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.