So a friend of mine recently had a baby. (Shocking, I know). She had difficulty conceiving this time around, and during that time I was the person she turned to.
I was happy to be there for her (obviously; she's my friend). But then she got ready to actually have the baby and suddenly I was surplus to requirements. I have exactly zero useful advice about what to pack for that particular journey. And then it all happened and the baby (lovely, of course) was born and I remembered how weird things always get after that.
There's this ... ritual that groups of mothers always go through when someone comes back to the group after giving birth. You know the one I mean, right? I mean the so, what was your labour and birth like? ritual. It's like the so, show us your ring! engagement ritual, but with way more mucous and placentas.
It's always a strange word salad of body parts and intimacies. It always sounds sort of like:
"Well I was only four centimetres, but then I remembered that when I was at four centimetres with Rose, Dave had gone to get coffee and ..." and then someone breaks in with "... I was being pushed down the corridor in a wheelchair, screaming and begging for an epidural..."and then suddenly everyone is talking and it's all "Honestly, I had no idea meconium was going to be that colour" "and he's yelling 'Push!' and I'm saying 'I am pushing!'" and then someone always says something like "Well when I had Charlie, of course, I thought I was never going to be able to poop again" and then everyone goes mmmmm-hmmmmmm, mmmmmmmm-hmmmmmmm because they have heard this story so often that it's practically like they were there when Charlie's shiny wet head started crowning. Suddenly I know all about all of their lady parts and they're sharing all this incredible detail but I never volunteer any information about my lady parts, ever. After all, they aren't doing anything interesting.
It's a strange and one-sided intimacy, and I've realised that I'm tired of not knowing what to say when other women swap these labor-and-birth war stories. More than that - I don't even know what to do with my face. Am I supposed to look interested? Curious? Sympathetic? Repulsed? I know what all the words mean, obviously, but I don't have any first hand experience. I don't have these war stories. I'm not ever going to have these stories.
I do get it. get it. I get that it's a big thing (fwoaaahh, I think a person just came out of me!) and I get that there is a lot to process. And I know that it's an important bonding experience for women, to swap The head was HOW big? And it came out of WHERE? stuff, but it makes me feel distinctly un-bonded and lonely. This is the weird side of adoption - the bits of the fallout that have nothing to do with how I relate to my children, and everything to do with how I relate to my friends.
After all, I don't think there's anything more isolating than a universal experience that you're not a part of, is there?
Four years into adoptive parenting, and sometimes these feelings still take me by surprise.