There is a couple around the same age as my husband and I who live in a similar semi-detached home in our urban neighbourhood. They got a dog around the same time we did and the wife and I pass each other on our daily walks, usually wearing the same workout pants, and we smile and say hello as the dogs sniff each other. Then she got pregnant and we are no longer similar anymore. Then the baby came and I found myself picking different routes to walk, taking the dog deep into the Don Valley to avoid seeing her and any other pregnant bellies, protruding adorably through winter coats, or seeing strollers, or double strollers, or babies cooing in slings on their proud parents’ chests.
“I think I need to get away,” I say to my husband.
We book a small mini-break, with a pact to not discuss our infertility. The time and cost of fertility treatments and then pursuing adoption have made it difficult to take any time away together, so this short vacation feels important.
We arrive at a lovely hotel in the Florida Keys and I feel myself exhale for the first time in years.
“And are there children at home waiting for you?” asks the woman at the front desk.
I blink, hard, as I look at her name tag. ‘How much time do you have, Kimberly?’ I want to say. But I don’t, of course. I don’t tell Kimberly that we have been trying for years to become parents with no end in sight. I don’t tell Kimberly about the grief of each failed fertility treatment or that I lie awake night after night wondering if I will ever get the chance to love a child, let alone children. Instead I take our room key, smile and say, “No, there are no kids at home.”
I lie by the pool, trying my best to relax, but my oversized sunglasses – the vintage ones I was so excited to find – do nothing to shield me from tableau after tableau of darling children splashing around in the water. The neighbourhood woman isn’t here with her newborn and springer spaniel but there is a little girl wearing a pink and green bathing suit with ruffles on her bum and with her curls tucked into a matching bathing cap.
I think about all the many people, over the course of our trying to become parents, who have told us to just take a vacation. We may be on holiday, in the beautiful Florida Keys, but I am still infertile. I am still trying to adopt.
I can’t stop watching this adorable little girl, splashing around in the pool. I watch her play and I watch her swim and then I watch her throw a tantrum, which is adorable still because she is wearing a bathing cap with ruffles and she just ate a plate of fries so what could be so bad, really.
I squeeze my husband’s hand in the lounge chair next to mine.
“Maybe this will be our last vacation, just the two of us,” I say.
“Maybe,” he says.
But maybe it won’t. Maybe it will only ever be the two of us, and the dog, and the cat.
We sit together on the pavement, dangling our feet in the hot tub, talking about the books we are reading and the podcasts we are listening to. A woman joins us and we exchange vacation pleasantries about where we are from and how long we are staying. I am ready this time when she asks, “Do you have any children?”
“We are trying to adopt a child,” I say, and I feel strong and excited saying it.
“How wonderful,” she says.
And it is. It’s wonderful.