Everyone who finds themselves assigned to the Infertility Home Room dreams of the day they’ll graduate. News of our assignment turns our worlds upside down. The ignominy hits us hard. We wonder about the mysterious cause that led to our being singled out and worry about how it will affect our plans for the future.
Once we get over the shock, we sheepishly accept our course pack and find our seat. We study dutifully, complete all of our homework on time, take the required tests and sweat out the results. When necessary, we torment the (RE) instructors and get counseling or tutoring from alumni or IF counselors. As the stay lengthens some form study groups and pass notes while others suffer in silence.
Every few months a fortunate few graduate and make their way to Pregnancy and Delivery University. We cheer them on with a blend of envy and relief. It’s reassuring to know that the odds, while steep, can be beat. The graduate’s spots are quickly filled by new folks, and the cycle continues. There are always a few who never seem to catch a break and remain year after year in the same hard plastic seat…
I was struck by this analogy over the weekend. We were invited to a 40th birthday party. The crowd ranged from mid-20s to 50-somethings. The couple hosting the event were newer friends. While they, too, were without children we had never broached the subject of how or why that was. I assumed given their age that they, like us, had been unable to have kids.
It was oddly comforting when we met to think we’d expanded our social circle with a couple like us. We’d be free to get together spontaneously without concerns like babysitter availability, and discuss topics that didn’t involve diaper duty, pre-school selections and the like — subjects where we had nothing to offer. I was hoping at some point to have a heart to heart with this couple and compare our histories, but the time had never been right.
You see we’re at a weird age now. We’ve gone through more than a decade of first, second and third baby announcements, showers and kiddie tantrums. We’ve faced broken plans or been put on the bench because our family and friend’s kids’ needs, naturally, came first.
More often than not it feels like we’re living in a time warp. Just at the point when we feel like our socializing should be more adult-centric rather than kid-centric, another neighbor conceives, another friend delivers. That very morning in the mail, a baby announcement (twins) from another 40-something couple. I didn’t know it yet but my day was about to be book-ended by baby news.
Five minutes into the 40th birthday party the hostess pulled me aside, her face glowing, to share her news. They were celebrating more than 40 — they were finally expecting. “You know,” she told me with great relief “we kept waiting and waiting and it wasn’t happening, until now anyway. I’m due in December!”
I hugged her, of course, asked how she was feeling. I joked with she and her husband about what they would name their child. I’ve got the drill down. I wasn’t about to rain on their parade.
In the back of my head as I gushed along with them, I couldn’t help but think there goes another one graduating and moving on. Not long ago the news would have leveled me. So, while caught sidewise and awash in mixed feelings, I found myself feeling more wistful than anything else. So much for our spontaneous, child-free get togethers …