Adapted for my own selfish uses, 1 Samuel 27.

Recently it has come to my attention that in the midst of the complaints and funny stories about vomiting, and hot dogs, and late-night peeing, I’ve perhaps misrepresented the journey to parenthood for us – how we’ve gotten here, how it wasn’t a walk in the park, and how, above all, we feel truly, deeply, and completely undeservedly, blessed.

(This is a really, really long post.  It gets really personal.  If you only read one thing on this blog, you should understand this.)

There is simply no easy way to become a parent.  There are harder ways, and more expensive ways, and faster ways, and slower ways, and there are ways that are marked with more trials than others, but at the end, with *any* method of growing a family, there is loss, there is pain, there is suffering, and there is expense.  If children could simply fall out of the sky, there could be a painless way to grow a family.  But there simply, simply, is not.

I think about this literally all of the time.  Literally.  I think about how incredibly blessed we are, that we are able to start this process with a natural conception (because it is, perhaps, the easiest of the three routes here – not easy) – because we surely did not expect it.  We feel very blessed.  We feel very fortunate.  And we are very, very, very acutely aware that there are thousands – millions – of families that are not so fortunate. Perhaps we will not be so fortunate to have a living child at the end – we are not so foolish to think that the next 6 months will be smooth sailing – but we feel very, very, very blessed to have gotten this far.

For us, adoption and natural conception were two equally acceptable ways of growing a family.  We were very open to either option.  For us, and I want this to be clear – for OUR situation, for US – assisted reproduction techniques were never an option.

That doesn’t mean I see children who are added to our family through biology and through adoption as exactly the same.  I don’t.  I used to, and perhaps this is part of my own growth that I have come to see them as different, but the two – adopted and biological – are simply not the same.  With a biological child, I will need to answer to them why Mommy and Daddy risked what we knew about our genes to create them – and I will have the (uncomfortable, perhaps) answers.  I will know every step of this child’s existence intimately.  The child will have the experience – I do not know if this is a gift – of not being questioned every day we are in public.  And when we announced that we were pregnant to our families, this child will have had the benefit – and of this, I am very sure – the benefit of everyone knowing *just* how to react.  “OH, how wonderful!” – they have said.

For our adopted child, we will not have the gift of information.  For sure, we will need to be able to look him or her (sticking with him from here out for brevity) in the eye and be able to say, without a flicker of hesitation, that we did *everything* we could to ensure that his biological mother and father wanted him to live with us, Rachel and DB, here, in America.  Perhaps we will have an open adoption – that we hope very much – so that we can help with those answers.  But I am cautious, even now, about how this child will be received in our family, and how we can maintain birth order when we want to adopt so close together.  I am cautious because we started with adoption, and when we announced that, there was excitement, but there was not the same excitement.  I am cautious because I’ve read an email from one of our family members to a friend of mine who is an adoptive parent, and it was something that I shuddered with horror reading.

How can I protect my child from *those* attitudes?  How can I ensure that my children see themselves as siblings, as equal in our love and equally protected by their parents?

So no, they are not equivalent.  As I said, we see these options as equally palatable (bad word, sorry) in growing our family, but I see them each as presenting their own challenges.  Perhaps as we actually become parents, my anxieties about all of it will dissipate.

Perhaps.  Although knowing myself, it is doubtful.

No, what I really wanted to write about was that we truly – truly, truly – feel deeply blessed.  This is something I wrote in a protected post, but I am not sure who actually read it.  So here it is, in an unprotected (for the next few weeks) post:

For most of my life, I did not think it was possible for me to bear biological children.

In college, I was told that I had some antibodies that recognized my own tissue as hostile, and created cardiac problems in an unborn infant (this is still true).

In graduate school, I was told – by a student health radiologist, no less – that my uterus was heart-shaped, possibly had a septum, and was not capable of supporting a conceived life, without invasive reconstructive surgery (this turned out not to be true).

Following that, my student health OB/GYN told me that there is no way she would recommend a conception, given the risks of any potential pregnancy (this turned out to be questionably valuable advice).

The summer after I graduated from graduate school, I went to Vietnam, and as part of my work with the UN, visited an orphanage outside of Da Nang.

I fell in love with a child there.  He was a child that had a father who couldn’t afford to keep him at home, but visited him often, so he was not freed for international adoption – but he stole my heart. I think he was 8.  Or 10.

He definitely wasn’t an infant.  And he definitely, definitely, definitely needed a mommy or a daddy that lived with him all the time.  He was 8, or 10, but he was young.

Did I mention how he stole my heart?

A few months later, I moved to this city.  That fall, when I was hemorrhaging so heavily that we considered going to the ER, even without adequate health insurance to cover it – I was advised – ON THE PHONE, no less – to get a hysterectomy.  By a male GYN.

About a year later, I found out that I had adenomyosis, which are tumor-like growths in the lining of my uterus.  (Similar to endometriosis, but the growths stay in the lining of the uterus.)  The only proven treatment for this is a hysterectomy, and finally, finally, finally, I cried.

And cried.

And cried.

Because it wasn’t that I wanted so much to become pregnant.  I had already started the process of researching adoption agencies.  (It was also in this period that we realized our significant autism risk, which simply compounded our belief that we were called to adopt.)

It wasn’t even that I planned to become pregnant.  When we started dating, I told DB about my antibodies, and my apparently defective uterus, and he simply said, “I don’t love you for your uterus.  I love you for YOU”.

