(Or: Maybe it’s easier not to have hopes and dreams, but we do.)
(Title to the tune of Back to Life)
The eagle eyed among you will have noticed I’ve been on holiday. In total I was away from work for three weeks. I had the operation (fibroid removal) and was off for a week, and then we popped off to the good ol’ US of A for our two week holiday. An escape from reality. An escape to the place where every day is happy – and it was. That holiday was what we promised ourselves we would do if our first round of IVF didn’t work out.
It did work out… and then it didn’t.
(I’m writing this with patchy internet connection so can’t easily post links, but I have lots and lots of ramblings on various related subjects that will provide some context – if you click on the links to the top or at the side… or if you just want pictures of food then click on my holiday blog – just scroll back a couple of posts!)
I had a miscarriage in July and it was one of the worst moments of my life. All that hoping, wishing, waiting – gone. Hopes dashed. Little heartbeat, gone. No-longer-an-aunt-but-finally-a-mum, gone. (Back to making success through work – a goal that’s bound to lead to disappointment.)
And the worst of it is that after around 15 years of infertility, or pretty much all my adult life suspecting or slowly coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t just a suspicion, I really was infertile, and then the trauma of a failed relationship – it’s not like I had hope in the first place. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up.
What happened after that – getting out of a long long term relationship, and finally finding someone who really wanted to have kids just like I did – getting an appointment to put a name to this fact of not having kids, and realising that what I was was infertile (I never really called myself that until recently; I just didn’t have kids… I was just Not A Mother… I had no words) – the best and worst of that is that it gave me hope.
Adoption, infertility and hope
I liken this to some of the mushed up feelings I have about adoption. I think I’ve never longed to meet my first family in the same way as some adoptees do. I don’t think about it a lot, because it never seemed like an option for me. I came from another time, a time when being unmarried was a good enough reason not to keep a baby. I came from another country, a country whose language I don’t speak. I look different but so much of my growing up narrative was about being almost-the-same-just-looking-different so I never really tried to keep a hold of my birth culture.
It’s National Adoption Month this month. There are many adoptees online speaking out against the celebratory tone of it, wanting to #flipthescript. In England, where I am… They’re quiet. We aren’t really like that in England. (We ethnics know our place. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t mention boats. Just be as British as you possibly can and hope they don’t notice your hair or your tan.)
I came from the idea that babies were tabula rasae, blank slates. Sure, I might look a bit different and all, but it’s not like I ever had the chance to grow up or learn or be attached to my birth culture. I think in most people’s eyes (my friends and family) my [other adopted] sibling and I are “basically white” and/or “colour doesn’t matter”. I’m sort of torn between the whole yes it does bloody matter… you don’t see it because you’ve never had to! and a kind of British horror at all the anger and pain that’s displayed on some of the adoptee groups and postings. I can’t relate to that kind of anger, but then my original birth certificate isn’t denied to me, and my citizenship was all done and dusted thirty-odd years ago.
Unless the British National Party (a racist white supremacy group with political aspirations) stops being a laughing stock and gets into power, I am not about to be sent home to my country of birth (a country I don’t know or speak the language of) any time soon. So yeah, they are angry, and rightly so. My ambivalence is no reflection on those whose basic human rights are denied, and who as adoptees have fewer rights than transgender people (who have the right to change their birth certificate to be declared their chosen gender rather than their birth gender – I say this not to denigrate transgender people but to illustrate that they have more rights to alter their birth certificates against what actually happened than adopted people do to find out their original identities – doesn’t that seem a bit crazy?).
I guess maybe I’m more British than adopted, because I certainly don’t go around feeling adopted all the time. I know I look different, the same as my black and ethnic friends look different, but it’s just one facet of their looks. Nobody expects anything particularly different of any of us. We do as ethnic minorities (“people of color” in the US) have societal expectations and stereotypes we rail against. As females, doubly so. But we all have our ****. I deal with it because I have no choice but to suck it up as I’ve done all my life and the little choice that I do have is to choose not to spend my life angry or disappointed or longing for what I don’t have. Or maybe that’s some kind of borrowed privilege from growing up in a relatively affluent environment, I don’t know.
