I have not used this space to talk much about the fertility component of my adoption journey. I don’t know, it seemed so intensely personal, and frankly looking back I don’t think I really spent much time really working through the grief of it all. Moving forward with my adoption of Hope allowed me to frankly, not have to deal with it head on.
As a single adoptive mom, I didn’t get too many questions about infertility. I got a few; I answered them, but unlike I imagine some couples get, I wasn’t subjected to much inquiry on the subject.
The blogosphere has many, many wonderful writers who write about their experiences with pregnancies, fertility struggles and body betrayal. I would read a few; MyPerfectBreakdown is one of my favorites. Mostly, though, I would skip some posts about this aspect of the struggle because it would force me to feel things that I wasn’t sure I wanted to feel.
Other bloggers seemed to give the impression that the placement and finalization of the child seemed to fill the hole left by the fertility struggle. I think it was really about the outcome and not the journey; I am sure the residual feelings of loss probably lurk somewhere in there. I was happy to buy into the “filled hole” theory though; it was just a nice easy canoe trip on the Denial River.
This weekend I realized that my life as it is right this minute, all the great, the good, the bad, the profound and the ugly, hasn’t filled the hole left by the loss of my fertility.
I’m not sure what’s worse, the loss itself or the realization that I’d deflected and/or buried the hurt and grief the way I did.
Someone close to me announced her pregnancy recently. I was overjoyed, but the tears I shed were rooted in the reminder that my body could not do that thing; the thing that it was especially designed to do and that I just did not know how sad I was that I couldn’t do it. For every one tear of joy I shed, I must’ve shed 5 for my loss.
The emotion shook me.
I have only been pregnant once, and I miscarried before I even knew I was pregnant. I remember the weekend it happened nearly 20 years ago, being sad that I didn’t know, and I couldn’t do anything to protect or save it. I also remember being grateful that I would not be tied to the idiotic, drag of a guy who fathered the child. We broke up a year or so later, and I was relieved to be rid of him for the rest of my life. I chalked up the miscarriage to divine intervention, buried the other emotions and moved on.
I was ambitious. Getting a dog, The Furry One, was an extraordinary commitment for me, I couldn’t imagine having a baby by myself. That didn’t fit into my plan to get my graduate degrees or create the career I wanted. I thought I would eventually meet Mr. Right and we would have children.
I had a lot of reproductive organ problems along the way, and my doctors often would comment about my chances; urging me to not wait if I wanted to do things since I might already be high risk for a number of reasons.
I didn’t want to try to have a child alone.
Then, three years ago, during a routine colonoscopy, my gastroenterologist saw something weird. He sent me to an oncologist. A week later, the oncologist told me I needed surgery right away, that it would majorly invasive, that I needed to make plans for the next six months for the possible fight of my life. He told me this was really serious.
A few weeks later, I woke up from a nap in my hospital bed (where I stayed for a week) to see one of my surgeons to run in excitedly and announce that the mass they found, that they were sure was malignant, was in fact non-cancerous.
That moment still makes me cry about the Holy Homeboy’s grace and mercy. I still get emotional about how everyone on my medical team had seemed so grim in the hours and days leading up to just after the surgery and how after the path report came back…it was a miracle.
That day in my life will always be remembered as the time when I doubled down on my faith and changed course. My new life began that moment. It is my testimony.
After a lengthy recovery, I turned my attention to finishing my doctorate and to think about what I wanted my 40s to look like. I wanted to be a mom, so I figured it was time to go ask some questions.
Primary care doc gave me the sad face, and referred me to the reproductive specialist. We dutifully shipped all the records over, and I went to the consultation by myself.
Then he gave me the sad face; it was so sad, one of the saddest moments of my life. It just wasn’t going to happen. He quantified the chances. Even though I believe in miracles, I didn’t know if I could handle if a miracle wasn’t in the cards. I cried.
I cried buckets that day in his office. No one but me and him in his office. He came over to give me a hug and some tissues. He sat with me for 20 minutes as I sobbed. He knew that I didn’t have anyone in the waiting room to comfort me.
It was one of the loneliest moments of my life.
I thought about surrogacy, but it was so complicated and so expensive.
I knew I always wanted to adopt, but it wasn’t something I talked about a lot, so not many people knew it had always been a part of my personal plan. It was shocking to most. Gosh, did I get lectures from all corners of my life.
“You don’t know anything about kids.”
“You never even talked about kids or adopting.”
“Have you tried….or How do you know you won’t get a really effed up kid?”
“Can you really do this by yourself?”
“But don’t you want your own/real kids?”
“You are so awesome for doing that…I couldn’t do it.”
All of this on top of the grief about the loss of fertility that I dared not talk to anyone about; jeesch look how the adoption conversation was going. Why on earth would I share that my body had so utterly betrayed me that I remained shocked six months after finding out. Hell, the betrayal still deeply hurts; I just got pretty good at burying it and reminding myself that I don’t really like babies all that much (that’s true, but I imagine having my own would’ve been different).
The grief all just bubbled to the top so quickly upon hearing such happy news this weekend. But, I dare not speak about my mixed emotions out loud. I cried on Elihu’s shoulder about it this weekend; he responded that the Holy Homeboy is still the miracle working business. I felt like it was a chastisement of my lack of faith rather than an encouragement that maybe I should try to have a biological child if I wanted. And again, I felt alone since my partner just didn’t get it.
No one wants to be Debbie Downer during one of the happiest times of life. So, I’ll do my best to suppress the grief. Maybe I’ll run walk more. Maybe I’ll get back to skimming parenting books. Maybe I’ll spend some time looking at algebra and grammar worksheets on Pinterest for my 9th grader. Maybe I’ll just be emotionally detached in some ways and plaster on a smile, which is about 40% accurate, and just try really hard to forget that I’m furious with my body for failing me. Maybe I’ll remind myself that I really wasn’t ever into infants anyway.
And in the dark quiet of the middle of the night, maybe I’ll admit to myself that my beautiful daughter Hope doesn’t fill the hole that my failed body created. She’s an amazing addition to my life, and I can imagine that she is probably in many ways like what any birth daughter might’ve been like. But in those wacky teen moments like when she tells me she listed me as “stepmom” on FB because there wasn’t an “adoptive mom” option, I will fix myself a dark and stormy cocktail, grab my hanky and step into my walk in closet with my favorite stool and have a good cry.
And when I’m done, I’ll will wipe my tears (again), straighten my back, put on a smile and soldier on.