Monday, March 12, 2007

When things fall apart

I want to talk about the moment when you figure out that something in your life, something big, is broken.

Life can go very well for a very long time. You can start to believe that fortune smiles upon you, that you've earned your fine luck, that the road will rise to meet you. I had a long run.

The career came together, I met Adam, we bought our house and got married, we pulled off a big move, and we stepped up to the baby buffet at the fashionably late age of 35. Pregnancy happened quickly, and I felt proud to be so healthy, so fertile. "You come from good peasant stock," my mother said. I patted my hips, the wide pelvic bones that would make a cozy home.

And then, the little spot of blood. The "just to put your mind at ease" ultrasound, the slow heartbeat, the return untrasound one interminable week after the first, the snowy silence of the screen, the mute technician, the hour spent in the waiting room with all the round bellies, only to be sent to Labor and Fucking Delivery to be told 30 minutes later what we already knew to be true. Then the D&E, the ibuprofen, the little strawberry we picked and buried in the garden, the weeks of spotting, the determined belief that this would go down as a minor setback, a mere delay. "This won't break me," I told a friend.

Then the uncle's death two weeks later, the funeral, the sister's sudden divorce, the decision to try again after a month, the anxiety attack over dinner with friends, the sense of something slipping, the second pregnancy, the terror of a positive test, the next day's negative, the back pain, and, once more, the blood, only large clots this time. I had been making dinner, an ambitious menu for friends. I left the roast in the oven with the door cracked and we drove to the hospital.

We went back to Labor and Delivery. Once more, the nurses seemed caught off-guard. You're what? What to do? Where to put you? In the hallway, we heard a woman shout, "It's a girl!"

No need to intervene this time. I handed over a tiny tupperware cup with the tissue sample I'd retrieved.

We hosted the party anyway. What else is there to do? Life has to go on. Only, I find myself standing at the stove trying to remember what it is that separates me from the other lost causes. Something makes this life blessed, I know, but I can't find it. I hate myself for this. My body feels light, like it could float away. My legs ache. The little joys are so flimsy now. The sun sets and my despair rises. Nights become longer, and as December rolls around I'm frightened. When will this end? How can it, if a baby is the answer and I'm too sick to try? I call the doctor. The failure is complete. Mind and body undone.

Adam curls around me. "I need you," he says. I'm split open, grasping, exposed. I am not the woman he married. But he's there. It's something to hold on to, something to be grateful for. I confess my sins to friends. They tell me, these are not sins. I count down the days until the light comes back, until the drug kicks in. Each day, one more minute of light. When the bottom drops out, I don't fall as far. Soon (but not soon, it is never soon in this state), a pattern emerges. I can match the despair to each cycle. Is it the hormone crash, the absence, or the blood that reanimates the blackness? But it passes.

At some point between then and now, I let go of being happy. I'm rewarded with the first flickers of hope. The smooth path is gone (for now). I fold this chapter in to my story. My therapist tells me, "Love and gratitude are bigger than fear." Now I can't remember what it was to feel only blessed. To have all meaning depend on the absence of failure. But I know that I am loved. There is life beyond being fortune's favored child. I'm grateful.

No comments: