there is no running away
A cramped craft shop on a dusty track in Unawatuna. Canvases are piled high, simple but sweet pictures, designed to appeal to the travellers who pass through this tourist town. I stumble upon a cheeky oil painting, the outline of an elephant’s butt in bold orange and yellow strokes of the brush. I absently flip through its neighbours, until I find two other matching elephants, one a childlike sketch and another a stern portrait.
And before I can stop myself, my mind unnaturally thinks: “perfect for the nursery”. I have trained myself to guard against these thoughts. I deleted my pinterest baby page long ago and I can’t walk through the kids’ section at a department store without fighting back tears at the sight of tiny babygrows and miniature converse. So it comes as a shock for this bewitching thought to cross my mind. I collect up the paintings, haggle with the store owner, and watch with delight as she wraps them up in cotton candy pink tissue paper. Outside, I guiltily tuck the package under my arm and say nothing to my husband.
This holiday is a rushed retreat from the pain of our second abandoned ICSI cycle. I AM NORMAL! I CAN HOLIDAY WITH GLEEFUL ABANDON! I AM A DINKY! But, as with everything, infertility plays its role. And so I find myself googling ‘zika free winter sun’, wincing at the swathes of purple across Asia, South and Central America, and the Caribbean on the CDC map. I follow advice for pregnant women, and yet I am so utterly infertile.
We settle on Sri Lanka – there’s something appealing about an island on the other side of the world in the shape of a teardrop, and to be honest the flights are cheap. I find a no-frills cottage nestled amongst the tea plantations – and I start to worry about my post-bloat body in a bikini. But I will sip Pina Coladas and laze in the ocean like old Selina might! The edges will come back into focus.
At our cottage complex, families from Australia, Dubai, the UK wander the grounds with broods of babies, tentatively exploring the peacocks, wild dogs and reptiles. Children bomb into the infinity pool. Pushchairs lie abandoned on porches. And at Udawalawe National Park, even the elephants revel in their fertility; I marvel at one elephant family with two young siblings never straying far from their heavily pregnant mother. I flicker between frustration – the world is unjust! – and hope, that nature might one day work its miracles on me. And in this moment, basking in the dusty sunshine a long flight from home, it is clear that there is no running away. My fight with infertility is within me, it has fused with the heart of who I am and fizzes in my bones. It hums in the background with every choice I make: what to eat, where to travel, who to surround myself with, where to shop.
So for now, the pink package sits abandoned in a drawer. But my courage is renewed, because I have no choice. I am infertile: for now? and the promise of new horizons, of cotton candy pink wrapping paper, of pregnant elephants and of tiny babygrows lifts me forward. Today, we signed up for our frozen embryo transfer. And so our next adventure begins.