As I carried my newborn son down the elevator of the hospital, my heart filled with awe that this day had finally come. After a four-year wait, we were going to be parents for the first time.
I stood in the lobby of a Detroit suburban hospital holding my son while my husband pulled the car around to the front entrance. Suddenly, I heard a loud voice from across the room.
“Excuse me, did you just have that baby?” The question came from a middle-aged woman standing with a few friends.
I politely replied, “No. We are adopting.”
She quickly replied, “Ok, because there is no way you just had that baby. You are way too skinny.” She and her friends laughed but had nothing else to say.
When my husband pulled the car up, I hopped inside and shut the door.
As we drove home from the hospital, I became acutely aware of my baggy, size 4 jeans. I was at my skinniest. The stress of the adoption had taken away my appetite. Instead of feeling confident in my skinniness, I was feeling embarrassed and ashamed. My waistline seemed to emphasize the truth of the moment. I had never been pregnant, yet I was bringing a newborn into my home.
Throughout that first month, I felt as if the world was staring at my waistline every time I took my son out of our home. I distinctly remember wearing baggy clothes and avoiding eye contact with everyone. When my son became six months old, I was relieved. At least by then, it was more acceptable that I was thin.
But even then, I felt weird and out of place as a mom. I found myself looking for everyone’s validation in my new role. I received it from my close friends and family, but again that didn’t seem like enough.
Perhaps the problem wasn’t other people, but me.
I was still ashamed of my infertility. My body could not produce another human life. I felt like I was borrowing my son and that he wasn’t really mine. And even after the seven months it took for him to become legally ours, I still struggled to feel like I was really his mother.
Through the years of infertility, I wore a coat of shame. I picked up my coat the day we went to see a fertility specialist for the first time. I wore it every time we had a follow up appointment or procedure. But when we still couldn’t become pregnant four years and four procedures later, the coat of shame became a regular part of my wardrobe.
When we decided to pursue adoption instead of more fertility treatment, it felt as if infertility and shame won. In my mind, I was becoming an adoptive mom, not a real mom. No matter what I did, my son would have two moms. It felt like I was settling for second best.
But as we continued to walk through the world of domestic adoption, I sensed that God had a plan that was beyond me. His plan was about bringing Him glory, not doing things my way. As I slowly put one foot in front of the other out of obedience, I started to focus more on trusting Him and less on trying to get my own way.
I realize now that God was not ignoring my prayers for a biological child. My heart was not invisible to Him. He knew how much I wanted to be pregnant.
In his perfect grace, I got as close to being pregnant as I possibly could through the birth of my son. I attended all his doctor appointments from the time he was five months in utero until his birth. My husband and I sat in the room for his delivery, and I assisted the birthmom during the birth. We witnessed his entrance into this world and watched as the nurses performed his first checkup. We were the first people to hold and feed him after he was born. With the help of the nurse, we gave him his first bath and changed his first diaper.
Though I did not conceive and carry him in my womb, I carried him in my heart from the moment we were matched with his birthmom. My husband and I have been constants in his life since he was born. We held him, fed him, comforted him, encouraged him, disciplined him, cared for him when he was sick, and loved him since he took his first breath.
I realize that God is the author of our story. His plan was the best, not second best. I now embrace the title “Mom” proudly. Though my husband and I did not conceive our children, God handpicked them for us. They do not carry our genes, but they carry our hearts.
I no longer wear the infertility coat of shame. Occasionally, I am tempted to pick it back up, but then I remember the truth: God never shames his children. He only encourages them. The coat of shame I wore for so long was not given to me by God. He created my body perfectly in His image and there is no shame in not being able to conceive a biological child.
Psalm 139:13-16 reminds me: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
If you are an adoptive mom or you are struggling with infertility, I pray you will take the coat of shame off and throw it away. Listen to God’s word instead of the world’s word. Trust Him to faithfully grow your family in His time and in His way.
Adoption was not the path that I would have chosen to build my family, but I am eternally grateful that God pushed me down that road. Adoption is an amazing gift that I am honored to enjoy every day with my family.