Because we have adopted, people talk to me about adoption. Because we have been through infertility, the adoption topic sometimes goes on into the infertility topic. Sometimes people I don’t even know talk to me about adoption and/or infertility. In almost all cases, this is not a bad thing.
Apart from the fact that we still have not actually got Mrini and Tara’s adoption decree from Pondicherry, the fact that they are adopted makes not the slightest impact on our lives together, or the way we feel or behave with them. We love them, we get irritated with them, we scold them, we sometimes need to get away from them, and then we miss them just the same as we would if they had come to us the “usual” way. The way they came to us really makes no difference now.
Let me repeat this, because it is really important that it should be absolutely clear to anyone reading this: The way they came to us *really* makes no difference now.
What I’m going to say next is going to seem like a flat-out contradiction. The fact that I was never pregnant and never had my own pregnancy and labor-room experience to cherish and share… still pinches, still hurts, just a little.
The reason this is not a contradiction with what I said earlier is that, these are actually two separate things altogether. They exist in watertight compartments. That they happen to share a cause-and-effect relationship is largely incidental. I still have a slight, niggling regret that I never experienced pregnancy, will never experience pregnancy, but it has nothing to do with the joy, pride and satisfaction I have in my family, now whole, now the way it was meant to be.
Years ago, when we were TTC (trying to conceive), watching, meeting, talking about, even thinking or reading about pregnancy could and often did reduce me to tears. Those days are long gone. These days, I can face all of that without feeling a thing.
*Almost* without feeling a thing.
I don’t grudge people the happiness and expectancy of pregnancy (any more). I don’t blanch at the sight of pregnant women. Why should I – I have my babies already. I don’t have to wonder (any more) when it’s ever going to work out for me, or if, or how; I don’t have to go home and cry – I can just go home and hug my kids and try to tell them how much I love them.
And yet… you can’t take this peace, this equanimity for granted. If you rub my nose in it, it still hurts, just a little. I know that pregnancy is not something I’m going to experience ever in this lifetime, and I have made my peace with that, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt at all. If you pick an old wound hard enough, if you scratch it deep enough, you still can draw a drop or two of blood from it. It’s not completely gone yet.
I think I’m not alone. Many women have a story, a sad, private experience of uncooperative partners, unwilling bodies, unfulfilled desires. We are not the majority, of course; the majority, I hope, are all you lucky women with easy, happy, stories. But when you gather around in a group and start discussing all the joys and pains of pregnancy and labor, just remember that other women have faced different kinds of pain. And if I hear the gory details of your pregnancy and labor-room experiences in graphic detail and instead of responding with sympathy I respond with a tinge of envy; or if I visit you in the maternity ward to congratulate you on your own little bawling bundle of joy and the word “lucky” slips out… understand that I’m not making light of your experience, I’m sure it was really hard for you. It’s just a slight but deep expression of regret for something that I’ll never have.
Talk to me about adoption all you want – it’s my happy story. Talk to me about infertility, if you want – I’ve been there and I’ve survived. But when you talk to me about pregnancy, tread lightly – there’s a tiny corner in my heart where a little bit of pain still lives.
Having said all this, I also don’t want people to start walking on eggshells around me when it comes to pregnancy. Remember, I said I’m almost entirely ok about it? I am. All I want is for you to think, when you start recounting your labor-room story in excruciating detail, just to think whether this is something the other person really wants to hear. Chances are, it’s ok; but more often than you realise, it might not be ok. So just think about it, that’s all.