anyone who has struggled with pregnancy issues -- infertility, miscarriage, etc. -- will tell you that every month or so it's the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics of Mental Gymnastics. there are several events: maybe you're a ribbon twirler who wants to stay positive, and you let yourself hope that This Time is going to be it...and then your cycle starts, right on time. or maybe you're the more stoic balance beam walker who just gets up there and puts the tampons in your purse around day 27 and expects another round of disappointment because that way you can concentrate on Just Not Falling. or maybe the whole thing has worn you down so much that you just wish desperately you could just dismount and forget it and stop counting days...but you just can't, compulsively spinning around and around the very uneven bars of your sanity.
there are no medals awarded in these events. there's no real audience because generally all this sweat and blood and tears takes place in the very private confines of a woman's heart, mind, and body. sometimes partners or friends are clued into what's going on, but generally the monthly heartbreak is downplayed, hidden, and pushed aside for the demands of everyday life. even Olympians have to pay bills, especially when Wheaties is most certainly not endorsing you.
well, i fell off the balance beam completely, and i think i might have a concussion.
i actually, mercifully, didn't even notice how late i was until i was well into I Guess I Better Pee On The Stick territory. yet somehow, even as the dumb stick was, uh, marinating, i somehow knew that there would only be one line showing when i looked at it. and sure enough, that afternoon, the blood came in very full force. i was surprised to find, as i sat there under the balance beam, dizzy and head aching from my fall, that i was angry. not at anyone or anything in particular, just plain angry.
i was glad i had an appointment with my TCM doctor towards the end of the day, as she has been so supportive and trustworthy, and has really helped me stay at peace with my body. i was totally unprepared for her response though: "i think you conceived again." she said. "i think you conceived but it just didn't implant. i can't confirm anything, of course, but when i last treated you, your hormones were strong and high and i suspected something might be happening." she continued to explain this period would be especially heavy, the treatment she'd give for that, and to encourage me to see this as a positive: that if it's true i conceived again, it's a "step closer" and that my body is still healthy and fertile. before she left the room, she hugged me and said she was sorry -- and more or less implied that while all this is "normal" physiological stuff, it's certainly not emotionally easy.
as i lay there in the darkness, body bristling with acupuncture needles, i cried and cried. and i knew why i was so angry. it wasn't so much that the tiny window of hope had opened a crack and then slammed shut. it was that i realised that the damn window is not only miniscule, it is filthy and painted shut with the big sloppy letters F-E-A-R. fear of having no more pregnancies. fear of having another pregnancy with all the ways the next baby could quietly leave me before i ever know him or her. fear of having a pregnancy with complications or loss farther into the baby's gestation. fear of actually making it to a live birth and then losing the child soon after.
as the needles did their healing work, and i drifted into half-sleep, half-wakefulness, i started to understand maybe that window isn't supposed to get cleaned or pried open. i have to accept that my innocence is polluted. hope is no longer fresh, naïve, and sparkling. i won't ever feel the clear exhilaration of a positive pregnancy test again. the purity of excitement that we had with Isabela is not going to be repeated. i will never be able to wildly and freely dream about a future child without it being tempered by the knowledge that life is never guaranteed. the grime and dripping letters are a part of my story and a reality i cannot try to scrub away or pretend isn't there.
almost a year ago, the first Mother's Day after Isabela was gone, i wrote about how "fear is a liar, a confuser, and a cheater. fear keeps you isolated in your pain because even as you slog your way through anger, confusion, and sadness, fear blinds you from seeing the love that's running beside you that cheers for you, prays for you, brings you meals, listens to you, energizes you." (see, another good thing about this blog: it keeps me honest about what i've learned.) i'm so tired of being lied to, confused, and cheated. i've got another Mother's Day coming up, and i don't even know what we're going to do to commemorate Tummymuffin II, who still seems like someone i just dreamed about, and now i'm awake, and i can't hold the memory.
you know what? f**k the monthly Olympics; i want to opt out. i don't want to do the compulsory exercises anymore. i don't want to need an elusive medal that doesn't exist anyway. i'm going to need all my energy to find another window, one that's bigger, cleaner, and can be thrown wide open.