Sunday, February 15, 2009

Adoption & Biological

I did have some questions before Elijah was born. I did do some wondering.

My questions ran the gamut.

Some days I wondered if I could ever love a child as much as I loved Isaac. Some days I wondered if the fact that Elijah would come from my body would cause me to have stronger feelings about him than I did about Isaac. Would breastfeeding cause me to bond faster with Elijah? Would recovery mean that my early days with Isaac were better than those with Elijah? If I parented a child that looked like me would I find a stronger connection?

Yesterday, Elijah began his third week in this world. I'm sure that in the coming weeks, months, and years, I will become much more wise regarding the questions posed above. But today, after now having two boys, one adopted and one biological, I feel that I am able to answer a few of my own questions and most likely, the questions of others as well.

I write this post for any of you out there contemplating adoption. Maybe you are contemplating because you cannot have your own children as JB and I did. Maybe you are contemplating because you feel your own biological family is complete and you'd like to add to it. Whatever the reason, if you have contemplated adoption, you have probably asked yourself one of the questions I have asked myself at the start of this post. And it wasn't just me asking them. JB asked the same things.

As a reminder, adoption is not something to push on anyone. It is especially not something you should bring up to someone who is dealing with infertility unless they bring it up first. It is a very personal decision. It is filled with emotional, mental, and financial implications of immense proportions. It cannot be used as a band aid. It does not fix the sadness of an infertile heart.

After our second failed IVF, I requested an adoption packet from both America World and from Bethany Christian Services. America World is the agency we ended up using for our China adoption. Bethany was the agency I fell in love with and hoped to use had we decided to adopt domestically.

Those packets came in the mail, and as I sat in my bedroom in Minnesota and opened each of them, I began to sob. JB found me sitting on the floor between the bed and our window, tears streaming down my face. I knew I wanted to adopt, but my heart was broken for the biological children we would never meet. My husband took the packets and said he was putting them aside for at least twelve more months. And then he said something that has stuck with me to this day. He said that he didn't want to adopt to fill a hole. He wanted the hole in our hearts to be filled with God even if a biological child never filled it. Once we had found peace, we could move onto adoption to further enrich our lives but not because we needed something to cover up the pain.

It was very hard to watch him walk away with those packets -- my ace up the sleeve to parenthood. But I knew he was right. We agreed to not discuss adoption for at least a year.

We weren't ready. We hadn't fully traveled the infertility road we needed to travel. And we hadn't fully grieved the losses we had already had and would have in the future. After our fourth failed attempt, we both looked at each other and instantly knew. It was time. We were done with infertility treatments and ready for adoption. We were ready not because we needed to fill a hole. We were ready because we wanted to be parents. We began the paperwork for our adoption from China.

I look at my two boys now -- one from my body and one from the body of a young woman I love immensely, and I can tell you, with complete confidence, that I love these two children as equally as ever. JB and I feel incredibly confident that as they both grow, our love for the two of them will be as equal as any parent of two biological children. There is just no difference at all between the two of them.

Some women find pregnancy to be an amazingly experience. Other women hate the entire process. I did not hate being pregnant by any means. But I did not fall in love with it either. I have spoken to so many women about pregnancy during the last year of my life and each one seems to have a different perspective on the event. Some gals felt better pregnant than they did not pregnant. They'd consider being a surrogate for someone just because they so enjoyed the experience. If they could afford to have 30 children, they would do it. Other women I have spoken with absolutely despised being pregnant. They hated the entire process. I think I fell somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed the opportunity to be pregnant. I thought feeling Elijah move was awesome. But I was also quite uncomfortable, especially during the last month, and felt frustrated when I was unable to do the things (like exercise) that I normally did.

I say all that to say that I was pregnant with Elijah for ten months. At the same time, we waited to bring Isaac into our home for nearly as long as Bri made the decision that we would adopt Isaac very early in her pregnancy. I waited for both my boys for a long time. And when I met each of them, I fell in love with them in equal but different ways despite the fact that one of them was inside me and one was inside someone else.

