08 February 2010

Talking about adoption...

I ran into an acquaintance, L, at an event this weekend. Someone I hadn't seen in a long time, and someone I don't know particularly well.

We are chatting and filling each other in on bits of our news as people who don't know each other well are apt to do at social gatherings. Of course, it comes up in conversation that Chris and I are adopting (because that is the biggest news in our lives right now and I share it with everybody.)

L is surprised to hear about our adoption. She shares with me that she and her husband are just now after a year and a half of trying to conceive considering moving in the direction of adoption, although she tempers that statement by saying, "We're not sure yet and a bit overwhelmed in thinking about it."

No doubt.

She explains that they've been looking into some adoption options. I'm guessing from her description of children who have pretty high needs that she and her husband have been looking at adopting through the foster care system. "I'm not sure that I'm the one who is right for this kind of parenting with these kinds of kids. I mean they need so much and I don't have any experience as a mom!"

I offer to get together and chat with her at any time she wants about our adoption experience to date. Then I launch into chatting about it anyway - about where we are in the adoption and what the waiting is like. Across the room I see my husband chatting with another friend and I say to L, "My only real regret in all of this is that I kind of wonder what kind of little person Chris and I would have made together. That would have been pretty cool."

She agrees.

Are her eyes just the tiniest bit moist with unshed tears?

Is she grieving the child that she and her husband may never have together?

L doesn't try to end the conversation or go dashing out of the event in tears, so hopefully I haven't been too much of a clod by talking about adoption so openly with someone who has been trying to conceive for a year and a half.

It only hits me me now two days later that I am able to talk about our adoption with such ease. Perhaps this is because Chris and I haven't been through what so many couples have suffered in dealing with infertility. No years and years of "TTC" (trying to conceive) as they refer to it in the "ALI" (Adoption-Loss-Infertility) blogging community. Nor have we dealt with numerous rounds of "IVF" (in-vitro fertilization) or any of the other various low- and high-tech procedures that can help an apparently infertile couple to conceive. And thank goodness...no multiple miscarriages and the attendant heartbreak that goes along with all of those missed opportunities to become parents. How other people bear that is just beyond my understanding.

No, that has not been part of our path to parenthood.

When I am talking about about our adoption frequently my conversational partner's first reaction will be something like, "Oh, that's wonderful!" But as the conversation moves along I'll either mention directly that I can't have children or it will occur to whoever I'm talking with that I can't have children and that's why Chris and I are adopting. At that dawning realization a brief look of pity or discomfort (of both) will flash across the face of whoever I'm talking with as they realize that they are speaking with someone who is - cue extremely sad music - infertile.

"How awful. She can't have children," that person might think.

And then I have to reassure whoever it is that I'm talking to that I'm OK with not being able to have children.

Really. It's true. I'm OK with it.

I'm not grieving about it and I'm not spending my time mourning the loss of a child that Chris and I can never have. And I don't hide this from others either. There's no shame in this for me even though in society my worth as a woman might be considered "less than" because of my inability to produce offspring.

To heck with society. This is my reality.

Pregnancy is simply not an option and, as such, I have accepted that fact. As the saying goes, "It is what it is." It would seem that Chris has accepted it as well and thus we are vigorously pursuing parenthood in another way.

Please understand me - I do not wish to in any way downplay or make light of the grief and sadness that other women - other couples - are experiencing as a result of struggling with infertility. I have nothing but compassion for them, hope that they can move through their grief and that they find their way forward in life.

But for me, I'm just in a very different place regarding my path to parenthood. I am choosing to enjoy our adoption experience and live in the moment with it rather than grieving something that can't ever be.

It would seem that I haven't offended or upset L during our chat and at the close of the gathering we exchange cell numbers. We don't make a date to get together, but rather leave it at her calling me sometime if she'd like to talk further about our adoption experience.

I e-mail her the next day to let her know that I enjoyed seeing her and to reiterate my offer to talk about adoption. We'll see if she calls.

I hope she does.

I also hope that L will be OK with whatever path she and her husband end up on to become parents and that they will be OK if that path happens to involve adoption.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jen,

    Don't worry about anything that you said - when I reflect on my feelings about parenthood and course-correcting my life, I do get emotional. I also wonder what it would be like to have a child that is (physically) a part of my husband and I, and I feel a sadness that that hasn't happened for us. But I feel that what I am missing is the presence of a child - not necessarily the absence of a pregnancy. It seems sometimes like it took me so long to get here (this point in my life), and it took so much work - but the truth is that I want to change course. I really thought I would have had a child at this age, and be living for something more meaningful. For family, art and music and contributing to my community.

    Over the last six months or so I have put away some fears and made steps to make my life what I want it to be. I'm still working on that. :-) But talking about that journey and how adoption may fit was/will be truly helpful. I really appreciate your openness on the subject and would love to speak further about your experience.

    Take care,