When you are infertile, there are SO MANY dreaded questions. All dependent on the situation.
Situation 1: Running into someone you haven't seen in YEARS.
"So, last I heard you'd gotten married...any kids yet?" (bonus points if they look pointedly at your belly, which last I heard is filled with delicious fish chowder, not fetus.)
Situation 2: Running into someone you haven't seen in MONTHS (or for some, WEEKS).
"Hey, how are things going? Any, um, NEWS?" (bonus points again for the pointed belly check.)
Situation 3: Going to scheduled appointments that are weeks apart and having to constantly update such people on your neverending, everlasting journey.
"Soooo, what's new?" OR "How did your cycle go?" OR "Did you get good news?" (No one ever asks, "Did you get bad news," which has actually been the better question to ask me as throughout the infertility treatment part of our journey we almost NEVER got good news.)
All so awkward. All a rush of lightning-quick decisions in the brain--verbal vomit the saga? Inadvertently (or advertently, depending) make the person feel bad by letting it all out? Be vague and invite more questions or confusion for the next time? Risk imminent tears? Invite pity? Share more than you'd like and feel regret later?
However, now I find myself in a position where I can share GOOD news, for once. And reactions have been interesting. I just love having good news to share. So, here is how the situations have gone over the past week.
Situation #1: Out at a President's Day matinee of Still Alice (sooo good but devastating, Julianne Moore totally deserves that Oscar), run into a TA I worked with 7 or 8 years ago in a long-term sub position in the bathroom.
"Hey, you look great!" (blush, succeed in thanking her and reciprocating, also succeed in not saying "but I've gained 20 pounds since you saw me last!")
"Last I saw you you were getting married?"
"Yup, I've been married over 5 years!"
"Any little ones?" (motions hand to toddler height next to her)
"Nope, not yet, but we are ADOPTING!"
"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! That's so exciting! Congratulations!"
I was SO happy in how this exchange went. First, I managed not to negate a lovely compliment, something I am expert at. Second, for the first time ever, I managed to answer the dreaded question with HOPE and EXCITEMENT, not tears or a swallowed throat lump. I did feel slightly guilty about glossing over the 5 years of pain, but why mention that when a) it takes away from the happiness of our current situation, and b) if we've been married 5 years and are adopting now, you could totally infer some of that. Why do I need to share my sad sap story in the bathroom of the cinema? Answer: I don't. I loved her reaction, too. No horror stories, no string of comments about waits or older children or how we might be going about this. Just pure, unadulterated joy and congratulations, no strings attached. It was a beautiful way to initiate me into sharing our adoption plans when asked about little children in our life (or the absence of them as of yet).
Situation #2: Out at the grocery store, looking for boneless short ribs and failing miserably, buying haddock from Iceland for that delicious fish chowder I mentioned above, and run into my Director of Special Education, who I haven't seen in about a month and a half. (But who has been in the know about our infertility disaster, and has family experience with high-tech medical treatment, and has been super supportive.)
"How are you enjoying your break?"
"It's great! Hey, do you know what we're doing this break?" (goofy grin plastered on my face)
(Look of excited anticipation on her face), "What? What?"
"We're plowing through our adoption paperwork!"
(Her face falls. Like, literally, falls. And then is picked carefully back up.)
"Oh?" (small voice)
"Yeah, our last two cycles were cancelled, everything became a hot mess, and I couldn't even GET to transfer. So we decided enough was enough, and we are SO EXCITED!" (Slight tremble in my voice betraying that I am so excited, but caught off guard by her obvious disappointment, which reminds me of how I felt when I got that call, and tears are pricking at my eyeballs, threatening to show themselves.)
"Oh, I'm sorry. Why can't we get these little babies to come? But that's good news. What agency?"
"____________, they do domestic adoption out of Buffalo." (sorry, not sharing agency name here)
"Hmmm, never heard of them." (Probably because a lot of families in our school community adopt internationally through an agency that works with South Korea.)
"They are great and there's actually a TON of families in Rochester who have built their families through them! SO many success stories!"
"Oh, well that's good."
"And it's domestic infant adoption, which we're really excited about."
"Oh! REALLY! Infants?"
We went on to discuss the average wait times as given by the agency, and my excitement. We ended with her saying,
"Well, keep me posted! I want to know! I'm excited for you."
So, this one wasn't quite the love-fest that the bathroom encounter was. And I was kind of surprised by my reaction to her disappointment. But, I can't really blame her, because she's known all about the trials and tribulations of the past 5+ years. She knows how badly I wanted to be pregnant. She of course would feel the disappointment in the end of our journey, maybe not quite to my extent of wailing in bed after my phone call, but disappointment and loss all the same. And it triggered a bit of my own feelings of loss, feelings that will never go away. Like any loss, it is always with you, not impacting your daily life per se, not making you a sad mope of a person, but catching you off guard at trigger-y moments (kind of like how yesterday I was washing dishes and I got water on my stomach and was reminded that my grandma told me that meant you'd marry a drunk husband [unclear on the logic in that Irish old wives' tale], and all of a sudden I was missing her terribly and my lip started quivering and my eyes filled with tears, just like that, because of my soapy wet tummy.). But, she asked good questions, she was genuinely interested, she just had some reservations in her joy. But that's to be expected. It was just a fascinating contrast to the bathroom experience, which admittedly held none of the knowledge of all my loss and pain up until this moment of joy.
