When I first asked my adoptive parents why they didn't have children of their own, they told me they couldn't get children of their own. I don't know if they used the word "infertility", I was too young anyway to understand five syllable words at the time. Had there not been more to it, I would have never heard and probably would never have asked.
In fact I never had to ask much anyway. Especially my adoptive mother would tell every fucking detail of her life to me, much of which belonging to the i-don't-want-to-and-certainly-don't-need-to-know domain. So as I grew up I learned their "inability" to have children of there own wasn't a question of infertility but a a pre-nuptual agreement to not have children. My adoptive father told me his father was an alcoholic and he was afraid it ran in his family and didn't want to burden a future generation with that. His mother also had insisted on never having children. So before marrying my adoptive mother she had to agree on not having children.
I accepted the story, although it never sat well with me, but knowing already too much about my adoptive parents, I never really questioned the story. I couldn't understand why my grand father's alcoholism could be such an issue two generations later, when neither my father nor his brother would drink much, though both drank alcohol with moderation. I couldn't understand why the words of a mother would still resonate in the ears of my father, while his brother did have a daughter of his own. Something didn't feel right about the story, but I never asked and despite that, I heard the story several times over the years.
Several years after my adoptive father's death, my adoptive mother told me a different story, she had just heard from my adoptive father's brother's daughter. Apparently my adoptive father had caught syphilis and lived under the impression he could still infect my adoptive mother even though he had been treated. I don't know how true the story is, my adoptive father is no longer there, his brother who is the original source of this story (his daughter having heard it from him) is long gone too and in all honesty I don't really have to know. It could be true, my adoptive father was certainly a man capable of keeping secrets and taking them to the grave. It explains some of the detail of the i-don't-want-and-certainly-don't-need-to-know stories I heard, but it creates many more questions that can never be answered again.
It taught me one thing though, when people say they can't have children, I no longer take their words at face value. Over the years I have learned that infertility due to syphilis was not uncommon among soldiers returning from the second world war and contributed to adoption at the time. I also learned there are couples that simply don't have sex and therefore claim infertility. It's not something much is written about and certainly not something the infertility treatment and adoption industry wants to talk about. The sympathy for the poor infertile couple is one of their big selling points after all. The realization some infertility is self-inflicted would shred that carefully drafted image.
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