D and I are keen long-distance runners. He is fast and I am not, but we both enjoy the training for races the preparation, the anticipation, the pain and the pleasure of starting and of finishing. Not of winning, but of being part of the process, of the communal experience, of, what I see as a huge celebration of life. This might be the reason why I have likened our journey to parenthood to a race.
When we first started thinking about trying for a family we expected it to be a sprint. Many people around us (most it felt like at the time, and feels that way often) would decide to start a family and then, usually around a year later, would have a healthy, bouncy baby in their arms. In fact most of the people who got married around the same time as we did (5 years ago) or even after us, now have one, some even have two, babies.
And so we thought it would be simple. While trying to get pregnant, it started to dawn on me that maybe not, maybe it would not be a 100m sprint – maybe it was a hurdles race, but that too was OK: we had already learnt that we were good at hurdles, D and I.
After getting pregnant and losing the pregnancy at three months we had to re-evaluate. Most people, my doctor included, simply saw this as a small bump (pun wholly unintended) on the road and that, in fact, we would be pregnant again in no time and we’d have our very own baby soon.
They were right, in part. I fell pregnant again shortly after, barely two months after my first pregnancy. They were not right about the second part, though. I miscarried again at 11 weeks.
Things were looking bleak. The race was getting longer and it was becoming clear, to me at least, that nobody knew quite how long it would actually be. Especially as, after some surgery to remove the defunct placenta from my uterus, it seemed unlikely that I would ever be able to get pregnant again.
The race was evolving from a simple 400m hurdles, to the gruelling 3000 metre steeplechase. And the sad fact of the matter was, I had not prepared for it, I had not trained, had not expected to be running so far and was feeling pretty knackered already.
A year later and several surgical procedures, some complications, a post-operative infection and quite a few weeks spent in a hospital setting, I got pregnant again! The race seemed to be nearing its end – I could see the finish line and I thought all I had to do was sprint to the end.
It was not to be, the finish line was to be moved once more and I was to be informed that actually, this was not a simple track race after all – this was turning into a road race – possibly a marathon.
Marathons take grit and determination, they take commitment and preparation and they take the unwavering belief that you are doing the right thing – no doubt can creep into the preparation for a marathon. Adoption was definitely a marathon and we entered prepared. At the same time, all around us, people entered parenthood with what seemed like minimal effort.
But as our marathon unfolds, as we run through the mile markers it is becoming obvious that this is no ordinary marathon. That even in this path that we have chosen, the route is unmarked and, in fact, it is not a simple road race, but a trail marathon, the length of which is undisclosed.
We are somewhere around mile 23, somewhere high in the clouds, led by a compass we are not sure is working, with a map that has several holes in it, but always, always maintaining the belief that somewhere out there is a finish line for us. That, if nothing else, our path to parenthood has challenged us in so many ways that it has made us stronger. That our unwavering belief that we want to be part of this race will carry us through the darkness after: the tough days of parenting. Because the finish line is not the goal at all, in the end. Because the finish line is also a start line to the rest of our lives.