Things are different. Things are almost unfathomably different from the way they were, oh, six months ago. Part of that difference is the unprecedented busyness. Nowadays my pace of activity zeroes out at a rate I would have found un-keep-uppable half a year ago. Now, at seven o'clock on a Thursday, I find myself sitting, finally, in front of the computer, the dog walked (twice), the beef stew (all organic!) simmering, the cooking mess cleaned up. Echo and the Bunnymen CD on the stereo. Miniskirt on. (Yes, I put a miniskirt on to cook dinner. It makes me feel like a badass.) I'm sitting here drinking Portuguese cooking wine out of a jelly jar and thinking, dude. What the hell happened?
The Big Thing (tm), obviously, is that we've ditched our fertility aspirations, for the time being at least. It felt, at first, as jarring as stepping off a moving sidewalk: your body still believes itself to be in motion. The inner ear is lobbying pretty hard for that belief. Abruptly, unaccountably, you've stopped, and have to remind your legs to get moving again. And now, newly conscious of the effort of walking, you feel the slog more than ever.
But it's not so bad, because you're almost home. For us, for me, adoption feels like finally coming home.
I've been thinking on this a lot, lately: why is the shift to adoption so comparatively easy, so painless, for me? I sure as hell don't think it's because I'm astonishingly well-adjusted, because, um, I almost cried at work yesterday when I thought I'd displeased my boss. And I made my husband tell me, repeatedly, that not only did he think I was pretty, but that he thought other people think I'm pretty. So scratch that one off the list.
And it's not because I'm more fit to be a parent. I only bring that up because I see Karen (and plenty of other women) worrying about it, whether her own pain in grieving her own fertility means she'll be lacking when her daughter finally gets here. Do I even need to say UM, NO?! Yeah. I didn't think so. I won't even go into the theoretical underpinnings of my unassailable position because UM, NO.
No, I think it's more (and here I pause to slop aforementioned wine into the keyboard, between the S, D, and E, adding to its mottled purple stickiness) because I'm good at leaving. Too good, maybe. Leaving infertility behind was so, so easy. The going gets tough, and I skedaddle off to somewhere easier, where the object of desire and conflict gets reduced to a hazy recollection. At such comfortable distances nostalgia is possible.
When I was eleven or twelve my parents got divorced, which in and of itself was not such a big deal, except that it resulted in our (my younger sisters and me) having to visit Dad, in his traditional divorced-dad apartment with brown carpet and a cramped galley kitchen complete with Harvest Gold appliances. There, we ate only things that came in the form of pie: chicken pot, Eskimo. Occasionally there were rolls, La Choy egg and Totino's pizza, to relieve the pie-dom. We had, for entertainment, my youngest sister's black-and-white portable television (with a loop antenna for newly available Fox!), which was turned off promptly at nine (after Amen!ended, on Friday) and those little booklets of conspiracies and ghost stories one finds in the grocery store checkout. This continued for several years, through a succession of depressing basement apartments and equally brown-carpeted townhouses, and the soap was generic, and there never were bathmats, and things were very...spare. Compared to other people's stories, it wasn't traumatic, just sort of a hassle, but it was an unpleasant hassle that left me worried about my dad and grumpy from being uprooted from my comfortable house full of books and my selection of Wet 'n' Wild lipsticks. So when my mothers and sisters and I hightailed it for the East Coast, it was a tremendous relief. Yes, of course I missed my father. Yes, there were good times aplenty, with poker played for laundry quarters and endless hours of coloring on scrap paper. But oh, how grateful I was to say goodbye to weekends of booklets and grungy funny-smelling bathtubs and not having more than two pairs of underpants at my disposal. Because one of them was invariably too small, or unwashed.
So we booked it for Virginia and I never looked back. I said goodbye to that bifurcated life and did not mourn it a second. It was too painful, contemplating my father alone in that sad place, dealing with the particulars of junior high life and having to remember what was at whose house and where my bookbag was. It was so easy, leaving that behind. So easy. Liberating. My father's pain tasted like off-brand toothpaste, and I never had to taste it again.
And it got to be a habit. It was so easy never to call back some of my back-home friends. So easy to remember the times we pretended to be Arctic explorers, in the Kansas winter, and so easy to forget the million small betrayals inherent in our friendship. So easy to start over.
So I wonder: how much of this relative ease of transition can be chalked up to my desire to begin afresh? Some of it, probably. I'll leave now and look back later; grief over infertility isn't going anywhere, and I can come back to it, if in a decade I find it still sitting there, a rusted car on blocks in the yard. Which I probably will, eventually.
There's more to it, though. More, and happier. Sean reminded me of something, at our meeting with the social worker: apparently (and I don't even remember this!) I brought up the prospect of adoption before we even got married. Before I had the faintest idea I might be infertile. It's something I've been thinking about for years and years, sometimes just under the surface. And it's not out of any misplaced altruism, either; it just seemed to me like the rightest thing I could do. I don't even know why, but it did. So many years before it became an issue, I laid a lot of the mental groundwork. I didn't have to clear as much brush as other people, maybe.
I'm not given to believing in a grand design or the meddling of divinity in our affairs, day-to-day or long-term. So I have no framework to explain how lucky I've been, for things to fall into place with what looks like, from here, almost no effort on my part. This is not to minimize the pain of infertility, which I felt so sharply for so long. No, no. But for some reason that pain does not bleed over into the realm of adoption.
There are other factors as well, of course. We never got the big forever "no" that other people get sometimes; we never tried IVF. There's the chance that someday we might get pregnant, I suppose, although it seems so remote now. But there's a tremendous difference between my perception that the possibility is remote, and being told by a cadre of doctors that your chances are one in a million. A lot of grieving was spared, when we opted to skip IVF. It wasn't the physiological exertion that scared me off. No, it was the prospect of a definitive answer. And rather than deal with that, I left. I skedaddled. Sometimes that's a survival mechanism, but you don't get to leave forever. That car on blocks isn't going anywhere.
The pain of infertility has, for me, absolutely no bearing on the joy of adoption. It does not interfere in the slightest. I do not feel a loss in moving to adoption. The loss is all wrapped up with infertility.
I know I must have been doing the work, heavy mental work, all along. I know I felt it, before. But right now I am just profoundly grateful for the way I feel, that I am returning to rightness, that everything has been laid out before me in this way that makes the utmost sense. If there's anything I've learned from infertility, it's that there's so very little I can take credit for, and so much I can only be thankful for.
Also, that I am terrible at being an atheist.
It feels like: Letting the days go by. Let the water hold me down.
Once in a lifetime, baby.