I can't remember what it felt like. I can remember in a factual way that it was awful. Painful, miserable, soul-suckingly awful. But I can't feel it any more. The extraordinary pain that I felt, the hole that I experienced deep inside isn't there any more.
I don't know when it happened. I don't remember when I stopped remembering how it felt. I do remember that I still felt angry after Pob was born, when I realised that the time to just wait for a second didn't exist for us, we had to get on with it if we had any hope of it happening. I remember being so incredibly sad when our first IVF cycle after Pob didn't work. I also remember having to snap out of it soon after I got home so that I didn't affect her. While that didn't reduce the sadness, it did reduce the focus on the sadness.
Sometime after Junior arrived, the visceral reality of the anger and the sadness went away. Not completely, no. When I yearn for another baby, it's there, that feeling that if only we'd had children sooner we might have been able to have another. But it's a yearning, a nostalgia almost, not a deep, penetrating, dreadful sadness like the absence of any children - or of any sense of possibility of those children, at some points - felt. It's there when I look at one of my colleagues, struggling to hold it all together at a women's event where EVERYONE is talking AGAIN about the challenges of working motherhood. And I know she's feeling jealous and angry and ashamed of herself. But I just know it, I don't feel it.
I don't know what made it go away. I don't know if somehow the intensity of the love I feel for my children filled the gap. I don't know if it seeped away because it's just not what I think about all day any more. It comes up, and it goes away while I think about everything else on the list. I don't know if I'm healed, or just papered over.
I know that this is not true for everyone. I had lunch with a friend last week who adopted her daughter two years ago, after nearly 10 years of dealing with infertility. I shared some of the above feelings with her, and she visibly tensed, shivered, looked a bit sick, and then said: "No. I feel it. I feel those critical moments every day. I remember each period of those first three years, getting more and more angry every time I realised I wasn't pregnant again. The day they told me after the operation I'd never have children without IVF, the first time we had to have a social worker in our house. The moment I realised our daughter would not come from China. I am right back there, every time I remember those moments."
Why? Why has it gone for me and not for her? Is it because she is thinking about a second adoption, while, we, much as I yearn for another, are done? Is it because I've filled the hole not just with love but with working too hard and planning a move? Am I distracting myself from reality with a bunch of displacement activities?
As always, it's probably some combination of the above. I know that the love of my children has changed the way I feel about life in a profound way. I know that I am mostly happy. I know, even so, that there are things that are not right in my life and that currently I am doing a medium good job of covering them up. But the sadness, it has lifted. The pain, is a memory of an ache, no longer agony. I got the future I wanted, not when I wanted, but I got it nonetheless.
The experience of being a parent, of loving my children, hasn't cured me, it's just changed the angle with which I experience the world.