Commentary: What I learned from her pregnancyI learned Juliet, my yoga teacher, was pregnant at my favorite Tuesday night class, just one day after learning my second artificial insemination had failed. I cried when I got home from class, real sobs, my whole aching self hanging in my husband’s arms.
By: Crystal Rae Jensen, INFORUM
I learned Juliet, my yoga teacher, was pregnant at my favorite Tuesday night class, just one day after learning my second artificial insemination had failed.
I cried when I got home from class, real sobs, my whole aching self hanging in my husband’s arms.
Tuesday yoga had been my comfort throughout the rollercoaster of infertility treatment, which always came with the ironic prescription to relax, to stay calm. And now what would I do?
In her class, I never doubted my innate beauty or worth; I could detach from the pressures and expectations of society. I imagined watching her stomach grow each week, the hummingbirds she’d had tattooed at the tips of her hipbones spreading open to frame the very kind of life I wanted most.
My husband and I had been trying to have a baby for about three years before beginning infertility treatment. First, we saw an acupuncturist. We took fistfuls of supplements, boiled up bitter and foreign herbal concoctions nightly, shook green powders into warm water, gave up white flour, sugar, caffeine, went organic, and still, nothing happened.
Then, we visited the reproductive endocrinologist. We went to classes on the reproductive cycle, learned about hormones, gathered statistics, and pulled stacks of money out of our savings account.
Every day was devoted to some aspect of fertility – examining my ovarian follicles through ultrasound images, getting blood drawn, injecting expensive and artificial hormones into my belly, having prescribed sex, marking days off the calendar.
On the morning of an artificial insemination, my husband had to arrive at the clinic at 6:45 a.m., ready to produce a “sample” that would be washed and readied to be placed into my uterus at 10 a.m.
Everything seemed so precise, controlled, scientific. Why, then, would a baby refuse to take up life inside me? Our diagnosis was “unexplained infertility.” Despite the advancements in medical technology and understanding, no one could explain why we were continuously left alone.
Infertility treatment creates the illusion that we can isolate and quantify the mystery of life. However, when that illusion is shattered – month by month by year – Western medicine offers no lifeline.
I sank into an anxiety-laden depression. I couldn’t sleep, much less relax. I cried constantly, and when I asked the endocrinologist if she could offer any advice, she looked at my chart and said, “Well, since you like yoga, you could meditate, but otherwise, you just have to deal with it.”
Initially, simply attending Juliet’s classes felt like an accomplishment. Tears rolled down my face during sun salutations. I breathed until I was dizzy, trying to release the cruel, jealous, anger that bubbled up as she explained poses she couldn’t demonstrate due to the life developing inside her.
Gradually, as her pregnancy become increasingly evident, I realized I wasn’t exactly angry. I was jealous, but I had been jealous for a long time of many pregnant women, most of them strangers in stores. I was disappointed in myself. While I wished to be genuinely excited over the pregnancies of others, I still felt like a pouty toddler throwing a tantrum, screaming, “Mine! Mine! Give it to me!”
One week, Juliet asked us to consider the parts of ourselves that we labeled inadequacies or faults. Infertility. Then, she asked us to remove the judgment we had toward that quality. “What would happen,” she asked, “if instead of judging it, you allowed it to simply be a part of you – like brown eyes or your voice?”
Following her suggestion, in my mind I said, “I accept that I am infertile,” and every part of me seized. To accept that I was infertile meant accepting that I might never become pregnant. That I would inject myself with hormones paying less attention to the 20 to 30 percent success rate (typical for an artificial insemination) and the more likely 70 to 80 percent failure rate. It might mean I stopped injecting myself with hormones at all.
To accept it meant that I had to be OK with the life I had right at that moment. It felt like giving up, like quitting, like betraying my husband who was navigating this complicated journey in his own way.
However, I also realized what I had given up in my efforts to fight off what was becoming increasingly more inevitable. I had given up on the notion that my husband and I had already created a complete life in favor of the idea that our family of two wasn’t enough.
I had given up seeing my body’s processes as delicate mysteries in favor of forcing it into over-drive. I had given up having sex with love and abandon in favor of artificial motivation and fear of failure. I had given up the idea that if I followed my heart and did the ground work, I could have whatever I wanted.
Instead, I felt slighted and victimized by a world hell-bent against my own happiness.
By hanging on to the idea that biological motherhood was a necessary requirement for my life to be meaningful, it was easier to distract myself from the fact that I am the only one who defines what “a meaningful life” truly is – or that I might already be living it.
Juliet taught and I attended classes regularly for all nine months needed for her son, Jacob, to arrive safely. During this time, a third artificial insemination attempt failed for my husband and me. I had surgery to remove a large fibroid from outside of my uterus, which was determined to have no correlation to our inability to become pregnant.
Currently, we’ve stopped treatments. We are attending adoption classes, saving more money, and regaining our strength as we near another decision point on our journey.
When Juliet emailed a picture of her new baby boy, I braced myself for the web of emotions I knew I’d face when I opened it. I was surprised to find my heart easy and happy knowing this new life had been given to a mother who saw him for the gift he was.
Through her pregnancy, I was able to confront the grief over losing my attachment to an imagined life, from trying to control the uncontrollable. Through her pregnancy, I have come closer to embracing my own infertility.
Jensen is a 36-year-old English instructor and writer who lives with her husband, Todd, in Fargo.