I do really love my husband.

But for some reason, the latest nail in the coffin – the adenomyosis, plus the antibodies that had only increased in strength (and therefore clinical relevance) – crushed me.  Perhaps it was the growing realization that I was a graduate student, in growing amounts of student debt, and my husband worked for the government, and there was no possible way for us to reasonably afford an adoption and successfully raise the child.

I felt like there was really no way out.  That we would remain childless forever.  Perhaps I was overly dramatic (and obviously, hindsight is showing that I was) but that was how I felt at that time.

I struggled.  Friends (upon friends, upon friends) became pregnant, easily, and gave birth to healthy babies.  Other friends had friends who “just adopted from [fill in the blank rogue country – Guatemala, whatever], and *they* are so happy – why don’t YOU do that?!?” – and I just wanted to avoid everyone.  I was tired of the questions, “When are YOU having kids?!?”

Healthy?  No.  But with every cute baby face, and every cute baby belly, I was sinking.  And sinking. It became really hard for me to celebrate other people’s joy.

I had a friend whose pregnancy was accidental, and she was devastated.  Up until the birth of her child, she was trying to figure out how she could possibly love this child.

It took everything I had to be able to relate.  I really couldn’t relate.  I really wanted to say, “Hey!  Wake UP!  There are lots of us that would KILL for a baby! Any baby!  Pick yourself up!  Get happy!  What the hell is your problem?!?!?”  (I didn’t.  Don’t worry.  And she is now very bonded to her child after a tough road.)

It was during this time that we started our bid to adopt from Vietnam, and then realized that what had happened in the last shutdown was still happening, and we took a step back.  That part has been amply documented on this blog.

We had a doctor who suggested that a Mirena IUD would thin the lining of my uterus, strip the adenomyosis, and hopefully staunch the excessive flow of blood (that was causing me to be extremely anemic and need blood transfusions and iron infusions that I turned out to be allergic to).  We never intended to use this as a way to be able to conceive – really, the goal was simply to avoid the need for iron infusions and prevent severe anemia and blood loss – but when adoption looked like we could not stomach moving forward, we reconsidered conceiving.

Right when we made that decision, I had a stroke-like incident, and a follow-up MRI in the ER revealed a brain lesion.

This fall was horrendous.  We were devastated.  On one hand, if it was lupus, the end-game would be psychosis and death.  Pregnancy could hasten that, and I did not think *any* agency – international or domestic – would be eager to allow us to adopt a child.

On the other hand, if it was multiple sclerosis, we might have been able to conceive, but the doors would be slammed shut to adopt.  (And I didn’t think conception was really the greatest option, given the exigent circumstances.)

After six months of intense anxiety, it turned out to be…nothing.

We removed the IUD.

We started trying to conceive immediately.

We had about a window of three months before my iron levels got too low and I would no longer be able to support a pregnancy.

If we failed after three months, I was going to have another IUD implanted – so that I could keep my iron levels as high as possible, to stay healthy to be an actual parent.  Of something other than a pet.

This entire time, I had been praying to God, fervently.  My prayer varied, but it was essentially something along the lines of, “Please, God, we want to be good parents.  Please open the doors that You want opened and close the doors that You’re going to close and comfort us through this process – please, please, please, please”.

The night we conceived Little Squirt, we prayed, again.  And this is really personal, but we did.  We prayed, fervently, “Please, God, we are open to any route you want to make us parents, but please, if you want us to be biological parents, please please grant us this child and protect him/her.”

Two weeks later, I peed on a stick and found out that I am not, actually, the type of person whose hCG fails to make that second pee stick line.

We have no idea what to make of this.  We know that the Bible says “Ask, and you shall receive”, and we both fervently believe that this is one of the most warped (by people, for their own purposes) phrases in the Bible.  We believe that we do not know what makes some prayers obviously answered and some prayers answered “later” and some, seemingly, not answered.  We do believe that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and He uses all things for His good….but that sounds cheap, really, or just too easy – in some situations.  I know that.  It does.

We know that countless, countless couples have prayed more fervent prayers, are better Christians*, for certain better witnesses**, will be better parents*** – who have prayed these prayers, and come up with nothing – no child, no options. Who struggle, and cry, and wait, and who put money down with rogue adoption agencies or pay fees to adopt, only to have foreign governments inexplicably shut its doors to international adoption.  Who have babies make it to term, and are born still.

As I said, we have no idea about the outcome of this pregnancy and we try very hard to assume nothing, although we are hopeful.  We continue to pray and we continue to rejoice, but we continue to petition God on behalf of the thousands of other parents struggling to expand their families, too.

We feel so unworthy.

We feel like it is a miracle, and we celebrate every. single. minute. that I continue to be pregnant.

No, it is not glamorous.  Yes, I’ve puked more than some others, and yes, I’ve puked in every appliance in our house and several buckets.  But as I said, not one way of becoming a parent is devoid of pain, heartache, or loss.  And not one way of becoming a parent is any less blessed, or miraculous.

We choose to celebrate our every single minute, and we will continue to choose that path with our next child (who will be adopted) and we hope that everyone – our friends, family, and those close to us – will join us.

In celebrating, as responsibly and ethically and thoughtfully as we can.

Because there is so, so, so, so much to celebrate and wonder.

*I hate that phrase

**This phrase is better

***Of this, I have no doubt