The Air that Makes Us Gasp 

Black Hole, part 2

Living with infertility means having something you can’t quite diagnose. All you know is that your body is failing where everyone else seems to function as it should. To drive the stigma in further, many of us fall into the category of Unexplained Infertility: there is no reason for not getting pregnant. Boxes of ovulation kits, routine measurements of basal body temperature, malodorous herb tablets, and fancy yoga poses offer nothing for the loss month after month after month. My husband and I have never felt the thrill that purportedly comes with seeing two pink lines.

How do you move forward when there is no clear path? Is there any way to know what is going on?

On a good day, I am learning to see myself as a fragile ecosystem waiting for new life. I listen to what my insides crave (beets usually top the list), try to move when the muscles are feeling creaky, and sit down to read and write when the brain gets bored. In theory, I am to treat each month as though I’m pregnant by eating good food, exercising just enough, and keeping the stress down. Right. Have you seen Groundhogs Day? When we cannot move on we go a little crazy. Admittedly, in real life, I have fallen into the pattern I shall refer to as, Here we go, Again. It starts with a manhattan (the cocktail) on day 1 of my cycle. During the first week I have a couple small prayer tantrums with God before taking a deep breath to face the month ahead. The next couple weeks I do the things I’m supposed to do, try to hold off on feeling anything, say a few prayers for conception, and generally attempt to be a decent human being at work. The last week is the most difficult as I vacillate between hopefulness and despair. Every cramp, every stomach ache is scrutinized, then found utterly inconclusive. As the final days tick by, I prepare for the cycle to end and, sure enough, like clockwork, the blood flows and a new cycle begins.

Recently, we visited family in Denver. Having only been there a few times now, it is still a foreign place to me. In one direction there are the mountain peaks, jagged yet comforting in how they break up the horizon. The other direction is a straight line to eternity, which I find exceedingly unnerving. With little water and thin air, I can’t help but wonder how people survive, let alone go jogging and cycling and skiing. On the flight home at the sight of Mount Rainier I become acutely aware of having the sense of holding my breath for days. Back at sea level, I drink the air like one who swore off booze for Lent and is taking in an aged scotch on Easter Sunday. How blessed are we to live in creation’s luxury suite. Family visits are both great fun and a sharp reminder that we have not been able to contribute much but ourselves to the gatherings. There are no baby introductions, no generational photo shoots. It’s just us. When questions or comments come up about kids, all we can do is smile, look down, and fake some sort of non-response. God knows… (and he sure as hell isn’t telling us).

We are nearing the end of how long we feel capable of waiting, so I can’t help but think about it more. For so many women, they don’t have to ponder long the question of motherhood, it is simply part of the settlement package: spouse, home, dog, child (often in that order). It is only natural to pass on the legacy of mother-daughter shopping holidays, cupcakes for classrooms, and other family rituals. Yet, for some of us, it is a great stretch of the imagination to place ourselves in the role of parent. Throughout my 20s I was never certain about marriage–if or when I could cut it–so I didn’t dare to think about having children. It is one thing to be a vulnerable, loving, human-in-relationship at a peer/spousal level; entirely other to be vulnerable yet authoritative, loving, human-in-relationship with small, developing human. Do I trust myself to be a (good) mother? Frankly, no. But it seems like an important step to do so.

Each month I have prayed that now would be the time. And each month I feel the air get a little thinner as we journey towards God-knows-what. Barren surroundings appear straight through to the horizon, and the only springs seem to be my grief. But I have this hope:

Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca [weeping]
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion
~Psalm 84:5-7

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