Part 3: Infertility and The Person You Are Becoming

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This is Part Three in a series on infertility. Click here to read Part One. Click here to read Part Two.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

—Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

At the beginning, I got really good at counting to nine.

I was living in the future, skip counting ahead of everyone else, calculating the moment that I could potentially become a mother. October plus nine equaled July. November became August. I knew it was dangerous addition, but it was too tempting not to count it out on my fingers. (Can you imagine, by next summer, we could be parents!)  January passed. Then February. I was getting discouraged—already feeling the twinges of hope and disappointment. But I had faith that it would happen. Every plan I’d ever made had come true. Why wouldn’t this one?

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Part 2: The Puzzle of Hope. Infertility in the Age of Planned Parenthood.

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This is Part Two in a series on infertility. Click here to read Part One.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all –
And sweetest in the Gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet  never in Extremity,
It asked a crumb  of me.
Emily Dickinson

Infertility is particularly nasty because it tangles itself up in so many things: the past, the future, love, sex, creation, mystery, medicine, purpose—and perhaps worst of all—hope. Over the last several years, in test after test, doctors have continually put my husband and me in the “unexplained” category of infertility. There is no reason, medically speaking, that we shouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Many doctors have said that we should take this as a good sign—there is still hope.

Hope. There’s that little word again.  Of all the emotions I’ve carried during this season of life, I still can’t seem to figure that one out. It’s like a candle that’s meant to light the way but only seems to burn me. If Hope never asked a crumb of Emily Dickinson, she’s lucky. It has asked everything of me.

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Part 1: What to expect when you’re not expecting

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We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
—Plato

I don’t want to be a person that writes about infertility any more than you want to be a person who reads about it. And yet, here we are.

After many years of waiting, I’ve decided to write down my experience. At first I thought I’d write a book. But then I decided that I wanted it to exist faster than that. And I don’t know exactly how much I’ll have to say. I’m guessing it will amount to about five essays.

Why am I doing this? Well, I’m doing it for me—because I want to remember what I’m learning, when in the future, things are hard again. And I’m doing it for you—whoever you might be—because I wish that earlier on in my waiting, I had had someone that could tell me what to expect when you’re not expecting.

First, I must tell you that I’m amazed that you would read this essay. Whether you or someone you love is going through infertility, it is brave to seek out help, understanding or comfort. It’s something I refused to do for very long time. In my pain, I didn’t want to hear other people’s stories of how things worked out in the end—or the stories of how they didn’t. I was afraid. To ignore infertility, put my head down, and survive it, felt like the best path forward. To lift my head and seek out others who had walked this road, would be to admit that I was on it.

And yet, here I am.

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