The ads are popping up everywhere – the celebration of the most important lady in most lives: the one who gave you life. The most important job in the world.
It is a weekend to Mother’s Day where I am, and everyone is being urged to celebrate the moment with flowers, chocolates, stuffed bears, and even fancy vacuum cleaners (that’d go down a treat, uh-huh. Why not just offer to do the housework instead?). Ironically, the mother of Mother’s Day spent a large part of her lifetime fighting back against the crass commercialism of what the holiday became. But that’s another story.
This year’s Mother’s Day comes as I celebrate, once again, my failure to become one. Compounded by a novel twist – a massive gash that our attempts at parenthood has inflicted on my marriage. They should list it as a known side effect of Gonal-F – the use of this medication could irreversibly break your marriage and everything else you believe in. Sorry to disappoint you, Kelly Clarkson, but What Doesn’t Kill You can still kill you.
When we began our IVF journey I had tried to think about what would happen if we were not successful. But when you start IVF, you are buoyed by optimism. It is, ultimately, a game of numbers. When you fail the first time, you tell yourself how many women do, and then go on to be successful the second time around. And here’s a story of hope-ish: we did “succeed” the second time around. Sort of. The story of a badly-parked but rather determined embryo. But that’s no real success, is it? The next few cycles sort of blend into each other. Stark white pregnancy tests, fading lines, low HCGs. Fail. Fail. Fail. Fights, bickering, blame. Through it, you try and ask yourself: What happens next if this doesn’t work? But it has to work. It’s a game of numbers. I have given it so many numbers. Dozens and dozens of eggs. All the zeros in my bank account. Hundreds of injections. Millions of prayers. So, so many numbers.
But it’s like the lottery. Not everyone wins.
And then, when you surface for air, you are suddenly acutely aware of the mangled mess these repeated slash wounds have left everything else. Sometimes, your IVF consolation prize is two people so broken you don’t even know how to start putting them back together. It’s like a 1000-piece jigsaw, and infertility has claimed all the pieces with edges, and all the pieces for the sky. You realise that here is nothing left to hold it all together, nor a chance to make it even look remotely bright again.
It is an impossible puzzle for all parties involved: how does one envision a future in which there are no neatly-defined chapters? Both my husband and I are, separately, struggling with that, because parenthood was so much a part of the dream. For him, biological continuity was critical. And you got old, he says. He’s right. The drugs physically turn you prematurely grey. And you give up so much to IVF – so much of what you love – and embrace so much of what you hate. Like moderation, bitterness, and then despair. The drugs and disappointment take a toll. You run out of hope and happiness.
Do we now spend the rest of our lives waiting for the other to die? Is that all there will be to this one life we were given? Even mother nature has no faith in this union. Why should you?
I’m not sure yet how this couplehood story ends yet, even as our attempts at parenthood have. A happy ending looks out of reach.
And so it will be Mother’s Day. And I will not be celebrated in the way I had once hoped, but I will celebrate my own Mum for all the wonderful things that she is. I will not be giving her chocolates or a fancy vacuum cleaner. Instead, I will hold her tight, and remind myself that she has made me strong, and she has empowered me with all I need to figure this out, somehow.