infertility is a waiting room
Infertility is a waiting room, with hospital pink walls and the heating up far far too high. In it, I sit, patiently and then sometimes not so patiently, breathing in ten beats and out ten beats, choking my anxiety as it rushes in. Intermittently, I am adrenaline pricks in my fingertips hopeful, and then on-my-knees sobs of despair, over and over. In this waiting room, there is no eye contact; pupils firmly fixed on the beige carpets, we cannot risk kinship in case that soul will be the next name called. In the next room, though there are no windows, I can sense the world rushing forwards; noise, bright lights, decisions, progress.
Who I once was, she has got up and walked quietly, guiltily, out of the waiting room. Now, all I am is my swollen stomach, patchworked with bluepurple sometimes yellow bruises. Now, all I am is dysfunction, absence, an F in the test. Now, all I am is self-doubt, disfigurement, diffidence.
The beginning is all reassurance: you’re so young, good health, no reasons, time on your side. Simple measures, MOT checks.
Then we progress to puzzled faces, invasive tests, gradual humilitations, wrinkled brows. Monthly injections that induce panic and bemusement. Chunky, chalky tablets, and with those complete identity dysmorphia, feeling the world flicker in and out of focus.
But now it’s serious. Rushing through mountains of paperwork, identity documents, breathalysers, limited funding windows, ethical questions you could never have conjured up: your husband is dead and your embryo is frozen – do you put his name on the birth certificate of your imaginary child that so far is well beyond tangible reach?
First cycle of IVF. I almost laugh at the thought of it. I look at my hands and they don’t feel like my hands anymore. They are not my hands. Fleeting memories of IVF adverts on the tube, pudgy smiling babies, that in my youth seemed grotesque. I am so outside what is comfortable, what is real. I drink milk, I swallow B vitamins, I give up alcohol. I pray every single day. I take up reflexology and meditation. I let go at work. I lose weight. I religiously inject to the minute. Secretly, I know it will work. And then it doesn’t. Tiny little fighter embryos that abandon life in the petri dish. And God, does it feel like losing my father again. I fall into a meaning vacuum, a mission quest to recount all my mistakes and petty crimes, to explain this fate without family.
Second cycle of IVF. Broke. Slapdash. Sleepwalking through. Yellow with sickness, phantom pains. This. Is. Happening. To. Someone. Else. Not me. Please not me again. Driving home from the clinic, that phone call, too soon, same man, same story. No mature eggs, will monitor, slim chance, biochemical issue. Driving over Chelsea Bridge, so close to where I started my adult life at that record label, and it finally sinks in that I am one of those infertiles, those barren women, that have to walk some other path.
So here we are. This is our truth. We stand uncertainly, the cliff edge crumbles under our feet. And the decision is this – do we stumble backwards to somewhere safer, to recuperate, to scan the horizon and to find some other future? Or do we throw ourselves off the edge, hurtling after all our dreams, with no idea how far we’ll fall, how high the cost or whether we’ll be caught.
This is the silent grief of the waiting room.