There’s something about an image like this which makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Little shoes left in a corner, by little hands that were so eager to hop upstairs and go play. They symbolize so much, telling the world that this house is inhabited by a small being, who changes its dynamics completely, rules over his small-scale universe, and fills it with laughter and life (and tears, and tantrums, and snot, too).
We live in a very family-oriented neighborhood, populated with kids of all ages. At the beginning, it was just the two of us. Except for the retired folks down the road, we were the only kid-less couple around, along with these two neighbors from across the street. This was enough of something in common for us to befriend them, a couple in their late forties, who lived with a big, jumpy Golden Retriever named Chanel. We never asked why they didn’t have children; that’s not the kind of thing you ask. Some people just don’t want kids, we thought.
Then LP arrived and with my growing bump appeared telling empty boxes in our driveway on garbage day: high chair, bouncy seat, stroller, and so on. We never told them we were expecting, but of course they figured it out and after that, I noticed the woman was a bit distant and weird. One day, when LP was maybe four months old, the man revealed, in a single breath, that they had spent years and years trying, on their own and then with heavy medical assistance, every drug and procedure imaginable, that it had cost them the equivalent of a second house. Nothing worked.
I think about them often. When do you draw the line, when do you give up on this dream, which is not only a selfish one but also the strongest and most fundamental human instinct there is? Do you ever completely turn the page and feel you had closure on wanting to have a child but not being able to? I know they could have always adopted, I would have, but maybe at this point they didn’t have any money left, and were too brokenhearted by this ordeal already, or maybe they couldn’t envision raising a child that wasn’t their (biological) own.
M and I had trouble conceiving, and it was tough, really tough, seeing the months pass by and scrapping the "maybe" thoughts I couldn’t help but have every time and starting over again. In retrospect, it seems like nothing, and really it was. It took time, but it worked, I had a normal pregnancy, and a healthy, beautiful baby who changed my life and continues to bring me to this place where I’m happiest every day. We didn’t have to go through the financial, physical, and emotional roller-coaster of fertility treatments, where the amount of money you put is in no way a guarantee of success or a preventative agent against deep, deep heartache.
I suppose time heals these wounds, but seeing us leap into parenthood from the other side of the street must have hurt. I don't think it's mean or petty from them, it’s just human nature. They live on, they go to work, take care of their garden, take their dog for walks, have their roof repaired, have friends over for dinner, chitchat with neighbors, get new cars… They have a seemingly full life.
But I can’t help wonder... Once you’ve dreamed about tiny shoes hurriedly left at your doorstep, can you ever forget about that dream? Can you ever view your home/life as complete?