A regular contributor to our Social Media and STAR Mom, Alyssa Howe writes about becoming unexpectedly pregnant after the adoption of her first child.
It was the fall of 2009, and for the first time in awhile, my husband Marc and I felt like life was very settled and we were “in control.” After years of infertility and several pregnancy losses, we had adopted our beautiful daughter Makena through Adoption STAR in July of 2006. Makena was doing amazingly well and growing like a weed. We were both working at jobs we loved, looking for a new house, planning a vacation abroad, and starting to return to our own personal hobbies now that Makena was a little older.
And then, I came down with “the flu.” Or, what I thought was the flu. Surprise! I was pregnant, which shocked my doctor, my husband and myself. And surprise #2, I was already 3 months along.
I should have been elated, right? I was finally pregnant, after years of failed attempts. I even got to skip the worry that comes with your first trimester as I had been blissfully unaware of my condition. Everyone kept telling me the pregnancy was a blessing, but I felt like the universe was playing a trick on me. We were very settled and content with our life as it was, after so many years of riding the roller coaster that comes with building a family. We were happy to have one child, and to put the pain of infertility behind us forever. Finding out I was pregnant was like opening Pandora’s Box.
I was now a pregnant adoptive mom, who also still bore the scars of infertility. Suddenly I wondered, where did I fit in? There was no support group for this! The “categories” I once identified with no longer applied to me, and I retreated from friendships and connections as I attempted to sort through my own feelings of confusion.
I ended up on bed rest, with too much time to think. My biggest concern was Makena— in a few short months, her world would forever change. Would she love her new brother? Would they get along? How would she feel about being African American and adopted, and having a sibling who was Caucasian and our biological child? Would she feel left out? Would she worry we loved him more? And, what would her birth mother think? How was I going to tell her? Would she also have concerns about our family dynamic and the challenges we might face? Would she doubt my love for Makena? What about the new baby? Would we love him as much as we loved Makena? I had so many mixed feelings about being pregnant that I wasn’t sure how I’d feel once he arrived. These questions raced through my head, day and night.
I distinctly remember the evening I went to labor. I crept into Makena’s room while she was sleeping and cried. I knew her world was going to change…. and she had no idea. This experience was going to be more intense for her than it was for most kids who gain a sibling. It would involve difficult issues like race, adoption, and loss. I felt like I had betrayed her by complicating her already complex life.
Colton was born on April 29, 2010… all 9lbs 2oz of him. He is the exact opposite of Makena in every respect. He is blonde haired and fair-skinned, with crystal clear blue eyes. He is artistic, quiet, pensive, and a sweet, gentle soul. Conversely, his big sister is an exuberant, intense, strong-willed spirit whose energy can fill a room. She has a gorgeous dark complexion, thick black curls and soulful brown eyes.
Despite their differences, they could not be a better pair. She pushes him to explore the world with gusto, he grounds her and gives her a quiet place. They are truly inseparable and I can’t imagine one without the other. I am sure as they grow their relationship will change, but I am certain the foundation upon which their sibling-hood is built will hold strong.
Personally, Makena’s intense love for Colton and her immediate and easy acceptance of him as her brother instilled a lot of peace in me. As is often the case in our relationship, I followed her lead and drew strength from her enthusiasm as we embraced life as a family of four. I grew in confidence and was able to once again regain my footing and my identity. I realized categories were unimportant. It didn’t matter what my “label” was—adoptive mom, biological mom. To Colton and Makena, I was just their mom.
Life is not without its complications, and it isn’t always rainbows and sunshine living in a family that is so uniquely comprised. We often face questions about our unusual dynamic, but we take them in stride. For the most part, the many “what-ifs” I once worried about incessantly are just a blip on the radar. We are busy living each day to its fullest, parenting and loving both of our kids.
When we were child-less and struggling to build a family, someone told me to be patient– the universe would send me the children I was meant to parent. It seemed hard to believe at the time, but I now know that it is the truth. I am blessed that I am “mom” to both my kids, and I am thankful for the unusual journeys that lead me to each of them.
Read More about Infertility and Adoption: Dispelling Myths about Adoption, Infertility and Adoption, A Struggle with Infertility, Are You Reading to Consider Adoption, Dana and Wayne’s Adoption Story, My Painful Path to :Parenthood