Still the question:
Shall I ever get there?
There where life resounds,
A clear pure note
In the silence.
The women and men like L and her husband, who confront seemingly insurmountable reproductive difficulties, persevere. But many discover few answers and find themselves increasingly disconnected from one another on more ordinary planes: What to do with their free time, what to think about when they go to bed, and what to talk about over dinner--if it's not about getting pregnant.
One insightful patient, R, comments: "After so many years of such focus, such intensity of purpose, I would sit down with H and I didn't know what to say anymore. I had started seeing him as a semen donor and little more. I didn't know who I was without a baby, I didn't know him anymore as a husband, and I didn't know what we would be together if we were not going to be parents."
Striking A Balance
Persevering on the path is strength. To keep your center is to endure.(Tao 33)
Women (and men) pursue fertility with a vengeance. Unfortunately, what they lose at times is their center--the knowledge that who they are does not need to depend on circumstance for definition, clarity, or peace.
"If I'm not a mother," laments one client, C, "who am I?"
Who, indeed. It was a matter that merited serious consideration and time for quite a few sessions.
Who are we if not all of it--our expectations, our dreams, our accomplishments, and our failures? Are we our circumstances--our jobs, our friends, our adventures and misadventures? Are we our holdings--our bank accounts, our Judith Lieber pocketbooks, our Kosta Boda crystal? Are our identities a function of family? Are we our images or the secrets we reveal to no one?
In our culture, we believe that every good act should be--indeed, must be--rewarded, and we expect immediate gratification from our doctors. When we don't get the expected reward, many people interpret that to mean that their lives have been "wrong" and that they are "no good," "failures," "losers." Self-esteem shatters and where before there was hope, now lays shame. How many times have women said to me, "What's the matter with me that I can't do what every other woman does?" I couldn't begin to count.
C, like so many other would-be mothers, works hard to find a balance--to stand comfortably with having and not having, between difficult and easy, letting high and low rest on one another, and learning that beginning and ending inevitably follow again and again.
The journey in fertility is only partially a technological and physical one. It is, in these and other women's struggles, more often than not revealed to be a spiritual one as shame turned to rage.