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Thoughts on Second Choices

I know this will probably come as a shock to you, but Josh isn’t the first person I dated. He isn’t even the fourth or fifth or sixth person I dated. He’s like…somewhere uncountable if we’re going to add people like the man who only got one date because he had a running monologue with himself through the meal (I’m not being facetious. I would say something and the guy would look at his plate and say, “well, Mike, how do you feel about that? She’s really pretty, but she sounds like a risk taker) or Joe (G-d bless the Joes of this world who show up for a blind date holding a bouquet of carnations and talk for two straight hours about his favourite television shows after you’ve told him that you don’t own a television set).

The point is that technically, Jon was my first choice. He was my first real boyfriend. And while he’s probably a really nice guy and currently a neurosurgeon, I’m pretty glad that it didn’t work out between us. I mean, while it probably would have been advantageous for my fertility to start trying to conceive back at age 13, I’m not sure Jon and I would have been the best match through adulthood. And I’m glad my second, third, and fourth choices didn’t work because while–again–they were nice guys and all, I really believe that Josh is the person I was meant to marry. And not in that fate sense of the word when I say “meant.” I mean that we complement each other perfectly. He is the missing piece that makes me more me. And I am lucky that we found each other and he is irreplaceable in my heart. While I certainly felt sad during other breakups, it is nothing compared to the pain I would feel if I ever lost Josh. Because our lives are so deeply and profoundly entwined that to lose him would mean that I lose a piece of myself.

And that is why I never look at leaving one path to parenthood in favour of another path from the Land of If as a second choice. It’s not that I tried this and since I couldn’t have it that way, I settled for this way. First doesn’t always mean best and first doesn’t always mean right. It is simply the first thing we tried and when it didn’t work, we moved onto the next choice until we found the choice that worked for us. And it is similar to dating in that regard. I didn’t marry the first man I dated because he wasn’t the best and he wasn’t right for me. When I married the 80th person I dated, I wasn’t marrying the person who was in 80th place. I married the 80th person who only came after all the twists and turns in the road were passed and the line that connected us finally became untangled so we could find one another.

A and I were recently emailing about the idea of putting biological children on a pedestal or how to make non-biological children understand that they are not a second choice. This is the analogy that Josh and I have been exploring in the new song and cartoon that we’ve been working on for the past few nights:

When you go to your garden, by the time you walk back in the house, you’ve looked at all of the flowers. By default, one has to be the one you looked at first. But when you walk away from the garden, you enjoyed all the flowers and enjoyed the whole experience. It’s not that the first flower you saw was the one you loved best or became more important. It was simply the starting point that brought you the whole experience of enjoying the garden. And trying for those bio children–they were just the first flowers, the experience that brought you into family building. But the flowers you grow in your own garden, those are the ones that were meant to spring up for you two to nurture and love.

And again, the word “meant” does not in any way connote that Western idea that when it’s meant to happen, it will happen. But more the Buddhist idea of cause and effect and that we can’t necessarily know the cause until we see the effect. But that if a child comes to you–through whatever means–it was meant to come to you. It’s a purposeful act, not a random event, since every effect has a cause.

Just my opinion…


1 Rachel { 06.12.07 at 7:57 am }

I love what you said here, “…the Buddhist idea of cause and effect and that we can’t necessarily know the cause until we see the effect…”. When I was young, I could not understand why my parents got divorced. When my dad remarried, my mom (stepmom) turned out to be the most wonderful person for me. I would be a totally different person had it not been for her and what she instilled in me.

2 ms. c { 06.12.07 at 8:43 am }

I agree with your opinion. And I like the analogy.

3 pink { 06.12.07 at 8:54 am }

Great post–as always. Although in my case, I did marry the first guy I dated. How sappy is that?!

4 ultimatejourney { 06.12.07 at 9:06 am }

Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts. I love the idea that the first choice isn’t always the best or right one.

I’m looking forward to the cartoon.

5 Nichole { 06.12.07 at 9:10 am }

Thank you so much for writing this. Since we started looking at adoption, I have often wondered how our *future children* would feel about our infertility and choice to adopt. Would they feel less worthy? Would my family and friends look at them as a “settlement”? etc. It is such a difficult complex ordeal and it was so nice to hear your opinion.

6 DD { 06.12.07 at 9:12 am }

Today, at this very moment, I needed that so much.

Thank you, Mel.

Thank you.

7 serenity { 06.12.07 at 9:18 am }

Well yes! I was previously engaged to a guy who was NOT J… and I am very VERY glad that I didn’t marry him. My life would be very different today if I had. J makes me more ME.

But. Of course you know I am struggling with this right now, in what *might* be our last IVF cycle.

And I most definitely agree that moving to adoption has nothing to do with settling. For us, it’s about making a choice. One that’s different.


I’m doing it because I’m trying to plant my favorite flower in the ground… and it keeps dying. I need to plant it someplace else… or get a different flower.

And it makes me sad. Because my whole life I’ve wanted to plant that particular flower THERE. In my favorite place. And it’s hard to let go of the idea that maybe it will work… if I can add more fertilizer or water it differently or shade it from the light a different way.

I’m sure that 5 years from now, I will look back and say “it happened the way it should have.”

But is it because it was really “meant to be?”

Or because I made a choice to walk away and pursue another path?

