Languages of love
On Friday, I had lunch with a colleague; she is seven months’ pregnant following just one round of IVF. She asked me how Pete is doing in all of this. I pause but then I open my mouth and some words tumble out: generic, white noise to fill the space.
A few nights ago I begged him to pull the car over, all hot tears and high voices. We sat there in the orange glow of the streetlights, as I sobbed and swore and sighed. I can’t remember the words, but I know they were mean and small and scared, formed to provoke, to demand that he remember who we once were, to stop his incremental retreat from our love. And he sits there, hands slumped in his lap, and he blinks back at me bemused. Where I need lavishing with love, he needs to be thanked for doing the dishes. Where I need passion, he needs to be made a cup of tea.
I whisper: “Some days, I’m so lonely….”
He pulls me toward him, “come here…” and he scratches the back of my head.
To his mind, he has comforted me. To mine, he has acted out my loneliness.
In our infertility battle, Pete has remained stoic. He has blushed his way through the intrusive clinicians’ questions, he has brought me hot water bottles and he has held my hand on days when all I can do is sob. He has told me that no matter what happens, we are in this together. But emotions aren’t his jam; he lives in the moment he is in and calmly accepts whatever is meant for him. There are days when I envy him this, when I wish my own mind would not whirr forwards, tumbling through questions meant for tomorrow or next month or next year. But when I ask him what will become of me if this third cycle doesn’t work, he shrugs and tells me we will figure it out together when we get there. I know this is his language of love, but mine is protestations and declarations and desire.
Our anniversary also marks the start of our battle with infertility; I came off the pill in the hot Antiguan sunshine, delighted with the thought of our Caribbean baby. So now my memories of our wedding – giddy in the sunshine, lemon drop cocktails, barefoot in the sand – intertwine perversely with the gradual storm that has swept through our marriage, ripping at our fairy tale, exposing our very foundations. I cower awaiting each new onslaught, knowing our defences are weakened. But Pete is there: quiet, still, steadfast. He watches as the winds pick up and he waits as they pass us by.
Ours is not a story of the ages. It won’t go down in the history books or be weaved into a movie script. You won’t find me proclaiming the perfections of our love across social media, and it’s rare that I’ll share a smug selfie with the world. And there’s a part of me, that old romantic fool who tripped herself over again and again trying to find her soulmate, that grieves the loss. I wish I could be that heady, spirited girl, rushing about London, dreaming up inventive ways to woo him, but I’m not. And I wish Pete could be that mysterious broad shouldered blonde who left me dizzy and ripped words from my mouth, but he’s not. I’m a woman who has faced near-on fifty disappointments, cycle after cycle of heartbreak. And my husband is a man who has had his dreams torn at through failings I have brought to his door. So I might mourn the loss of the love that birthed our marriage, the one that had us whispering naked at three in the morning and catapulted us onto a plane to New York only three weeks after we met, but in its place stands something else. Something solid and sincere. I can’t say that I am entirely satisfied – I feel the space where our passion once lived as a physical wound – but this battle has taught me to value things I might once have taken for granted. So I try each day to seek out gratitude, to eek pleasures from plight. And there is nothing that I am more grateful for than my husband’s patience and quiet calm. There is a long road ahead, and we have many more people to become; I pray that somewhere along that path we will reencounter those two naïve souls who fell in love in a shoebox nightclub, but if we don’t I will still choose to trip along with him feeling our frictions and frustrations. I guess I have found that it’s okay for us to not be okay some days.