Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Say What?: Adoption and Pregnancy

If you haven't read my previous post, please take a moment to do so HERE before you read this.

Everyone has heard the stories about couples who try for years to have biological children and then get pregnant once they adopt. The Lord has decided to make that our story. But I want to tell you that this is not the case for the VAST MAJORITY of couples who walk this road. This path is one that is full of hurt, fear, shame and anger. I know because I walked it for four and a half years. I know how much it hurts to see person after person in your life have children while you remain childless. I know how hollow words can sound, even when they come with the best of intentions.

So I wanted to take a moment today to share some things that come from deep within my heart. I wish so much that there was a way for me to clarify my tone in this post. I'm fear that I may come across as angry or self-righteous. Please know that is not how I feel at all. I feel very humbled by our current reality, and I feel a profound need to speak for those who are on a difficult journey. Imagine me sitting on your couch with a cup of coffee, speaking quietly and sincerely. That's where I am today.

If you know someone, myself included, whose story includes adoption and then pregnancy soon after, I want to humbly ask you to be slow to say some of the following things:

-"I just knew this would happen."

No one knew this would happen. Especially not me. There were years of hurt, deep hurt, about not being able to have a biological child. We walked the path of adoption believing wholeheartedly that it was the only one we would know, and we were honored to be called to such a life. Hearing that someone knew it would happen makes the suffering feel small, makes me feel like I should have known this all along, makes me feel like my faith was not enough and if it had been then the last four years would not have been so hard. And it makes me feel like people believe we adopted in order to also have a biological child. Not one of these things is true.

-"This always happens."

I think this is the hardest one to hear. Mainly because it doesn't always happen. It almost never happens. I think the perception is that it happens a lot because these are the stories people tell, so we feel like we hear it all the time. I have met hundreds of women on this adoption journey, hundreds, and two of them have had this happen. I know so many beautiful women with faithful hearts who long for both adopted children and biological children and their reality is that it might not ever happen. That is the same reality I lived with for years, too. Hearing that "it always happens" hurts so much because those of us walking this road know it might not happen. And for those of us who did get pregnant soon after, it cheapens what we have experienced.

-"You must have finally been relaxed."

I cannot speak for everyone who has experienced what Adam and I are currently walking through, but I can say this. Sweet Baby #2 came our way sometime between our trips to Ethiopia. It was the most stressful month of my entire life. We had just left our son in an orphanage, and we did not know how long it would be until we could go back and get him. The week after we got home, my sweet, sweet grandfather went to be with Jesus. It was such a deep loss for me, especially coupled with the fact that we were away from our son. That month might be the hardest month I will ever live through, and it was in the midst of that that the Lord brought us this very unexpected gift. I can say for certain that I was not relaxed, and I know that, ultimately, my state of mind has very little to do with what God is up to in our lives. This is God's story; we are just the instruments.

If you you know someone who is in the adoption process and struggling to have biological children, too, I want to ask you from the bottom of my hear to be cautious in using these next few phrases.

-"Don't worry. As soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant."

Oh, I had so many people say this to me. I would nod and smile along, but in reality I wanted to hide in a closet and cry. It is so hard to hear this, and it is hard for a few different reasons. The first is that there is absolutely no guarantee that this will actually happen for anyone. We reached a place where I fully and completely believed that I would never carry a child into this world. It was a hard reality, but I was doing my best to trust God with my life. When people would say this to me, it would just remind me of what I was not going to experience. The second thing that is so hard about hearing this is that it sounds like the only reason I am adopting is to get pregnant. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I feel confident saying that about every single adoptive mom I know. We adopt because we believe it is God's calling on our life, because we have a deep love for a child brought into the world by another woman, because want to. We do not adopt to trick God or the universe into letting us have a biological child, too.

-"I'm praying so hard that you'll get pregnant after you get this baby home."

I heard this a lot, too. And I appreciate the prayers and the sentiment, but I was not praying for that to happen. I was praying for God to protect Bradley and bring him home and prepare my heart and his to be united as a family. Hearing this, along with the previous statement, really makes it seem like adoption is second tier parenting or second best. Like once I have a biological child, then I am legitimate. Those feelings hurt, and they simply are not true. I cannot imagine loving a child more than I love Bradley, and there is nothing in my biology that ties me to him. I even jokingly told my mom on the plane ride over to bring him home that if the Lord ever chose to bless us with a biological child I hoped I would love him as much as I love Bradley. Please be careful with statements like these, as they can hurt an already wounded heart.

-"I have this friend who tried for years to get pregnant, and then she adopted and BOOM...twins."

