I am fortunate. I’ll acknowledge that right off the bat. I have had the opportunity to give birth to biological children, and to have a son join our family through adoption. I know that thousands of women would give anything for the chance to deliver a healthy baby, and while my challenges in life never centered around infertility, my heart still ached when doctors informed me that my body would never be strong enough to carry another baby. I felt overwhelmed and blessed when, due to adoption, I was able to have another son. I felt unworthy of such a miracle.

A few weeks back, I sat in a room with some pregnant women and listened to them lament over what pregnancy was doing to their bodies. I could relate. Stretch marks, loose skin, weak bladders, scars. Yep. I understood. The large scar across my lower abdomen, and the flap of skin that lazily hangs over it, are permanent reminders of my difficult labors that ended in C-sections. But it was one comment that made me catch my breath; an off-hand remark about how much “easier” adoption would be.

Of course, adoption does not cause stretch marks or visible scars, but I have been changed by adoption. Adoption is anything but easy.

Waiting for the right situation to find you is difficult. You work, you pray, you prepare. You ride an emotional roller coaster every time an adoption opportunity arises, where your brain says, “Don’t get your hopes up,” and your heart says, “Too late.” You do your best to protect your heart from disappointment when things don’t work out the way you hoped they would. But, you still cry and wonder if your family will ever be chosen (or chosen again, if things fell apart after an initial match.)

Suddenly, after what feels like eternity, you ARE chosen. You are so excited, but you still have to find the strength to guard your heart, because things can and do change. Until final papers are signed, there is no guarantee that you will actually be bringing a baby home. You are forced to live life in a “cautiously excited” state.

You spend the next few months getting to know the woman who chose you as the possible parents for her unborn child. Sometimes you don’t know the right things to do or say as you navigate that new and unique relationship. You second guess yourself and agonize over every perceived misstep. You learn to love her unconditionally, and as the time draws near for the baby to arrive, you find yourself under a pile of such conflicting emotions, you don’t know exactly what to feel.

Excitement for the arrival of the baby. Nerves for all the “what if’s?” Worry for the expectant mother: How will she ever find the strength to actually do this? Guilt for being a part of the heartache that will swell up after placement. Fear that your sweet friendship might be damaged.

The baby arrives, and everyone is in love. The hospital is a sacred space where you give the baby’s biological mother all the time she needs to be with the baby, and you feel awkward and out of place. Your emotions are still so conflicted: You don’t want her to go through with placement because you can’t stand knowing that her heart is breaking, all the while trying to hold it together at the thought of your own heart breaking if she were to change her mind. You all cry—a lot. Sometimes you cry with her and sometimes you cry alone in your car.

Papers are signed. One woman walks away with another woman’s baby. Both hearts break. You feel so completely honored to have been trusted with a human life, and so unworthy. You go home and shed countless tears of both gratitude and utter sorrow. And if you are anything like me, years later you will still have moments where you look at your child, and all those feelings will come rushing back. My heart is so full of love and gratitude for my son, and yet, I grieve for his birth mother and her pain. I carry his sleeping body into bed and cry quiet tears for the woman who isn’t here. I utter a prayer for her and hope that in that same moment she is at peace.

After placement your relationship with your child’s birth mother changes. It gets redefined and re-navigated. Both of you have feelings of insecurity. You still love her and you do your best to cultivate a healthy relationship. Some days are difficult. Some days are wonderful. You keep working at it because you love her, and it’s worth it. It’s a constant, ever-changing journey and you’re committed to it.

Though adoption did not change me on the outside, it has changed me to my core. Because of adoption, my heart will never be the same. It has experienced love, fear, joy, and sorrow; emotions that have flowed freely along with my pulse. My heart has been weakened and strengthened all at once. It has been wounded and healed, and there are certainly scars. They are not visible scars like the one I carry from physical childbirth, but they are just as real.

Adoption did not change my body. But it certainly changed my heart.

If you are ready to begin your domestic infant adoption journey, this is a great place to start. Click here to connect with an experienced, compassionate adoption professional who is excited to help you get started.