Infertility is the Worst Practical Joke Ever

“So I want to tell you something,” she says. And just like that, I know.

She’s pregnant. There’s a quivering smile on her face, a little excitement in the tension that runs up her neck and tilts her head just so. She’s pregnant. I’ve been here for hours and she’s only telling me now?

“I’m pregnant,” she says. Of course she is. I feel a little sick. I smile, tell her that’s so exciting. I look at her again. Try to see if there’s anything different, something I should have noticed when I walked in. There’s nothing. It’s too soon, of course. Jeans and a black t-shirt are hardly maternity wear.

She’s still talking. I can barely keep track of what she’s saying. They found out on the one-year anniversary of her last miscarriage. There have been ultrasounds, heartbeats. She talks about hormones and therapies and nausea. Midwives and obstetricians. She talks about spring babies. May. Her birthday is in May too. She’ll never really celebrate it on her own again.

My mouth is moving, saying the things I’m supposed to say. Inside, I’m screaming. I always thought that was a metaphor, but it turns out you really can do it. It’s deafening, so loud I can’t hear myself speak. There’s too much. Too much inside. My limbs shake. My organs feel like they’re going to twist themselves apart. They’re all telling me we have to run, that something is very wrong and we shouldn’t be here. I know it’s grief and it’s trying to swallow me. I haven’t let it win yet. So I keep talking.

I’ve lost her. She was my buddy, though I have probably been kidding myself. The three-year-old upstairs, the one who begged for Thomas until she caved and set up the iPad so she could tell me this happy news undisturbed, is proof that I’ve been kidding myself. Our problems were never quite the same. She could get pregnant, but after the first one, she just couldn’t stay that way. I’ve never been pregnant, not even for a day. Our problems have always been different, but for the last year I didn’t feel quite so alone.

It seems impossible to be happy for someone and so deeply sad for myself at the same time, but somehow I’m doing it. She must see a little of it on my face. Maybe a lot it. It’s a wonder she can’t hear the screaming; it’s only getting louder the more she talks. She comes across the room to hug me, and that’s my undoing. It’s not that I start to cry; I tense up so much, trying to hold it all in, that the tears have nowhere left to go but out.

Infertility is the worst practical joke ever. It cruelly tells you that all your hard work has been a lie. I spent all those years listening to all these people who told me my fertility was something to be controled. There were awkward nights at the drug store, buying condoms without looking the cashier in the eye. There was the speculum that never seemed warm enough, the pap test a condition of refilling my prescription for birth control. After, later, there was the careful tracking, temperature taking, daily counting, waiting, hoping.


That I ever thought I had any kind of control is a joke. I listen to pregnant friends tell cooing onlookers how they planned their pregnancies around their teaching careers, so they could tack those extra two months of summer vacation onto their maternity leaves. I envy their fertility, but moreso, I envy their naivete. They got lucky, so damn lucky, and they don’t even know it.

Sitting in her basement, I know she knows how lucky she is. She thought she’d planned her first pregnancy, and then this one, nearly four years in coming, more than two years overdue, has shown her how untrue that was. It’s a small consolation to me. At least she understands my tears aren’t about her.

“You’ll get yours soon,” she says as she holds on to me. “I know it.” I nod and bite my lip to keep the bitter words, the self-pitying sobs, inside me. I’ll let them out later, when I’m by myself. I don’t remind her that it’s been months since we heard anything new from Children’s Aid. That the lack of progress is becoming unbearable. The powerless waiting for the adoption wheel to turn is worse in some ways than the monthly cycle of hope and disappointment used to be.

It seems unfair to feel so much in this moment when all she wants is my support, but like so much, I have no control over it.

Upstairs, a little voice calls to tell us Thomas is over. She’s up and away in a moment. I’m left to dab at my eyes with my sleeve, gasp, stare at all the messy vestiges of motherhood that differentiate her home from mine.

I have a new niece coming, or maybe a nephew. A little person who will call me auntie and come to my house to feed the ducks at the park across the street. It’s a thing to celebrate. I just don’t feel like doing it today.

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