Invisible Loss

Well, I wrote a friendly, newsy email to Ruth that doesn’t at any point mention the pregnancy or babies or anything along those lines—we’ll see whether that gets a response in a more normal timeframe. I was talking with a birthmother from my support group this weekend about the situation, and she said “Did they try infertility treatments before they went for adoption?”

“Well, they did one cycle of IUI. . . .”

“That’s it.”

When I was choosing a couple to adopt Cricket, I specifically wanted a gay or lesbian couple so that the adoption and adoptive relationships wouldn’t be adversely affected by infertility grief. Now, of course, I know how stupid that was, but at the time I was spooked by some of the infertility-to-adoption blogs and forum posts that I had seen where women talked about wanting to punch pregnant women right in their puffy faces, or adoptive moms complained about how the obviously undeserving birthmothers of their children were able to get pregnant. Nooo thank you, I thought to myself. And now I know adoptive moms who are both unable to have biological children and are gracious and awesome people, who (I firmly believe) do not want to punch me in the face. Recently, I’ve been having to deal with the other way in which I was wrong; my naïve assumption that queer couples don’t have infertility grief.

I know where I got the idea—I read Dan Savage’s book The Kid, the first place I ever heard of open adoption, and he talked about how he had always assumed that he would never be able to have kids—so that adoption was entirely a win for them, not just a first choice but an unexpected gift from the world. Since then, I’ve learned more about the LGBT community and ART. I remember when some point last year Ruth mentioned offhandedly that they had tried to get pregnant briefly before deciding on adoption and I felt a surge of alarm. But somehow I had never put these things together and realized that Ruth and Nora probably have some infertility grief until my counselor told me, exasperatedly, that it doesn’t matter that they are lesbians, they grieve the fact that they can’t have their own babies.

Of course I’m thinking of all of this in terms of my pregnancy, and their reactions, and my feelings about their reactions. My last pregnancy might very well have been hard for them in some ways—I’m sure it was—but it was also ultimately about hope for them, and parenthood for them. This pregnancy, if they feel infertility grief (which I realize is an assumption, but it’s one that I’m making in this post), is only about loss for them; it is about what they can’t have, and it’s also (Ruth has made clear to me) about loss for Cricket in their eyes. That last part I don’t know what exactly to do about—I think they would prefer that I never raise children, but I am unwilling to replace the nursery with a shrine and make that sacrifice, so I don’t think we can ever agree. But more than that, I don’t know what to do about their grief, especially since it’s not the kind of thing we talk about. I think I could be talked to about it. I’m reasonably well-informed about infertility, even if I haven’t experienced it, and I think I have a pretty good sense of stupid things not to say. But with the relationship that we have, I don’t know of any way to improve this situation.

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My Homeopathy

Ever since Dawn appeared on the Creating a Family podcast, I’ve been going back and listening to their archives. I started with the old adoption shows, reasonably enough, and then I ran out and started listening to infertility shows. I did worry about secondary infertility after Cricket—some time after I got pregnant with the little bird, on a night when I was doubting that I was actually pregnant, Mr. Book let me know how annoying my baseless worry about infertility had been, and that I was pregnant now, so for God’s sake! I can worry at a professional level, and I don’t doubt that it’s super irritating; unluckily for Mr. Book, he can be awfully funny when he is aggravated. So now I am learning about ART and many other things. When Mr. Book sees me wearing headphones these days, he gives me a flat, disbelieving stare and shakes his head. I guess it is a bit weird. . . .

Most recently, I was listening to a podcast on the use of traditional Chinese medicine to treat infertility. Once of the first callers explained that she was trying to conceive, and that her doctor considered her (at age 42) to be of advanced maternal age, “but I don’t believe it.” The TCM provider agreed, saying that she doesn’t believe in advanced maternal age—and, for that matter, she doesn’t believe in infertility. The host was a bit startled, and asked for clarification: the TCM provider explained that if you open yourself to life, you will get pregnant. It’s as simple as that. What bothered me, and what I’d really like to hear about from those with experience  (since I don’t have personal experience with infertility), is that it sounded to me like this blames women for their inability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term. If all you have to do is open yourself to life and you are not getting pregnant, you are failing. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way, and please correct me if so!—but it seems like a pretty tough row to hoe. There’s nothing wrong with trying to have a baby at forty, of course, but suggesting that if it takes any more time or effort than it might take a twenty-year-old, that is your personal spiritual failing and not biology . . . I don’t like it.

I should probably disclose that I start out pretty skeptical of traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and most forms of alternative medicine. I will drink ginger tea when I’m having an upset stomach, so it’s not as though I have a deep aversion to useful herbs, but my views in the area overall are pretty conservative. And yet, when I was pregnant with Cricket, I took homeopathy tablets at my midwives’ insistence, despite the fact that I agree with James Randi about that course of treatment. I think that’s why the TCM lady bothered me so much—women in vulnerable positions are being sold a bill of goods, and I don’t like it.

Mind Games

One of my more bizarre adoption-related issues is the period conviction that I can’t have kids. Mr. Book will point out that I am almost certainly fertile; I had a baby. I counter that it wasn’t my baby—I can’t have my own kids, is all. There was a loophole for Cricket because he was never meant for me. I can’t get a good, sustained argument going because Mr. Book believes that he’ll win by default in a year or two, but I can at least annoy him in the mean time. 😉

I worry a bit about talking about this here; I in no way want to trivialize the infertility experiences of other women. I know, when I sit down and think about it logically, that my issue is mostly in my head. But I really do believe that I can’t have kids—that I’m not the kind of person who can have kids. I dwell on it for just a bit when I take birth control every day, but the birth control cuts down my period pain which is *~*aWesOmE*~* and completely worth it.

I do wish that I could have a kid—I still have a hope chest full of baby things, I still think about futurekid. But if you asked (at least this week), I’d tell you that I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think that’s part of why I have some of these wishes for Cricket. I have a recipe for graham crackers and animal cracker cookie cutters—I want very much to make those cookies for him. But he’s not eating wheat yet, and Ruth strikes me as the kind of person who doesn’t want her kids eating cookies regardless. But I feel like he is my one chance to have that experience. That’s silly even if there never is a futurekid—both of my sisters want three kids—but I find it weirdly hard to let go of.

It’s been my assumption for longer than the adoption that Nora dislikes me, but there were two things during this last visit that make me question that. First, the wrestling match over the check—she really wanted to buy us lunch, and while it was important to me that we pay, I was still touched. She’s not into talking things to death the way Ruth and I are, but she does care. The other thing was that she was very deliberate about complimenting things I’d obviously taken care with: she told me how much she liked some of the toys I had out for Cricket; she raved about the dinner. She was reaching out to me, and I’m glad. Now I just have to figure out a way to demonstrate my caring to her in her language.