I'm not actually sure where to begin. The short version is this: Greg and I have been trying to get pregnant for seven years and no dice. We found out earlier this week that am once again not pregnant. Really I just feel lost and empty. Literally empty.
I think most adults past a certain age know friends and family who have gone through fertility treatment, or have experienced it firsthand. But for reasons I understand all too well, it still remains a fairly taboo topic. Because what to say about all of this? Some of the people closest to us don't even know we're going through this, and even for those who do, they want to support and love us, but don't know if they can bring it up or ask questions or offer advice or joke about it. Because really, this whole experience is just steeped in so much pain that I can't begin to tell you, dear loved ones, how to take care of me.
To everyone who has been loving and supporting us, thank you. I am sorry if I have not always been gracious at taking this in.
If I did talk about it, here are some of the things I would say.
I have always wanted to be a parent. I think I would make a good parent. I know Greg would. There are certain core identities that we yearn to take on, perhaps for biological, cultural, religious, or personal reasons. For me, "mother" is one of those identities. I'm supposed to be a mom. But I'm not, and I can't seem to get there. I feel robbed. I look down at my body and feel that it's betraying me. I don't understand it. This thing which seems to come so naturally for so many eludes me, like my body is playing a trick on me. I watch as my friends, family, coworkers, employees, and neighbors have one baby after the next, multiplying their families. And I just watch.
I would say that everyone wants to give the easy answer. "I'm sure it will work out for you soon." "Have you considered adoption?" "Do you know what the problem is?" "Have you read this book, have you tried these herbs?" You don't know. You don't know. This all just hurts.
I would tell you that this whole process is so incredibly fraught with complications and questions and contradictions. We've never been entirely comfortable with fertility treatment as a practice. Who am I to say that I should have children? If I'm not supposed to have children, who am I to take this sacred process into my own hands and try to thwart the natural way of things? How are we supposed to decide what to do with potential remaining embryos? How is that just a box on the page that you check off and sign? How is everyone so casual about this? I don't understand.
I would say that I am conflicted about this goal of becoming a mother and the simultaneous goal of being a school leader. I have 400 children. At this point in my life, my career is all-encompassing. I'm the third principal my school's relatively young life, and I sometimes feel that if people knew I was trying to get pregnant they would think I have one foot out the door. I've worked so hard to grow a strong and stable staff -- I'm afraid to lose that. It's one thing to be pregnant: everyone is excited for your. To be trying to be pregnant -- for years -- I don't know, it seems different somehow. Ultimately I think it boils down to this: our society does not have a realistic and sustainable paradigm for women who want families and careers, especially women in high-powered professional positions. And I don't want to be caught between the two before I actually am, so I feel that I can't talk about the trying with most of the people I spend most of my time with.
I would talk about the fact that I have never been to the doctor's office so many times over a span of so few days. It's endless. It's relentless. It's constant. It's at 7am and I still get to school two hours late. And they take my blood every time. Turns out my veins roll. That means that it's not unlikely that I'll be jabbed two, three, or four times in one sitting just to take my blood as a routine procedure. It means that I end up sobbing against my own will at 7:15am, only a little curtain between me and the next woman over (it's fertility hell for all of us). I don't sob because of the pain, although it hurts a little. I sob because the longer I sit there, and the more the needle jabs, the more I think of all the things in the paragraphs above, and I lose it. And then I have to go to work.
I would tell you how I could get up on any exam table, put my feet in the stirrups and let any old soul who happens to walk by just get all up in there -- probes, wands, catheters, speculums, dye, saline solutions, scopes, blades. All of this, endlessly. It's like being a sci-fi science experiment, some alternate reality where everyone around you acts like it's all perfectly normal. I don't even know if it feels normal anymore. I know that I can shoot myself full of hormones. Every day, on the dot. Needles upon needles, like an assembly line. Sterile swab, measure out and draw the medicine, inject yourself: in the thigh, the belly, the hip. The needles are tiny. The needles are huge. They leave bruises and sore muscles. They mutate and manipulate my body. And for what? Is it worth it? This hope, this hope that has yet to go anywhere.
Because you can't get better at it. It's not a skill one can practice and improve upon. It's binary: I am either pregnant or not pregnant. I cannot make progress. And I am terrified of all the regular things people are terrified about: miscarriage, etc. But I am more terrified of this lost limbo land of nothing.
And it feels like failure. All of it. I feel like a failure. Greg feels like a failure. We feel like we are failing each other. And perhaps it will all be worth it one day. Maybe. I would like that. But the failure is devastating and possibly with no hopeful outcome. I don't know.
I've been joking recently with Greg about becoming a stand up comedian. I fancy that I might be able to exploit the gallows humor and do a few good bits about all of this. Because I'd rather laugh about it than cry about it. I'm still working on the first joke. I'm sure it will come to me eventually.
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