It never goes away

She's a funny neighbor. In her mid-70's if I had to guess. She's the kind of person you fall in love with immediately. When she laughs, it's a full belly laugh. She leaves presents of back-yard grown produce on our porch. And she jumps right into your life, asking questions that an old friend would ask.

We've lived next to her and her husband for the past 5 years. We love them dearly, and they were some of the first non-family people we told about our adoption. Her joy for us was pure and open.

I have wondered though the years, why M didn't have children. She dotes on the kids in the neighborhood and her fridge is covered with photos of her nieces and their families. I asked her about it once, and she sort of danced around the answer. At the time, I thought it was just M, easily distracted and sometimes a little dingy during conversations. I cringe at the thought now.

Her excitement for Little Man's arrival has been growing right along with ours. This weekend, as our dogs played together in the backyard, I pulled her into the house to see his room. Tears filled her eyes. "I've got baby envy," she said, fanning her downturned face.

I wasn't sure what she meant. But when she looked at me, I suddenly knew. I had never stopped to think that perhaps M didn't have children because of infertility. I assumed her decision to be child-free was a choice.

Her eyes teared and the story tumbled out of her now. She had married late in life. She wanted children and found out she couldn't have them. They considered adoption. But her partner's children were nearly adults and who wants to start over at that point and....

She looked me square in the eyes, standing in Little Man's room, and told me how lucky I was and how happy she was for us.

And I knew she meant it.

The wound of infertility is deep. That searing burn to create a child might fade over time, but it can flare up at any moment. It never goes away. No matter how old you are, no matter how happy you are for other people. It stays with you, even when you've created a family through adoption, or long after your childbearing years are over.

This week is National Infertility Awareness week. Infertility affects 7.3 million people in the U.S. This figure represents 12% of women of childbearing age, or 1 in 8 couples. (2002 National Survey of Family Growth).

You may be aware of it, but chances are, you know people who are living with infertility. Learn how you can support them, and educate yourself on the issues.



  1. I had a similar conversation with an older woman in my knitting class recently. You are so right. Sometimes the pain of infertility never goes away.

  2. This breaks my heart! I wonder about this a lot with my aunt who never married or had children and is now so excited about my pregnancy. It's important to remember how these losses stay with us, carry forward throughout our lives. This is also a good reminder that we never know who might be secretly suffering under the burden of infertility. Thanks for sharing this story!

  3. Tears. This breaks my heart. My great-aunt never could have kids, she's always been very involved with all of us (my cousins and I) and our kids. It breaks my heart because she would have been a wonderful Mom. My husband's aunt finally is a Mom through surrogacy and egg donation. I have friends who are Moms through adoption or fertility treatments, and it's wonderful and heartbreaking all at once. Heartbreaking all that they've had to go through. Wonderful that they're finally able to be Moms (and Dads, I don't mean to discount the Dads who obviously suffer, but my relationships are with the women). Thanks for sharing.

  4. I'm reacting in two different ways to this. First, it is a great reminder that there are wounds that are carried deep and hidden to most. And infertility in and of itself is so, so hard. I don't wish that on anyone and it is sometimes harder to see others go through it when you yourself know the pain that this burden can bring. And I think it is the most difficult when you go through infertility and at the end, aren't a parent. My heart breaks for your neighbor who so wanted to be a mom and isn't. To be denied that is so, so tough.

    But when infertility does result in parenthood, I think the pain can be lessened significantly. For us, I now see our infertility as a blessing. Because without that, we would not have pursued adoption. And I would not have my three children in my life. If I had been pregnant, I would have children but not the children that I have now. While going through infertility, I mourned the children that I dreamed of but would never hold. Now, as a mother, the thought of NOT knowing, loving, parenting my children literally brings me to sobbing tears. These are the children that I hold and for that I am blessed.

  5. Oh Yvonne, such a great point! It really is a miracle to me that we are paired up with the children we are meant to parent. I just wish it had worked out for people like M, with so much love to give! So happy that we live next door to her so she can share in the joy of Little Man.

  6. thanks for sharing this, pix. a good reminder for all.

  7. That is such a sad yet wonderful story. You are very lucky to have such a wonderful neighbor such as M. I am so excited for all of you and even for M to meet Little man.


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