The Problem with “What I Wish I Knew Then”
“I loved your blog last week about what people wished they could tell the woman sitting in the infertility clinic on her first visit. I know you didn’t mean it this way, but after I read it I was feeling so sad for all the time we wasted in treatment. We are now 42 and 45 just starting the adoption process. We’re drained emotionally and financially. We are also considerably older now than the “ideal” adoptive parents most birth moms and agencies are looking for.”
I’m sorry for the pain that I caused this reader, unintentional that it was. Infertility is painful enough without someone dumping on more “what ifs” and” if onlys”. How true it is that when you throw a pebble in a pond you can’t control the ripples.
Here’s the fundamental problem with the “what I wished I knew then” type of exercises that I failed to mention– You are a different person now than you were then, and you became the person you are now because of all the experiences you’ve had by not knowing then what you know now. (And yes, I realize how convoluted that sounds.) For a lot of people, these “what I wished I had known” or “if only I had known” exercises are just a shorthand way to appreciate where they are now. But for some, it takes on more of the beating yourself up tone. When it is the first, I love it as a way to reflect; if it’s the latter, I’ve got no use for it at all.
Your first choice was to become a parent through giving birth to your biological child. Nothing is wrong with that; in fact, that’s almost everyone’s first choice. Adoption didn’t become your choice until after the door on biological parenthood closed. If you had heeded the advice of the blogger I quoted, you would have skipped treatment and gone directly to adoption, which at that time would have been your second choice. That wouldn’t have been fair to either you or your child.
I still think it’s helpful to hear what other people have learned along the way. If you are wrestling with what to do next, it is often useful to hear of the choices others have made and how they feel now. But, the truth is, that we each have to make the best decision we can given where we are right then at that specific time in our lives. As we grow and change, so will our decisions. It’s tempting to look back and think that we should have taken a more direct path to where we ended up, but where we end up, and our satisfaction at being there, is dependent on the circuitous route we took to get there. And with that circuitous sentence, I’ll stop.
Image credit: Vincent Maurin