I bought the lie. I am not sure if it was one that someone told me. It might have been something I conjured up out of desperation. Regardless, this belief took over my mind: Adopting would erase my infertility.
It seemed so obvious. I desperately wanted to become a mother. Through adoption, I could be. So, what if that child did not come from my own body?
After six-and-a-half years of trying to have a family, our miracle occurred. Our son was placed in my arms. There are no words for that moment in my life. Everything I had ever wanted was enveloped in this six-pound bundle resting in my arms. I was a mother! I wanted to shout it on every street corner. We had waited so long and gone through so much to get to that very moment and, finally, our dream had come true. I was no longer infertile! I was a mother!
New Waves of Emotion
Four months later, the phone rang. My brother and sister-in-law were pregnant. The green rapids of jealousy began coursing through my veins. I was confused. I was a mother, which was all I ever wanted. Why did these painful feelings return? Why was infertility still haunting me?
I beat myself up pretty severely during that first pregnancy after adopting. I felt ashamed to be experiencing these emotions. I was angry that infertility continued to linger and saddened to realize that motherhood would not end the pain of not being able to get pregnant. Deep down, I worried that it was a reflection on my motherhood. I worried somehow that I did not think my son was adequate, and felt horrified to think that.
Eventually, my sister-in-law gave birth and the emotions dissipated. Maybe that was just an isolated experience. Another year passed before the next rock dropped. My other brother and his wife were expecting, triplets this time. The feelings returned. I chalked them up to triggering my grief over our last attempt at infertility treatment, when the doctor would not perform the IUI until we’d discussed selective reduction. It was not a matter of whether I would be pregnant, but how many. I was supposed to be the one announcing I was pregnant with triplets. The grief made sense.
A few months later my sister got pregnant, along with another sister-in-law and a close friend. Each announcement brought a tidal wave of emotion that swept me off my feet. I felt lost. This was not supposed to be happening. At this point we had been parents for two years and were matched with another expectant mother in the hope of adding another child to our family. I was supposed to be feeling joy—if our adoption was successful (which it was!), look at all the cousins and friends our child would have to grow up with!—and, yet, the emotions of being infertile overwhelmed me.
I tried to attribute the pain to receiving word of so many pregnancies while we were working through the uncertainty of and stress of our match. The expectant mother’s due date was the same as the date for the triplets. Yes, I reassured myself; this was actually the problem. My infertility had been solved by adopting, so it couldn’t be that.
The triplets were born healthy, nine days later our daughter joined our family, and, within another four months, all the other pregnancies resulted in healthy, happy births. Surely, the worst was behind us.
But two years later, my sister was pregnant again. A friend I had bonded with over infertility was now on her third pregnancy. My cousin, who also struggled with infertility, was pregnant. Pain. Pain. Pain.
I finally had to draw the conclusion I did not want to admit: Adoption does not solve infertility.
A Far More Important Truth
I began to work through this reality with a wonderful therapist. I had been so sold on my belief that adoption would “cure me” of my infertility that I had a hard time accepting that it was a lie. Slowly and gently my therapist helped me see the disconnect. Adoption cured my childlessness, but it did not make me fertile. There were experiences I missed with my children, and other people’s pregnancies were a stark reminder of that fact.
Over the past six weeks, my sister and sister-in-law have again announced pregnancies. Both stung, but I was a more prepared that this was normal. It was OK that it hurt. It did not reflect on my status as a mother or my relationship with my children. It was simply a reflection of the experiences I didn’t get with my children.
This time, I also sought advice from fellow adoptive parents, asking: “How do you deal with pregnancies?” I got some of the most amazingly helpful advice. My favorite, and the strategy I intend to use from here on out, is to do something special with my children to celebrate my motherhood whenever I endure an announcement. This has been hugely helpful in shifting the focus from what I was missing to what I have the privilege of experiencing.
The lie I bought was not true. I am not sure how I reached that deceitful conclusion. Regardless, I have found a more important truth. Motherhood matters far more than how I arrived at it. Yes, infertility will always sting. I desperately wish I could have felt my children’s first kicks. I wish there were things about their past that I didn’t have to explain, but, ultimately, that is motherhood—beauty and pain mixed into one amazing experience—and that was what I was after: The ultimate motherhood experience.
Amanda Ackerman is the voice behind the blog From My Plan To His. She and her husband are the proud parents of two children who were both adopted at birth through domestic, open adoption. When she is not busy chasing kids, Amanda enjoys sharing the ups and downs and insights on this road called adoptive parenting.