I never envisioned myself the mother of boys. When I used to imagine my child, I would picture a little dark-haired girl. Sometimes, I would see her in glimpses, holding someone else’s hand. She would have a page-boy hair cut and look a little Asian. I had a long time to imagine and long for this imaginary child.
During the height of my infertility, I used to picture this little child, and tell her why I wanted her so much. I told her what a good mother and father she would have, if she would just be born. I shared my dreams with her. I looked in shop windows at little pink things that I might buy for her. She was my child of hope.
I came across a passage in a novel I was reading recently. It struck an unexpected chord in me, and I was reminded of my “infertility child”. Scottish sisters-in-law who lived in the 1700’s are talking late at night. One is a new mother, with her child at her breast. The new mother was explaining to her sister about how she talked to her baby before the child was born.
“You can talk to a babe, you know. You can tell them anything. You can pour out your soul to them without choosing your words or keeping anything back at all. And that’s a comfort to the soul. I have often wondered if that’s why women are so often sad, once the child is born,” she said meditatively, as though thinking aloud. “
Ye think of them while ye talk, and you have a knowledge of them as they are inside ye, the way you think they are. And then they’re born and they’re different — not the way you thought of them inside, at all. And ye love them of course, and get to know them the way they are… but still there is the thought of the child ye once talked to in your heart, and that child is gone. So I think it’s the grievin’ for the child unborn that you feel, even as ye hold the born one in your arms.” And she paused and kissed the downy head of her daughter.
“Yes, before….it’s all possibility. It might be a son, or a daughter. A plain child, a bonny one. And then it’s born, and all the things it might have been are gone, because now it is. And a daughter is born, and the son that she might have been is dead,” she said quietly. “And the bonny lad at your breast has killed the wee lassie ye thought you carried. And ye weep for what you didn’t know, and that’s gone for good, until you know the child you have, and then at last it’s as though they could never have been other than they are, and you feel naught but joy in them. But until then, you weep easy.”
The child unknown is an issue for many of those struggling with infertility. The child of infertility for you, may be the child you lost through miscarriage or stillbirth. The child you talked to in your heart may be the one you have to say goodbye to before you are able to pursue adoption or third party reproduction. And like me, you might be surprised to find that you did not or might not, give birth to the baby you were talking to for so long.
I sit on my couch, and I look at two beautiful blond haired boys. Not Asian in appearance, but rather Nordic. Tyler the five year old is actually hugging his little brother and shouts “Family Hug Time”. I gather my treasures in my arms. Treasures that were buried deep and almost lost. I sniff their hair and kiss their eyelids. They are so real and finally here. I am caught by the thought of that little girl, so different, that child of my infertility dreams. I think of her in the midst of solid, sturdy arms wrapped tight around my neck. And I bless her for keeping me company and giving me hope. Her image challenged me to find some inner strength.
In my mind’s eye, she asked me to find her. And I did. In two little boys.
Loving you from here,
P.S. This is a writing from 1992 or thereabouts. When I was the Executive Director of The American Fertility Association. It remains one of my most favorite pieces of writing. I hope there is something here for you.