The Unavoidable Contemplation of Injustice

My reaction to the Ebony Wilkerson case

During the five weeks after the loss of our biological children, I had come to the conclusion, intellectually at least, that it was time to take life less seriously.  The list of reasons is long, and is one I seem to tick off so relentlessly I’m starting to resemble the “I want my 2 dollars!!” paper boy from Better Off Dead (Hey children of the eighties!).  Twenty four embryos turning into nothing.  The endless labyrinth of holistic measures I utilized to stack the deck.  The colossal amount of time and money spent.  The medical issues that were uncovered and treated to no avail.  If two happily married people who have so much to offer a child could put THAT much into trying to get one and come up empty handed, how seriously really can I now take my life and the world that my life is in?  I must have made some headway on this because when the story of a mother driving her minivan into the ocean to try and kill her three children hit the news, I burst out laughing.  When I found out she was also pregnant at the time, I practically peed my pants.  Yes, I’m forty-two, infertile, laughing at attempted murder, and if that weren’t enough I now apparently need Depends.  Awesome.  “Way to go, fertile world!!” I called out to my TV as I applauded.  “Oh, and another great job, god”, I said as I clapped my hands above my head.  “What a NICE place to put four kids.  Dumbass!”

I get the mental illness thing to a strong degree.  Sick with chronic depression from the time I was seventeen until I was twenty-nine, I made sure I did not bring children into this world until AFTER I was treated.  I made sure I had many years of trying and testing my successful nutrient therapy program under my belt before attempting motherhood.  So for someone who is that screwed up yet goes and has not one, not two, but FOUR children, I don’t have much sympathy.  For whatever Ebony Wilkerson’s problems are I can say this woman should not be a mother.  But most of all I get that innocent children who have never done ANYTHING to deserve something that even remotely resembles the horror they’ve been forced to endure have been traumatized.  All while I sit here childless.  I see the absurdity and the ridiculousness of life in all this, confirming my initial direction that I not take the world so seriously.

Easier said than done.

I, to an extent, shared the typical “how could a mother do that to her children?” reaction.  Although due to my own personal experience I know mental illness explains a lot of it.  A general level of outrage and horror seemed to be the response to this case, judging from the many comments I read.  Except for the few “you know, being a mom is very stressful” weepy points of view that were sparsely scattered throughout the indignant ones.  Is it really?  Try being denied the privilege, genius.   If anyone should be compelled to drive into the ocean……..  Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “An infertile’s work is never done”.  The general infertile reaction, whether similar to or different from mine, is in one way or another forced to go way deeper than the disturbing “how could a mother do that to her children?” question nagging everyone.  In addition to what this woman did to her children, I must grapple with the fact that she is pregnant for a fourth time while I can’t even be once.  Then I must grapple with the fact that in spite of it all she’s a mom who it seems came into the position quite easily.  And that after my long list of efforts and hard work and suffering I still don’t get to be one.  All while in the back of my head I’m grappling with the endless actions I’ve been told to take by clueless uninformed people, from relax and take a vacation, to have a better (note actual meaning: less realistic) attitude to what I should eat and how to have sex.  Really?  I’ve got to do all that just for a chance at a child while this woman gets to be certifiable, not even attend to her mental illness, and still gets to be a mom four times over?  You might want to rethink that.

Injustices have always bothered me, even when I’m not on the hard hitting side of them.  I was seven years old when I started to catch on to the truth that not only was the world not the way I had thought it was, but that something was amiss in it.  I was immersed in the usual concerns of a seven year old.  The death of my first pet, negotiating a raise in my allowance, and oh, the victims of Khmer Rouge.  It was all over the news and on the cover of Newsweek, the picture of starving children held behind a fence forever emblazoned in my mind.  I can still see it if I close my eyes.  Yes, the children starving in Cambodia plagued my thoughts during the day and kept me awake at night.  Sometimes I would cry.  Others I would stare at the wall in my little lavender bedroom with second hand antique furniture lovingly (and no doubt irritably) stripped and painted white with gold trim by my parents.  I would stare at the wall and wonder why I was here in a comfy bed with enough food to eat and they were there.  I was not ok with this.  I had seen their picture.  They were kids just like me.  I did not need this explained to me, I knew in a way that a seven year old knows that they had done nothing wrong, and that we were no different from each other.  It was all unsettling and disturbing to me in a way unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  So some nights my seven year old mind would take on more than it could handle, and go to work trying to solve the problem.  In my mind’s eye I would start with the extra food in my frig that I could give them and figure out how to get it across the Atlantic ocean (that’s just the way I went to Cambodia back then).  I’d get stuck, either having no way to cross the Atlantic, then realizing that by the time they ate it I wouldn’t have even made it back to Massachusetts and they would need more.  So I’d then return to the extra food in my frig and start again, hoping to solve it with my next attempt.  And no matter how much I thought about it, as far as reasons and answers and solutions I kept ending up with a big fat NOTHING.

