregnancy. I worried that I would somehow treat this baby differently than my other kids and I was never sure if I was more worried that I'd treat him better than the others or worse! I only knew how to be an adoptive parent so now being biologically related to my child seemed like a foreign concept.

It was a process of dealing with the reality of how God chose to create our family. In the end, it wasn't my decision and I couldn't plan for the timing of this arrival any more now than I could have in those early days of infertility when I cried out to God for a child. I decided that if God thought I could handle this situation with grace, then I was going to embrace it. It probably wasn't even until my son was born (on Christmas Eve, fittingly enough) that I truly celebrated this amazing gift we'd been given. The birth of our son is a bit of a miracle and I'm so thankful for his life.

If you wonder how we have adjusted to being a family with three adopted and one biological kids, it's gone really smoothly. The big kids sometimes get confused about who the baby's birthmother is since it seems odd to them that he just gets one mom. My oldest son asked for awhile when we would be adopting the baby, which just made sense to him.

 I have found that in the way someone who had biological kids before adopting might say "We love our adopted child so much it's almost like we gave birth to him" I say, "I love my biological son so much, it's almost as though I adopted him."

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