If there's one phrase that could sum up the last year and a half it would be this one: "Yeah, I know, but I kinda thought maybe." It fits in so many situations, from the macro - "Really? You don't think you're too old to have another kid?" - to the micro - "Every sign points to you not being pregnant; do you really think there's hope this month?" I can't even tell you how many times I've said it to myself... yesterday included, just before another cycle drew to a close.
Things are winding down here, with my 41st birthday three days away and an absolute certainty that there will be no pregnancy before it arrives. I know that deadline was self imposed with a convenient built-in exit clause (which I will be using, most likely) but it still looms large. Or medium-sized, anyway. I guess I thought I had to have some dramatic conclusion to all this "trying," but I think instead it will just quietly go away. Not this month, probably not next month, but soon. And I think I'm okay with that.
I realized something recently, though. I've been dreading telling people that we've stopped trying almost as much as I've been dreading the point where we stop trying. Why? Well, I guess that the best way I can explain it is to say that right now, infertility is like a painful cut. Continuing to try for another child is a protective bandage. It puts up a symbolic shield and eases the pain a bit, in part because I know we’re still trying, but also—just like a band-aid that people can immediately see and know there’s something to be careful of—other people understand how badly we want it. Take off the bandage, stop trying to have a baby, and the wound is just open, and practically invisible unless someone takes the time to look closely. And just like any wound, it will heal with time, but never completely. To put it succinctly, that’s gonna leave a mark. There’s no doubt about it.
In our old house we had neighbors with an only child, a girl named Danielle who was one of the most delightful 10 year olds you could ever meet. Eli was just a peanut at the time and I remember her mother saying to me that seeing him made her wish for that baby stage again. I, in all my infinite, ignorant insensitivity replied, “Well, you could always have another! La la la!” (No, I didn't say the "la la la" part, but I may as well have.) Now, two years later, with a wholly different perspective, I cringe when I think about what I said to her. Sure, there’s always a chance that having one child was their choice. But there’s an equal-if not better-chance that it wasn’t a choice. And knowing what I know now, I believe what I said to her was painful. This is the type of salt-in-the-wound comment that I dread.
I think this is at the root of how I can feel so content with the idea of raising Eli as an only child, and yet still feel so hesitant to tell people so. Because saying we’re done at one could easily imply that one is all we decided we wanted, when really it’s what we’ve made peace with.
I've started to think about what what to do with our guest room, the room that was supposed to belong to another child. I'm thinking a small wall-mounted flat-screen and some furniture rearrangement to allow us to move the exercise bike up from the basement. I'm thinking maybe I'll still go ahead and get the print that I bought as a "nursery decoration" framed because otherwise it will just collect dust in the closet. I'm thinking some new bedding, since it will likely be there for a long time. I don't relish moving forward in this direction, but maybe it will distract me for a little while. None of it feels good, but ultimately it feels right. And I guess that's the best I can ask for.