We usually think of infertility, or anything to do with babies, as a women’s issue. After all, we women bear the physical brunt of childbearing, or lack thereof. It is easy to forget that men have a share in these blessings and burdens, too. When my husband married me, he knew I couldn’t have children. We had discussed it a lot. Unlike you and Dave, we were older when we married and knew that starting a family was a priority for us. We had no time to waste. While I had been open about my infertility with my husband from the get-go, I also had years to learn to live with the fact of being a living oxymoron, an infertile Irish Catholic. For my husband, this was a whole new world and he had yet to understand its full implications, as I did.
We knew even before we married that we would pursue an adoption plan. I watched as Ted had to acknowledge, and then let go of, all he had hoped for in his family, little by little. First, it was understanding that fertility treatments were not going to be in the cards for us. Next, he had to bury the dream that he would be father to a son like himself. Ted had played football and surfed in high school, like his dad. Ted had followed in his father’s footsteps for college and fraternity choices as well. He was interested in genealogy and his own connection to Native American heritage. Would his son be able to share any of this with him?
Ted had to let go of more hopes and dreams before God was done with us. We were blessed with a healthy infant son in our first adoption, only to receive his autism diagnosis just after his second birthday. Any chances that our beautiful boy would follow in his father’s footsteps evaporated once and for all. Our son continues to be very much his own person. Ted may not be able to throw a football with him but he has become an aficionado of Plants vs. Zombies, Minecraft and Team Fortress 2. It is unlikely that he will attend his father’s alma mater or have any interest in fraternities. Yet, he and my husband have forged a bond so strong that nothing could break it.
It is ironic that although my husband is not Catholic and has no use for saints, he has become a model of St. Joseph. He accepted me as his imperfect wife, not being able to fully comprehend what he was in for. He has silently mourned the loss of the child he thought he would have one day. He has had to die to self in ways I cannot possibly understand. He has shepherded us through many trials. He has been the best adoptive father any child could ask for and has a love so boundless for our children that I know he cannot imagine life without them.
My son is about to turn twelve now and I see that he and his father are more alike than they know. They share what is important. They love faith, family and seek to do right by others. If you ask my son what he wants to be when he grows up, he says “A dad.” My husband may have a different legacy than he anticipated, but I believe it is a richer and deeper gift that he has shared. His initial sense of loss and grief has allowed the blessings of our family to flower. In letting go, he has gained much, as have we all.
Hoping to join you one day in that empty nest,