Mama to eight stars:
January 2006, April 2006
October 2006, December 2006
December 2008, June 2009
October 2009, October 2010
Des Moines, Iowa
There are many things I was prepared to fail at in my life, but somehow, becoming a mother never made it onto that list. I had expectations; children were inevitable. Motherhood loomed in my future, a sure thing, something I could reach out and grab when the time was right.
I have always been one to follow my gut. Eight years ago – after a broken heart and the tragedy of 9/11 brought me to my knees – I followed my gut and moved from New York, where I had lived most of my life and where my very large, very loud Italian family and most of my friends were centered – to Arizona, where I knew no one. Not a soul. I was idealistic; I just knew that I could change my life, even if I had no prospects for income other than an AmeriCorps position. I looked forward to the challenge of making my own way.
Of course, when I least expected it, love smacked me hard in the face. I met my husband on an internet dating site; two dates later he moved into my tiny apartment (so much for making my own way!). Two weeks after that we were engaged. It was a true whirlwind romance – I trusted my gut. I knew he was the one. We had so much in common, and we both agreed that we wanted a large family. Oh, and he gave (and still gives) me butterflies whenever he walked into the room. Of course, my family and friends thought that I was supremely CRAZY and that the Arizona heat had fried my brain. When my mom told my brother I was engaged, he asked “To who?” I’m sure they all thought divorce loomed in our future; I don’t think anyone could have imagined the tragedies our marriage would survive.
We had the Las Vegas Elvis wedding of my dreams (it was seriously awesome) and moved to New York, where I became a high school teacher and graduate student.
So of course when, two years into our marriage, we decided we were ready for a baby, I trusted my gut. We threw out the birth control pills and let nature run its course. I got pregnant rather quickly.
That morning, staring at the word “Pregnant” on the little digital test screen, was the best day of my life; it was the last time I remember feeling really, truly happy. My husband was still snoring away but I couldn’t help myself – I had to wake him up. We were both so overwhelmed, so happy. He kept whispering “We’re going to be somebody’s parents!” as we snuggled in the darkness and pictured the life ahead of us. It was pure bliss.
And it was over all too quickly. I remember seeing the blood in the dingy faculty bathroom at my school and feeling absolutely, utterly crushed. The bell rang and I had to pretend to be normal (something I’ve done a lot of since then) as I passed pregnant teenagers with huge swollen bellies in the hallway.
Another pregnancy and another miscarriage soon followed. Still, I believed the doctors who told me that we were young (we had both just turned 28) and it was just bad, bad luck. I trusted my gut and believed that if we could conceive so quickly, we were bound to have a successful pregnancy soon.
I quit my job and my graduate program, and again we moved across the country (this time to the Midwest) to a place where we could buy a house and live on one income (you know, so I could stay home with that baby who was just around the corner). That image of me as a mother loomed just ahead; I could almost touch her. I took a part time job that was meant to be temporary – just until that baby arrived. We changed everything about our lives to prepare for our mythical babe.
Over the years, my utesaurus has eaten eight babies. Eight. (Well, that does include Cletus, our ectopic babe and the only one to have given us an ultrasound picture. I guess I have a tubeasaurus, too.) She’s one cannibalistic bitch, that utesaurus of mine. She’s also eaten my self confidence, my ability to relate to people of proven fertility, my friendships, the happiness of a positive pregnancy test, most of my sanity, my belief in a higher power, and my trust in my gut. I’ve had a few diagnoses and a few treatments, but nothing can tame the utesaurus, or my desire to drop elbows to the skulls of people who give me advice about how to get pregnant. I’ve done it eight times, people; I’m pretty much an expert on how to get knocked up.
Slowly, the image of the mother I thought I’d become has shifted from something tangible, something to be grasped, into a nebulous being who slips through my fingers like a ghost whenever I reach out to her.
There have been days throughout these years that I thought the grief and sadness would swallow me, that I’d never feel joy again. I’ve been punched in the gut by too many pregnancy announcements to count. I dread weddings because I know that, inevitably, the happy couple will conceive and have a healthy pregnancy and a real live baby and I’ll feel like shit for feeling like shit about it. Of course their pregnancies will go smoothly because, as a fellow RPL mama says, I’ve taken the statistical bullet for everyone I know. Some days, I hate my (mostly wonderful, and now full time) job and my house (with its guest room that should have been a nursery) because they are constant reminders of the life I don’t have. I have been wounded a million times by the pointy arrows of cruel, insensitive words and friends who don’t call or visit. Some days I am rocked by the minefield of the calendar, and all of it’s reminders of what could have been. The irony of the fact that we got the big family we always wanted, except that they’re all dead, haunts me.
But every time I get knocked down, I get up again. I have found an inner strength and a bond with my husband that I could never have imagined on my wedding day. RPL has permanently changed me, like wood warped by water, but it hasn’t destroyed me. I still laugh, and make other people laugh, even if my sense of humor is tinged with darkness. I find a reason to smile even on my worst days; I find beauty in things others wouldn’t look at twice. I have found that all human beings don’t suck, and that even if people in my real life abandon me in my sadness, those that I have never met in person can lift me up with their love. Mostly, I still have hope that someday, someway, I’ll be able to grasp that ghost-like vision of myself as a mother and hold onto her, make her real.
And through it all, I AM NOT ASHAMED.
Michelle blogs at http://semi-fertile.blogspot.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org