Last night I had a dream about my daughter.
I was in labor, kneeling in a circle of midwives and doulas, and I realized that she hadn’t turned yet and was about to enter the world bum-first. “It’s okay,” the midwives assured me, “we’ve prepared for this.” But at the last moment she turned herself around. I could see these little bumps rolling like waves under the skin of my belly, getting into position, and then she was here, my girl. It was like she just knew what she needed to do and then did it, no drama. I was so proud. And then she told me her name: Lucy Foxglove.
Perhaps only a cosmic dream-baby could invent a middle name like that. But now, after I’ve felt her moving in me, held her slippery, perfect little body in my arms as she wailed her Good Morning to a brilliant new day, this child is more real to me than she’s ever been. Which is just going to make it that much harder when I have to let go of her next month.
This cycle of hope and heartbreak is one of the most difficult things about infertility. Every month around cycle day ten I begin to feel a warm little flicker in my heart. A few days later I’m thrilled to see all the favorable signs – the stretchy, egg-whiteish cervical mucus, the temperature drop, the smiley face on the ovulation predictor kit. We have sex and it’s beautiful because maybe this time we’re making our baby. Days pass and every little twinge or flutter is a sign. Now the cells are dividing! Now the blastocyst has reached the uterus! Even as I begin to see the pinkish traces of pre-menstrual spotting I tell myself that all hope is not lost. Maybe it’s implantation bleeding! (Which, by the way, is the G-Spot of trying to conceive. I’m convinced it simply doesn’t exist and was made up by the fertility industry in an effort to get women to buy more pregnancy tests.) But then Day 28 arrives with its bloodstains and backaches and I feel the bottom drop out once again. I’m falling slowly into darkness and the light of hope that was so bright just days ago fades so quickly that I don’t believe I’ll ever see it again, that it was ever there at all.
Every month is like this. I am so shaken the first few days of my cycle, unmoored by the sorrow that seems to block out everything else. I cry several times a day, and at the drop of a dime. Honestly, I don’t know how I make it. It took me a couple of years to realize that what I suffer through has a name: grief. Every month I fall into this trap. But what other option do I have? I have to hope, to believe that we will have our baby someday, or else what’s the point? But I’m telling you, it’s exhausting, this tear-and-mend routine, designing our future in my heart until I can almost hear the sound of her laughter, and then losing her all over again.
In my 10th grade American Literature class we read a short story called “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter. It’s a wonderful example of Modernist stream-of-consciousness, in which a dying woman is plagued by the greatest heartbreaks of her life during her last hours. Her true love left her at the altar and she is forced to relieve the pain of that moment:
What does a woman do when she has put on the white veil and set out the white cake for a man and he doesn’t come?
In some ways I feel jilted too. We’ve got everything ready for her, a cozy little home near good schools with a guest room we painted in the most awful lime sherbet green it could only be appropriate for a child. We’re ready for her. But what does a woman do when she’s prepared herself, body and soul, for a baby and she doesn’t come? At the very end of her life, Granny Weatherall is happy in the belief that she will see her loved ones again, but at the moment of her death, there is nothing, and she is jilted again. Oh, no, there’s nothing more cruel than this, she says. I’ll never forgive it. Will that be me on my deathbed, still hoping against hope to finally meet my baby and then, at the final moment … nothing?
I know it doesn’t do to think like this. Every medical professional in my life says that I need to stay positive, and I’m trying. I swear.
It’s just really fucking hard.
But I have to believe in her or she’ll be gone forever. I have to believe that she’s out there, somewhere in the universe, trying to make her way to us. We’re right here, little girl. Everything is set. The only thing missing is you.