Meeting Isaac is a moment I will never forget. It was unbelievably surreal to see this little person that someone was giving to us to raise and parent and love forever. Meeting Elijah was an equally awesome moment. It was equally surreal to think that this tiny child that had been growing inside me really existed and was ours.

I thought that I would have this major attachment to Elijah because he was inside my womb, and I had felt him moving for so many months. However, that just didn't happen. When Elijah was born and I saw him for the first time, it was amazing, but I really didn't feel more or less emotional about seeing him than I did when we first saw Isaac. They were both our sons. They both created emotions that caused me to feel like I was in a dream and I needed to be pinched to be told it was real. I cried equally hard with both of them.

In addition, I had wondered if my birth experience would create a different set of emotions surrounding Isaac and Elijah. But as you all know by now, the birth experience I had conjured up for us was not the way that it went. I was pretty doped up when Elijah finally emerged onto the scene and then I was in a ton of pain. Compare that to the introduction to Isaac where there was no birthing experience to recover from. If anything, I was able to enjoy Isaac's introduction to the world more than Elijah.

I can honestly say, 100%, that I feel like I have bonded to Elijah at the exact same speed at which I bonded with Isaac. This is despite the fact that I am breastfeeding Elijah and bottle feeding Isaac. Breastfeeding is great, don't get me wrong. But I really enjoyed bottle feeding as well. I liked watching JB being able to feed Isaac and being able to have help feeding him and being able to just focus on him instead of focusing on the details of getting everything "just right" in order to breastfeed. I know some mothers may feel differently, but for me, the opportunity to breastfeed did not change my bonding at all.

Here's the bottom line for me. I think that had I not ever gotten pregnant, and only had Isaac (and maybe adopted other children) that there would always have been 10% of me that couldn't make peace with that fact. That 10% of me would have been the part that got a little sad when I thought of some of the things I wouldn't get to do or see or have if I never got pregnant. That 10% would have been the part that still had trouble visiting new moms at the hospital or watching the Baby Story or going to baby showers or that type of thing.

But quite honestly, the more time I spent with Isaac, the smaller that percentage got to be. That part was getting smaller and smaller for me everyday. I know JB felt the same way. We were just so infatuated with Isaac, and often said that if it were just the three of us, forever, we were totally okay with that. Again, there was a small tugging to get to see my biological child, and I suppose that small tugging would have always been there. But I was a Mom. That's what I wanted. And even more, I wanted to see JB be a Dad, and man is he a Dad with Isaac. He races home and is on the floor wrestling with that kid in mere moments. Isaac is so awesome and so worth everything.

I got a phone call from Isaac's doctor's office yesterday. They called and said, "We'd like to speak to the guardian of Isaac John Kit." I replied in the affirmative by saying, "I'm Isaac's Mom." Isaac's Mom! That's me! He's my little boy. He has a birth family who love him immensely but I am the one in charge of him. I am the one following him on every step of this awesome journey. The fact that I got to "know him" after he emerged in the world instead of before, really means so very little to me.

I'm not saying pregnancy is not great, nor am I downplaying the miracle that occurred for us. Nor do I think that adoption will stop the pain of your infertility journey. Infertility stinks. In a perfect world, it wouldn't exist and either would adoption. But we live in a fallen world. I'm not glad about our fallen world but man, I am glad to be Isaac's Mom.

I definitely think every couple needs to exhaust infertility treatments to the extent that they need to. But I did want to encourage you that adoption is an absolutely amazing, wonderful, awesome, powerful, brilliant thing and that now that I have my two boys, I can honestly say, both experiences are equally powerful and the love is exactly the same.


AW said...

Wendi, I remember thinking for many years that I didn't care how I got to be a mom, I just wanted to be a mom. It didn't matter if my child was "born" by way of a flight from Beijing or through my own body. But then in 2006 I got pregnant and miscarried. And I started wondering...maybe I do want to experience pregnancy to its fullest. I felt a tug to at least explore that option to the fullest extent we could afford. And to the fullest extent that God would allow. So we did. Eventually getting JK! But my pregnancy with him was really NOT a good experience. Neither was my birth experience. At one point, I remember feeling jealous that you could experience Isaac's arrival the way you did - unfettered from the chains of exhaustion and C-section recovery. You could fully ENJOY his new presence. Something I didn't enjoy with JK for a few weeks.

