Two recent occurrences reminded me that my life is not an acceptable narrative to some people.
I wanted kids and I don't have them?
Well, it must be my fault. And I'll never be happy without them.
No and no. But I refuse to explain anything to satisfy someone's fleeting questions about my personal life and trauma. It took me years to get where I am today physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and geographically. Why should I and how could I possibly satiate their curiosity in five to ten minutes? Especially when my life doesn't have the "right" ending for them.
A co-worker questioned my decisions about adoption and foster care. Regardless of the fact that she barely knows me and knows nothing about my own experiences with adoption and foster care, she not only asked if I had thought about either but she also seemed to pass judgment on the fact that I had done neither. Gross. I just briefly said something along the lines of, "Adoption is a lot harder than people think and the primary goal of foster care is reunification of the biological family."
"Yes, but, if you really wanted kids..." (Yes, she really said that.)
I'm done with conversations like that, with people like that. I wasn't there to correct her. We weren't in an educational or therapeutic setting. We were at work where such personal discourse is neither appropriate or likely to be well received. "Yes, but..."
Or rather, I think I gave a dead end, "Hmmm..." out loud.
My mom asked me if I wanted a Halloween box this year. I'm so glad she asked. She likes to send holiday themed boxes throughout the year. Not to my sisters and me. But to my niece, nephew, and me. It always makes me a little sad because I know she would be sending them to my kids. I like the candy, but I don't know what to do with the little toys and holiday trinkets.
This year she asked me if I'd like one or if she should give mine to the little girl down the street. I immediately texted back, "Give it to the little girl down the street! She will love it." I also said those boxes always make me a little sad so it's okay to always give them to the little girl down the street. I wasn't sure how my mom would react, but I wanted to be honest.
She wrote back, "I miss sending them to you! But I understand. Phoenix, we love you more than life. You aren't too old to adopt, especially a toddler or a preschooler."
First of all, I think it's weird that she formally addressed me by name in a one-on-one text message. But secondly, I AM too old to adopt. That process takes a long time and, as we all know, it isn't guaranteed. However, thirdly, and most important to me, it is not the responsibility of a baby/toddler/preschooler to make me happy! Putting that expectation on a child is unfair, twisted, and cruel. And I feel like that's what people are saying when they say, "Just adopt/foster!" Adoption and foster care can be extremely wonderful, but they involve very complex issues involving many people's lives.
This is not up for discussion. Definitely not with co-workers. And apparently not with my mom. I'm tired of explaining it to people who don't listen. Why can't people accept my life as it is? I do.
I did not reply. I never brought it back up and neither did she.
That sucks. Five and a half years after ending fertility treatments and I still get questions and assumptions thrown my way. I understand I'm in a population that's misunderstood and not often talked about, but that doesn't mean it's my responsibility to educate everyone at every encounter. Especially if it's a waste of my time or leaves me feeling drained.
Not everyone's story ends with motherhood.
But I know you all know that.
I've been sharing my most private thoughts here for the past four years so I know you all know that I've been working hard, both through grief and also through moving, grad school, divorce, and starting a new career.
It annoys me when I feel like people question my life without children. It makes me mad when they assume that their idea for me to foster or adopt a child is easy, a solution, and something I haven't already put a great amount of time, thought, and research into. I don't like it when people don't let me have my ending to my own story.
I endured years of infertility.
The adoption agency I decided on went bankrupt.
I used to work for a foster care agency and have had extensive training on trauma-informed caregiving strategies. I would have needed an equally committed partner to engage in foster care. My ex-husband did not have that desire or skill set and that was okay and perfectly understandable to me.
After wanting to be a mother for as long as I could remember, I realized I was not going to be raising children in this lifetime.
Since I didn't have the life I wanted, I decided to want the life I had.
I decided to create a life I wanted to live.
So after taking full advantage of what it had to offer (e.g., in-state tuition, opportunities for clinical rotations), I moved out of the city like I dreamed of doing. I embraced all of the changes, expected and unexpected, that came with that. And I graduated, passed the board exam, and now practice in my new profession.
I love it. I spend my work days helping others. I live in a warm home with good food and a great boyfriend. And after a lifetime of searching, I finally found my medium as an artist: quilting.
It may not look like what others expect for me, but I worked hard to create this life for myself.
I like my happily ever after.