Aside

We are hiking, you and I. It has just rained, the smell of petrichor is still fresh in the air, and it is overcast, the weight of the clouds heavy overhead. The mountain rises before us, verdant with growth. I breathe the cool air in deeply, my legs aching slightly from the good hike we have taken to get this far, and follow behind a bit behind you because the brush is dense. I remember how my father called me his “little billy goat” when I climbed with him as a child, sure of foot and fearless. I feel more peaceful than I have in a long time.

We chat happily as we ascend.

I slip on a patch of slick mud and stumble forward onto my hands. Clumsy!, I think, as I pick myself up and brush my hair away from my face with my dirtied hands, laughing at my misstep. You laugh too. We continue upwards.

After a few minutes I fall again, trip over something hard, a rock maybe, and fall into a bed of jagged rocks.  I can see tiny rivulets of blood running through the caked on mud on my palms. My jeans are now torn and I can see that it is likely to bruise a bit there on my thigh. Unfortunate, I think and continue upwards, climbing faster because you did not stop even though I cried out when I fell.

I fall again and again, scraping my arms, hands, knees, thighs, torso. I am battered and I can feel a deep and horrible bruise forming on my side, so bad that it hurts to take in breath. I hit my head on a knotted tree root, once, and I can feel blood seeping from my scalp, matting my hair. I have busted my lip as well, and the metallic almost sweet taste of blood fills my mouth.

You continue to climb, sometimes looking back at me, sometimes not. Sometimes I can see you stop and maybe you laugh. Maybe that’s just a trick of the wind, though. I can’t tell.

I call out to you saying, wait! Wait! I need your help, this hurts! Come back! Please! 

You press onward, not as high as I thought I saw you last. Maybe you didn’t hear me, I think as I pick myself up again, groaning in pain.

I want to see the summit, I think. I want to stand up there and feel the calm of elevation, where the world doesn’t matter so much because it is small. I want to breathe freely. I want to experience the beauty, not this misery.

I fall, hard, on a sharp rock. I can feel my shin bone break and the jutting mass of rock has sliced my thigh so deeply that I can see the blood beginning to soak through my pants. I cut my jeans and can see the muscle showing through my flesh. I panic is I rip off a sleeve and make a tourniquet. My hands shake and I hope that it works.

Then I hear it. The inhuman noise, a keening howl that fills the mountainside. I realize, after a time, that it’s me. You do not start down to come help. I am stuck here, helpless and in excruciating pain, the kind of pain that you can almost taste. I cannot move. Reaching anywhere able to help tend  my wounds is impossible by myself. I scream for your assistance and you look down upon me, staring.

And then you begin to laugh uproariously. Your laughter is cutting, callous, cruel. I can hear it over the whipping wind, over the pounding in my ears. 

I am speechless, stunned.

You turn from me and take a step forward and I close my eyes tightly because I cannot watch you leave me here.

***

I always jar awake in a blind panic, my heart beating like a drum, my chest tight with anxiety. I grab for my comforter even though the house is warm, and curl it into my hand, clasping it to my breast. I try to settle myself, get back to sleep. I usually can’t.

I’ve had this nightmare three times in the past week. It haunts my waking hours, like the picture of Omega does. My father keeps it in his wallet, the picture of her and his mother as small children. My grandmother and my great-aunt, in black and white, a slight smile on my grandmother’s lips. I know nothing of Omega but the fact that her curls matched the ones I had as a child, and her eyes glint over her solemn mouth. I do not know how she lived, I do not know how she died, whether or not she loved, the great successes and terrible tragedies of her life.

I know that she took this family portrait and that she is lost to time, stuck forever in my mind as a six-year-old girl.

She haunts me and I know not why.

Cards on the table.

I always knew, deep down in the marrow of my bones, that I wanted to be a mom. When I was little I stuffed my Cabbage Patch dolls under my shirts and pretended to be pregnant. I carried my dolls everywhere, pretending to mother them.

I have always known that I wanted to care for a child. It felt like something I was destined to do, destined to fill my life with the family that I built.

I was diagnosed with PCOS and prothrombin mutation (which increases the risk of clotting, and thus miscarriage) when I was 20, by happenstance when I was being treated for other medical issues. I was getting married, not preventing pregnancy, and I wanted to know my odds of having children, given the diagnoses that I’d been given. No answers, options, or referrals, were received. I was blown off by my doctors because, I suppose, they thought I was too young to think about it.

One of the reasons my fiancé left me for another woman was because we had been trying for a year, I wasn’t getting pregnant, our odds of conceiving weren’t looking great, and I barely touched him because I was depressed about it. (He also left me because of the fact that he was a sack of crap. That, too.)

