Saturday, March 28, 2009

Open-Legs Surgery

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous before Thursday's surgery – terrified is more like it. And that I was able, over the past month before the procedure, to fully achieve my goal of living in the moment, somehow dodging the shadow of infertility for a while. I received such lovely, supportive comments in response to that last post, applauding my determination to focus on other things. It made me feel like a bit of a fraud.

I mean, the intention was there. And I did a lot of things that on the surface would signal someone going about her life. I got those pedicures. Saw those (amazing) friends. Read books. Laughed out loud.

But still. Even as you take a break, as you remember the way your life felt before this struggle took hold and made everything else feel insignificant, you're painfully aware that it's temporary. You can move on to other things right now, because there's no chance before you – it's easy to pretend it doesn't matter. But as soon as you can dare to hope again, when chance reappears and stakes are raised, you know that you will no longer be capable of pretending that other things are just as important.

And so I began the slow, reluctant creep back into the game with Thursday's surgery. I spent the whole week playing it out in my head (see earlier posts re: my absurd surgery phobia). Told myself repeatedly that it was nothing – it wasn't as if I were having open-heart surgery (giggled when I realized it was actually open-legs). So by the time we arrived at the hospital on Thursday morning, it felt like I'd already lived it 30,000 times. When my husband asked me in the waiting room if he could take my picture (he has this perverse desire to "document" everything) and wouldn't take no for an answer, my stress boiled over and I burst into tears. He put the camera away.

We got up to the surgical wing, where two things called me back from the edge: my calm, cool (yet warm) and collected doctor, and my new bff, Versed. For a good amount of the procedure I was awake, though very comfortably in some world halfway between a couple of Clicquots and unconsciousness. Before I knew it, my doctor was telling me it was over, at which point (since it was after 1 p.m. and I had nothing in my stomach) I requested a cheese pizza.

The big question going in was whether she would find more serious scarring beyond the initial bit that blocked her view of my full uterus during the office hysteroscopy. She didn't. There were two more minor adhesions inside, which she easily got. She told me my uterus is good as new and they sent me home.

Another hurdle down. I'll meet with my doctor on Monday (it was either Monday or May) to create a game plan. It's been five months since I've cycled, since I've had a shot. Everything – yet nothing – has changed. I'm eager to be back in the game. I know it means letting this one thing matter once again. Whether there's a way to go about my life as if it matters a little less this time remains to be seen.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

To Have and Have Not

I am currently reading An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, a memoir by Elizabeth McCracken, who is a heartbreakingly talented writer with this heartbreakingly tragic story (the stillbirth of her first child) to tell. Among other observations (she is the kind of writer who finds precisely the right words for the most indescribable of emotional experience) McCracken describes this sense that when her baby died, the time that followed occurred in two tracks: "on one, he lived and we took him home...on the other track, the one I accidentally took, he died...."

What woman who has experienced any event on the spectrum of loss -- from miscarriage to the loss of a child -- could not relate to this? All I need to do is look at a calendar and I see, like a photo that stopped developing midway through, all of the experiences that I am not having these days and months. I am not starting to show and buying maternity clothes. I am not telling people about a baby that will be born this summer. I am not feeling excited about a late spring baby shower, or starting to worry about that looming due date and the labor and delivery it will require of me. But I could have been. I was so close.

There's this other duality that I've started to sense in this infertility journey. I live my life utterly consumed by my desire for motherhood -- by the piercing awareness that I lack the thing that I want and need most. It is often the first thing I think of as I force myself out of bed each morning, and the last as I get back in at night. I am constantly aware of this fight I have on my hands, the next battle a deep shadow over every thought, every action. Constantly aware of the life I feel I should be living.

And yet, there is this need to keep going, to sustain myself for the sake of myself. I have this fundamental sense that no matter how much I want motherhood, I have to keep something of myself intact or I will lose everything in my quest for it. I have to remind myself that what I have is inherently valuable and meaningful, not just a reflection of what I don't have. This requires keeping a healthy dose of denial at my disposal. It means waking up this past Wednesday and deciding that, no, I just cannot have another day of desperate sadness -- I've got to pretend it doesn't matter. It means going out to dinner with my husband on a Saturday night and rather than going through the motions, wishing we didn't have such freedom, really trying to relish that experience for what it is (which is pretty good). It means trying to live my life -- the one I have -- not biding my time until I get the life I want, the life I hope is out there somewhere.

My operative hysteroscopy is scheduled for March 26. Before then, there are movies to be seen, food and wine to be enjoyed, magazines to be read, pedicures to be had, friends to be laughed with. I'm going to try to stay focused on the life I have. The one that's real.