Today was the day you were expected to arrive into our lives. We had your name picked out. I had my old antique suitcase filled with those items they say to bring when you’re going to go bring home your baby for the first time and we had a shelf full of ingredients in our pantry to make formula to feed you with and we’d practiced playing the sounds of crying babies so our pup would know what it sounded like to have you join our little family. We even got a zombie version of the stick figure sticker family to put on our car, just waiting for the moment we could add a girl or boy stick figure to the bumper. We were so ready for you, my love.
Are you alive out there, born to a mother who told us she had no interest in you and just wanted you out of her body so she could get her life back? Or were you a figment of her imagination and part of her cruel plan to smash the dreams of a couple she’d never met, a couple who wanted to support HER dreams for HER future while promising to give so much love to this child?
Infertility is a crushing weight. There’s not only your own internalized fears and recriminations. There’s the judging remarks (“You should have had children earlier.”). The terrible advice (herbs and oils and pessaries). The cavalier insistence that you should “just adopt” from people who clearly never considered that option for themselves. The devout reassurances that your condition is all part of some deity’s plan, as if the idea of being personally cursed by god should be a comfort.
Worst of all is the agitation, when you, ever so often, share that you’re infertile. The ways their eyes skate over your belly then quickly unfocus, embarrassed. The desperate rush to change the subject. The abject relief when they find an excuse to scurry away. Leaving you isolated. Wandering the prickly maze of your own thoughts once again.
My closest friend who is like a sister to me sent this post (quoted above), I Am Infertile, to me today as I sit in my house alone while my husband finishes his shift. Having dealt with this for so long, when I see these articles I tend to spend time in the comments as well, counting the seconds down til I see the predictable masses of those who just have to share their own successes and tell her “don’t give up” and “your baby is coming”. They did that shit to me as well. As if we are all alike. As if your situation is like mine. This time, I didn’t respond to the dumbfucks but instead found a comment by someone who was beautifully appropriate in her response – with empathy, sensitivity, and support. She didn’t tell her how to feel. She didn’t tell her what to do. She simply recognized the blogger’s pain. She reminded the world that we are the 1 in 8. She acknowledged how painful it is. That it sucks. And that was it. None of that ‘oh I had fibroids LIKE YOU and I had a baby at 45 so maybe you’re not infertile!’ or ‘gee I had X number of fertility treatments and I finally got my (wait for it….) rainbow baby and you will too!’
Where we are is a very strange place. We’ve decided that we will make our final decision by 2020 as to what our identity will be as a couple. Will we remain ‘childless’ or will we take the steps to transition to ‘childfree’ like some of the wonderful bloggers I follow, or like podcasters Erik & Melissa? And if we do that, what the hell do we do with all the things we’ve collected over the years that have such beautiful meaning to the two of us? And most of all, how do we heal our hearts?
It’s a weird thing because most of the stories I have read about those who have gone from childless to childfree are those who started that new chapter after failed fertility treatments. But I’m still looking to find stories of those who, like us, had to confront the possibility that maybe the universe was also giving us the middle finger when it came to adoption? I already have survived leaving treatment and for the most part made my peace with that, or at least learned to move forward…but of course that was because of the fallacy we had believed for too long that adoption guaranteed a child. It does not. There are no guarantees. Who out there has quit fertility treatments only to be screwed over by adoption multiple times? I want to hear YOUR stories. No, not ones that your friend-of-a-friend or someone on a forum talked about, I want to hear from actual folks out there who have been through something TRULY similar.
And I swear to fuck if I hear stories about just getting pregnant after you stop trying, I will ram myself through a wall with my perimenopausal body that wonders if these three period-free months mean that I’ve already closed the chapter on 33 years of purpose-less periods.
As Sean Hanish, the writer/director of Return to Zero, said in an interview when discussing the loss of their baby:
“Everything I knew had burned to the ground.”
Each morning I’d look up at the Mae Gibbs alphabet on the wall of the nursery that we sleep in (due to home renovations we set up our bed in the nursery) and wonder what words we would teach our child. I would think about the huge Australia pull-down classroom style map that my husband brought home and how he would tell this little one about where he came from and how he crossed an ocean to marry me. I would look at the dog’s bed which was directly between the playard and changing area and smile at the thought of Lucky taking on the Good Dog Karl role of big sister, the one we thought our girl Ruby would take on before we lost our baby in 2016 and then Ruby herself in 2017. And I just could not torture myself with these things anymore. The clothing and toys and diapers, the alphabet frieze is stacked in the corner, and nearly everything else is boxed up. I don’t know how to take the pack ‘n’ play apart so that is still sitting there and of course the wall still hollers I LOVE YOU! when I get up every morning. More motivation to finish the master bedroom remodel.
Yes, I suppose there is a chance we might get chosen again and everything might work out, but damn if we haven’t been shown a more times than can be counted on both hands in the past five years that parenthood is the universe’s vicious, repeated broken promise.