Archives for the month of: November, 2014

Black Hole, part 4

I am a person of faith. When life is hell, in theory and in practice, I can lean into the hand of the God of the universe, and sometimes I do. Other times I just want kick and scratch that hand out of anger, like a raging punk-ass Thumbelina in the hand of a giant. Right now, I am exhausted.

What I have learned after 29 months of disappointments is that my body simply doesn’t want to conceive naturally. The water is bitter, or at least bereft of necessary nutrients to support new life. Perhaps years of hope deferred have left their tailings in an empty womb. Perhaps some of us weren’t meant to be mothers. I have learned there are many women of various ages who feel that last sentiment acutely. Motherhood and the desire for it are not definitive for femininity, are they? I would like to think that not being a mother does not compromise my identity as a woman, in fact. While this is a recent and fairly privileged idea, I would like to think that it is none the less true. I can be–and am, really–fully female without having a child of my own. So then, why are we so suspicious of women without children (and spouses, to roll it back a notch)? Come to think of it, why does society continue to invest only partially in young women pursuing careers?

We are wrestling with a still new phenomenon of women and work–public work, visible-to-society work. The consequences of which (I suspect) have spurred on the fertility industry. We never think we’ll need help, until we do. Then we are suddenly reliant upon half-caring professionals who, with vague understanding, begin to try first one thing, then another, without having any idea what might actually work. Of course, for many of us, we hadn’t even started thinking about children until our mid-30s because we wanted something like a career, or we waited to get married (a corrective from our parents’ divorce-happy generation), or we weren’t even certain we wanted kids. But, after a while, everyone else started doing it, so we figure we’re supposed to as well. Then, all of a sudden, nothing happens. We’re too stressed, too overworked–too old–to conceive naturally. The job that was a symbol of ‘making it’ casts its shadow. We hear stories of women continuing in their careers after having children, and it sounds great, just like having two cakes and one fork. And we hear stories of women taking time away when their income went solely to childcare. Both are searingly complicated.

In her book, Infertility Cure, Randine Lewis made a point about children for couples after infertility being absolutely desired and adored–and that made me sad, even as I sensed a deep truth to that statement. Why is it that we would need to be deprived of something (someone)? What happens in that time of unfulfillment? This question haunts me. In fact it has followed me through the library doors and into my theological study.

As Christians, we live in a time of unfulfillment:

Christ has died,
Christ is risen, 
Christ will come again. 

We anticipate a Now/Not Yet Kingdom filled by the light of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But we have no idea what to expect, really. ….It’s a bit like infertility.

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Black Hole, part 3

I may regret having let go of that strand of pearls my mother gave me last year. It was one of her more tender moments—a surprise in and of itself. She wanted to demonstrate that she was proud of me for graduating from a master’s program. Perhaps she also felt badly that she missed the graduation. Yet with my mother, there is always catch. So, what started as a gift for her daughter, commemorating this move closer to adulthood, morphed into a story of a lovely old couple who adored each other, but could never have children. My mother knew this couple as family friends, and remembered fondly how they had taken her in during the summers of her college years. At some point the wife gave my mother a pearl necklace, which now my mother passed along to me, laden with the narrative of a childless couple and my mother’s angst towards her own maternal relationships.

I mentioned this gift to a woman from my church who has been praying for my husband and I. She started a bit, and asked if I felt the need to hold on to the necklace. The story—benign in and of itself—seemed to hold the impact of incanting a curse, given that we have been trying to conceive for so many months. Suddenly an artifact from a couple I never had the pleasure of knowing lands in my closet. Its sentimental significance is obscured by the current turmoil of infertility. I have never told my mother one way or another if I wanted to have children, so how could she know the shuddering chill that accompanied her gift?

So, I let the strand of pearls go with the prayer that they fulfill someone else’s desires. After dropping them off there was a sense of relief, mixed with a twinge of what might be betrayal. I know that she meant for the pearls to be special. I get that, and I appreciate the moment of tenderness when she gave them to me. Yet I also needed to parse out the gift from the moment. And that’s the thing with my mother: layers of significance get slopped together, forcing the recipient-listener to parse and diagram what, exactly, is being communicated. Even after all these years I have not quite learned to throw out the especially messy bits that can cut and damage what little relationship we do have. Ever since I was 14 I have had to delineate the contours of encroachment she was allowed on my life. Some years we spoke only with an intermediary, while in other years she provided (for a brief time) a place of shelter when I was between modes of wandering.

As you may suspect, the whole notion of motherhood has been rather problematic for me. Yet that hasn’t stopped my delusions of having a daughter of my own, teaching her to be capable, resilient, joyful even.

But now it may be too late.

Experts say it is possible to conceive naturally as late as age 40, which is where I’ll be in a year, but the probability is very low. So, once again, I feel caught between pragmatic realism and desperate cries for Creator God to spark new life. One other factor is tempering my headlong plunge into yet more fertility treatments: the holidays. November and December are trying months in the best of years. We are going into our third holiday season with no baby announcement in sight and I just might need to keep wine on the menu to accompany the Advent chocolates.

….

I have another piece of jewelry that comes with a story. For my birthday, a dear friend passed along a bracelet that she had been given when she was going through infertility turmoil of her own, waiting for her second child. Usually bracelets fall off my wrist, but this one fits quite nicely. I wear it on days when I need to feel hopeful.

 

Black Hole, part 1
Black Hole, part 2