Sitting in the midst of a swarming, teeming auditorium packed with kids and parents alike, I felt like I was in a bubble. Untouched, isolated, like an island. As if sensing how overwhelming it felt, one twin leaned on me, her face resting on my bosom. The other held my hand. In the few minutes we were seated there, I felt a rush of feelings. Complex, conflicting, intense feelings that threaten to surface every now and then. I look back on my journey through infertility, adoption pregnancy and remind myself that I have been blessed many times over. I tell myself that gratitude is all I should be feeling. Stray mutinous thoughts escape the bubble at times and I struggle to put it down in words. Sitting in that hall, it came to me.
It is the experience. The whole damned experience.
As an older mom, sitting with my children about to start first grade, I saw the parallel universe I would have been part of all around me. I watched as friends stood with their children towering over them, young and glowing, the years of exhaustion well behind them. I watched as they discussed electives, sports, music, band and intramurals. I watched as their children banded together, easy in the knowledge that their parents shared history. Circuits I would have been part of had I lived a less eventful life.
Battling infertility, I watched my peers go on to have a child, or two or three. I sat through their baby showers, first birthdays and first day of kindergarten. Then our worlds diverged. Each friend slipped off the orbit seeking newer planes and alternate universes. I lingered, at the center of their intersecting lives, listening to tales of exhaustion and exhilaration. I stepped back, detoured, found my place in a world populated by people walking my walk. I made deep, strong connections with these women. As the years passed, I slipped fluidly between infertility, adoption, advanced maternal pregnancy and a host of related circles with ease. I walked the same paths my friends had, but with different people. I hit those milestones and missed having friends to celebrate them with. I realized with a pang, of what could have been, and what is.
I still feel like the outsider looking in. I am there, yet a part of me refuses to let go of the experiences I missed. I wonder what it would have been like to experience the wonder of life within and celebrate without thoughts of miscarriage marring it. I wonder what it would have been like to worry about being empty-nesters while in my 40s. I wonder what it would have been like to know this is how life would be and navigate a predictable path hurtling towards a foregone conclusion.
I wonder about a host of other things but I hardly let those thoughts find voice. I quell them. I drown the murmurs in the cacophony that surrounds me. I express gratitude with a vengeance. I remind myself of the people I left behind as I shifted lanes and merged with the parenting crowd.
Every now and then though, I catch myself staring at the ghost of then me that was standing on the outside looking in, and wonder.