Spiritual upending in infertility’s aftermath
I have some confessions I need to get off my chest, if only to myself. I’m not big on confessions – after all I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist, not as a Catholic – but they can serve as a starting point of sorts. An “I was there” clarification. An added dot to connect to the dot of where I am now providing a framework for what is really the beefy part of the matter. Which is “how in the world did I get from there to here??”
I purchased “The Secret” DVD back when it was all the rage.
Yes, that’s so cringe worthy I hereby award it its own paragraph. But there’s more. I used to believe (or thought I did) that everything happens for a reason. That we could manifest good things into our lives if we wanted to. That life’s catastrophes had the purpose of evolving the human soul that made it all “worth it”. And I even took it upon myself to presume this of other people’s hardships. I used to believe in meant to be.
At my latest session, my acupuncturist asked if I was still thinking of pursuing yoga teacher training. I alluded to the fact that I had been thinking about it for much longer than I had anticipated I would. “And suddenly you’ll find that you’re in the right place and with the right people and it’ll all make sense why it happened that way,” she offered. Ahh, the good ole cushy belief in law and order in the universe. Although a simple “or maybe not” response would have done the trick, I was caught off guard by my new found repulsion towards this concept. A most unenthusiastic “yeah” was all I could muster.
The bombardment of this comment is understandable, given that as an infertile grieving the loss of my children I’ve spent the past 4.5 years of my life in hell with nothing making sense, no matter what I did or didn’t do. A few years into multiple treatments, surgeries and supplements that were supposed to produce something but didn’t, meaninglessness abounded. Having entered this crisis with my aforementioned set of beliefs, it slowly sunk in that the thing that’s supposed to have the most perfectly timed meaning and make the most sense in the world, parenthood, all through no fault of my own had imploded into a life shattering disaster. There’s no selling to me that, after being thoroughly finished off from four fresh IVF cycles in nine months, there was some meaning or purpose to the existence of our six frozen embryos. Due to them it would take another three and a half months for me to crawl across the “no, actually you DON’T get to have children” finish line. During which time it felt as if someone had unnecessarily hitched my soul to the back of their pick-up truck and dragged it cross country.
The main misconception non infertiles have when we converse is that this is all about me. It isn’t. I’ve been severely impacted by the stories I read almost every day, and not just of those like me who made heroic efforts to get pregnant but didn’t. There is no way for me to attach any kind of faithful meaning to recurrent pregnancy losses or to the experience of stillbirths, especially those not followed by a live one. Intimate and consistent knowledge of these non-cause and effect related sufferings have of course changed my perception of life. But more so they have undoubtedly altered the landscape of my soul.
I find myself wounded and broken, yet also liberated. The randomness in the universe I am now aware of has admittedly shocked me. The empty space that was formerly occupied with time I used to spend in search of the way things work initially felt like a hole of sorts, yet I find myself liking the things that hole is starting to be filled with. Such as the realization that I don’t NEED for things in my life to be meant to be. And that it is not life’s occurrences themselves, but the love and acknowledgement we receive ourselves and others with in the midst of them that matters. My coming to terms with what a waste of time it is trying to figure it out, trying to see patterns that assert a law and order to things that may not actually exist. I’d much rather live on the edge of accepting that things may not be ok than wasting my time on the futile endeavor of scrambling to prove that they are. And I’d rather spend my life living it than on a quest for the possible meaning of our childless circumstances.
I used to look at it differently, but as far as my marriage I now understand that for the most part, we’re just lucky. I haven’t yet kicked the possibility that we’re soul mates to the curb. Or that perhaps we’ve worked together famously and fabulously in prior lifetimes. But I’ve realized that whatever that is or isn’t has little pertinence to now. As far as I’m concerned, what I’m supposed to be doing, or really, what I choose to do, is live in the present moment. “Good morning, honey”, I said affectionately to my husband the other day as he stumbled into the kitchen on the heels of a late weekend night in the restaurant business. Coffee percolating, I pulled him into a firm embrace. “Have I told you lately that I love you so?” In addition to robbing us of children, the tsunami of infertility has drowned many of these moments between us that might have been. And that too is part of being alive. Being present for your pain, losses, and bearing witness to the rubble of your own life. I care deeply about that. And I also care about how I live in the spaces that become available when the grief of infertility actually ebbs. Because the truth is, we don’t know if we have fifty more years of this or one more day.
My relationship with the divine is currently an estranged one. I still do believe in the existence of a spirit world, however, I now seriously question its relevance and its function and its power in life here on earth. I’m a dancer by nature, and it’s rare that I sit one out. I’ve charged my share of dance floors in my time, firing up the party whether the music is in English or Spanish or Turkish….or anything else for that matter. But this dance of meant to be is going to have to go on without me, as I’m sure it will, and I without it as I wander off the main floor in contemplation of my own choreography.
I’m not saying I’m “right”. One of my most favorite bumper stickers I ever saw read “AGNOSTIC. I don’t know. And YOU don’t either!” It’s that in my own infertile journey I’ve endured too many fruitless efforts, and have observed so many things that should have been signs but weren’t. And I’ve seen too many people who obviously weren’t meant to be parents with more than their fair share of children. I’ve been privy to too much undeserved suffering that the members of my infertile community did nothing to call forth. Although I don’t believe there is a “reason” for all of this, my greater point is that if there is, I really don’t care. Thanks, but no thanks, spirits. I’m not interested. I’m going on my merry (and not so merry) way regardless.
I find the idea that we need to adhere ourselves to the mysterious workings of some supposed higher power or greater force and comply with its painfully unclear mechanics utterly patriarchal. I do believe in a whole that is much greater than myself, and I check in frequently with what I like to call consciousness. But I check in as I am, not with concern for what it might think I should be. The notion of reward and punishment is just a tad bit catty, don’t you think? For the first time in my life, I’m not looking for permission. It’s not like anyone asked for my permission to take my children from me. Therefore I’m content with my unilateral decision that it is all my own gut, choice, and insight from here. And my knowledge that we often are not in control of the peripheral results, and that although their effects may be entirely personal, the circumstances themselves are not. I am worthy just as I am.