I take my dog, Diego, for a walk over my lunch break hoping some fresh air will do me good. I’m in my new uniform: torn Joe Fresh sweatpants shoved into muddy Tretorn boots, headphones crammed in my ears. A little boy and his mother walk towards us and as we get closer he points and says “doggie.” His mother asks if he can pet the dog and I have Diego sit so the boy can clumsily pat his back. I usually love these passing interactions. I love how Diego, not a real fan of being touched by anyone but my husband and me, is somehow able to sense when it’s a child and that he needs to suck it up and be a dog.
Usually I would tell the mother how cute her son is. I would kneel down and say to him “this is Diego and what’s your name?” Today, I want these lovely people to go away, to leave me and Diego alone. “Yeah, it’s a fucking doggie, genius,” I want to say. “Did you know I’m barren?” I want to say, looking the mother square in the eyes. All I can see is the little boy or girl I have hoped to have, how I dreamed of them petting Diego just like this and loving him as I do. This little boy is not mine and this is not his dog and I wish he would just go away.
After years of infertility treatments, I will no longer be trying to have a biological child. The hundreds of injections I’ve had, the hundreds of blood tests and transvaginal ultrasounds, the three times I have been put under to have my eggs extracted from my body, the months and months of nausea and bloating and weight gain and mood swings and headaches that I thought would never end (that go on for months after a failed cycle), the thousands and thousands in life savings we have spent, have all yielded nothing. We are no closer to having a child than when we began this process years ago. We are just older. And so very, very tired.
It’s not really the loss of my biology that feels so painful. I wish I could explain to you how very little the biological link means to me. I don’t need to see a little girl with curly hair and my husband’s bright, beautiful eyes. I don’t need to pull out my baby albums and compare. Of course that’s the baby I’ve imagined, as I’ve talked to the embryo I had hoped was nestling into my uternie lining. But only because they were the most obvious parameters. There is nothing really about me that is so essential, so absolutely amazing, that it must get passed on. Of course it would be fun to see the way my genes and my husband’s, who I love so much, arrange themselves together to form a whole new person. But what does this genetic constellation really matter when we’re talking about a whole new person, who will have his own hopes, dreams and challenges? His own life to live? What does it really mean to have your mother’s hair, the curls for which she is still searching for just the right anti-frizz product? It is not the genes I am grieving, but the peace. I am mourning the time and the pain and the hope that I will become a mother in the next 9 months. Or the 9 months after that. Or the 9 months after that. I am mourning the lost bit of living I feel like I have missed out on, as I have lain on the bathroom floor retching from all the hormones.
I have been crying a lot. I’ve cried in every room in my house. I’ve cried in the grocery story and at the coffee shop and at the library. I’ve cried in so many places that it’s almost become a game to me now, like a misery bingo, where I fill in all the squares of all the places I have cried.
My dear sister-in-law lost her father last year. I attend his unveiling and hold onto my own father and cry. I feel myself breaking down, feeling the pain of my sister-in-law’s loss. We sing “Sunrise Sunset,” one of her father’s favourite songs, and by the end of all of us singing together, I am no longer crying for her or her family but for me, and this makes me cry even more. Who will bury me, I think? I don’t care about being remembered after I am gone. I’m concerned about the actual logistics of it. Who will actually make the call to say that I’ve succumbed? My nine year old niece asks me to lay a rock on the headstone with her, as is Jewish custom, and I want to kneel down beside her right there in the cemetary and get this finalized. I squeeze her hand and she squeezes back and I hope she understands what I’m trying to say: that I’m sorry she might be the one to have to call the funeral home.
The entirety of this story was previously published on www.sadinthecity.com by Wendy Litner.