One of the things I have heard countless times from well-meaning people throughout our journey was something along the lines of, “Now that you’ve adopted, I bet you’ll get pregnant.” Or, “I know so many people who have adopted and then they get pregnant.” I know that these words were meant to evoke hope and encouragement to my heart, but it never left me feeling that way. Instead, it brought up feelings of frustration, defensiveness and downright annoyance. I know from speaking to other women who have or are struggling with infertility that they had similar thoughts and feelings. So, here are a few thoughts on why these words can be hurtful and what to say instead.
I realize now that I am part of that category of woman that I never wanted to hear about which is ironic and slightly funny, but I also believe that it gives me a great perspective to share from. There were several reasons why I never wanted to hear the “you’ll get pregnant now that you’ve adopted” statement, but here are my top 3.
1. Their story is not my story
I know that people mean well and when they haven’t experienced something firsthand, they try to find a way to meet you there the best they can. That’s why I believe that it is so easy for people to pull out stories of friends or acquaintances that have a “pregnancy after adoption” story when speaking to someone who is infertile. They wanted to meet me where I was and give me hope by pointing to what God has done in someone else’s life. The gesture is good and beautiful, but afterward it just left me feeling like, “Good for them, but that’s not me.” I have always believed that God works intimately in the lives of His people and that He provides different gifts and trials to each as us in accordance to His will; for His glory and for our good. Just because God did something for someone else does not mean that He will do it for me. It doesn’t mean that He won’t either. You just never know. So when people tried to tie some stranger’s story to my own, it just didn’t provide me with the intended hope. Getting pregnant after adoption is not the rule; it is a miraculous gift and should be shared and celebrated as such! Shout it from the rooftops of how good God is whenever you hear of a miracle like this! Just know your audience and treat those stories as the miracles they are rather than “the rule”.
2. Putting pregnancy on a pedestal
When someone would say those statements, I couldn’t help but feel like they were putting pregnancy as ultimate or better than adoption. Like now that I have adopted, God would give me the “real thing”. Now hear me, I’m not saying that this was ever anyone’s intentions or what they really meant. This is just how I perceived it through my wounded heart. I LOVE adoption and believe it is just as miraculous as pregnancy. I didn’t want to take anything away from my precious daughter that is FULLY mine or any other future children that we would adopt. Pregnancy is such a gift and I am SO grateful God is gifting me with it, but I also wanted people to understand how beautiful adoption is and that I wouldn’t be missing out if all of my children were adopted. I didn’t need pregnancy to experience the blessings of motherhood, but I do believe God is gifting me with both experiences so I can have a fuller, richer understanding and speak life into both. When you say those statements to women who have adopted (without experiencing pregnancy), it can make us feel like you don’t see our adopted children as “enough” and that only through pregnancy will we experience the full joys of parenting.
3. Adoption isn’t a cure for infertility
People who have experienced infertility have endured a LOT of pain. Even after adopting, the pain doesn’t just disappear. The wound is still there. Without knowing what people have gone through, you may not understand how much effort has gone into “trying”. Maybe they charted their temperature everyday so they could know the exact time they would ovulate. Maybe they went for countless ultrasounds and rounds of drugs just to get their body to do what it was supposed to. Maybe they went through the long, invasive journey of IVF. There is often so much effort and it is exhausting. When someone insinuates that adoption is the magic cure after going through everything they have, it can be insulting. I do not believe that us adopting Bella is what “cured” my infertility. I DO believe that He used our infertility as a means to lead us to our daughter and then opened up my womb to lead us to our next child, but is wasn’t the act of adoption that cured me. God did because He did. I don’t know why or how, but I trust that He’s got it all planned out!
What to Say Instead
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen. Don’t feel like you have to give someone hope. I know that’s what we want to give people, but sometimes our words are not what they need. Sometimes our presence and understanding is enough. And if you do want to say something, maybe speak encouragement meeting them right where they are, not where they could be or want to be. If she has adopted, maybe speak on how awesome it is how God has chosen to make her a mom or give a compliment about her children. Even just thanking them for sharing their story is enough. And if they are in the midst of the pain, it’s okay to just sit with them there without trying to fix it with hope. One of the hardest and greatest gifts you can give to someone who is grieving is to meet them in their pain and just be there with them. It’s okay to tell someone, “This must be so hard. I don’t know what to say, but I’m here.” In fact, it goes so far. I always used to say that what I needed most during our infertility struggle was comfort for the present pain, not hope for the future. Meet people where they are and love them the best way you can.
My hope for our story
Like I said, I realize now that we do fall into the category of “pregnant after adoption.” I’m not saying that I don’t believe that our story can bring hope to others or that I don’t think you should share this with struggling friends. In fact, I pray that God will use us to bring people hope. But the hope I want to give people is not, “It happened for us, it will happen for you!” but rather a hope in something greater. I desire that people would look at our story and see that our God is an unpredictable, gracious God who took us places we wouldn’t have imagined on our own. Some of those places are dark. Some of those places are broken. Some of those places are full of restoration. Some of those places are rich with healing. We have had mountaintop experiences and deep, dark valleys and He uses it ALL to weave together the story of our lives and of His grace. I don’t know what God has planned for us next and I certainly can’t tell you what He has planned for you. Still, I can say with confidence that there is a hope in Christ that is trustworthy, good and perfect. It doesn’t waiver or falter whether in the valley or on the mountaintop. That is the hope I want to share with the world first and foremost and if I can give comfort and hope to struggling women on top of that, praise Him all the more!