I know that we love to share stories to encourage people we love. I do it all the time. But for a woman struggling through infertility, these stories are not encouraging. At least they were not for me. She may nod and smile and thank you when you say it, but chances are she is dying inside because she believes with her whole heart that that will never be her. Because the truth is that there are people in this world who walk through all of life and never get the thing they want most. Maybe it's a spouse. Maybe it's a child. And hearing story after story of it happening for seemingly everyone else is so hard because you know that it might not ever be you. So if you find yourself about to share a story about someone you know who became pregnant right after an adoption, please ask yourself if sharing it will truly help the person you love or if it runs the risk of hurting them even more. And I would urge you to err on the side of caution. Please be slow to share and quick to listen. That is what those on this road need the most.

With deep love,

And Then God Did This

It is with such a humbled, cautious and even conflicted heart that I approach this post. My stomach is in knots for so many reasons. One of which is that I am about to share a piece of my life that has remained somewhat in the shadows until now. I'm sure you've caught the hints and implications here and there, but I have never shared the entire story outright. This is also a post that changes things. Big things. So I am going to ask you to read all the way through to the end of (what I have a feeling will be) a very long post. I am also publishing two posts today, and I would humbly ask that you read them both.

In April of 2012, Adam and I started the long, long process to bring Bradley home. We were so excited to be adopting, and we could not wait to see what the Lord would do in our lives. For about 15 months prior, we had been trying to have a biological child. Clearly, we were unsuccessful. We had always known that we wanted both biological and adopted children. We saw our family as this beautiful blend of what we imagined the family of God to look like. Our initial thought was that we would have biological children first and then adopt when we were a little older (and more mature, you know). As the months and eventually more than a year passed, we began to sense that God was telling us to adopt first. So we began our adoption from Ethiopia. And I'll be honest, it was hard to know that we would have to wait so much longer to become parents, but the more we got into the adoption process, the more I fell in LOVE with the idea of adopting first. That we would be made parents first through the adoption of our son, that I will always be able to look at Bradley and tell him that he is the one who walked me into motherhood...what a gift.

A few months after we started the process, it dawned on us that it might be a good idea to go to the doctor and make sure there was not something medically wrong (cancer, cysts, etc.) that was keeping us from being able to have biological children. I'll keep the details for Adam and myself, but after a few rounds of testing by a specialist, we were told that without serious medical intervention we would not be able to have biological children.

It was June 6, 2012. A day that is forever etched into my memory. I can tell you what I was wearing, exactly where my car was parked, exactly what the doctor said.

We were heartbroken. We wanted both. Were we asking too much?

I felt so lost and completely adrift. What happened? What did we do wrong? Where was God?

That same year, almost every single one of my friends was pregnant.

And then adoptions in Ethiopia began to slow down dramatically. It seemed like we would never be able to be parents.

Again, I began to sense the Lord asking me something. He was asking me to let go of biological children. To let go of the privilege of being able to carry a child into the world. To let go of what I thought my life would and should look like. He was asking me to trust His sovereignty over my desires.

I refused for a long time. I couldn't let go. The tighter I gripped, the more it hurt. Until God finally did the impossible. He changed my heart. He broke me down and rebuilt me into a woman who would follow Him to the ends of the earth. It was a long journey. Years in the making, but God did it.

The rest of 2012 went by. And we inched up the waiting list in 2013 until everything stopped for six months. You know the story from here.

November 29, 2014. One of the happiest days of my life so far. We saw Bradley's precious face for the very first time. Our lives changed. We had a son. A beautiful boy.

It took us eight more months to get him home, and it was a fight. A brutal battle.

He came home the day before his first birthday. We celebrated with friends and family. Kissed him a million times and hunkered down in our home to bond with our son. It was overwhelming in every single way. The jet lag. The new tiny person in our house. Not being able to leave our house. Bradley working through the loss of everything he knew. Him having to attach to Adam, the first man he had ever been around. For the first week, he pretty much only wanted to be held by me while I was standing up. Then he stopped napping during the day. I was beyond my limits. Jesus was carrying me.

Parenthood was looking soooooo much different than what I had envisioned. And I felt like I just COULD NOT get back on the right time zone. I began to grow a new appreciation of the battle the Lord fights for our hearts. He has to make us love Him. And we were having to do the same with Bradley. We had to make him love us and see us as his parents. It is (and I think always will be) the hardest thing I have ever done. And I am so deeply honored to get to do it. To have the chance to fight for this boy's heart. I would do it a thousand times.

And I finally understood why the Lord had said no to biological children for all these years. So much heartache had ultimately led to one of the greatest journeys I could imagine. In those moments of clarity, I was able to see why God ordered my life the way He did, and I was so thankful to be a mom who had the privilege of adopting, so thankful that we were able to give this beautiful boy our complete and undivided attention, so thankful that the Lord had not given up on me when I so adamantly refused His path for my life.

