The following is excerpted with permission from Can’t Help Falling: A Long Road to Motherhood by Tarah Schwartz (Linda Leith Publishing, 2022).
I was kicking off my shoes as I checked the message on my phone. When I heard who it was, I froze. I pressed the play button again. I listened to the message a third time. Then I saved it.
Climbing the stairs two by two I found Enrico in his office. He is a translator and works with words. He loves them.
“Did you get the message?” I asked.
“I did,” he said. “We have a lot to talk about.”
When we first began IVF treatments, I had also placed our names on a number of adoption waiting lists. I didn’t know if it would come to that, but it seemed like the smart thing to do. We had been told adoption could take years. Shockingly, by the time the call did come, three long years had passed. A Quebec adoption agency working with South Korea explained that our names were now at the top of the list, and they weren’t giving us much time to decide if we’d like to proceed. There are hundreds of families eager to take your place if you decline, they said. While we didn’t know what the process consisted of, we knew that at the end of it, we could be parents.
“Let’s go for a walk,” said my husband.
We walked through the trees with thick branches and shapely green leaves that draped over grassy fields in Lafontaine Park. Fat grey squirrels stopped us in our tracks with their beady eyes, demanding food.
“What do you think?” I asked him, impatient to begin the discussion.
“It’s a big decision,” he answered. “It’s strange to have to decide so quickly about something so important.”
“We have one round of in vitro left,” I said. “What if we just didn’t do it? What if we did this instead?”
“Do you remember one of the first walks we took through this park?” he asked. “When we first began dating.”
“When we talked about having children?”
“You were the one who talked about children,” he went on. “You told me you wanted to have two children: one biological and one adopted.”
“I guess that didn’t exactly work out as planned.”
“Part of it could still work out.”
“Yes, it could.”
We continued to talk for several hours. Choosing international adoption meant closing one door and opening another. It meant letting go of having a child biologically and all that goes along with it. We would never see our features reflected in our baby, and we would never know exactly from whom our child came. I would never be pregnant and give birth. Adoption meant letting go of what we thought life would be and opening up to what could be.
“The idea of not going through our last IVF treatment is pretty appealing,” I admitted. “I don’t really want to do it again.”
“I know,” he said. “I understand.”
I pressed on. “And there would be a baby out there for us. We could have our baby.”
We turned the corner onto Sherbrooke, a picturesque street lined with old, stone buildings and dotted with art galleries and high-end clothing stores. The city was alive and breathing. We slowed down and watched it and contemplated how each road we walk down, each choice that we make leads to a thousand possible other ones. As we walked, I watched people in cars, on the bus, on the streets, kissing their children, and walking their dogs, and marvelled at how each of us, billions of humans, live our lives hoping to find as much happiness as we can. I wondered if we also sometimes hold ourselves back from that happiness out of uncertainty, or anger, or fear.
Something changed inside me, something settled, the way sediment drifts and eventually touches down on the ocean floor. Within all that movement, I felt surprisingly still. And, it seems, so did Enrico.
“I think we should do it,” he said. “I think this is the way we become parents.”
“I think so too. It’s like a knowing.” Never had such simple sentences meant so much or been so true.
The way forward had been chosen.
My mother always says the toughest part of any choice is making it. That part was done. Never, though, did I imagine the road beyond that choice would be as bumpy as it turned out to be.