“Very superstitious. Writing’s on the wall.”
It occurred to me when they told me to come back for my blood test on Friday the 13th that it might be a problematic date. That’s silly, was my next thought.
I’m not superstitious, but I get hunches, feelings. I didn’t feel pregnant, but who knows if I would have?
I went in to the clinic yesterday morning, dressed to go straight to work for a fieldtrip: a day at the theatre, on a bus with 45 students. I was ready for whatever needed to happen, to have a smile plastered on my face all day, while I watched Dracula in the afternoon, and Dancing at Lughnasa, in the evening. Or, conversely, to pull it together if the news was bad.
My weapon of choice was a bold patterned dress, my costume, in case the world went awry. I thought it was ready for anything, but documented the moment with fingers crossed.
There’s a part of me, it seems, that wants to bear witness to each step of this, wants a photo to say ‘that was the moment when.’ While so many others get to have stories of vacation-made babies, New Year’s kisses that turn into conception, nights of popped-corks that lead to plans for a future arrival; I want to document, in writing and images, maybe so that on the other side, no matter what happens, I will have a step-by-step guide of how to get through it all.
I was sitting on that bus, in a metal echo chamber full of 45 teenage bodies in various states of caffeination and hormonal giddiness, when I got the call from the nurse. She didn’t mince words, or keep me in suspense, but, calmly told me “you’re not pregnant.”
Okay. I’m okay. It’s not like you can’t be when you’re chaperoning this bunch.
She went on to explain that IVF is the next step for us, our number on the wait list is up, and that I should call on the first day of my next period.
I’ve been told that this is good news, even as my mind races towards worry at the huge, unpredictable price tag, unfixed because it could be ‘just’ a few thousand, or it could be 15 – $20,000. Still, I think to myself: “maybe this is good timing. The chances are so much higher of getting pregnant with IVF.” (but not guaranteed part of my brain chirps)
My mind is telling me, don’t be discouraged, so many people go through this, it’s only, technically, your second try with IUI. But it feels like this is the thousandth. We’ve been trying, together, for 3 1/2 years. And watching your partner go through it isn’t the same, it’s different, but it feels a bit like watching the trailer for a horror movie. Or a period Drama.. . Pun intended.
What does any of it mean? Is there meaning in it at all? When you look? I could hardly sleep last night. When I got the blood taken that morning, I felt anxious, but excited. I was tripping over my own tongue. Choosing a mild mania over stoic skepticism. But in my hopefulness I had trouble doing normal things, like choosing the right door to push as I exited the building, pressing instead for a moment on the door which, though unlabelled, hasn’t been the one that opens for all the months I’ve been coming to this clinic.
I also forgot to push down on my vein, to stem the bleeding after the blood was drawn. But I only noticed – when I felt my inner elbow, the fabric of my dress wet with blood – that I hadn’t remembered that part. That this can all be so messy. Was that my warning sign? Or is none of it a ‘sign’ at all? It feels worse if it’s all just random.
Does any of that mean anything? I think I need it to mean something because if it doesn’t mean anything, what the fuck?
I could’ve just written one sentence today that said: not pregnant. But maybe I need to pour these feelings out, believe them onto the paper, bleed them. Catharsis. So that I know they actually happened. To examine them, so I might actually learn something. Because if there isn’t a purpose to these feelings, then what’s the point when it feels this bad?
And it’s worse because I’m alone. Home so late last night to an empty house for the next three days while my wife stays at her sister’s, taking care of our nieces. She is surrounded by children and I’m feeling both relieved to just be by myself, and sorry for myself all the same.
If Dracula can be a metaphor for me in this moment – it explains the sense of hyperawareness, a need to make meaning from death, or the absence of life, and to see its potential for beauty. Last night, I was surrounded by people, but isolated in my own secret – watching the vitality and pulse of youth – a current that, unaware of itself, sustains me. Not parasitically, but in the sense that being surrounded by the energy of young people keeps me from feeling sluggish. I feel like I’m twenty, but also like I’m 80; eons away from the urgency of teenage tears and laughter and drama. Teaching them reminds me constantly of what it was like to be their age and, by extension, how far I’ve come, all the things I’ve gone through and learned from. I was a Smart-Alek then; and I’m wise beyond my years now. I get to watch that learning curve happen in front of my eyes, over and over again, with each new year.
Honestly, I get through my days by living on the incredible gift of working with young people who are vital, and funny, silly, hilarious, sometimes infuriating and oblivious, living in the moment; these kids who can be the sweetest humans, especially in the times when they are caring and effusive – so that somehow, at a quarter to midnight, after seeing the second show of the day, when you are on a school bus full of tired bodies and they ask you questions, when instead they could be talking to their peers, no longer in a classroom, not beholden to ‘pay attention,’ but wanting to talk un-self-consciously, it’s impossible not to feel hopeful. They make me feel like a celebrity, or motivational speaker. Or a parent. They aren’t mine. Except for a little while.
Fragility and strength in the same crush of life; isolation that can be felt when the truth of yourself is felt deeply by you, while others only see the face you put on. I’m happy, because I know I must be grateful. But I’m sad, unrelentingly. A slow, dull ache.
Dracula. Dancing. Living. The Stage. Reality. Long days and nights.
Repressing the feelings that are there can be deadly; expressing them can be deadly too, apparently, but I embrace feeling if the alternative is feeling nothing.