I suppose it was to be expected. I mean, I did and I didn’t… expect it. If anything, I thought my age might be a complication. If anything. The women in my family line seem to get themselves in the family way just by thinking about it. Honeymoon babies, whoops babies, accidents and surprises (never mistakes. No, never). A sister with an eating disorder and no period to speak of? Babies! Just like that! And because my own inner lady workings always seemed to work with boring predictability, I took it for granted that I would do the same.
So much for granted, in fact, that during our house renovations this spring, we converted the guest room into a nursery. The door to that room stays closed. I don’t need to see the giraffe wall sconces to know that they are there, dimmed to off, while we make very vague plans about what to do next. While I silently contemplate how many of those ‘next steps’ we’ll take before I’ve had enough.
The Dork Lord wants a kid more than he does a new car, he says. Meaning, whatever it takes financially, is what it takes. In for a penny, in for a pound! What he doesn’t fully understand is that I may not be willing to go to those lengths. To be excavated and augmented for the off-est of off chances it will take. I am not one of those women who will suffer infertility for years and years because I will stop hoping long before that. Because my insides are not made of rainbows and unicorns and optimism. And I am not going to arrive at rainbows and unicorns after I cycle through the requisite stages of grief. I know me better than that.
The diagnosis itself came from a nurse – not even my doctor – over the phone one afternoon while I was at work. The doctor won’t answer when I call back with questions about my condition, either; I’ve landed on a list of the childless and desperate and those calls get triaged. Leave a message. Someone will call you back. That someone will probably be a nurse so you’d better not expect to speak with the person who’s been forearm-deep in your lady parts.
Having thanked the nurse (for what now, I wonder), I sat there for a minute, blinking at the gray wall of my cubicle before sending a text to my husband, who called back immediately, wanting to talk about it. I did not want to; I didn’t answer.
This is, actually, as close as I have come to talking about it. I will avoid discussing the actual diagnosis, though, so do not ask about it. Because it feels so personal – and so personally devastating. If you know me at all, you understand why we won’t talk about it. Why it’s such sacred territory we just won’t go there. One of the first reactions to the news was from my sister who asked, “Are you going to adopt then?” I’d been officially barren for all of ten minutes and already I knew everything I needed to know about my predicament: Keep it to yourself. Because no one will know what to say. Even those who should know better.
I know I should, but I take no comfort in the shared experience of infertility – the message boards and support groups of other women who’ve gone down this same road. I spent only a few minutes on one of those message boards and felt nothing but disdain at the weight of this unbearable disappointment being condensed into pithy acronyms by women whose hopes were made and dashed by the indeterminate differences in the firmness of their cervices or the soreness of their boobs. I have nothing to say to women whose periods they still call Aunt Flo or refer to sex as a Baby Dance. Grow the fuck up.
“You’re all fucking idiots,” I whisper back at my iPad and switch over to the news (also replete with idiocy) before landing an episode of Veep. There’s an odd sort of comfort in foul language.
The disdain is directed inwardly, too, and so much more malicious. I’ve been filled, until there is no space left for much else, with a self-loathing that words cannot form an adequate description of. It’s hate, raw and ugly. And no one can understand it. Not my husband. Not my sisters (two of whom are pregnant, incidentally). And the silence makes the hate run even deeper and colder. You have to hide it, you know. There’s not really room in the world for people who feel so much ugliness.
Some days, though, there’s an odd sort of perkiness to this new reality of mine. I think about all the vacations we can take without a bit of guilt. About all the things I can have and the temper tantrums I won’t have to endure. But that’s false and fleeting. Mostly what I am is numb.