Pregnant with Despair

“The embryos already look like Wendy,” the doctor says, and it is just about the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. I laugh, with tears in my eyes, as I look at the screen on the wall and confirm that, yes, that is my name typed under two small, fuzzy looking circles. My embryos. The doctor loads them in a long tube to implant them and I hope they won’t have trouble burrowing into the lining of my uterus with all that curly hair they must already have.

I’ve never really been able to picture children who look like me, never really cared for them to have any of my features-God knows I don’t like living with them! If I’ve pictured children at all, it is with my husband’s big, beautiful eyes and olive skin. And my sarcasm. I imagine nine months from now after much pushing and screaming, my baby, once pulled from my womb, will open its eyes, take a look around and say: “What fresh hell is this!?”

As with the first round of IVF, I spend the next two weeks nauseous, crampy and hopeful. We are so very hopeful.

“Maybe this is it!?” we say to each other. “Maybe we are on our way now to becoming the parents we long to be.”

I feel like it has to be it. It must be it. This is going to be it.

The doctor gave us a sonogram showing the little puff of air where he implanted our embryos. I carry it with me in my purse and take it out some times when I am alone on the subway, running my finger over the little white space in my uterus. I run my finger back and forth, up and down. I dream of what’s to come.

Stephen takes off work to be with me the day of the pregnancy test. We go for the blood test first thing in the morning. It is raining as we make our way to the clinic but the sun peeks out from behind the clouds as we leave. A good sign, we agree. We come home and make breakfast and talk about the future. We go for a walk. I look up fertility dances on YouTube and sway my hips about our living room with arms overhead, hoping to bring us good luck.

And after two weeks of hoping and wishing, it is all over so quickly. The clinic calls.

“How are you?” they say.

“Hopefully better in a moment,” I say, hopefully.

“Unfortunately the test for this cycle is negative.”

They’re sorry. I’m sorry. My husband is sorry. Everyone is sorry it didn’t work.

I let out a keening kind of wail once I hang up the phone, the kind I wanted to let out the night my mother died but couldn’t. I beat my fists into the couch cushions. “No. No. No.” Stephen gets up and lies behind me on the couch, holding me tight. We are two question marks lying side by side, dotted by our dog who wags his tail at our affection.

“I’m sorry,” Stephen says. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“But when did it stop being alive?” I ask him, between tears. “When exactly did it die? The very day they put it in? How long was it there? When did it die?”

“It didn’t die,” he says. “It was just cells.”

Yes, it was just cells. “It was just cells,” I tell myself as I bleed and bleed for days. There is so much blood. I didn’t know you could bleed this much and not die.

But it was just cells, cells and a plumped up uterine lining. That’s all.

We go back to the fertility clinic to discuss our options. There is a television screen in the hallway of all the beautiful babies born by patients here. I note that in all the months and months of coming here, every day, I have never seen the same picture twice. “Have you?” I ask Stephen. I wonder how long it takes to cycle through all the babies. A year? Two?? These are all the people who had fertility problems and still could be helped.

We talk with the doctor. We will likely need a third party to have a baby. We can’t do it just the two of us like we’re supposed to, even with medical help.

We meet with a fertility counselor, a step mandated by Health Canada before using any kind of donor.

“What do I do with all my pain?” I ask her, “What do I do with all this pain?”

Because I feel pregnant with it. I feel pregnant with despair, with pain and sadness thick about my middle. It shifts and grows and I am certain that you could see it on an ultrasound, blinking there on the screen. I carry it with me everywhere, running my hands over my belly. It fills the space where a baby was supposed to be. Which ever way we try again, I wonder how a baby will ever have room to grow now when my body is lined with so much sorrow.