Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Stating the Obvious

I'm hardly the first person to point this out, but the joy of adopting does not make the pain of fertility dramas go away. I'm hoping it will make the pain of childlessness go away, but as anyone in my shoes knows, there's a lot more pain around fertility issues than just the fact that you don't have any children. There's hating your body for letting you down. There's hating everyone else for having bodies that don't let them down. There's hating yourself for hating everyone else. There's hating yourself for not wanting to spend any time with small children because it's too painful (which makes it difficult to prove to a social worker that you're going to be a great parent). There's hating the fact that you have a social worker at all. There's hating the fact that you have to plan your holidays around visits from aforementioned social worker. I should probably stop there, shouldn't I, before you you all fulfil the next point - everyone else hating you for being so self-pitying.

I've been struggling with this self pity thing for quite a while now - although maybe 'struggling' implies that I've been making more of an effort to conquer it than I really have. I've totally lost any perspective on what is grief and what is self-indulgence by now - the two have gotten so inextricably intertwined. It takes so little to tip me over the edge, and sometimes I feel like it's all tears, all the time.

Here's what feels like the hard part (apart from spending all my money on kleenex). From my own expectations, and those of others, I feel like I shouldn't be feeling any grief any more about any of the fertility stuff because we've started the adoption process. And I feel like I have to justify or legitimise it - which a very odd experience, and one that I don't recommend. But I'm realising more and more that adopting really, really isn't a replacement for doing things the normal way. It's great, but it's not a replacement. I'm not saying it's worse, but... it's not a replacement. Our bodies were designed to do this repoduction thing, and when this doesn't work properly, that's a really sad thing, independent of whether or not we adopt ten children.

I want this baby, the one we'll adopt rather than the one we would have conceived, really truly and honestly. But I want to hold him when he's just born. I want to breastfeed (without having to take a load of drugs). I want to be able to keep him safe when he's developing. I don't want him to have to live in an orphanage. Selfishly, I don't want a social worker to have to approve me to be his parent. And I want people to be as nice to me now, as an expectant parent, as they would if i was pregnant, and it hurts to know that they never will be.

Yes, I know that last point shows how shallow I am. And what is my problem, anyway? I never wanted to be one of those women who viewed pregnancy and birth as a competitive sport. I never wanted to say any of the following: "I ate only organic food when I was pregnant." "I didn't have anything vanilla-flavoured, because didn't you know vanilla is alcoholic?" "I bought a new car when we had the baby, because it had a better safety rating." "I took 4.2 hours of exercise each week, in eleven-minute bursts, because that provides optimal blood flow for foetal development" "We had 3 1/2 hours of family skin-to-skin bonding time straight after the home birth" " We hired someone else to paint the baby room, and we went away for the week to avoid the fumes" "We paid a composer to write 82 hours of music that were exactly at the tempo of the baby's heartbeat".

Okay, maybe I've never actually heard that last one.

But still, some days, I'm not quite sure where "Well, we went and picked the baby up from the orphanage at 8 months old - he had scabies and a life-threatening infection" is going to fit in with this when everyone swaps stories at mothers group.

And much as a roll my eyes at the more-organic-than-thou school of pregancy, I do feel like I've lost part of my mother-role by not being the one to protect this kiddo through from egg-meets-sperm to whatever age we finally bring it home. I need to keep reminding myself, again and again and again, that even if I could carry this child from the moment of conception, I could never truly keep it safe. That's not my job, not really - ultimately, it's not any parents job, whether parents by adoption or by birth. This came home to me with a resounding thud during church on Sunday. We were away for the weekend and visited another church and heard a sermon from Isaiah 46. The verses that really struck me were not the ones that the sermon concentrated on but v v 3-4:

Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.

Not me. Him. Not even the birth mother. Him. As a baby: Him. And in old age: Him.

Sometimes it feels impossible, but I need to remember this. I need to replace my doubting with trust and my discontent with, well, more trust. Which is not to say that I'm suddenly not at all sad, but...I feel like it's a step in the right direction.


  1. I can so relate to every word you said (except maybe the part about the composer;). One of the hardest parts about it all is that you have so few that you can relate to, as it seems everyone around you has done it the "normal" way. I know that me telling you this won't make it all better, but hopefully it will give you some hope for the future. Your thinking and your emotions will change. Really, they will. That is one of the most amazing transitions that I have seen in myself throughout this process. My perspective is different now.(changing - I should say). Anyways, just wanted to say that you are not alone, I can (many of us can relate) and I PROMISE it gets better! Hang in there!

  2. Just one more thought. When I say that it gets better, in NO way do I mean to say that this (adoption) fixes that (infertility struggles). It doesn't. In fact to some degree, I think that some of those feelings will always be there. But I do think that we come to terms with it, and it's less of a hurt and a struggle. This life that we are walking becomes the "new normal" and we become more than okay with that. Hope that makes sense. I did not want to give the wrong impression of what I was trying to say. I just mean that the pain lessens, and the joy increases. That you can certainly look forward to!

  3. What a lovely post. I can relate in many ways. Because no one (doctors) have told us we *can't* conceive, we haven't really stopped trying (just not as in earnest as before, I guess), but since having Abe home, I feel so 100% a mother that I know now that if we ever don't conceive, that's A-okay with me. I've actually some months felt relieved to find out we're not pregnant,as we had travel plans or whatever (whatever being: I'd lost five pounds and felt good about that).
    but what you said about just having scabies and infections to talk about at moms groups is so funny and true (Abe had scabies, a nasty case). And those moms who are as nutso-organic as you described? Ugh, please. These are the types of women I tend to avoid developing friendships with anyway. You on the other hand? If we lived closer, I'd invite you over this afternoon for tea.

  4. Thanks so much, both of you - your words are more encouraging than I can say :)

  5. Thanks for commenting on our blog so I could read yours. You wrote some of my heart's words in this blog. I have walked through so much of the same thing in my heart this past year, sorting out grief over infertility, unmet longings and trusting God with a baby that will be ours but that I cannot carry. Now that we have a referral I see even more how I can trust only God with my little boy. It is painful, the longing to be a mom who is there every second of new life is so real! I am thankful we both have a God who is bigger than our pain and our separation from our children. I am hoping this journey helps me learn how to entrust my children to God every day of their life. Praying for you today.


Over to you!