I spent the week working on San Juan Island, hoping to find my dissertating mojo in the quiet. Amongst the tall pines, the sun and the silence, I did find a way to push through anxiety and frustration and I left feeling strong and competent.
We were supposed to do the pregnancy test on Tuesday, but postponed until Friday so we could be together for the results. By Thursday we were just sure it would be positive. We had so many people praying with and for us, and all the labs and other tests indicated a perfect alignment of R’s body and KD’s swimmers and we just could not wait to finally see two pink lines on the test.
R and her mom picked me up from the bus stop and we drove to the cute, tiny, foodie town of Edison, WA (pop. 133). We surveyed the lunch options, which were surprisingly plentiful for such a small town. After some debate we settled on the Old Edison Tavern. When we could not stand to wait any longer we zoomed past the poster for the upcoming Testicle Festival and into the women’s restroom where we waited the requisite three minutes to see two pink lines. There was only one. No matter how we looked at the test, there was just one line.
We left the Tavern in a kind of shock. We walked into The Lucky Dumpster, where we were assaulted by dozens of adorable handmade baby gifts and some terribly depressing music. To be fair, on any other day, I could have whiled away hours in the store, which was basically a brick and mortar version of Etsy. But on that day, The Lucky Dumpster was not the place to be.
R’s mom wandered down the road and we stood outside the store and hugged quietly for several minutes. We went into Breadfarm where a dozen eyes, attached to bodies rapidly kneading and rolling dough, looked up in anticipation as we entered. We had trouble deciding what to buy. We settled on some almond macarons with chocolate ganache, which were so amazing I went back for three more. We drove in silence to pick up R’s sister, B, and tried to focus on our task of delaying her arrival home so her husband had time to deliver a piano he’d acquired for her. Unfortunately the delay tactic involved a shopping mall and there is no greater hell than a shopping mall on a sad day. When we got the “all clear” signal, we drove over to B’s house, where the sisters entered to the sound of their mom playing piano, just like old times.
I tried to swallow my grief for the sake of the moment, and was able to sustain the effort for about an hour and then the grief spilled over into one of those sobbing, awkward, ugly cries. You know the type. My eyes were like tiny balloons, and my nose a veritable hydrant of snot. B’s dog, 70 pounds of pure muscle who does not realize his strength, tried valiantly to lick my tears and her cat made biscuits on my ribs while the human family members sat quietly in solidarity.
The grief of infertility is such a strange phenomenon. It’s similar to other forms of grief I’ve experienced, but it doesn’t get better with time. It’s actually correlated with time. And it’s not something other people can easily understand or expect, unlike grieving after death or a break up or some other loss that is part of the public discourse. The silent grief is compounded by the constant visual reminders of how easily other people achieve the thing you want so much and have worked so hard for but still come up empty.
On Sunday the whole family visited the farmer’s market, which was chock full of hugely pregnant women and newborns strapped to a doting parent’s chest. It was so painful, and we all knew it but didn’t want to say it out loud. It’s not like I think there is any correlation between another woman’s fertility and my own; I know that there is not some ultimate bean counter issuing babies from above, such that one woman’s gain is another’s loss. I know that. But it doesn’t make the sight of young families any less painful. I hope that the pain will wax and wane along with the grief, and I hope I never end up in a place where I can’t be joyful with those pregnant women and their young children. I hope one day we’ll join their ranks, but for now we are at the window, looking in.