so I’ll just get to ‘er.
One afternoon in August this past summer, I spent two blissful hours lazily paddling myself between the buoys at Clear Lake State Park, soaking up some properly SPF-protected sunlight and enjoying the day. On the shoreline, two little girls, maybe four or five years of age, were building a sandcastle. They were so cute, as little kids almost always are, dressed in bright-colored swimsuits, but they found themselves plagued by one particularly persistent seagull who hoped, I guess, for some stray potato chips or cookie crumbs. This sinister seagull brought out a rather mean streak in these girls, and they took turns chasing it away, with big dramatic arm gestures and ear-piercing shrieks of “Go away you stupid seagull!” I’m not sure what event instigated their mother intervening, but after a few such encounters the mom came down from her shaded spot and, without any evidence to support her statement, apparently told the girls this seagull was a mama seagull, and to be nice to it. I know this because I saw the mom walk away and one little girl, the one with blonde hair and bright pink suit, spoke so I could hear. “That’s a mama seagull, so we have to be nice to it,” she told her companion, all reverence, all seriousness. The other girl observed the seagull with a sudden calmness, a sense of Okay-edness – and the seagull was transformed from frustrating scavenger to something beautiful, something more.
That scene struck me so distinctly – the transformation of these little girls in light of a seagull’s fictitious (as far as I could tell) motherhood – the way the status of mother changed the girls’ reaction. I thought it sweet, and a testament to what good mothers they must have.
I’ve recently received some not-so-startling medical news, but disconcerting nonetheless. It seems I have some form of the same condition many women in my family has that can cause infertility. We do not know, yet, how severe my condition is, and won’t know until a series of tests and doctors appointments occur, but by the end of October we will have some idea if having a child naturally is part of our future.
Since Friday when I discovered this news I have been alternately disconcerted and distraught. My happy reflex, which seems to kick in for me no matter what, my own sense of okayedness, has not jumped into it’s proper spot, reminding me to let go and let God and there are people dying in Darfur for God’s sake and a whole world of children out there needing parents…no, it is missing. To be honest, at some points I’ve felt fairly incapacitated by this knowledge, forcing myself to just focus on one task at a time. It took me nearly an hour to peel fifteen apples for homemade applesauce; on Sunday I left my purse in the grocery cart at the store. Absentminded would be an understatement, describing me.
It would be easy, I think, for you, for me – for everyone I know and love, to chalk these emotions up to being completely and entirely natural, given the news and the long wait ahead of me. A potential diagnosis of infertility should devastate any normal woman, right? It would be entirely understandable if it incapacitated me.
But, I don’t think that’s it, no. I think what’s upsetting me even more than this news, this news I waited for every year I have my annual gynecological exam and that finally came, is the fierce and frightening sense of self-preservation it inspired. While my doctor rattled on about referring me to a fertility specialist, and drugs, and procedures I kept thinking I don’t want to go through a high-risk pregnancy – I simply don’t want to. And that’s what waits for me almost certainly, if I can have children – a high-risk, highly monitored pregnancy. And I don’t want the fertility drugs, or the fertility specialist, or nine months of living on the edge of certainty. Even more base is the small rise of hope that fluttered to my chest upon diagnosis, a flutter that proferred finally feeling good, all of the time. Oh, I don’t feel bad, normally – but there is one week a month (and, male readers, ((if I have male readers? )), you may want to stop reading now) where I feel like I am dying, where I am convinced nobody in the course of human history has ever felt as badly as I do. And so this dark, nasty little part of me is screaming, begging me to say screw the kids completely, have one of the possible surgeries, and finally feel as great as I am capable of feeling.
It turns out, I don’t like this about myself. S. and I have been open for a couple of months now to having a child, without all the charting and graphing and etcetera, and to have the possibility ripped away from me so quickly – to replace that possibility with doctors and drugs and treatments – well, it makes me mad. It makes me feel hopeless. Regardless of the severity of my condition, and my doctor seemed to consider it moderately severe at least, S. and I will be forced to make decisions much more quickly than we would have preferred – decisions like how badly do we want a baby, and what, precisely, are we willing to put my body and our relationship through, in order to have one?
In thinking this through and talking with S. I was reminded of the little girls on the beach, and their swift change in attitude for a mama seagull. With my family history I never considered motherhood an absolute in my life, but I couldn’t imagine what I would feel like when pushed into the vague gray area of an infertility treatable by extreme measures. And I could never have imagined this sort of extreme self-protection rearing its ugly head – placing my health above bringing a child into the world. I watched Steel Magnolias way too many times to imagine this kind of response. I do think it’s the surprising character trait that’s so paralyzing me, rather than the medical information – I don’t like myself much right now.
I told S. I was going to blog about this and he said he wasn’t surprised. Writing is one way to make sense of things for me (that and long walks) but I know I could journal and keep it private but, I don’t want to. I believe in the personal relating to the public, and particularly concerning womens’ health. So when I know what’s going on, I will post it here – and I will talk about the decision-making process as S. and I experience it. You can read or not, at your leisure – there will certainly be plenty else happening here at everythinginbetween in the meantime.