Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Your Turn Next! (But it Isn't, Always)

August 12, 2000.  I was heading to my cousin’s wedding reception and I was excited, not just because I love him and was happy for him, but because I was about to play a trick on my extended family.  At 26, I had been the oldest unmarried grandchild for five years.  I wasn’t worried about it.  My parents weren’t worried about it.  My three brothers weren’t worried about it.  My aunts were.  One in particular, the one whose baby had gotten married that day.

So to keep them from worrying and from trying to hide (unsuccessfully) how sorry for me they were that I was so old and so unmarried, I made a plan.  A great plan.  My good friend Walter went to the reception with me, acting as my boyfriend.  I never introduced him as such—everyone just assumed when they saw us holding hands that we were a couple (and it must be serious if I brought him to a family wedding!).  My mom and brother Scott were in on it and helped support our charade.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, knowing that no one was feeling sorry for me.  (My pride could only take so much, after all.)  And I felt like I was doing everyone a favor by providing them an opportunity to feel happy for me rather than worrying about me in my old maidenhood.

As Walter and I were leaving the reception, my aunt, the mother of the groom, pulled me aside, gave me a hug, and whispered, “It’s your turn next!”

Well guess what?  It wasn’t.  And that was okay with me.  I was okay with my younger brother getting married before I did—three years before.  I was okay with getting married at 30.  I’d gone to grad school, had a job I mostly loved, and was changing the world one pediatric patient at a time.  My life was good.

Of course, I have to admit that my life got better after I married Brigham! 

The ward we attended after we got married had a good mix of younger and older families.  We were the only ones without kids.  Some of you are nodding your head right now because you know what that’s like.  It kind of stinks.  And now you’re thinking, “And I bet they got asked every week, just like we did, when they were going to have kids.”  Well, you’re wrong.  Nobody asked us that.  I was glad, but I just this week discovered that Brigham was offended by people NOT asking us.  He felt that people took one look at him in his wheelchair and just assumed that we couldn’t have kids.

When we decided we were ready to start our family, we sought medical help right off the bat.  We figured we would need some assistance and thought it would be wise to get that figured out at the onset.  And would you believe it?  In the city where we lived, there was a Spinal Cord Injury Fertility Center.  It was exactly what we needed.  (Too bad the doctor wasn’t—he was a big, fat jerk.)

And to satisfy curiosity, our infertility has NOTHING to do with Brigham’s injury.

So there we were, an “older,” infertile couple.  How did we deal with it?  Well, that’s the funny thing.  I felt okay about it, much like I had felt okay about being old and unmarried.  The day after we got our final test results, I called and made an appointment at LDSFS to get started on our adoption journey.  I knew I was meant to be a mom and that it didn’t matter how that came about.

How did other people deal with our infertility?  “Oh, I’m so sorry (you’re broken).”  “Well, you know, not everyone has to have kids.”  “I guess it’s just not meant to be.”  “Gee, how does that make you feel?”  “You’ll find other ways to fill your time.”  “Well, at least you have a job you can go to everyday.”  “Really?  So what’s wrong with you?  Is it you or is it Brigham (because my money’s on Brigham)?”  “Do you think if you were younger…?”  “Maybe it’s for the best.”  “Well, don’t you think it would be pretty difficult for you to take care of a bunch of kids, given Brigham’s disability?”  Seriously, people?  I know, you’ve heard it all, and worse.

We know that people say hurtful, stupid things all the time.  How do we protect ourselves?  Short of sticking a pillow in my shirt, I didn’t see a way to trick people into not worrying about me (and saying stupid things) like I had at my cousin’s wedding.

I’m going to be honest.  I have experienced very little pain or frustration regarding our inability to conceive a child.  And I feel kind of guilty for saying that because I know that’s not the case with most of you.  We didn't have the disappointment of trying month after month with no results. We knew we weren't going to get any from the beginning.  To get a better perspective I’ve read a lot of blogs featuring infertility.  Here’s one of my favorites:  Check it out.

Once we decided we were going to adopt, we didn’t have long to wait before Olivia joined our family (although it seemed like forever!).  You can read a bit about that here.  We didn’t have to deflect questions for years and years.  We were, and are, lucky.  I’m not bragging.  We’ve had plenty of other trials to make up for not having that one.

Am I alone in my relatively easy acceptance of my infertility?  Speak up, people!  And if you think I'm totally crazy or seem unfeeling, I'd like to know.  I really don't feel qualified to speak to the infertility issue outside of my personal and rather unusual experience, which is why I'm grateful for others sharing their experiences.  I want to understand because it's so much a part of adoption.  And I dig adoption.

Now that we have a child--who looks like us, even--people are less likely to wonder about our fertility status.
(Doesn't stop some people from saying stupid things, unfortunately.)  I love to tell people that Olivia was adopted.  I enjoy educating others about adoption and sharing our amazing story of an open adoption.  Dispelling myths and helping people learn to use appropriate adoption language are on my agenda. 

It's never been my turn to be pregnant, but it is my turn to be a mother.


Kristine said...

No, you are not alone in your easy acceptance of infertility. I think some of us are lucky enough to be prepared (unknowingly) for it. I always wanted to adopt when I was a kid. We still don't even have solid answers as to why we can't conceive, but I've always been fine with it. My husband on the other hand, is another story. He took longer to be okay with it. Oddly enough though, we just adopted our 2nd, and our infertility has been on my mind more.

Sally said...

Kristine, thanks for making me feel like I'm not a freak! I truly do feel blessed to have so easily accepted it. Congrats on your second adoption!

Matt and Crystal said...

Add me to the list of those who accepted thier infertility easily. My hubby is also in a wheelchair and while we didn't get the "when are you going to have kids?" questions we did get some real fun ones, my favorite was if we slept in the same bed or if he just pulled up along side it and held my hand while I slept.

An Open Adoption Documentary

Adoption Isn't Selfish

Straight from a Birthmom...

The Open Adoption Project via The R House