I parked, and debated throwing a coat over the two car seats in the back. As I entered the waiting room, I wondered if the other women could tell I had children. I was attending a workshop at Pulling Down the Moon, a holistic fertility center. Across the hall, there was another, more conventional fertility center. Even at 10:00 on a Sunday morning, both offices were busy, but the halls were whisper-quiet. The baby want was palpable. I tried to tread softly.
I was there at the invitation of my friend, Jenny. A writer who also wants to be a mother, Jenny holds journaling workshops to help those who are struggling with infertility. She wanted me to observe her teaching style, and I, a poor journal-keeper at best, eagerly agreed to sit in on her class. I hadn't anticipated the desperation in those rooms. I had forgotten.
Greg and I tried for a long time to have a baby. I was always healthy as a horse and not needed nor wanted much in the way of doctors beyond the usual check ups. But, after our carelessness didn't result in baby, we started counting days. Then, I cut out caffeine. My disappointment every month grew. Soon, it became desperation; the 28 days we had to wait before knowing again stretched interminably, yet I was getting older all too fast. Finally, Greg insisted we go to the specialist, and I--who had nary a cavity--was, despite my desperation, still somehow sure the doctor would laugh at us and tell us not to worry, that I still had plenty of time and things were fine. And I was wrong.
The imminent fertility specialist poked and prodded, and then exclaimed, "Whoah. Oh, boy." Which is not what you want the imminent fertility specialist to say when he is gazing at a screen of your parts previously unseen. Turns out, I harbored a fibroid tumor that was, to the best of my English-major understanding, acting as the mother of all IUDs. The imminent fertility specialist said that my fibroid (such an ugly, ugly word for an ugly, ugly thing) would require abdominal surgery to remove.
When I didn't get pregnant right away, I started to feel like my body was holding out on me. With the official diagnosis, I felt complete betrayal. I recalled grocery shopping with my mother when I was little. She had pulled a can off the shelf, then nearly dropped it in distaste. "See that?" She pointed to a swollen seam in the tin. "That bulge means these tomatoes are bad. You should never buy a can that looks like this." Silly as it sounds, I felt like that spoiled tomato sauce. I felt like Greg got stuck with a bad can.
I scheduled the surgery but researched alternatives. One book suggested that my fibroid was the result of blocked creativity. Great. I was unknowingly complicit with the fibroid. I wallowed in this for a while, wondering if the universe was trying to protect my unborn children from my lack of self-awareness. More guilt. I am good at guilt. I wondered if my fibroid represented all my guilt? This compounded the guilt.
One side benefit of major abdominal surgery is that it hurts too much to navel-gaze when it's over. Two months later, we got the go-ahead to resume our efforts. And I got pregnant on our first-but-really-hundredth try. Buzzy hit the scene nine and a half months later.
So, I am one of the lucky ones, both because I got my baby, and because, compared to many who sat in the waiting rooms and paced the halls, I got off so very, very easily. I know this. And therefore I had no standing to do what I wanted, which is to tell everyone there not to blame themselves. By all means, do the yoga and cut the caffeine and take Jenny’s excellent seminar, but do not feel guilty.
I didn't say anything, of course. But, as I push my double stroller through crowded grocery aisles, I am conscious of my good fortune. Even though Rosie still wants to eat at least twice every night, and I grumble as I stumble out of bed, I hold her milk- and sleep-heavy body for a couple of extra seconds, breathing in my blessing. I half-laugh through gritted teeth that I signed up for this when Buzzy breaks down in hysterics, pushing me away because, "I want Daddy. I like Daddy best."
Yes, I signed up. Those women and the whisper-quiet halls reminded me again how lucky I am to be so sleep deprived.