Similar to the adult assumption that “all good people who would make great parents get to have children” that floats through the subconscious of most of us until challenged, my seven year old self had assumed all children had enough food.  And adults in their lives who could solve the problem if they didn’t.  Although I was clearly the lucky one, not the victim in the situation, knowing that children were starving while I wasn’t changed something in me.  It was injustice, and it was impossible not to contemplate it, even at age seven.  I don’t think I ever looked at the world the same way again.  Though the injustices and the ramifications of them are incredibly different, the starvation in Cambodia revealed to me a side of life that is disappointing and grotesque, as has infertility.  I now see things like the Wilkerson case through weary yet sharper eyes.

So in response to the Wilkerson case I inadvertently found myself turning to my imaginary world at age 42 to cope.  I guess that’s what you do when you are old enough to know there are no good answers.  A total regression from my earnest “get the food from my frig to Cambodia” mind’s eye plight from my days of yore, I first imagined driving all parents who try to kill their children into the ocean.  I then lined up all of the “it’s meant to be” and “god’s will” baby people and made them stay on the beach naked in the cold.  Until I found the appropriate shark infested waters to drive THEM into.  An acknowledged lack of solutions to some of the world’s injustices apparently can make one quite trippy……..Anyway, I lastly decided that as a bonus to long suffering infertiles the “just relax and take a vacation” people should swim with the jellyfish.  While I watch.  And tell them to just relax and take a vacation.

The Wilkerson case magnifies the hilarity of the mean insensitive things we infertiles have said to us, and it also simultaneously sharpens the sting.  For it is much easier to point the finger at me and people like me, at people who can’t have children, than it is to wrap one’s head around the fact that people who abandon, serverly abuse, and attempt to murder their own children often can easily have them.  But you really can’t acknowledge one without acknowledging the other.  So I ask people, when they are speaking to infertiles to please consider this:  When you say that “it isn’t meant to be” for my husband and I, or anyone else for that matter, to have children, you are also implying that someone who drives their children into the ocean IS meant to have them.  Because hey, if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be, right?  And for those who believe it is god’s plan (thank goodness I don’t get much of this, but the small amount I’ve gotten has been horrible) that my husband and I, or anyone else for that matter, can’t have children, then you are also implying that it IS god’s plan that four children be raised by an insane person who tries to kill them by driving them into the ocean.  If this were the plan of the divine source I worship, I certainly wouldn’t be touting it.  I’d be embarrassed.  Perhaps these comments people make come from a place of attempting to quell their own fears that there may NOT always be a method to the madness of both the nature and the universe.  And from taking life in this random world a bit too seriously.

I know in the long run I’m better off not spending time pondering injustices for which there are no good answers.  I started to get a sense of this back at age seven, however wanting answers in life is innately human no matter what age you are.  Facing head on the fact that there may not be any is a conscious act of evolution.  But the contemplation of injustice is unavoidable, especially for passionate human beings with wounds that are both raw and recent.  I’ve come to believe that it’s ALL possible in this random crazy world of ours; my situation and the case of anyone who tries to kill their children are just two examples of that.  Possible but not personal, which is something I need to get back to.  The funny thing is that at the end of the day the fact that she can have four kids, and I none, means absolutely nothing.  It is in this very way that infertility has been such a mind and spirit fuck for me, a serious person who is always looking for the deeper meaning.  Because when it comes to baby making in this word, there just isn’t any.

A few days ago I found myself in the middle of a discussion with my husband about long lost children.  We’ve had a bit of a breather lately since no one in our lives (at least that we know of) is pregnant.  So what better time for someone my husband knows to learn about a long lost child he didn’t know he had?  I guess the child was conceived right before he left his country and he hadn’t known about it until now.  Yep, he was telling my husband what a wonderful feeling it is (you mean that feeling we’ll NEVER have?  Thanks for sharing.), and flashing pictures of the kid and the whole bit.

