The steel girders of my life
I slip under with the riptides. I am carried from soft moments of peace, to crescendos of piercing pain. Our third cycle of IVF has ended just as cycle one and two did: with ubiquitous unknowns. As I came round from sedation after egg collection, our embryologist, incredulous, shouted at me, “I get you eight eggs! You should be overjoyed! Make quick decision!” Oh, but my love, how little you know. My body likes to pretend, it hides ghosts inside those eggshells, it keeps its secrets close. Not you, or my dear NHS doctor, or now these media savvy private consultants can unpuzzle you. It brings me no joy to say, “I told you so.” If I must find pride in any of this despair, it is that those eggs, my eggs, outwitted you once more.
Today, I was called by a grumpy man from the clinic, who couldn’t quite believe that the two mature eggs had not fertilised, but that four of the six immature eggs had found their strength overnight and could now be injected. So my eggs, you drag us along for the ride. Now we embark on 24 more hours of worry, of weeping, of wait. Just as we did in November and in August before that. My little eggs, you like to keep us waiting, but you are life, you are a thing of wonder, and you work on your own terms. I hear you now: this is not for me to determine; no nutrition or spirit or soul will heal you. Too much has happened, you are fighters but the war is bigger than we imagined.
There is a peace that comes from knowing that this time, ‘third time lucky’, the outcome has been the same. I have done everything within my power to nurture you, to carry you as if you were life born within me. And still, you escape me. I accept that this is something weaved into me, of my soul, that no external intervention can untangle. You, my unborn baby, if you will never be, will carry in my heart as a pain, or a space, that shapes my life. I cannot create you – you come from something greater than me – and whether it is a punishment or a protection, it is unchanged. Your fragility, your unwillingness to grow, perhaps you know something I do not: self-preservation from a faulty gene, from a repeat of my father’s speedy and twisted death, or a gentle tit-for-tat, my penance for failing to save another life long before yours began. But you will forever be the cold, hard steel girders of my life, around which everything else will be built. Your absence is felt and every step, every decision, every adventure will be shaped because you are not here with me.
I try to explore those other paths we might consider: a roll of the dice with our frozen embryo, egg donation, adoption, a childless life. My husband is silent in defiance: he has not given up on you, not until the final klaxon. He holds me and he awaits the news, just as he has done each time. He whispers, “everything I want in this universe is right here with you” – but can that really be enough? A woman weaved with ghosts, who cannot give birth to spring, to fresh shoots that could carpet over my wicked ways.
Tomorrow, we will know more. Whether you survive, or thrive, or dive into despair, you have relinquished me of blame. You have allowed me to accept my inadequacies as a ghost out of my grasp. And I have to find some gratitude in that. But I still feel sorry: for myself, a soft piteous piano sound that echoes forwards and backwards into my future and my past; for my husband, ill equipped to navigate through these fresh emotions; and for my family, full stopped in its tracks. I will wait for our sentence, a restless night ahead.