The three of us close ourselves into a small boardroom. I’m armed with my usual notebook and a pen, wishing I’d picked up a hot drink or something on the way because my throat feels a bit rough after a brisk walk back to the office after a meeting. I’m anticipating an animated discussion about a report we’ve gotten back from a consultant featuring some fairly major data and research errors, that the press will be interested in once it’s released – whether or not those errors are fixed.
Instead, she pulls out two 13 week ultrasound photos. Her partner is pregnant. After many tries, this sperm donation worked. There’s the mouth. There’s the round tummy. They’ve been together a long time, wanting to have children for so long. And their absolute joy has been intermingled with fear (can we afford another try if it doesn’t take?) but passing the 12 week mark means a bit of relaxing can occur.
My other colleague has dealt with the devastating blow of her own infertility, and has been waiting for the finalization of an international adoption for years. I’m not exaggerating; she likes to say she has been pregnant for 3 years. This year, the end is near. Barring some unforeseen event, her and her husband will become parents of a baby girl by the end of the calendar year. Maybe sooner; maybe December. The bureaucracy and paperwork and cost are almost too much to comprehend. “You’ve had to do WHAT in order to become parents?!?!”
I’ve got a reputation at work that I’m the person you talk to if you want to be talked out of having kids. Starry eyed girlfriends, fiancés and the newly-married are pushed in my direction so I can provide my usual warning – just be prepared. Be prepared to never be selfish again. You’ll never anticipate what kind of impact this will have on your relationship with your partner/spouse. Get everything you want to do out of your system now. Travel. Shower. Sleep. Work what hours you like. Buy foodie food. I can go on. I won’t. I’m not saying you can’t do these things when you have kids. It’s just that it’s going to be completely different from when you didn’t have them, and it’s not usually moving towards the positive.
Instead, today, we must spend about 20 minutes discussing the best places to buy cribs, the pros and cons of matching bedding and bedroom themes, the for- and against-Ikea furniture arguments. We talk about finding out the sex, about when to have siblings, about how the bureaucracy of the adoption experience means that one of these babies won’t have any siblings. I can’t help myself – I start preaching some assvice about spending as much quality time with your other half as you can before the kid arrives because a lot of that is going to go. And that for me, two years apart between siblings is too close. And how I feel like I lost myself during my maternity leave – emphasizing that I was only speaking for myself and I totally worship those mothers that love it.
But mostly, I shared their bliss. I am so incredibly happy these two women are becoming mothers. It doesn’t matter what effect these children are going to have on their lives in terms of travel plans, or sleep deprivation, and mummy and daddy yelling at each other just a little bit more than before. These children are desperately wanted and desperately deserved. I can’t wait to meet them. I can’t wait to see the gratitude and joy and fulfillment in these two mothers’ faces. When they talk about their experiences, I start tearing up, I can’t help it. When they can start complaining about their lack of sleep or toddler tantrums or potty training, and I can chime in without a pang of guilt in my stomach that I am talking about my children again, I will be so glad.
I need to write it on my hand, which is something that I still do when I really need to remember something – a leftover from my teenage years…
Be thankful. Be grateful.