We had been trying to get pregnant for four months when Bill’s mother died.
A year before Bill and I got married she had been diagnosed with a progressive lung disease called pulmonary fibrosis. It’s a rare disease and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it. But it kills as many people as breast cancer. There is no cure for PF and there aren’t a lot of effective treatments.
Still, she’d been living with it for six years. We’d gotten used to the disease and took her health for granted because she had been holding steady for such a long time. But then, very abruptly, she declined. We didn’t have a lot of time to wrap our heads around what was happening. She went into the ICU. Then she went to hospice. We were under the impression that she might have a few more months left. All of us, her children and their spouses and children, went up to spend Easter at the hospice facility. We dressed the kids up and laughed and smiled and enjoyed each other’s company. Then we all went home. The next day Bill’s dad called to say we needed to hurry back because she was dying.
This is a demarcation point in our lives. There’s before and there’s after. It was freaking awful. Bill was in the room with her when she went and I came in seconds after. And then came the weeks and months afterward. Bill was wrecked. Gutted. I was grieving too. I loved her and I missed her but I was also scared to lose my husband. I was afraid he’d never be okay again.
And then there was our future as a family. Should we stop trying for now? We talked about it very seriously but ultimately we both agreed that she would not want us to put having more kids on hold. So I started praying, every single day, that God would give us a baby. A baby would make all of this grief more bearable. Because grief is so excruciating. The absence of a person so pivotal in your life is brutal. It’s a jagged hole. I begged. Please, God, please. Give us a baby to make this hurt less. But babies aren’t supposed to be born with a job.
I had my annual OBGYN appointment in October of that year. It hadn’t been quite a year yet since we started trying but almost. Ten months. So I told my doctor that we’d been trying without success and I was worried. Considering the loss we’d gone through my doctor wasn’t too concerned. She told me to come back in three months if we still weren’t pregnant.
Which of course we weren’t. We were 13 months in and I was panicking. Gemma was going to be four soon. FOUR! I still cared about an “ideal age gap” back then. This was when we were evaluated. Up one side and down the other. I felt sick to my stomach and I just knew they would find something wrong. But nope. Sperm? Plentiful, well formed and excellent swimmers. Eggs were quality, in great supply and released in a timely fashion every month. They couldn’t find anything wrong. This, they told us, was a case of unexplained secondary infertility.
It’s an ugly state of limbo. You can’t get pregnant. Or can you? Technically you can. But you haven’t. So now what?
I couldn’t believe this was happening to us. I had looked forward to 2015 as a year of joyful possibility. I thought I would end the year holding a baby or pregnant. Instead it was over and we’d experienced devastating loss and we were no closer to growing our family than when we’d first started.
So we went to the SPCA and rescued a dog.
She was a year old, potty trained, spayed, micro-chipped and the only one in the building who wasn’t barking. Sold. Gemma named her Rapunzel and she made everything just a little bit better. There’s no better place to shed tears than into the soft fur of a dog who loves you.
The doctor put me on Clomid. The idea behind it was that it would help us time our intercourse more precisely and maybe give my ovaries an extra boost. We were on that for five months. We knew I was ovulating because they checked every month. But nothing. Nothing.
We were closing in on two years and I was a pressure cooker of emotions. Fear. Powerlessness. Hopelessness. Anger. Jealousy. Betrayal. Guilt. Confusion. Depression. Loneliness. Up and down, up and down on a cycle, an actual CYCLE that happened in MY BODY every single month. We had a little girl who was becoming more aware every day that there was something peculiar about being the only kid in her preschool class without a brother or sister. And we were running out of time! Gemma would be too old. The age difference would be too big. If it even happened at all. Full. Blown. Panic.
The things I used to care about. They seem very silly now.