Back from hospital and the D and C (the fourth one now!), worn out and utterly dejected, with bitter tears still barely constrained, Maureen went up to bed early. Every time it got worse. Every time, in spite of extra-special care (and the doctors and midwives did really try, give them their due) and although each time they coaxed her unwilling uterus along a bit further (she’d got as far as twenty-one weeks this time; the foetus must have been a recognisable albeit miniscule baby), the result, with the same devastating inevitability, was the same: miscarriage. The discomfort, the morning sickness, but worst of all the anxiety, the holding of breath, the ultra-carefulness, had once again been all for nothing. It was all so unfair. For the umpteenth time since she’d bled and known only too well what that betokened, she surrendered to self-pity and wept.
Jim must have heard, because two minutes later he was poking his head around the bedroom door.
An inane question of course. Of course she wasn’t alright. He quickly undressed and climbed in beside her, taking her in his arms and letting her sob uncontrollably. After a while she calmed, tears spent.
He spoke, his voice heavy with sorrow and concern. ‘We really can’t let you go through all this again.’
She answered tiredly, ‘No, I couldn’t face it. I really couldn’t. We’ll just have to accept that it’s meant to be.’
‘No; so it seems.’
Silence fell, oppressive, like a heavy damp fog.
Then Jim said, ‘We could always try IVF, with a surrogate mother, perhaps.’
‘How do you mean?’ Maureen’s voice betrayed dubiousness and caution.
‘Well, you know. They fertilise one of your eggs with one of my sperm and then implant it in another woman, who actually has it, then she gives the baby to us. Or something like that. You hear of it happening, don’t you?’ Jim’s knowledge of the subject was hazy, to say the least.
‘No, I don’t think they do that. Why would they need to combine my egg and your sperm artificially? Surely they could just take my fertilised egg and put it in someone else’s womb.’
‘Don’t ask me,’ said Jim. ‘I just thought I’d heard about it somewhere.’
Maureen wasn’t convinced though. ‘But anyway, just imagine; why would a woman want to carry someone else’s child, and then have it and give it away. What if she found she couldn’t part with it?’
‘Well I think what usually happens is, the woman’s sister does it. So there’d be no risk of that. But I really don’t know.’
Maureen laughed humourlessly. ‘Oh yeah, right; I can just see our Jane offering to do that, can’t you?’
Jim had to admit that it was unlikely. His wife and sister-in-law were not the greatest soul-mates.
‘No,’ Maureen continued glumly. It just wouldn’t happen, and I don’t have a wonderfully concerned friend who’d be prepared to go through all that for me either. Certainly no one I could possibly ask. Well you couldn’t, could you?’
‘No, I suppose not,’ Jim had to concede.
‘So there you are then. It’s not going to happen. No; no way.’
‘Oh well,’ said Jim. ‘It was just a thought.’
They lapsed into silence again. Jim got up, went into the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth.
When he came back Maureen was still wide awake, gazing unfocused at the ceiling. Jim wasn’t going to let the matter drop. He took her hand, pressed it to his lips then held it against his chest.
‘There is one other possibility of course . . .’ He left the sentence dangling.
‘Well; what about adoption?’
Maureen looked at him sharply. ‘No!’
‘Why not? We’ve just lost another baby and you’re suggesting that? Taking on someone else’s? How could you Jim!’ Her voice was rising, threatening hysteria and more tears.
Jim was quick to contrition. ‘I’m sorry Luv. Don’t get upset again. Putting my great big foot in it as usual. Sorry.’
Maureen was mollified, but only a little. ‘Well it just wouldn’t be the same, would it? It wouldn’t be our flesh and blood. I want to have your baby, not some other man’s!’
‘Yes, I know Sweetheart. I would have really wanted you to, to have ours. I’d have given anything. And maybe if we tried again, the next time it might happen. But what if it still didn’t and this happened yet again? I couldn’t put you through it again. Bloody hell; I couldn’t put myself through it again.’
Maureen sighed. ‘No, we couldn’t risk it. Not again. It looks like we’re fated to be childless.’
‘Yes,’ Jim agreed sadly. ‘It does.’
But Jim had sowed a seed. Three weeks later the subject came up again. There’d been a programme on the box about some famous celebrity who was researching her roots. It wasn’t easy for her because she’d been an adopted child and a foundling to boot, she’d learned, and with no knowledge of her birth parents, or possibly just birth mother, researching her ancestry was difficult. She’d confessed disappointment, but looking straight to close-up camera with glistening eyes she’d confessed that she loved her adoptive parents dearly; she couldn’t have wished for better ones. She had no regrets, felt no sense of deprivation at all. Smiling bravely, she’d remarked that she might also have been disappointed had she been able to track down her birth parents anyway. She’d formed a deep unbreakable bond of love with Maisie and Sid, whom she regarded totally as her parents. Her interest in her biological parents was only academic, but the Mum and Dad she’d come to regard as her own were real and irreplaceable. After that she’d broken down embarrassingly and after a few moments they’d cut the filming.
Jim had looked slyly at Maureen. Her eyes were shining. She’d turned and looked at him, sensing that his eyes were on her, and given a quivery smile. In that moment, they knew, both individually and collectively, what they wanted to do.
And so, after more earnest discussion, and not really knowing what the procedure was, Maureen had phoned the Social Services Department of the City Council and spoken to a very sympathetic and helpful woman who had put literature in the post. They’d read it together, avidly, and then contacted Social Services again saying they wanted to apply to be adoptive parents. And so they’d embarked on the lengthy process of assessment, home visits with many probing questions by an assigned social worker called Joy (it seemed an appropriate name in the circumstances) and visits to ‘workshops’ in child care and the particular needs of adopted children.
It had seemed to go on forever, and they’d begun to get a little impatient with Joy, but she’d explained that these things took time: it was a big responsibility the council had to place children with suitable, dependable and loving adoptive parents. Don’t worry, she’d said, it looked as if they’d meet all the criteria, whatever that meant. The final decision didn’t rest with her but it looked as if they’d be alright. But all the hoops had to be jumped through; it was just the way it was. They confessed to her that, if accepted, they would prefer a small child, a baby even, rather than an older one that might have emotional problems. Joy had looked momentarily disappointed (most would-be adopters said that; the older children, particularly the ‘difficult’ ones, were always more difficult to place) but had smiled reassuringly then and said yes, that was understandable; they hadn’t had the joy of experiencing a baby and small child of their own so they’d obviously want that now. Besides, the younger you started with a child, the better the bonding, usually.
And then, finally, after four months they’d been invited to the assessment panel, before which they’d sat nervously, secretly holding hands under the table as if their very lives depended on it, and then there’d been a nerve-wracking few days before a letter had come telling them officially that, yes, they were considered to be suitable candidates as parents. It was simply a matter now of matching them to the right child.
That had been three weeks ago. Now, today, there was another letter from Joy. There was a little boy, a baby, who looked as if he’d fit their bill. They’d said they would prefer a boy, hadn’t they? If they were interested, there would now have to be a series of getting-to-know-you visits to the children’s home. If they were interested indeed! Maureen’s heart hadn’t slowed since she’d read the letter. She couldn’t wait for Jim to come home!
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