It all started last week, when my husband was cleaning out the basement. He gets rid of toys and baby things when I’m not looking. Which is fine, because I told him that I couldn’t do it myself and it was up to him to do it. He brought up a toddler sized Adirondack chair that my stepmother had given to my son before he was born. We all thought it would be years before he could use it, but as soon as he could walk he used it all the time. He loved his chair. It was just his size and he could have his very own place. It became his special TV/movie watching chair and he used it daily until he was about five years old, when he started to outgrow it. I decided a long time ago, that if I kept nothing else from my son’s childhood (besides kid art, of course) I would keep this chair. It’s very sentimental for me.
So, last weekend, my husband came up from the basement holding the chair and said “Maybe we should give this to the next door neighbors (who have a one-year old.)” I know I overreacted. I looked at him like as if he had just suggested we hang one of cats from the window. “No,” I said very slowly and obstinately, “I am never getting rid of that chair, ever.” My husband is not sentimental like I am. He’s more of a pragmatic kind of guy. But when he suggests things like this, I realize there is nowhere, not in any corner of his brain, that he is considering the possibility of adding another child to our family.
Of course, this is what my husband said almost two years ago. He said he was tired of trying to grow our family. He was exhausted, he couldn’t take it any more. The idea of another pregnancy made him want to throw up. As I have discussed here before, I agreed to stop trying and to spend time healing; giving our relationship and our family some much-needed recovery time. Internally, I told myself I would try to come to peace with my miscarriage losses and the even bigger loss of the second child. But at that point I couldn’t give up completely on having another child. It was just not within the realm of my abilities at that point – just as much as it was not within the realm of my husband’s abilities to go through another pregnancy. I don’t think I was ever dishonest about the fact that I hoped that he would change his mind.
It took over a year for me to give up and put away my dream of having another biological child. Something I wrote about in this (post). Emotions are never completely clear cut, but there came a day when I could say to myself with complete honesty, “I am okay with never giving birth again. With all the horseshit that we went through, I am lucky that I have one beautiful child.” It didn’t mean I was happy about it, but the emotional roller coaster of my pregnancies became almost as unappealing to me as they had become to my husband. Not to mention my odds at the age of forty two were pretty crap, even before my miserable history factored in.
But I realized I still wanted to be a mother again. I used to say that I didn’t want my son to be an only child,I wanted him to have a sibling relationship. I wanted him to not be alone when my husband and I were gone. I realize now that none of that truly matters, only children do fine – at least there is nobody to fight with when the parents die and the estate is settled. Only children are statistically high achievers and usually have great self esteem (all that parental attention.) My son didn’t NEED a sibling. Frankly, sometimes I wish I had been an only child and didn’t have to deal with my brother. In the end, the desire to have another child is about me. Nothing has ever given me more unadulterated joy than my son. Nothing has better healed the injuries that the absence of mothering created in my own childhood. As I told my husband at one point, nothing makes me happier than making my son feel safe on a daily basis – something that was deficient in my early childhood and certainly totally lacking from mother during the entire time that I knew her.
With the death of my mother-in-law and my father, these feelings, which have never gone away, have become all the more acute. It’s not surprising that the loss of loved one makes you want more loved ones in your life. I’m sure it’s some kind of primal human instinct (for some of us anyway.) In my own experience, I have seen many people have a child, or one more child, after losing a loved one. And if there is one thing I realized, as I watched my father’s breath fade away in those last few weeks, it is that love is all that matters. Respect, affection, camaraderie – they all mix together to create love. I know it sounds corny. But in the end it doesn’t matter if you were a multi-millionaire entrepreneur or a journeyman plumber. What matters is the love that you gave – and the love that’s given back to you. What matters is holding a dying person’s hand and both of you deriving comfort from that simple action. Kahlil Gibran has said this shit much better than I, but observing and participating in a loved one’s death brought the lesson to me in a new and more sophisticated way.
So, getting back to the Adirondack chair incident. A few days after my husband had quietly tiptoed back to the basement with the chair, it came up again. I don’t remember exactly how. But as we talked my husband said “I don’t really understand, we are never going to have any more kids, so I figure getting rid of things that remind you of your miscarriages is the best thing to do, instead of having to look at them all the time.”
I realized then and there that any mention my husband had made of adoption in the last year, any cracking of the door on the issue, had been purely hypothetical. In my anger I accused him of being dishonest. Which he denied. And it’s true, he wasn’t being dishonest. When he mentioned the possibility of adopting, he was just talking. Like when you wonder what you would do if you won the lottery, or when you discuss the possibility of traveling around the world for a year. In the latter case it’s not like it’s without the realm of possibility that we would take a year off and travel, but mentioning it as a possibility is a far cry from actually quitting your jobs, subletting your house, and pulling your kid out of school for a year.
