Monday, March 30, 2009

Essay Contest on Infertility

I know I've had a lot of depressing posts lately and I promise more cheerful stuff soon. But, I wanted to post this essay I wrote and entered into an infertility/adoption writing contest. So here goes...

Seventy-Six
By Lara Zierke

Seventy-six times.

I think of all the baby dolls I had a child. I rocked and swaddled them. I fed them and burped them. Even changed them when they were wet. Where are those babies now? Between garage sales and donations to D.I., I have no idea. They probably lay somewhere gathering grime, their plastic eyes dull with the film of time.

Seventy-six times. And next week will be seventy-seven.

I never planned on marrying young. I’d seen enough girls in my town marry young, have kids right away, and just seem to lose themselves. I didn’t want that to be me. But life has a way of surprising you, and I said “I do” at nineteen. We wouldn’t have kids right away. None of this nonsense where a daddy of four kids is still trudging through his undergrad degree. We’d finish school. We’d get real jobs. We’d travel. We’d have a nice place to live. We’d have some mileage behind us before we started adding to the mix.

When my friends and family had kids and struggled, I felt empowered by my choice. I felt smart. When we had a baby, we wouldn’t be on WIC. We wouldn’t be on Medicaid. We wouldn’t be restricted to a shoddy college apartment with questionable carpet. No, we’d have a yard and sidewalks and swing sets. We’d have the nicest things—all brand new—and a perfectly decorated nursery because we’d wait. Aside from offering material security, there’d be the emotional security too. We’d be mature adults. Secure in our marriage. Established. Confident. Ready.

Seventy-six times now. We probably weren’t ready at number one. In fact, for me, I probably didn’t get to “ready” until thirty.

It’s always a leap of faith. Try number one. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating. It’s the most romantic moment of your life. And then it turns into a mediocre movie with too much hype—anticlimactic. An ending that doesn’t fit with the buildup.

There were two years of casual trying. Of not preventing. Then there were the distant, blurry thoughts of wondering “if.” But those thoughts were never focused. Because the trying was only casual. And we kept it casual. We were happy. We enjoyed our coupledom. Travel. Dual incomes. Homeownership. Dog ownership. So for two more years we kept it casual—but not really. Somehow, little circles and numbers made their way to the calendar. And finally, there was a doctor’s appointment. And surgery. And tests. Procedures. Hormones. Pills. Syringes. Stirrups. Scars, pain, and empty promises.

Seventy-six times now. Seventy-six negative pregnancy tests lying somewhere gathering grime, the little pink line dulled by the film of time. It’s the only number I can count. The only number I can wrap my head around. I can’t estimate the tears that have dried and flaked away, the sobs heaved, the prayers prayed, the nights un-slept, and onesies bought and boxed away. So I count the times my heart has broken.

Next week will be seventy-seven.

2 comments:

Maria said...

Wow Lara, I'm at a loss of words to even say! (surprising I know) It's beautiful, if beauty can be heart-wrenching! I can't describe my thoughts like you can, so I think I'll give up trying, wow.

Liz Smith said...

i agree with maria. it's a beautiful essay, though my heart was breaking as i read it. thank you for sharing something so personal with all of us, you're going to inspire a lot of people if you haven't already.

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