There are no words today for what took place. If I could explain it to you in a way that may convey the magnitude, I would say an earthquake of the heart was felt. The tremors reverberate and everything shakes but the foundations seem to be staying firm.
Today a line was drawn in the sand.
The scene will be familiar to anyone acquainted with loss. Two people clinging on to one another with every last bit of strength they have. Whispered words and groans of incoherent prayers being said.
And in a single moment, a shift takes place. A fracture within the heart grows and splits it wide open.
Those two people. My husband and I, have a made a choice. A decision to break our hearts in order to rebuild them into something new.
We have made the decision to stop trying. To stop pursuing the dream of another child. The dream of a pregnancy, a child, a new family member, is on another side of the line now and I will glance at it but I will no longer hold it in my hand and gently stroke its unique texture.
For many years, we have been asked when we will have another child. Even those who know our story well have been intrigued and curious. Would we try again? Would we use the donor again to bring a sibling into our life for our boy?
For many years, I have not had an answer. I have not known what the answer should be. When we started fertility treatment almost eight years ago, I had made peace with it not working. I had reached a point where I could allow myself to contemplate a life without children. A different life to what I had hoped for on my wedding but still a good one. A fruitful one.
But, somehow, our treatment was successful. We had a child. We were plunged into parenthood and we had a child to raise.
I did not expect the longing for more. When it began to grow inside me, I couldn’t say it out loud. I was ashamed. Who was I to long for more when I already had everything? Who was I to hear news of pregnancies and be filled with a crippling jealousy? How could I long for more?
But it grew. The longing for a baby became tangible. I would catch myself staring at pregnant women with an unfiltered envy. It pierced my heart. Or holding a friend’s newborn baby and willing the tears to just wait until I was alone. When it would be acceptable to allow them to fall.
Elis and I have not known how to talk to one other about this longing. We are not of one mind on this. For two people who have so openly shared our story and willed others to talk about their own pain, we avoided this conversation like politicians. We could skirt around it and allude. We could read between the lines and assume but it has taken a very long time for us to be honest. Firstly, within our hearts and then with each other.
Our honesty coincided with a global pandemic. As we were plunged into lockdown last March, we were also plunged into the depths of conversations around trying again. Now, if I could offer any advice (if solicited), I would say that pandemics are not the best environments for tackling the longings of the heart in a purposeful way. However, they are great at giving you plenty of time to mull over what is important to you, what you miss, need or desire. Even if you can’t actually do much about it.
We made a decision to try. So, we found clinic and had a skype meeting where we were thrown back into the fertility juggernaut. Questions of weight and health. Information about the costs of transporting sperm, being inseminated, storing sperm, being probed and prepped for any of those pricey sperms even to get near being used. It all began. We met with a therapist to discuss the implications of treatment but it didn’t scratch the surface of the emotional implications. And just as we got to the moment where all we needed to do is wait for the day when I had to phone the clinic and get in to begin the checks, another lockdown happened.
This lockdown was different. I breathed a sigh of relief. I couldn’t travel to Harley Street. I wasn’t able to meet a new doctor and find out how much weight I must lose or how many eggs I had. I wasn’t able to find out whether we could have a baby or not.
It gave us time.
The time has revealed a startling revelation for me. When asked how I am during this time, I have most often said: ‘You know, surviving.’ But I realised that although that is true, in the most part, it is also a lie. I think a more accurate answer would be to say that I have been ‘half-living.’ By half-living, I mean that I have been paralysed by this longing for a baby. It has consumed what little space was in my head or heart for anything else of beauty and creativity. Sure, I appear to be functioning. I can produce my work and turn up to zoom parties with a smile and a joke. I can make funny video diaries about the relentlessness of home schooling but it all conceals a half-life that I hide away. I have lived with this longing but it has not brought me joy. It has not brought me a sense of purpose and I couldn’t understand why. I couldn’t understand why something good, like the longing for a child, would feel so empty.
During our current lockdown, the weight of this longing began to feel unbearable. It pressed on my heart and made me feel deflated.
Then, without warning, something began to take root within me. Something unexpected. A new longing. A longing for more than a baby. A longing to create but not in human form. I could not fathom what was happening. Something was being born within me and the desire for it was shining a light on hopes and dreams which had been pushed into the crevices of my heart. They had been jammed into corners to make space for the longing for a child. But there in the light I saw something remarkable. Not one dream but many. Not one creation but a multitude. And they are each beautiful on their own and I long for them. It is a different type of longing; a different heart song. I long to love my life as it is. I long to explore these other dreams with every fibre of my being.
This realisation led to a conversation which began with the words:
I want to talk to you about something. I will cry but that is ok. It is important we talk about this.
And that is what led to two people, faces wet with tears, holding each other as they let go of the weight of longing. As they poured out the depth of pain and acknowledged that infertility is a thief but it will not rob them of living a full life.
I do not have the words to describe the sounds which left my mouth as my heart broke. I know they weren’t words I could recognise. I know that they sounded more like groans. I know that they were the purest prayer I have prayed in years. I know that God heard them because the only words in my head were:
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
I am ready to be comforted. There will be days when I want to rub out the line in the sand and go back but I am hopeful in the knowledge of God’s abundance. I am beyond grateful that there are beautiful dreams formulating in my heart and I have a chance to pursue them. Having a child is a good longing but it is not the only one which brings life.
For anyone who is reaching the end of themselves; you are not alone.
For anyone struggling to have the hard conversations and put the longings of their hearts into words; your story matters.
For anyone who has let go of a longing which has filled them up with a purpose and hope; It is ok to grieve.