AMPLIFICATIONS: LossMore Info
In mid-August CNN.com posted a story titled “It took 4 years, 3 miscarriages and 1,616 shots to make this baby.”
Accompanying the story is a compelling photo of an infant wrapped in rainbow-hued swaddling, lying in the center of a heart consisting of hundreds of multicolored syringes. I have kept the tab open on my desktop and look at it at least once a day. I know exactly how that woman and her wife felt. I had been down that road, bumpy with hypodermic needles and pitted with grief.
Before I adopted my daughter, I had a series of miscarriages. Elation at the sight of a heartbeat during an exam would be followed a few weeks later by cramps, blood, sadness and loss. The loss was almost incomprehensible; it almost did me in.
Like the two women in the above-mentioned news article, I would not give up. I stubbornly refused to believe that my body would not do as wished. I was telling it to make a baby and it was telling me to stop asking. I just could not hear it. The grief consumed me. I would stand in the supermarket and start to weep. I would drive past exits because my mind was consumed with thoughts of babies. I could not talk to my friends about their children or grandchildren. I knew it was hurting one friend in particular, who was dying to talk about a new granddaughter, but I could not do it.
I know I lost friends over this. They could not understand my single-minded pursuit. Even my fiancé at the time could not understand my deep and unwavering sadness. He felt the loss, but it wasn’t rooted in his body, so he could not comprehend my inability to let it go.
Another friend chastised me. “Why are you doing this to yourself?” she asked. I mentally noted that, although she had lost a baby close to the end of her term, she then went on to have a healthy baby boy. I thought she should have understood. About three weeks after one of my miscarriages, a locally renowned acupuncturist, whom I was seeing for this issue, asked me how I was doing. “Sad,” I said. It was all I said. His response still rings in my ears. He proceeded to tell me that I was having a midlife crisis and my desire for a baby as I neared 40 was akin to a man buying a red sports car. “You should have done this when you were younger,” he said sharply. “You know my ex-husband did not want children,” I retorted. His response: “You should have sat on a bar stool.” This came from a man with two healthy children. His lack of both empathy and morals astonished me. I never saw him again.
I was out of my mind with grief and would not give up. I used infertility drugs, I sought out specialists, I read everything I could and used the services of an expensive nutritionist who specialized in infertility problems. I stayed in bed and cried and cried and cried. Then I would move to my living room and cry some more. I finally gave up the whole venture after a fifth loss that was so painful and devastating, both physically and mentally, I knew I could never go through it again. At that point I also knew I was barking up the wrong tree.
If Future Me could have visited the wreck I had become, I would have boxed my own ears. The plan had always been to have one child and adopt a second. One of my regrets is that I did not just bypass the infertility treatments and go straight for adoption, because I can’t imagine that I could feel any closer to a birth child than I feel to my daughter. I honestly sometimes forget that I did not give birth to her.
Friends kept dropping by the house the day after I brought Kay home from Ethiopia. One looked at me holding her and laughed, “You went halfway around the world and met your Mini Me.” She was correct; Kay is weirdly like me. We both hiccup a lot. We both became nearsighted at the same age and at almost the same progression. We both have hip dysplasia and are pigeon-toed because of it. Both of us are height-challenged. And then there are the commonalities caused by nurture: We say things at the same time, we both love old musicals and her writing style reminds me of my own.
Those traits we share are exactly what I had hoped for when I established our little family. It is what I tell people who are thinking about adoption or putting themselves through the trauma of infertility treatments, which are hard on women’s bodies. According to UNICEF, there are approximately 153 million orphans in the world. International adoption has been greatly curtailed in this country, but a quick Google search shows that there are about 500,000 kids in the foster-care system. They all need moms.
The day I packed away my grief was July 30, 2008. I was staying with my friend Gayle in Philadelphia and sleeping in. My cell phone awoke me and, as I tried to focus on the white bead board above me, I heard two women shout, “Happy Mother’s Day!” My daughter had been adopted in my name in Addis Ababa. I would meet her for the first time on Oct. 19. I later had those dates inscribed into three tiny, rose-gold signet rings. The outside heart holds the day of the adoption, the inside band is inscribed with the day we met. Kay and I each have one; the third was given to my dear friend and business partner Barb, who accompanied me on the journey to Africa.
The best part was the evaporation of grief. I stopped remembering the day of that first heart-wrenching miscarriage or the futility and pain of the last one. I wish I could tell that to all the women who have lost babies or cannot have them. Adoption does not negate those losses, but it does help to heal them.