And now it makes even more sense. Because, unbeknownst to me, God was working something beautiful that I just couldn't see.

Ten days after walking off the plane with my boy, I found myself standing in our bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test.

I called my doctor the next day and was told that they would not see me until eight weeks. Quickly, I explained our situation (told we could not have children + one year old home from Ethiopia for 11 days now) and they said they could pencil me in. Four days later, fifteen days after Bradley got home, I was listening to the heartbeat of my second child.

Shock is an inadequate word. But it is the only one I can think of right now. I was stunned into silence. It couldn't be right. We had been told by multiple doctors that this would not happen for us. This wasn't even on our radar. It wasn't even something I prayed for anymore. God had helped me surrender this to Him. My husband was in the other bathroom bathing our one year old who had been home less than two weeks. We weren't ready.

This is where my heart twists. Having a biological child is undoubtedly something I want. Even though I gave this piece of me back to the Lord, I still thought about how amazing it would be to carry a child. I am so thankful that the Lord has gifted our family in this way.

But I know that this is something that doesn't happen often. And for years I have been on the receiving end of this news from people I know in real life and people I follow online. So I know the sting that accompanies seeing another person's prayers answered while yours seem to hang above your head. For that reason, it is with the sincerest heart that I tell you I'm sorry. I don't doubt that this is God's will for my life, and so I know I can trust that it is good. But I am deeply sorry if I have added to your hurt in any way. Please know that my heart beats for you in this, that I know what you are feeling and I honor it. Please know that I have struggled with guilt over sharing this because I hate knowing that it could add to your pain. And please know that this happening in our lives is not an indication of extraordinary faithfulness that has earned me anything. I have struggled deeply, been shaken to the core of who I am.

All I can say is that the only thing that has gotten me through the last 4.5 years on the road to parenthood is Jesus. I had to decide that the Lord was wholly and completely trustworthy, no matter the circumstance. I remember meeting with our pastor's wife in late summer 2012. I was despondent. Their story started out so similarly to ours. They could not have biological children, and after years of trying, they adopted a little boy. Soon after they got home, she found out she was pregnant. I remember sitting across from her knowing that this would not be the case for us. And she told me, "My story is not your story. I don't know how your story will end, but I know you can trust God with it." She was right. I had to believe that whatever God had for me, biological and adopted children, only adopted children or no children, whatever it was, I had to believe that it was for my good and God's glory. I know that is a really easy thing to say, and I need you know it took me literal years to get there. But I also need you to know that God can do this kind of work in your heart.

So we are celebrating this new life the Lord has entrusted to us (and still recovering from the shock). And we are trying to walk forward in faith, trusting again that the Lord is sovereign and good. Baby Knott #2 will join our family at the end of March, and we are so excited (and a bit nervous) about what the future holds for our family. I hope and pray that we can live to the calling God has for us.

I want to ask you one more thing. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I am publishing two pieces today. Please read the next one right away. It's about pregnancy and adoption, and this is something that is so dear to my heart. Please take a moment to click HERE and read it before you do anything else.

With deep love,

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Almost Two Months Home Photo Dump

So, I have been a major slacker in posting pictures of my sweet boy. I'm about to make up for it today. These go in chronological order from the week we came home till now. It's amazing to me to see how much Bradley has changed so quickly.

 First week home. 
Look how tiny he is! 
 Loves his kiddie pool. 
 First time in the stander. 
It lasted about 45 seconds. 
 Getting bigger every day! 
 Starting to crawl everywhere. 
 Building up those arm muscles. 
 Figuring out all these new toys. 
 And wondering why I'm taking so many pictures. 
 Smiling more.
 Getting chubby legs 
 And more teeth! 
 Not so happy when mom is slow with the spoon. 
 One month home and off on our first trip! 
 He's a pro at flying. 
 Family fun at the beach
 Hanging with dad.
 Out to dinner 
 Beach nap.
 Silly boy. 
 Loving the pool. 
 He has a good daddy. 
 And a crazy family. 
 Back home with Daisy girl. 
 I don't even know. 
 Seriously. I don't know. 
And with his bestie, Millie! 
You can follow them on IG: #bradandmillie
 He looks so big! 
 Standing up
 Trying to figure out his carrier. 
 Cheesy grins. 
 Getting better with Daisy. 
 First trip to the Y splash pad! 
Epic success. 

 And his first Auburn game. 
With Millie, of course. 
 And then he was done with pictures. 
 Suited up! 
 War Eagle! 
 And then he learned to do this. 

So that's our life in photos! 


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