There are four years between my son that I placed and my son that my husband and I are parenting. Those years in between pregnancies were excruciatingly and I could not wait for my turn to be a mom! I will say this a million times if I need to: I have not, do not, and will not ever regret placing. However, going through a full term pregnancy and not taking the baby home left me with deep emotional scars. Some of those scars I didn’t know existed until I was pregnant again. Here are five ways I noticed that pregnancy was different after placing:

1) Dreaming. There’s a lot of speculation as to why we dream. One common theory is that it helps our sub-conscience work out problems that we can’t solve in our waking state. Pregnancy dreams can be terribly vivid and for me, caused more distress than the problems they solved. For example, I was overwhelmed with nightmares about losing my son. In my dream I sometimes lost him through death or through a potential kidnapping. Sometimes I even lost him through complete denial; I would wander my home or the hospital searching for him and knowing he wasn’t there. It seems as if my mind was afraid to let me bond with him because of the pain I felt after placing. My mind was warning me that I could lose this child, and reminding me how painful it could be. This certainly was not something I anticipated before I got pregnant a second time.

2) Guilt. I felt guilty over everything. I felt guilty when I had morning sickness, if I was tired, that I got to feel my son move before my husband did. All these things were out of my control, but I felt guilty about them. With my first pregnancy, I felt afraid to enjoy it. I didn’t want to “have fun” being pregnant because when it was over, it was over. Somehow, I was supposed to go back to life and pick up where I left off. With my second pregnancy, I was supposed to enjoy it. But it was so difficult, I love both of my boys with all of my heart so how could I enjoy one pregnancy and not the other?

3) Self Doubt. I used to joke that I was easing myself into parenthood. I had experienced being pregnant and had time to analyze it before I jumped into parenting four years later. Obviously a joke, but part of me was relieved to know how my body handled pregnancy.  It helped me prepare in the workplace, at home, with my husband and so on before I was overwhelmed with the idea of making a human. Then the time came to become pregnant and plan for parenthood. My mind was a jumbled mess of whether or not I could handle this. I had so many questions and doubts. I wondered what if my children grow up to use my first pregnancy against me one day? How am I supposed to introduce my children to their half sibling that I’m not raising? How am I to teach them that my past is not ok, while explaining that I did the right thing? How am I supposed to reason with a teenager that doesn’t  see it that way? Suddenly, my decision to place and to keep the adoption open was called into question and it was terrifying to face. I am grateful I was able to confide these emotions and fears to fellow birth mothers and a birth mother counselor. They helped me to see where these feelings are coming from and that it’s normal. They helped me find peace within my choice again.

4) Fear of Joy. Adoption was my first choice when I found out I was pregnant. I had seven months to go through counseling, find a couple, and make a plan before I actually gave birth. So, the entire time I knew emotionally where I stood. I was going to bond in a proper, healthy way as to let my son know I love him. But that was a difficult time in my life to find happiness. There was no future to dream of with me and that child, so I thought. Open adoption makes a future possible with my son but I didn’t know what to expect in that area. So, when my husband I were pregnant, it was supposed to be nothing but happiness. I could finally decorate a nursery, I could pick names and dream about my future with my family. However, I was terribly afraid of losing this child. I was afraid to feel happy, almost like I didn’t deserve happiness. I had somehow convinced myself through my first pregnancy that I got what I deserved, and now that I was pregnant again, I was going to “get that” again. I was going to lose my child if I was happy about him.

5) I needed to do it alone. The birth father left me to handle the pregnancy by myself. When my husband and I were pregnant, I had a very hard time allowing him to participate, which also led me to feel guilty (see #2). I felt like I had something to prove. I could work 40 hours a week, clean our two story house, do the grocery shopping and anything else that life demanded. I pushed myself so hard I ended up tearing part of my uterus. I was put on pelvic rest for eight weeks followed by many ultrasounds to ensure the safety of both baby and myself (it was probably my shoveling two feet of snow off of the driveway that did me in). But for some reason, I felt like I needed to prove to the world and to myself that I could do it alone. That if I needed to, I could handle parenting and I didn’t need anybody. I didn’t need anybody the first time around and accepting help meant accepting weakness.

I finally realized something was emotionally stopping me from enjoying parenthood. Unfortunately, I waited until my son was almost a year old to do so. I have since gone through counseling and currently am helping women who are pregnant and considering adoption. I’m not sure why I thought pregnancy would be so simple, especially after the experiences I have had with it before. While both of my pregnancies were beautiful, both were hard, and both were worth it.

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