(continued from yesterday’s entry)
“I’m the piece of shit the world revolves around.” My friends who have been in AA taught me that one, and if anything comes close to defining my childhood, that’d be it. I’m not quite sure how someone can grow up with world-class self-loathing and a belief that rules are for other people, but somehow I managed to do it. It might have been a combination of my parents, who always praised us as “off the charts” – and my schools, which acted as institutions of daily humiliation.
Either way, it left most of the kids in my family with a deep sense of entitlement and (my favorite word for it) exceptionalism. When we started the fertility process, I dismissed all statistics as boring and depressing numbers meant for someone else. If we were given a 10% chance of something happening, I would think “yeah, sure, if we were regular people. Don’t they know we’re superstars?”
I say this not to be a dick, but to come clean; most forms of exceptionalism don’t do you any favors. Sure, that sense of entitlement led me to believe I could dare string words together for a living (which worked, thank the lord) but when you don’t believe in statistics, you are going to be doubly horrified when your exceptionalism turns out to be completely unfounded.
The day comes when you realize that in some things, you are just a schmo like anyone else, and nothing brings that realization faster than failing at fertility. We were superheroes, I thought, we had Lucy before we even tried, and my wife ran marathons, and I come from a family of gajillions, and my mom had my sister Michelle at 40 (in 1972!) and Tessa’s pregnancy had actually been fun, and… then we got older.
The graph shows fertility falling off a cliff after 40, and maybe we just grew imperceptibly older in those precious months, and some key ingredients inside us followed suit. Maybe one hormone, one little chemical, but it was enough. The day will come when all women will be able to freeze their eggs long before even meeting their partner, and this deadline will become a thing of the past. But we don’t live in that world yet.
in Chicago, 2002
And so we turned to adoption. A couple of weeks after the last IVF went away, we had our first meeting with a very good adoption attorney who gave us a 3-hour briefing on the way it works. I can’t get into the details, but there’s a lot of “selling yourself” to the birthmother, lots of picture books, and LOTS of paperwork.
In the weeks afterward, we followed the directive of the state: a 9-hour class on adoption, a “home study” that involves interviews and a visit to your house, and even a class on trans-racial adoption. It’s all fascinating, heartbreaking, and… nerve-wracking. You’re being assessed by your lawyer, a potential birth mother, and a social worker… fingerprinted, scanned by the FBI, and asked questions that might scare someone who has never been in therapy.
I can’t go into details, because this is very fresh in our minds, but we were placed with a potential “birth mother” about two weeks after our meeting with the lawyer, which is unheard of. We developed a relationship, made travel plans, and spent 6 weeks contemplating the awesome potential of a newborn in our house. And mere hours before a major step was about to be taken, just a few days ago, it was all gone.
Imagine a giant pregnancy test hanging in your home, the size of a massive pendulum swinging under a grandfather clock. Every two days… or every week… it changes from positive to negative, and then back again. And every time it changes, you must massively reset your own expectations of what the rest of your life will be like. It is not for the faint of heart.
We have a wonderful kid, and while I don’t need more reasons to adore and appreciate her, I find myself lingering by her side, utterly transfixed by the miracle of her presence. And my wife, she is a continent of goodness, lapped by rocky seashores of strength, gorgeous blue eyes for skies and blonde prairie hair. She is such an amazing mommy that I am steadfast in making sure another little person may call her such by name.