The other night, two nights ago actually, I had a dream. It was at the end of the night, almost morning, almost time to wake up. I dreamed I was expecting, in the late stages of pregnancy. And then I had the baby - the dream included labor; it was an odd, dream version of labor, not completely logical, not including all the facts that even I know would be included, but the story continued its natural progression. And so then I had the baby, a take-home baby, and I was still me, still infertile, with this shocking unexpected baby. And I didn't know what to call him. Everyone wanted to know his name, and I couldn't figure it out, which surprised everyone, and bewildered and distressed me. But I just worked on it in my mind, and it took me days. And in two or three days - a shockingly long time, for someone who so knows her own mind about these things - I decided that his name should be Christopher. And then some time after that I woke up.
During the dream, I moved toward waking a couple of times. (Those are the only dreams I remember - the ones that happen when I'm nearly awake. I'll go years without noticing I've had a single dream; I'm sure I have them, I just don't remember them. I rarely have nightmares.) You know how sometimes when you're partly-awake, you'll have vague thoughts that reflect on the dream, that indicate you realize you're dreaming? "That's not logical" or "I shouldn't be thinking about this" or, with a nightmare, "I should wake up and stop this," or whatever; but you're not awake, so you can't easily change the path of your thoughts and you drift back into sleep. I think twice during that dream, I drifted far enough toward wakefulness to remember that I wasn't pregnant; that I'm infertile and this was all very unreal; and that entertaining a dream on this subject could hurt me and I would be wise to stop. But I didn't step away from the dream, I faded back into it, and I was OK.
After I woke up, I lay there for a while, thinking about it. I know the strange delay in choosing a name (I've had children's names picked out for years) was a direct expression about my ambivalence about having a child - that it's truly not a part of my life, and its lack has in many ways been definitive for me - and also my recognition (in the dream's reality) of how big a deal this was. Also, I have no explanation at all about the name Christopher. It's not a family name, I've never had any particular devotion to or fascination with St. Christopher, and I would not actually name a child that. (Not that it's not a nice name; it just has no particular appeal to me.)
A friend of my husband's from college started dating a girl who had just graduated from college. He was ten or twelve years older. His friends were all skeptical when the relationship started, but the two got married. I met her only once, for ten seconds at another wedding, not long after they were married. A few years later, a friend of mine went to PPVI to see Dr. Hilgers, and ran into the wife there. Turns out they were also having problems conceiving (they had been married just a couple of years). And she had gotten married at just 22! (Sometimes I forget that I was 23.)
A few months later, we were surprised to hear their marriage was having real problems - we weren't sure on the details or how serious they were, but the fights sure sounded serious, with her saying that she'd never thought the marriage was a good idea. Then they separated. Then they divorced. Not long after, she was seeing someone else (I don't know how long that had been going on). It should be noted that these people are visibly devout Catholics, from Very Catholic Families - although, of course, such people can fall as well as the rest of us.
I wondered whether their marriage had just had too many difficulties, and infertility was just one burden too many (something I've thought about my marriage, too); would they have been OK, if they had been able to have children (and would children have occupied her emotional energy, such that she wouldn't have fretted herself to death about her marriage)?
While the annulment was still pending, the husband started dating a young woman I know - also very Catholic, and someone I like, but someone who has a lot of issues of her own. I was inclined to think that both of them had chosen the relationship as a form of rebellion, because they were unhappy or unsettled, and knew they shouldn't be dating each other. I didn't take it at all seriously. Then I heard that they were engaged. I was surprised, and apprehensive for both of them. I knew his annulment had just gone through (and, obviously, they were dating beforehand). It didn't quite work out in my mind. And then I learned that she was expecting. And he had to leave his job. Which I assume dictated the timing of the proposal, and perhaps the proposal itself. (I can't claim to know for sure.)
The obvious response (OK, the obvious IFer response) is, "Well, it wasn't MFI." But of course, I don't know that. It could be the mother (ha!) of all bad luck. Not being able to have a child could have been the end of his first marriage. Being able to have a child could be the beginning and end (if the marriage turns out fundamentally unsound, which seems possible) of his second. I don't know that, and I wish them well, but their path so far has been extremely rocky, and they're just starting out.
I've written before about how it gives me a curious kind of solace that I'm not the only person who has to carry a cross, and we should all acknowledge our sufferings and try to bear one another up (rather than bore people to tears about our blessings and paint our lives as entirely rosy when that's nobody's reality). Not to the exclusion of gratitude - but we can be grateful for the crosses, too, and still call them crosses. I've written specifically about how I know that babies do not exactly present themselves as blessings for some people, in some circumstances. But I've never written about (or encountered) a situation like this. The irony really packs a punch.
It's not about the babies, is it? There's a much greater reality afoot.
*No, this is not a post about multiracial children. That's not really one of my areas.