I’m very clear that I’m not white. It comes to me in various ways, pretty much puctuates every day of my life. I got back from holiday and I did a full working week and then I did my duty trip. My duty trip was to get up early on my first weekend off (with jet lag, oh poor me) and trek across London to see my new niece, who was born whilst we were away. And you know what? I had total resentment, and I sent a few ranty Whatsapps on the way, but when I got there an hour and half later, the anger dissipated.
My brother has always had everything. He’s white, he’s good looking, he’s by any assessment an alpha male. He found his girl and stuck with her. They got married and now they have their two children, a boy and a girl. DING DING – JACKPOT! They life in a massive house in London in a way nicer area than our dodgy area. Throughout our lives he’s been the successful one, despite being less clever than me, despite not achieving anything like I achieved academically (though he was good at sports, which is all you need to be at a British public school to ensure lifelong acceptance).
But you know what? He’s a nice person. I have to separate a resentment of White Privilege (Why does everything come so easy to him? Why does he still achieve success even though he did less than I did at school, achieved worse education, isn’t as smart?) from the fact that he can’t help nice things happening to him just because he’s the default colour and gender. He had no choice about that just like I have no choice. I had all these thoughts traveling to see them and then – poof! They disappeared.
Because to me he’s family. And he thinks and treats me like any of his (three adopted/not adopted) siblings. And he isn’t smug about it (much!) and he’s accommodating and I genuinely don’t think he really thought about the whole birthday/christening thing. (See previous post: My selfish brother. He got completely harangued by the rest of my family and they’ve cancelled it till next year. Which is nice although possibly related to their own organisation and not me.)
I got there; I was welcomed. I played with the nephew and spoiled him with toys like any self respecting aunt does. It was fine. I don’t want to do it every weekend, but as smug parents go it was fine, and he’s family, and there’s no point resenting my nephew (or new niece) as a) he’s very cute, and b) he’s only got one Aunt Nara, and who wants to be the least favourite aunt?
It got me to thinking, though. I call it:
Everyday life with infertility
Visiting my new niece – Getting up early on the weekend and with jet lag, because people who have kids can’t travel and you always have to go see them. Hanging around the children’s department in John Lewis and trying to pick out something that the kids will love. Feeling like a fraud – no pregnant belly. Just a flabby post holiday one. Watching the perfect family – all grown up even though he’s younger than I am.
Being asked about plans to have children – We went out for lunch with some friends at the weekend – another couple. No kids. They have been going out less than a year but are dying to move in together and have lots of children (she has a bunch of sisters – she’s in a big Italian family, like I imagine Joey on Friends). Literally the last two times we have met up, she has asked about our plans to have children. I like her, and I excuse it because she obviously doesn’t know about infertility in her family(!) and also I don’t want to cause a scene. But it hurts. I just say “maybe” and move on.
Being assumed pregnant – I still can’t quite talk about what happened at work a while ago but it involved an annoying woman at work actually asking if I was pregnant. I wanted to punch her. Instead I said no and then told it in a typically Nara funny-sarcastic anecdotal way to anyone in the office who would listen… Mainly to prove how nuts she is. Although I do think, seriously, you need a good slapping. (*British turn of phrase… No actual violence intended. On record.)
And finally… Everyone else is pregnant – The everyday insult for infertiles. We just can’t escape them. On the tube, flaunting their bellies and Baby on Board badges. Even on here, even for people who want them and I’m happy for them, I really am… Will it ever be my turn? Maybe not; maybe never.
So yeah, I’m back to life. And you know what? Lots of it is going pretty well. I got back to work and a lot seemed to have happened in my absence, and that has worked out for me. Sometimes I’m just waiting for work and it can be frustrating, or have too much work and am stressed out, but I now have a pretty good new project. I’m grateful for that. We have our appointment for IVF #2 in a couple of weeks. We’ve just had the holiday of a lifetime. We have money in the bank.
Maybe it will all happen at once. Maybe my ex will finally settle and T and I can buy our own house. Maybe I’ll get a nice project after this one and be able to spend more time at home with Dog. Maybe our second round of IVF will work, or maybe it won’t work but we’ll do that thing of getting pregnant naturally. (It happens, as any of your fertile friends will tell you!)