We spent the last week on holiday with an old friend, celebrating her 40th. We met while we were doing our PhDs and we are both still in academia. She is a very very lovely person, one of those "how is she still single" friends. She met a very nice man a few months ago and although he couldn't be there because of his work, he sounds lovely.
She was asking me how my "health" was (this seems to be code for Have You Had Any More Miscarriages Recently, but it's not a bad code), and I filled her in - I don't think she knew about all of them. Like some other people I've spoken to she thought that fostering and/or adoption were "such good things to do". I'm not sure we really think of it like that, we are not really seeing this as a vocation, rather as a way to either have children in our lives - even if temporarily - or become parents. I think we feel slightly drawn to foster care/adoption from foster care rather than the supposedly easier options of overseas adoption or (theoretically just possible) US domestic adoption, but largely because we are not sure they would actually be easier, not because we are trying to be saints.
My friend hasn't had that much luck with men so I'm really pleased for her, and she has said in the past she's not that bothered about having children, her nieces and nephew are enough. The new man has had the snip and again she said this was OK, he already had kids. But she also confessed that every time she hears someone is pregnant, she feels like she's been kicked. So it sounds like she's wavering between child-less and child-free. And she can't be the only one. I think some of it is her feeling it wouldn't happen for her with a partner, so resigning herself to being childless too. She is not the kind of person (partly I think through conviction - she is strongly Catholic) to get pregnant either with an acquaintance or through donor sperm.
I tried to say something to her about how I felt our childlessness was more public, but for single people or those who appear to have been happily partnered but childless for some time (probably including many gay couples) people may not feel there is an issue - it is obvious we are trying to have children and failing, because it is much harder to keep a miscarriage to ourselves. People should in theory think more of our feelings when discussing pregnancy and children - and they can be pretty insensitive around us.
She told me she'd thought about adoption as a single person some time ago but was put off by horror stories she read online. I am sure it is at least partly true that the horror stories are out there but the happy families don't post. We have a very good friend who is the single mum of two adopted boys and she's had ups and downs but is ultimately very happy. But I want to tell her how desirable she and her new bloke would be as adoptive parents - between them they represent a complex, though not unique, ethnic mix, though I get the feeling most of the children who would be perfect "matches" would have a Muslim mother, and that might make them slightly less exciting as potential adopters. I'd love to tell her not to give up hope of being a mother - but I'm not sure how her partner really feels about this, or if he knows how she feels. Or even if she does.
It is a lot easier being a married person who really wants to have children.