Fast forward a couple years. I met John in 2010 and we fell madly, desperately, fiercely, wholly in love with each other. We didn’t prevent anything. We were both fine with the idea of a baby if it happened, but given my history it seemed unlikely that it would happen or, if it did happen, I wouldn’t miscarry. Without medical help, our chances seemed pretty remote.

In September of 2011, I likely miscarried our baby. There was nothing right about that cycle, my pain, the timing, or the amount of bleeding that occurred. It was unconfirmed by a test, but it was a very highly suspected chemical pregnancy. It hurt like hell.

In February of 2012, John and I broke up because I still wanted a baby and he had changed his mind about wanting one. And then the shittiest year and a half (and counting!) of my life started.

I got depressed. I got angry when a disproportionately large number of the people I know got pregnant and it still, again, always, wasn’t me. I felt like a horrid human being all of the time.

Every happy announcement felt like a slap in the face, and it hurt right where my junky ovaries are, a stabbing pain that wouldn’t go away for hours, the psychosomatic symptom of my depression that certainly didn’t hurt my heart at all. I’d get flares of rage at inconsequential things that someone pregnant would say. Like, if they said that having their children close together in age was going to be difficult. Or that they didn’t get the sex of baby that they wanted. Or that they felt terrible in the heat.

Finally, at someone actually using the word “trigger” with me, it dawned on me that that was what was going on (I am incredibly dim). It never occurred to me that depression has triggers. I’m working on cognitive re-framing in therapy and it’s going really well, we think. There aren’t any more flares of anger, but I do still admit to some frustration, sometimes, at some comments (it’s the best I can do right now and I’m still actively working on it). Having someone say that their children are going to be close together in age is still difficult to hear, especially if they are having two children in the space of time that it took me to try, and fail, to have one.

The fact of the matter is, pregnancy isn’t easy. Having children close in age isn’t easy. Not getting the sex of baby that you hoped for is a disappointment, and heck, I’ve dreamt for years of having a little boy. Being hot, miserable, and sick in the summer isn’t easy, if you are pregnant or not. This all makes logical sense, but it did trigger me in a big way for a long, long while and make me feel jealous and petty and oh so small.

I have felt like a failure a lot this year. I feel like having babies is a basic, biologic test that I am failing at. I feel like a failure as a friend when I get triggered and I get sad and angry and frustrated at a neutral comment that wouldn’t affect other people this way. I feel like my feelings on my infertility aren’t valid because I am not, currently, trying to conceive and because so very many people have it worse and have experienced pain that I can’t even fathom. I feel angry at my body for being broken in this way, for needing help with something that most people find so easy to do.

I know, logically, that my infertility isn’t my fault. I know that I have done nothing to make this happen. This is shit luck with genetics. But the difference between what your head knows and your heart feels is a vast chasm that I cannot currently bridge. I blame myself for the inadequacies of my body. It isn’t fair, or right, but that’s where I am right now.

***

Last week I picked up the phone and made an appointment, despite my fears, anxiety, and my (on some days) crippling depression. On Monday, I have an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist to see about my chances of having a baby someday, to see about options for protocol, and success rates for woman like me. I am not exactly hopeful. Hope on this subject is no longer something that I can carry.

Monday also happens to be the two year anniversary of my likely miscarriage.

I plan on crying a lot.

***

I feel like I’m making too big a thing about my appointment because I don’t have a partner to stand beside me and support me through whatever news that might come. Having a partner, who you have worked so hard to have children with already and are now going to a fertility clinic with, is a kind of heartache that I can’t even imagine.

But I don’t have a partner. And that’s hard. It’s scary to be carrying this burden alone. It’s scary to worry if my mental health will get worse after the news in my appointment. I have a lot of trouble managing my anxiety about my appointment and how I’m going to feel about the news later. I can’t predict how I’m going to feel about it. I can’t predict how, even if I get relatively good news on the matter, it’s going to affect how I view myself and my long term goals of building a family with someone I love.

***

I plan on doing emotional damage control on Monday by spending time with friends, snuggling a baby, eating cake, watching something mindless on TV, and drinking scotch. And crying. A lot.

I’m scared. Of everything to come. I’m so scared.

How I’m coping

There is Stuff going on, which I’ll hopefully be able to talk about a bit later this week when I get all my mental ducks in a row.

But today I had time with friends, after a few weeks of not being well enough to drive or do anything besides concentrating on breathing.

I read their toddler books while she sat on my lap and then I tickled her toes. I talked with my friends. I enjoyed Jeremy Renner’s arms in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. I played around with a new eye shadow I’d bought, relearning a technique I’d forgotten how to do properly. I got complimented on it, although it was really all due to my excellent teacher.

I did human things. Like a human being.

Then I got in my car, turned the music on as high as I could stand it, the sound reverberating in my chest, and screamed until my throat felt raw, the feeling of how much I hurt moving the small bones in my ears.

I felt nothing.