That uncomfortable feeling has a name

In some ways, the year 2020 has been a long tutorial in grief, and that has helped me process so much of what I experienced during the adoption process. I now realize that, weird as it sounds, I grieved the loss of being pregnant. When Dawn was a baby, a friend joked that I’d gotten away with something by skipping the pregnancy, but that wasn’t how I felt at all. I had imagined for years, in a wistful and romantic way that really is pretty funny, about the wonder of bringing a new life into the world. Would I be sick every morning? Would I be so round that seatbelts wouldn’t fit? Would I have a “happy pregnancy” without complications? I will never know.

Dawn, age 10 months

And that goes for the biological kids that we might have had. Would they have looked more like me or like Ron? Would they have inherited any of our talents? Would they have had birth defects or disabilities? Would we have been able to raise them more easily, or would we have stifled them with expectations? What would it have been like to be a family that did all look like each other—that didn’t have to explain—that enjoyed privileges that so many families don’t even realize they have? Again, I will never know, and these things too I grieved.


Then again, who would we have been, had we not been so shaped by this process and by our actual (and amazing—just slipping that in here) family? Ron mused the other day that he might even be back on the square of wondering what the Black Lives Matter fuss was about. Perhaps a version of himself in an alternate universe is sipping cognac with other law partners (because that’s what they do, right?) and having a purely theoretical discussion about the ontological implications of BLM rhetoric before leaving the office for his biological daughter’s ballet recital. (Insert eye roll.) He likes to say that, if there were some metaphysical “best possible lives” contest, he won it—his actual current life is the best one he can imagine.

I don’t know if he didn’t experience grief or if he just moved through the stages to acceptance and meaning faster than I did. Heck, I didn’t even know meaning was a stage until earlier this year (see David Kessler’s work at Back when we were in the messy and drawn-out adoption process, I didn’t recognize my own grief, didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling, didn’t even know there was a process. Thankfully, I do now.

Published by Danelle Henden & Stephanie Lundeen

Danelle: I am an HR professional with a keen interest in psychology and in adoption activiwsm. I work with a nonprofit that supports adoption, On Your Feet Foundation. Stephanie: I am a writer and editor with a background in education (I have taught English as a Second Language, college writing, and college literature courses).

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