We talked/argued/debated for a couple of hours that night. He told me that he wants to make his life simpler, not more complicated. I told him that if I had one dream for the next decade it would be to raise another child. He told me that he would rather leave the marriage than do that – that if it really was such a big dream, he could move down the street and I could do it on my own.
Let’s just clarify my dream here. Following my dream does not entail destroying my marriage, creating a broken family for my son, and becoming a single mom. No. My dream is to adopt as a Family, mother, father and brother. My dream does not require that my husband have the same enthusiasm for having another child. My husband would never have gotten married and had kids if someone on the other side had not been pushing him to do so. He doesn’t like to commit to such big decisions. He had much more enthusiasm when children, our child, became a reality. And, while I can’t speak to his feelings about the marriage (particularly at the moment) I know that my son is a great, great joy in his life, and that my husband is a superb, loving and thoughtful father.
I’m pretty sure my husband knows that I will not leave him to become a single mother. Not only is it deeply unappealing to me on almost every level, but I’d love trying to explain that to my son later on. “You see honey, you weren’t enough for me, so I left your father.” Huh.
But here’s my problem, which I’m sure is self-evident: How do I deal with the emotions that are left behind? How do I reconcile that someone else is making the decision for me to give up my dream?
Several years ago my therapist said something to me that has always stayed with me. “You always need to ask yourself, ‘Do you really want to be the person who stands in the way of someone else’s dream?’” It doesn’t matter what the dream is – climbing Mount Everest, changing careers or - having another child.
One could argue that to fulfill my dream my husband must give up his dream. It just seems to me that it is not his “dream” to never have another child. It is his preference. And depending on the day, sometimes it is a very strong preference, other times not so strong. I may be perceiving it all very selfishly. I honestly don’t have any perspective on the issue.
The recent deaths in my family have made me realize that I have half my life left, at the very best. They have made me think “What do I really want to do with this time.” Adopting a child, with my husband, is what I wanted to do, and he does not want to do it.
Why does he not want to adopt? Let me count the ways :
1)It’s expensive – and not half as expensive as raising the damn thing.
2)It changes a pretty simple and nice family dynamic.
3)It takes us back to babyhood (even if we adopted a one year old) which was my husband’s (and mine) least favorite part of parenthood. Diapers, spitting up, sleep issues, food issues – nothing is simple. With an adopted child you can add attachment issues to the list.
4)Adoption is not a guarantee that there will be a healthy child at the end of it. And sometimes adoptions fall through altogether.
5)Stress for my son, and for our marriage.
And do I have a retort to any of this? No. It’s all true. And I think there is an even more complicated reason to add to the list. He has felt like he was manipulated into the decisions we have made to have children. I forced him into having the first child. I forced him into the second. Then I forced him two or three more times into having a second. And look where it got us. I have a big fat broken heart, and while I know my husband doesn’t feel the same way, I know he carries a lot of sadness about it. Sometimes I feel like he is determined to NOT GIVE INTO ME ANY MORE. He gave in to me so many times. This time he is not going to be duped into doing something so hard and fraught with pitfalls.
And there is even one more thing. My husband questions whether adopting a child will actually fill the “black hole” of my emotions. He feels that there will be something else I am lacking, something else I will convince him that I need. He worries that that my dissatisfaction and sense of loss will never end. He has to stop the buck here.
It gets very complicated doesn’t it? And it’s not really worth debating him on any of these points, because it’s his opinion, and none of it is black and white.
But I do have a list of reasons for wanting to adopt:
2) An emotionally (and probably culturally) educational experience for our family.
3) The possibility of my son having a sibling that he can be friends with at some point and share life experience with.
4) Giving a child that is alive a good and loving home. Of course that should never be THE reason to adopt, but there is no denying that there are children that are living in orphanages, without parents, that need parents.
If you didn’t notice – his list is longer than mine. But having children these days, in this country, is never a rational decision. For most of us we are not looking for cheap labor to run the farm, and we’re not looking to create enough offspring to out-survive the smallpox and cholera outbreaks. We are making families as a way to connect with each other, we are looking for some kind of normalcy and security and, at the expense of being redundant, we are looking for love.
I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I feel jaded and a little bitter. I have a goal that, due to the complications and commitments in my life, I will not be able to attain. When did life get so many limits? It remains to be seen whether my husband’s decision will lie there like a poison in our marriage that ten years down the road will put us on divergent paths. Can I forgive him? Would he forgive me for making him agree to adopt? I think it will be very difficult. I love my husband. I love my family. But I feel a little dead inside.
This will be my last post here. I will not be visiting other blogs much. It’s too much like hanging out with a bunch of drinkers when you just joined AA. It is too painful for me. I need to quit cold turkey and figure out what I am going to do next.