What It’s Like To Adopt While Pregnant

Growing a family through adoption while also pregnant with a biological child was the joy of my life.

Natalie Brenner May 14, 2018
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I’ll never forget seeing the test turn positive…the week before we received our final home study license.

We were pursuing babies through both adoption and biological pregnancy, knowing they could happen around the same time. We’re up for making life a trip and living atypical stories.

Initially, my first fear was that agencies would close our profile when they found out I was pregnant; some did and others didn’t.

It was all beginning around the same time: first trimester of my biological pregnancy was also the first rounds of agency and grant applications being mailed in. Hand cramps from filling out mounds of paperwork accompanied abdominal cramps as my body made space for the new little one inside.

As my hornones began kicking in and I felt like I was constantly sea sick, I continued aching for something steady to hold onto through our adoption process.

We were on the journey of adopting an infant domestically, and I was unsure if a mom would choose to place her child with us since I was pregnant. Simultaneously we never doubted this was the journey we were to pursue. Just because we were pregnant didn’t mean we didn’t want to adopt: the two are separate gifts and ways to build a family.

People ask you weird things when you’re pregnant. People ask you even weirder—read: inappropriate and unthoughtful—things when you’re pregnant and adopting. Continually I learned how to navigate the awkward way people would attempt to ask questions that really weren’t their business at all. I tried to balance understanding curiosity—I’m curious about the way things work too—and also protecting our story. I’m also an over sharer in excitement, and this was exciting!

One of the most frequent questions I received was, “Why would you adopt if you can clearly have your own?” Even then, before being matched and placed with a baby, the words cut my heart for my future child or children. The idea that adoption is only for those who are infertile or have been diagnosed as infertile is a huge myth. The implication that adoption is second, or third, or fourth—you’ve got IVF, IUI, and surrogacy thrown in your faces as options to try first —best is disheartening.

LESS than 3% of all people who adopt will get pregnant. I don’t even know if this is taking into account the fact that not all families who choose adoption are even infertile. Studies reveal the rate for achieving pregnancy after adopting is the same as for those who do not adopt. I also personally know a number of couples who have no desire to attempt a biological pregnancy, and instead have chosen to build their family through foster care and adoption. The two are absolutely not mutually exclusive.

A statement people loved — and continue to love — blanketing our experience and life with is that I got pregnant because we were adopting. That somehow, adoption was relaxing and stress free—false— and therefore I was able to conceive. This notion is not only medically impossible and false, but it degrades our adopted children. It reduces their value and purpose to that of bringing us biological children. This all too accepted societal expectation, that we get pregnant after we adopt and because we adopt, implies that our biological children are somehow a reward for the charity work of adoption. Bleh.

These myths, stigmas, and implications make me sick. I vacillate between incredibly angry with mama bear ferocity to take them down and deep sadness that these are the messages my children will process. These messages have been around for generations, and though not all adoptees or first/birth families are hurt by them, a large number are. And understandably so.

When we were chosen by our son’s birth mom to become his parents, she shared that my being pregnant greatly solidified her decision: she was ecstatic that he would have a sibling close in age.

After meeting and holding our firstborn son for the very first time, while also twenty weeks round with our second son, I was confident life couldn’t get better.

My experience is unique to me, and not all who are pregnant while adopting have felt this way. And that’s okay.

Though I was still vomiting well into my second trimester and injecting myself daily with blood thinners, I didn’t care. I was on cloud nine holding my teeny tiny five pound son on top of my growing belly. It felt like the greatest gift, being pregnant while adopting. So much sweetness and expectation.

You would often find our newborn son sleeping atop my growing midsection, snuggling his soon-to-be baby brother and virtual twin.

Not all who adopt while pregnant end up with virtual twins, but we did. This is yet another piece of a unique adoption journey to be informed on and educated about. I would argue that choosing to virtual twin — this is when there are two siblings, less than 9 months apart, unrelated biologically — adds many layers to parenting your kids.

So while I was reading birth and breastfeeding books, I was also reading about trauma and attachment and cocooning your newborn infant. I read about biological twins and how to care for two infants at the same time, but also blogs and articles about raising multiple children who have joined your family via biological birth and adoption.

I didn’t feel that reading books geared toward biological pregnancies and postpartum care fully prepared me for what was to come, so I did my best to really educate myself on the complexities of our unique journey.

I hope that our story of adopting while pregnant will help diminish the horrible notions that if someone can get pregnant, she wouldn’t choose adoption. I pray our boys will grow up finding friendship in one another, being best frenemies but always having each other’s back.

I want to serve them well as complete individuals who are often asked if they’re twins, and hopefully instill in them each that they were and are both incredibly wanted. As their mama, I pray to encourage healthy and individual identities, but also a deep bond to one another.

Their value to me stems from their existence, not their biological roots. My love for them is so different, and yet not different at all. It is fierce, it is protective, and it is unending. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: I love them as though I birthed them both, but also as if I adopted them both. To me, it is the same fierce mama love.

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Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty and believes grief is the avenue to wholeness. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a lover of fall. Connect with her at NatalieBrennerWrites.com and join her email community.


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