Many woman grieve the loss of not being able to carry a baby.
I feel guilty because I never wanted to carry a baby.
And now, I’m learning, I cannot carry a baby.
She told me to try and reframe it though, dark eyes peering over her tortoise-shell glasses, watching my reaction, encouraging me to give it a go. I kept glancing at the water color lilies on the wall, wondering if she chose those or if UCSF sanctioned the only piece of art in her bright clinical office. It’s not that I was trying to dodge her invitation, I was just twisted in a logical pretzel.
I was never certain I even wanted children. And when I got cancer, the choice was quickly taken away from me. It still hurt, and I was surprised at the hurt. Agency – or the perception thereof – is a powerful thing. So after hand wringing and pacing and bank account calculations and delaying chemotherapy by two weeks and 21 blood draws, 24 shots in my stomach, we harvested my eggs – or the doctor did – and fertilized them and created 11 embryos. Apparently it was on the verge of a good number, but not a great number. But all it takes it one, they said.
When I was small, I never played with dolls – they sat on my shelf collecting dust, their porcelain faces tranquil, staring at me and waiting to be loved. I never babysat either, unless you count hanging out with a girl named Lacey who was just a year younger than me while her parents went out. I’m 39 now, have 7 nieces and nephews and a goddaughter and godson and have never changed a diaper.
But here we are, in the reproductive health clinic, talking to the psychologist to help us sort this through.
I sigh. The psychologist takes me in.
The thoughts in my head swing back and forth, like a pendulum. Like how the medical field keeps volleying the attempt at medical certainty back and forth too – four years ago, my oncologist said if I begged her to take me off my medications to have a baby, she would do it, provided I went right back on. We sat on it, too busy to decide, too much uncertainty for what we wanted out of life, too much fear immobilizing us.
There were just a few studies that said maybe there was a protective quality of pregnancy. My cancer type was so specific though, that if you squinted at the data, perhaps the study indicated the opposite, there was a great risk involved.
Now, my oncologist isn’t so certain. The volley is back to the other side of the court.
And while that game of back and forth might carry on in perpetuity, what will not is my friend Julie – who has my cancer type, my genetic mutation. We finished chemo around the same time. She – by some miracle got pregnant, had a beautiful baby, got sick again, and will die from her cancer. Shouldn’t that be enough to suggest maybe it’s not for me?
So we set a deadline for ourselves to decide. Decide on what, I don’t know. But decide by June 30. Ok ok, August 30.
The clock moves, the sun’s angle turning low and south, green leaves to yellow and red and brown, morning temperatures from damp to crisp.
I needed a sign, some grand gesture of the universe, a shift in its energy that would dislodge the ball of questions that remain knotted up in my throat, my gut, the front left part of my brain where it hurt. And it came in the form of baby Drew and his surrogate mom Amber and his biological mom Amanda. Two families coming together with shared, overlapping goals. And aren’t all babies grand gestures of the universe, after all?