The fingerprints of infertility are everywhere in my home.
Home was once where I escaped from problems. Home was where I could sit on the couch in the ratty old sweatpants with my alma mater’s name printed across the butt that Arthur still occasionally teases me about because when I bought them, I hadn’t realized exactly where the printing was. For years, I’ve actually done a thought exercise where I visualize placing my ‘outside’ problems beside the door when I get home. It was a safe space.
That’s the insidious thing about infertility. It sneaks in, one bit at a time until suddenly the reminders are everywhere. There is a sharps container on my table. There is another on my dresser in the bedroom, just in case I’m ready to settle into bed before it’s time for my nightly injection. I go to clean up the coffee table and find a desiccated alcohol pad that probably got dropped there. In the bathroom, unused tests stare out at me from the closet.
There is a box of medical bills and health insurance paperwork on the table because there are so many of them that it’s easier to just keep the box in the open and add to it as more roll in. There are library loans in the basket beside the couch, books that are actually for fertile people just uncertain of their cycle, not really for those like me unlucky enough to have actual medical problems conceiving. A box with the empty Follistim pens I get sent every cycle even though I don’t need them, which I keep for the spare needles included in the package just in case I have to give myself two injections when I’m finishing a vial so as not to waste any of the expensive medication.
My own body bears the marks. My right elbow is developing a scar from being poked so many times for blood. There are yellowing, fading bruises on my abdomen from injections. My mind, well, my mind is perhaps one of the most difficult spaces, where I store infertility thoughts like an attic overflowing with dusty junk. That big, jagged broken thing sitting under a dusty sheet? That’s the hope of having a baby the ‘old fashioned way’. The crystalline pieces shimmering in the small rays of light? The shattered bits of failed and cancelled cycles. Be careful, those pieces are sharp. They’ll cut you if you pick them up.
Someday, I suppose, I’m going to have to clean it all out. Throw open the shutters to let light dance over the dust, actually take my physical sharps containers to the pharmacy for disposal. Get the stock of pregnancy tests and OPKs out of my closet. Find a way to throw away all the broken hopes and dreams. Find a dustpan to sweep up the shattered bits. Exorcise, cleanse the space, and make it a safe place to live again.
But how can I do that when I’m still dropping actual needles into those real-life sharps containers? It’s not possible for me, not right now anyway. Having these items, though, both the extant physical ones and the ones that exist only within my mind reminds me sharply every time I see them or someone says something that swings open the door to the attic of my memory. I’m reminded of my reproductive failures, of the many moments I never, never wanted but couldn’t stop from happening.
I recognize, wryly, intellectually, that most of life is out of our control; I certainly can’t prevent a natural disaster or something happening to Arthur or another driver’s actions on the roads. I know this. Yet I get upset when I can’t seem to get an appointment made with my RE, the anger stemming more from the fact that this is one more thing I can’t seem to control than from anything else.
When suddenly a small new piece of hope falls into my lap, the dissonance between that hope and the reality littering my kitchen table is so painful, so mocking, so great that I can’t even bring myself to feel anything but terror that this shiny new thing I hang onto now will be the next broken, jagged item thrown into the flotsam and jetsam. I picture it like a pretty box, something out of a Harry Potter novel, ornate, but locked tight. No way of knowing what’s in it. Will I be glad of this box that, when it finally opens, might allow me to throw open the doors, let the light in, and begin the long, difficult process of cleaning up? Or recoil when the lock falls away, trying to shield myself from the contents, knowing that there are none of my usual places left to seek sanctuary from it, knowing that it too will get pitched into the attic of my mind with all the other disappointments?
There’s nothing else to do now though, except keep it right here with me, marveling at its outward loveliness, what it could represent, knowing the ugly surprise it might also contain. Hope that I can maintain the uneasy balance.
So I wait.