The photograph is of a pretty, hopeful woman, with a crooked smile and the type of freckles that let you know that she is pure. She stands holding her two tiny twins, one in each arm, and the sun offers a gentle warmth to her and the surrounding cornflower blues. It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and she is kind: she shares this personal moment with us to give us hope; she tells us that everything we are going through, all the needles and the pain and the self-doubt, they will all be worth it when we transform from caterpillar to butterfly, when we are blessed to become her.
But here’s the disruption: not all stories end with rainbows and unicorns. Some, more perhaps than they would have us believe, will go round and round the merry-go-round, only to end up right back where we started, stumbling off the ride a little dizzy and disorientated.
For some, there is no happily ever after. All of these interventions and invasions, all our hard earned money and humiliations, could be for nothing.
But no one tells you that when you set out. The rhetoric is one of Hallmark Hope: trust and expectation that what you desire will be. It catapults us forward from one failure to the next, to a new clinic, to a new diet, to those additional supplements. It allows us to believe in blind faith: some are practiced at it and others have to work on it, but we all gain our warrior badges, we learn to Be Positive, and so we catapult from the scans to the injections to the acupuncture sessions, through the two week waits.
But there comes a moment for some of us that has to give us pause.
I have eaten all my greens, I have swallowed all my pills, I have switched from one protocol to the next. I have smiled weakly at doctors and learned to read affirmations. I have read the journals and then averted my gaze. I have put my faith in forgiveness and fate, that this would all come good in the end. And each time, that phone call. I’m the the tale that they don’t want you to hear: I’m the tale of defeat.
Our magic number was always three: three cyles of IVF. And then we would stop. I chuckle, but I don’t know why: disbelief? And here we are on that cliff edge and for the first time in my life I feel utterly lost, exposed. I have no plans, I have no contingencies, I can’t analyse my way out of this one. My father’s shadow stands watch over me as I build a bonfire of my dreams. This disease has eaten up four years of my life: the first two in quiet, subdued morsels and the last two in an enraged feeding frenzy.
I will go to the clinic tomorrow and let them take blood from my arm one last time. I will let them call me and tell me what I now already know. I will wake up every morning in this recurring nightmare, knowing that whatever comes ahead will be something different. That little girl at 13, on her knees praying to God that her father wouldn’t leave her; that same girl at 35, on her knees praying to God to bring her a child.
Even on my knees, violent sobs vibrating through me, I am strong. There is strength in weeping for what has been and what will never be. There is power in grief. It may not be Hallmark Hope, but it is hope nonetheless. A quiet voice that lets me know it’s okay to not be okay, that even in mourning the loss I am growing stronger, that I am finding wisdom to gracefully let go. Together, my little family, we will burn but then we will build.