Written by Nandini Sethi
“Yes, okay, thank you doctor”, I said, ending the call. This was my third appointment with an IVF specialist, and things were not looking good. Ayush, my husband, and I had been trying for a baby for two years now, but nothing seemed to be working in our favour. The whole process of IVF was exhausting, taking a toll on my body, and you could really tell.
Ayush and I had decided that this was going to be our final try. After our second attempt, our doctor had told us that our chances were pretty slim, but accepting the reality was harder than living in denial, and we had immediately booked an appointment with a second specialist.
But now, sitting in my car, heading home from work on a Monday morning, I felt nothing but horrible about myself and my body. Wiping my tears, I started the car and drove silently home, dreading breaking the news to Ayush.
A little lonely and in hopes of some companionship, I phoned my friend Alia, asking her if I could come over and spend some time with Kshitij, her 4-year-old son.
“I know this is a bit random, but are you sure it’s okay for me to come over unannounced like this?” I asked her.
“Nonsense, you are welcome here any time”, Alia opened the door for me, helping me hang my coat and place my shoes in the rack.
I looked around the living room, hoping to catch a glimpse of the little boy when Alia spoke, “let me go get him for you.” Only seconds later, a loud squeal sounded, and the patter of little footsteps could be heard – as he ran towards me.
Embracing Kshitij in a tight, warm hug, I breathed in his scent deeply and gave him the biggest, in my opinion, the most maternal kiss on his head, and didn’t want to let go. I could sense he was bored of the hug, but after the news I had just received, I wanted to hold on for a moment longer.
“Hey, I got you something”, I told him, watching his innocent eyes light up in pure joy.
“What is it?” He jumped up and down. I handed him a huge box, almost tearing up at the sight of the child running all around in excitement, a new toy car in hand.
“You didn’t have to”, Alia began, but I stopped her, “I needed this more than him.”
Two cups of tea and one packet of Oreos later, I tried to come to terms with my emotions. Alia was being a wonderful host, urging me to vent and share my problems, but I didn’t want to bother her, or make her feel guilty for having such a beautiful baby boy just because I could never experience the joy of motherhood.
“I know I sound a bit creepy, but honestly all I need today is to just sit and watch how wonderfully you do your job.” I didn’t expect her to be so understanding, but she gave me a solemn nod and continued about her work.
Silently from the couch, I watched her mash up the potatoes in the kitchen and cut a delicious looking salmon sandwich into little pieces. It was almost endearing, looking at her feed the little boy the tiny pieces of the food, imitating the art of biting and chewing, then swallowing and sighing. They finished their meal together, calling me over and making me try a bit of mashed potato too, and I happily complied.
Next on the agenda was cartoons. Big, animated animals with humongous eyes and a funny accent played on the TV screen, and watching along with Kshitij, I knew there was never a show, no matter how critically well acclaimed it may be, that I would enjoy as much as this. More than the silly jokes that didn’t make any sense, it was his soft giggles and wondrous eyes that made me smile.
I was almost as upset as Kshitij when it was bedtime. Alia invited me to be the second voice-over in the children’s bedtime stories book she was reading out, and I couldn’t be more honoured. Tucking him into bed, stroking his unkempt curls, I watched as a loving mother gave a little peck to the sweet boy, fighting sleep, but finally succumbing to his exhaustion, only after he utter the words, “love you mama.”
I didn’t realize that I had been crying till Alia turned off the lights and guided me to the living room again.
“You should call Ayush”, she said.
By now, it was obvious what I had been struggling with all day and I didn’t bother hiding it. She sat down next to me and put her head on my shoulder.
“I can’t believe I will never be able to experience motherhood”, I admitted out loud.
“Why? Just because you can’t get pregnant?” Alia asked. I was a bit annoyed; I found her question to be blatantly insensitive. “Obviously,” I replied.
“How stupid is that?!” she cried. “Do you think I am a bad mother?” She asked.
I sniffed a bit, “Well yeah, seeing how good you are with Kshitij, you’re one of the best moms I know,” I didn’t see where this conversation was headed.
“I didn’t give birth to him. Kshitij is adopted,” she said.
I was stunned to say the least, and I didn’t attempt to hide the shock on my face. “What?”
Alia explained, “before we became friends, I was going through a rough time – I found out that I can never had kids, and that completely broke me.” She paused. “But we didn’t give up. We wanted to experience parenthood, so we decided to adopt.” She glanced towards Kshitij’s room, “and I’m glad we did, I’ve never been happier.”
I was still stunned. The bond between Alia and Kshitij was probably one of the strongest I had ever seen – no one would ever be able to tell that they were not related by blood. If anything, it made me realize the power of love doesn’t need any context – it was so fierce, that you didn’t need to prove it to the world outside.
I thanked Alia for her warm welcome, then left in a hurry. I sat in my car for a moment, nurturing the feeling of hope, contemplating my options. I smiled to myself; this Children’s Day, I chose to believe in miracles.
I had an important call to make: first to deliver bad news , then to break the happiest announcement my husband has ever heard.