So I had to wonder, “Any chance of that ever happening to you honey?  Not that I’d be really that excited about some long lost child of yours, but I guess it’d be better than nothing.  Yet I somehow bet we can’t even get THAT….”

“No, no chance” he said with his usual nonchalant certainty.  He then went on to tell me how careful he and his childhood girlfriend were about using condoms, which I actually hadn’t known or suspected since he grew up in rural El Salvador and is from a HUGE family.  Though four years younger than me, he too is part of the AIDS generation and apparently the health department in El Salvador was on the ball with dispensing free condoms as well as information about the disease.  He said a lot of people were sloppy and ignorant and didn’t jump on the bandwagon.  “Or they thought god would protect them, please”, I said to which he agreed.  But he and his girlfriend wanted to be safe from disease and knew they weren’t ready to bring a child into the world.

“Good for you guys for being responsible.  Wow, honey, you did everything right as far as taking care of yourself and not bringing an unwanted unprepared for child into this world, even in rural El Salvador in the 1980’s.  Good for you.”  I pause.  “Yeah, and I’m sure THAT’S who ends up not being able to have a kid!  The person who does everything conscientiously and right.  What a stupid world!”  I burst out laughing.

I think I’m starting to get it.


Well you can stake that claim

Good work is the key to good fortune

Winners take that praise

Losers seldom take that blame

If they don’t take that game

And sometimes the winner takes nothing

We draw our own designs

But fortune has to make that frame

We go out in the world and take our chances

Fate is just the weight of circumstances

That’s the way that lady luck dances

Roll the bones

Why are we here?  Because we’re here

Roll the bones Roll the bones

Why does it happen? Because it happens

Roll the bones Roll the bones

Faith is cold as ice

Why are little ones born only to suffer

For want of immunity or a bowl of rice?

Well, who would hold a price

On the heads of the innocent children

If there were some immortal power to control the dice?

We come into the world and take our chances

Fate is just the weight of circumstances

That’s the way that lady luck dances

Roll the bones


Get busy with the facts

No zodiacs or almanacs

No maniacs in polyester slacks

Just the facts

Gonna kick some gluteus max

It’s a parallax….you dig?

You move around

The small gets big it’s a rig

It’s action…..reaction

Random interaction

So who’s afraid of a little abstraction?

Can’t get no satisfaction from the facts?

You’d better run, homeboy

A fact’s a fact

From Nome to Rome boy

What the deal?

Spin the wheel

If the dice are hot….take a shot

Play your cards.  Show us what you got

What you’re holding

If the cards are cold

Don’t go folding

Lady Luck is golden

She favors the bold

That’s cold

Stop throwing stones

A night has a thousand saxophones

So get out there and rock

And roll the bones

Get busy!

Why are we here?  Because we’re here

Roll the bones Roll the bones

Why does it happen?  Because it happens

Roll the bones Roll the bones

2 thoughts on “The Unavoidable Contemplation of Injustice

  • The injustice thing is probably my main roadblock; you know that. It’s hard to let go of, but then sometimes I’m struck by how naive and childish it is to need/expect life to be fair. I think of that with my students or myself as a child and what an affront is it to their ideals when something is “not fair!”–almost amusing for us to watch the tantrum that ensues because we know, as adults, that life’s a bitch, an idea they need to internalize so they can develop internal resources for coping, acceptance, and resilience. It’s like the idea of the “Newtonian universe” that you gave me–the design of logical cause and effect–and how silly and unrealistic it is. When has the world ever really worked that way? But when you’re inside it, it’s enraging to see with what randomness and imprudence the universe dispenses its blessings, too often squandered, and cruelties, too often undeserved. All we can do is keep moving.

  • It’s true, infertility has made me realize none of us get promised anything upon entering this life. Your comment made me think about my particular roadblock. In saying to myself “no one ever said life was fair” often throughout this ordeal, I’ve realized that I don’t expect it to be. My particular misconception/incorrect presumption has been that in spite of life being generally unfair, I assumed that eventually, with hard work and persistence, one gets a break and/or that at least a few puzzle pieces click. Infertility has taught me this often isn’t true. Not just in my situation, but with people’s challenges in life in general. In spite of not expecting life to be fair, it’s the DEGREE of unfairness that stops me in my tracks sometimes. “All we can do is keep moving.” – I like that. It’s part of the message that I like in Roll the Bones too:-)

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