At the end of the day, I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I will love my child no matter how s/he comes to me – in the bedroom, in a doctor’s office, from a birthmother, from an orphanage. Either way, we will get to build our family.

This is a long wandery way of trying to figure out why the whole “meant to be” thing doesn’t sit well with me. I wonder if it’s just because we try and convince ourselves that we made the right choices sometimes, that’s all.

But I can’t argue with the laws of cause and effect… I just wonder how much power we actually have over them. If any.

8 Somewhat Ordinary { 06.12.07 at 10:12 am }

I can’t wait to see the new video!! When you sent me the garden analogy I really got it. I don’t know much about Buddist ideas, but since choosing to use a donor I’ve felt that this is our choice, but it was the choice we were meant to make. I know in my heart that whatever children we do have and by whtever path they take to come to us – they are the children that are suppose to be ours. I know this in my heart and I know my husband knows it in his heart-it is our job to make sure the children know it in their hearts!

9 megan { 06.12.07 at 10:42 am }

a beautiful post, Mel. i really love the analogy.

10 Dianne/Flutter { 06.12.07 at 11:04 am }

which I absolutely love. Thank you for your insight, because it is full of wisdom :).

11 Ellen K. { 06.12.07 at 12:44 pm }

This resonates with me on some level, but this theory seems limiting in its allowance for grief and the impact of individual choices. Some things truly are random, I believe, and this isn’t a bad thing — it gives me room for wonder as well as anger. I’m with Serenity in being less comfortable with the idea of “meant to be.”

12 Ann { 06.12.07 at 2:53 pm }

Wonderful post. The tough part of the analogy is…While a walk through the garden can be pleasant, a walk through IF is not. I say that I hope we don’t “get to adoption” not because I have any problem with it (I’ve been ready to adopt since I was an adolescent), but rather because if we are meant to have a child through adoption, that means it will be several more years before we become parents (because there are other steps that come first). And that’s a LONG walk in the garden.

13 Matthew M. F. Miller { 06.12.07 at 3:05 pm }

Real love diminishes any suspicion of what came before it. Constance and I both had relationships, but when I got together with her, it was almost like they didn’t happen.

I don’t know if it works the same way with non-biological children, but I have a sneaking suspicion that true, pure love will bridge any possible gap.

14 Josh { 06.12.07 at 3:32 pm }

Whoa!!! Wait a minute. I just assumed that since you wore white to our wedding that meant…well, jeez this is awkward. I thought you were joking when you said you’d had other boyfriends. That’s why I laughed and said, “oh yeah! I’ve had tons of other girlfriends. I even lived with one.” I thought it was a real knee-slapper at the time. I’m shocked to learn the truth.

15 Foreverhopeful { 06.12.07 at 5:02 pm }

I love the garden analogy. I totally agree with your point. I was once engaged and had my heart set on marrying the first guy I was with. I’m so glad I didn’t because I feel the same way you do about my hubby. He’s perfect for me and we compliment each other really well and I can’t imagine my life without him. I look back and I’m so glad I didn’t marry my first choice and glad it fell apart. That’s how I’ve tried to see my IF as well. I remember when things fell apart with my ex, I was devastated and thought I would never recover. It took me along time to heal and get past him since I was with him for almost 7 years and he was my first love. Than I met my hubby and it all made sense. Looking back in hindsight, it all worked out for the best and I’ve tried to believe that will happen for me when we start a family. Sometimes its hard to see that in the midst of all the pain. But when I do finally have a family, it may not happen the way I expected or wanted but I hope I look back and realize it was for the best and it worked out the way it was meant to be.

16 Mary Ellen and Steve { 06.12.07 at 5:22 pm }

I love the analogy Mel. I too am very much looking forward to the cartoon and song.

17 Bea { 06.12.07 at 6:54 pm }

I never realised infertility was so much like dating! And I, er, hope everything works out with Josh after your little revelation…

But your analogy is good. It’s sound and it works and I wholeheartedly agree. I get a bit tangled up in the “meant to bes” but when we’ve got to the other side, we humans do have a wonderful habit of not caring too much how we got there, just that we did and we’ve arrived at the right place.

Oh, for that moment.


18 Lea Bee { 06.12.07 at 8:33 pm }

that is exactly what i think. if we adopt, it is not a second choice. it is just a different path, but a special, wonderful and unique one.

19 Jess { 06.12.07 at 10:28 pm }

I like this post. A lot. And the analogy is so easy to understand.

I’ve long had the opinion that thing such as donor eggs/sperm or adoption are not SECOND CHOICES, they are PARALEL choices.

However, knowing that myself in my own heart doesn’t stop me from worrying that Ava will look at the child I am carrying now and wonder why we adopted her if we could have a bio child…that she’s second.

But your analogy was so good and easy to understand, like I said…lovely!! I’ll have to write it down, just in case. 🙂

20 Artblog { 06.13.07 at 7:50 am }

Me too, that was nice and so true 🙂

21 Carole { 06.13.07 at 3:24 pm }

This post speaks to me more than I could ever express. Thanks so much for sharing.

22 Binky { 06.13.07 at 7:15 pm }

Thank you SO much for that post. It’s such a perfect way to think about all of this.

23 BestLight { 06.15.07 at 9:54 am }

Mel, you helped me solve a puzzle with your way of looking at this. I posted about it here: http://weebleswobblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/in-adoption-last-means-best.html

Thanks so much!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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