Yesterday we made the mistake of doing something that I usually enjoy.
I thought it would be fun to head to our local pumpkin patch to pick the perfect pumpkins. Just a few miles from here is a real country patch, a crop field covered in hay, corn, and pumpkins of every shape and size, complete with wheelbarrows, hayrides, and barbecue. You know, kid heaven.
We expected a ton of children there, though we always have fun doing our own thing. We pick our favorites, however imperfect they may be, and take pride in our artful yet scary carvings. I love to see the bright orange gourd I leave uncut to guard the house through the season, until it rots and must be chucked.
Decorating pumpkins and Halloween brings me back to my childhood — from the smell of fall leaves, to choosing my pumpkin and painting (later carving) it however I imagined, to scary haunted houses, dressing up in fun costumes, the fascination with all things dark and dreary (and black), gallivanting in the neighborhood after dark with friends, and of course, all that candy. And it all begins with that first pumpkin.
Yesterday, though, was different. There was no wistful nostalgia. Only the blatant sad fact that as we walked through that patch, we were the only childless couple there. Of course young families with children were everywhere, little kids excitedly romping through the field, parents shooting photos of babies’ first pumpkin patch. It was all a bit too much.
I had even brought my camera in case I felt inspired to take some fall harvest shots, but I left it in the car. I joked with M that we could still break it out and shoot some pix of him pointing to his favorite pumpkin, or me in the wheelbarrow, or him on a haystack. It was good for a chuckle.
Yet underneath our brief laughter there was a deep sadness. He felt it too. “I don’t know why I feel this way here,” he said, wondering why here, why now? It wasn’t the first time we’ve stood out as the only childless couple in the room. The longing was palpable for both of us.
We walked through the patch, watching children play and giggle and babies with new legs romp through the field. We watched dads lift their kids up and into wheelbarrows for rides. We watched moms take pictures of their gorgeous families. We watched and we wondered. Would that ever be us?
At times like this, it’s really hard to imagine that we will ever have a child. One moment I think, of course we will, some day. It could be a year or more, and that thought is really hard. But then I realize it could be longer. It could be never. There is no guarantee we will ever get “picked.” We might not. We could end up like one of those bruised or mis-shapen pumpkins that no one chooses, the ones that get plowed under at the end of the season. There is just no way to know.
This would be a good time to say, please, no telling me that of course we’ll get picked and what great parents will be. Or it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Yesterday was just the kind of day where none of that mattered. Nothing could convince our hearts that that day would ever come.
A series of images, glimpses into a life unlived, gripped me and wouldn’t let go. I saw M walking with a child on his shoulders, his eyes and face beaming with love as he gently sits him down into a wheelbarrow, laughing. I saw me holding an infant, our child, with the warm sun on my joyful face as we meander through the patch with the other families. I saw our son, who would have been almost 2.5 years old by now, running through that field and pointing to a little pumpkin of his own…
I think I longed for all of our children in that moment — the son who was taken from us, the children we will never have, and also that mythical child who may one day find his/her way to us through adoption. Each one of those aches its own unique pull.
As I walked back through that patch, I realized that something I normally enjoy had been tainted by our sorrow, swallowed by the gaping hole in our lives. Looking at all those happy families, all I could think was that should be us, too. Why isn’t that us? Will that ever be us? That may never be us. It was all just too much.
As we made our way out, a few friends spotted us and came over to say hello. They were with a big group with new babies and toddlers. I was caught off guard, a little out of my head, and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was meeting one couple and their 10 month old for the first time, an adorable happy little boy. It was all I could do to keep focused on this woman’s eyes as she nursed her son just inches from my face.
At one point she asked if I wanted to hold him. “No, that’s okay, thanks,” I replied, but she seemed a bit surprised. “No?” she asked, smiling. “No, thanks, we’ve got to get going,” I explained, searching for M’s attention. “He’s very sweet.” I tried to be kind and gentle. She’s a new friend after all, and we really don’t have that many good friends left, to be honest. But I had to say no. M seemed a bit surprised too, when I told him later. But I was about to fall apart at the seams and simply couldn’t bear it.
The rest of the day was tough. I was weepy, carrying my heavy heart. On top of that, M and I argued about our frustrations. Today is a new day, but I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed. Just going through a rough patch I guess.