Situation #3: Massage. Yup, with this person, who to her credit, never said anything insensitive again about infertility or pregnancy and totally got the hint after the most un-relaxing massage experience EVER. Below, she is redeemed.
"So, you don't have to worry about any medical stuff with me anymore, my infertility treatment journey is over. We were canceled and we are just DONE with this."
"I'm so sorry to hear that."
"Thank you. We are super excited though, because we are moving forward with domestic infant adoption...we are officially with an agency and we are plowing through our paperwork."
"Oh my gosh, CONGRATULATIONS! That is so exciting."
"I KNOW! We are so impressed with the process so far. It is a lot, and it's overwhelming, but it's SO MUCH MORE hopeful than where we've been."
"I'm so happy for you, this is wonderful news!"
This conversation went almost the entire length of my massage, but in a good way this time. I won't chronicle all of it, but she asked INSANE amounts of very thoughtful, very sensitive questions and seemed very much in the know about open adoption and all the parts of the adoption constellation. She ended the massage with a giddy,"CONGRATULATIONS!"
This conversation was wonderful, but also strangely perplexing to me. She was completely the opposite when it came to infertility treatments. But with adoption, she was all questions and all smiles and all excitement. And we are finding that people are so much freer with asking questions and being openly excited with us about adoption than they were with infertility, which is so interesting. Is it because infertility involves vaginas? Is it because there's all the bodily function aspect of it that makes it taboo? Is it societal or religious feelings on using medical technology to conceive? What is it? And while I am super excited that people are so much more open and supportive, I worry when it is time on our end to NOT be as open (when we are being profiled by birth/expectant mothers, when we have been selected by a birth mother, when we have a story that belongs to our child and to no one else and we can't share anymore), people will be a little less understanding. But, I was so pleasantly surprised with this experience. And, AND, she even said that dreaded comment, "Maybe you'll get pregnant now" comment, except she even worded THAT more sensitively "Have you thought of what you'll do if you unexpectedly get pregnant now?" AND, she was totally accepting of my answer, "That would take some kind of miracle, since a) I don't ovulate on my own, b) we don't have good sperm counts, c) I am missing one fallopian tube and the other's opening into the uterus is covered in scar tissue, d) my uterus is filled with scar tissue, e) I can't even make a lining anymore, and f) after all this medical intervention we were so hideously unsuccessful, so a surprise pregnancy would be unheard of. Oh, and I'm going back on the pill once my body balances out because my period otherwise will come 3-4 times a year if I'm lucky and leave me incapacitated for 14 days." After all that I didn't feel it necessary to also share the RESOLVE statistic that the rate of "surprise" pregnancy after starting the adoption process is 5%, the same as any other infertile couple at that point. She took it in stride and moved on to other topics, related to being excited about adoption itself. It was a little surreal, given our previous, horrific conversation regarding family-building. But I'll take it!
So far, so good. I feel like I am super comfortable with letting the words, "we're adopting" roll off my tongue. It feels real. It should, because we are knocking stuff off that checklist and getting closer to our goal of completing our home study, one piece of paper at a time. It is such a different experience to share our news of adoption, both because it seems for some reason to be more socially accepted than infertility treatments (which irks me), and because it has been met (mostly) with unadulterated joy. And opportunities to educate. We are encouraging everyone we know to ask as many questions as they'd like, to pepper us with questions, because we'd rather have those conversations than have misconceptions floating around our experience. I am encouraged by these opportunities to share our news and the state of our family so far. I know that inevitably I will be met with negativity from time to time. And actually, I sort of blocked it from my memory, but I already have -- a person I know and see nearly daily told me, "I hope this works out for you, because while you say WHEN not IF that hasn't been my experience with friends of mine." Wow. THAT'S how you respond to someone's sharing that they are starting the adoption process??? When pressed, and when details about our agency's track record were shared, this person then said, "Well, I guess it's how long you're willing to wait. I guess my friends had had enough and didn't have the patience to keep going." Which was another interesting comment, and one I followed with, "Well, we've waited over 5 years already, we don't expect to be placed with a baby right away...patience is definitely needed in this process. We are hopeful it won't be another 5 years, though!" I tried to diffuse with humor, but then pretty much removed myself from the situation. But, that's one out of so many other more positive interactions. And the negativity was out of protection for me and my heart, so I have to look at it that way, misguided as it was.
This is all so new, and yet it feels like I have such a comfort level with talking about the experience and sharing the information I have gleaned from so many books and resources online. Next is contacting more people who have actually completed the process and brought their babies home, which we will venture to sooner than later. In the meantime, we will enjoy sharing our happy news as appropriate, finding ways to work through the different reactions we face, and feeling so secure in the joy that just exudes from us when we say, "We're adopting!"