I feel gypped. I didn’t get my picture-perfect pregnancy.
Well, I’ve actually had two babies in 12.5 months, but as you can imagine by that math, our story is pretty unusual. Whether you’re trying for a baby unsuccessfully or your vision for Insta-worthy motherhood isn’t going as planned, keep reading.
My first babe was a sweet surprise—adoption a year into my marriage. There was no nursery in our one-bedroom apartment to decorate. There were no baby showers leading up to her entrance into our lives. She just kind of happened, and it was amazing, but we didn’t really get to celebrate the anticipation of her arrival.
My second babe was also a sweet surprise. We found out we were expecting in January, and two short months later, we were in quarantine. I didn’t bother buying cute maternity clothes. I didn’t spend time around friends who got to watch my belly grow, and right when I started to feel cute-pregnant and not fat-pregnant, we moved to a city where we knew only two grown adults. So yeah, I feel gypped. Incredibly thankful for my babes, but like I missed out on something amazing that all other moms get to have.
And as soon as I say it, I can’t help but realize—that is so f’d up, y’all. We live in a society where I feel gypped about something so trivial, so unimportant in the grand scheme of life because my perfect “becoming a mommy” idealism wasn’t achieved. Is it OK to have these feelings? Sure—to some degree. It’s OK to want to make the most of a super special season of life.
But this is the parenthood of today: everything is idealized, everything documented with a cute filter, and if I’m honest—it’s all a hoax! I’m pretty sure it’s causing way more stress than sweetness.
What is real motherhood for me? It’s typing this article with spit-up in my hair from my littlest baby, who has snot in her hair from her older sister. It is me still bleeding nine weeks after giving birth. It’s giving my 15-month-old a bath, her pooping in it, and then cleaning it up while my husband gives her a shower as she screams. It is me getting questions like, “what’s the story on H’s real mom?”
Motherhood is MESSY and beautiful. What hurts, though, is that even though my girls are equally loved, equally cherished, and both obsessively photographed—society views one’s entrance into our lives as more legitimate than the other. For the record, I’m referring to my adopted daughter, but you already knew that, didn’t you?
The struggle goes way beyond our expectations and entitlement to a perfectly curated pregnancy beautifully documented on Instagram. We’ve idealized one very specific version of parenting as the best way, and it has a toxic impact.
This is the issue: there is a deep-rooted ideology that any means to parenthood that is not biological is less than the “real deal.” I can’t put my finger on exactly why this is, but I think it has something to do with not pushing the baby out of your own (or your spouse’s) vagina. Yep. It’s the whole flesh from flesh thing.
I wouldn’t call myself a parenting expert by any means, but I have had two babies very close together through two very different means, and I am here to say that regardless of how the child comes to you, parenthood comes with labor pains. As soon as you become a parent, you have FLESH in the game.
The two most challenging instances of my life surround the birth of my children. Giving birth was legitimately the hardest work I have ever done physically. I’m not going to lie about it. It still wasn’t as horrible as I imagined, but it was hard. LABOR = WORK. The most challenging thing I’ve ever been through emotionally was leaving the hospital with our adopted daughter. Riding the elevator down to ground level, shoulder to shoulder with my daughter’s biological mother, sobbing at her strength, my gratitude, and the simultaneous tension of grief and joy sharing that sacred moment as we hugged and went our separate ways.
Both of these moments are beautiful, and both of these moments were work. I labored through both of my babies, just in different ways. My biological child was physical labor. It was sweaty. It was my husband cheering me to the finish line when I didn’t think I could push anymore. My adopted daughter was emotional labor. It was waiting to be officially chosen. It was grieving for her mom’s selfless decision while also feeling happy about our own situation. It was navigating a legal system. It was ALL labor.
Maybe you’re reading this because you feel gypped when it comes to your route to parenthood. If you have suffered with infertility or miscarriage, I can’t begin to imagine your loss or pain—for your labor. I’m just here to encourage those of you with longing or a call to parenthood to dig deep into your desire and to challenge you with this: can you really say it’s a calling if the only path you see as legitimate is a biological one?
Idolizing parenthood happening only one way isn’t biblical, and it might be depriving thousands of families of expanding in a way that not only honors God but could save lives. I say this because Jesus put flesh in the game to adopt us. He literally died so we could be in His family if we chose to (Romans 8:14-19). God also didn’t promise us that parenthood would be easy. Even in the garden in Genesis, after Adam and Eve sinned, God didn’t curse childbirth—He “intensified” it. It was always hard work. Regardless of how a child comes to you, none of it looks like Instagram all of the time.
The good news is that hard work, LABOR, produces fruit. Being a mom has become my ultimate joy. I get to raise two tiny humans into full-grown humans whom I pray will love Jesus and have a heart for the things He does. I get to watch them learn and grow and win and fail. It’s a privilege to do this, and one I will cherish forever because I think it’s the closest I will ever come to understanding how MUCH God loves all of us.
So, if you have a call to parenthood, but you’re feeling gypped in the process—it’s OK to grieve. If you’ve dreamed of having a baby and it’s not happening, it’s even OK to be mad at God, to take time to feel the disappointment and the loss. And as you grieve that loss, know there are thousands of precious kids grieving the loss of their family too. So, in the processing, ask God to soften your heart for other ways for your family to grow. Lots of kids out there are waiting to call you “mom” or “dad,” and at the end of the day, no child really ever belongs to us anyway.
If You’re Longing For That Picture-Perfect Pregnancy
What stands out to you most about this article? Why that? (Noticing what strikes you can be the beginning of hearing from God. Lean into it, and see where it goes.)
How would you describe your pregnancy/motherhood journey so far? Use as many descriptions as you can. How does it differ from what you expected, and how are you feeling about it?
Where did your expectations come from? How could it reset your perspective if Instagram posts weren’t the foundation of your expectations, but a grittier, real-life picture of working through every stage of the process was what you had in mind?
How do you feel about pregnancy vs. adoption when you think about expanding your family? Where do those perspectives come from?
What if God has a better future for you if you were willing to let go of your current (possibly social-media-influenced) expectations? Find at least one tangible way you could surrender your current plans and be open to a different version of motherhood this week to see how much more freeing it can be.
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