Now that I am pregnant with #2, I feel as if I've come full circle to where I was before 2006. Again, my pregnancy has not been fun or heartwarming. I know in the end it will be worth it, as it was with JK, but I just do not enjoy being pregnant. Ironic in some ways, considering to what lengths I went to to get here! But I'm glad I've experienced it, because like you, I don't have a doubt anymore. For me, PREGNANCY and BIRTH do not make me a mom. I'm back to realizing how my child is brought to me is immaterial. But I had to experience that to the fullest extent God would allow so that I could learn that.

In some ways, that just reminds me what an amazing Heavenly Father I have. That He would allow me to learn my lessons the way I need to learn my lessons. AND in the meantime, He blesses beyond belief!

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

Wendi, This is such an amazing post -- thoughtful and heartfelt.

I have heard of some parents feeling differently about one child than another, and it's often attributed to whatever difference exists between the children. Adopted/biological, son/daughter, first/second, breastfed/bottle fed, natural birth/c-section, etc. It's easy to lay the blame on an obvious characteristic, but ultimately it seems that there are too many different factors at play -- some people just feel a stronger or faster connection with certain children, and some people feel equal connections with all of their children. Certainly I think the extent to which your heart was truly open to all methods of family building definitely contributed to your loving both boys equally.

Jess said...


I wondered (worried is probably too strong) about many of the same things....but I missed Ava so much in the hosp even when I had Ethan! And the recovery from Ava? lol!! SO MUCH EASIER! hahahaha

I felt a more...physical, I guess, reaction to Ethan's cries, but I think that was honestly because of the BFing. I remember feeling so TIED to him in that way, but it was more frustrating than heartwarming. It had nothing to do with loving him more, it was merely hormones and hard-wiring from a biological point of view.

It was a frustrating thing, though, for me...feeling that way. Because I knew I loved them both the same (well, I mean, different ways to some extent but not a bio-adopted kind of different).

I love this post. It's so true....and I think it's something that few people get to really truly test and understand.

Wendi Kitsteiner said...

Monkey Momma, Your words mirror mine . . . that's exactly how I see it.

Blessed Blackman Bunch said...

WOW! Thanks for sharing so openly! :)

The Sims Family said...

Thank you for your post. I was so glad you wrote on that. Congrats on your newest addition too! :) Our infertility travel was not a long one - we both knew and felt w/ everything in us we didn't want to exhaust a lot into it. For me - I just wanted to be a mommy - NO MATTER WHAT. So, when we were blessed w/ Tucker I knew that I was complete and ok. Pregnancy and biological couldn't have meant less to me - God had other plans I suppose - I just pray that my Tucker will never feel any different - my biggest fear! Thanks again for your openness and honesty.

Emily said...

I am just starting to research adoption (we don't know that we're infertile, but there are other concerns that are keeping us away from infertility treatments)and this post is amazing.

I heard this quote recently, and I think it sums it all up nicely: "I have four children. Two are adopted. I forget which two.” -Bob Constantine

Thanks for the links to the agencies. I am going to order my own packages today.

Good luck in your journey with your wonderful husband and two sons.

Amie Adams said...

What a wonderful post. I'm an adoptee and also have children that are biologically mine and not biologically mine.

I think the most amazing thing I've learned is the seemingly limitless ability for your heart to grow with each new child in your life--no matter how they arrived.

I'm so excited for Isaac and Elijah. They get to have a brother AND fantastic parents.

Anonymous said...

Here via LFCA. Thank you for this beautiful, honest and encouraging post. We are at the beginning of our infertility journey, staring at a long list of unknowns. Your post really spoke to me and helps alleviate a lot of my fears.

Dora said...

What a beautiful post. It was a privilege to read.