by Elana Rabinowitz
“Men are such jerks,” my doctor said behind the desk of his office, his Ivy League degrees framed and mounted on the walls behind him. I saw his eyes well up and it looked like he was about to cry over my fertility battles and failed relationships. “Why do you have to go through this all alone? It’s not fair,” he continued.
I looked over at his warm face and felt tears trickle down my chin. I didn’t want to go through this alone, I thought. I wanted a husband, a warm and loving man like my doctor, but hadn’t found one. Love was something I desperately wanted to give. If I could be a mother, this child would be swimming in affection.
Most women started the fertility process sooner, but I was a late bloomer in every way. My thirties were filled with endless romance and heartbreak and when my forties finally rolled around, I was enjoying my life, my friends – motherhood was no longer on the forefront of my mind. That’s what “they” say, isn’t it? Go ahead and enjoy your life, it will happen when you least expect it, when you’re not looking.
After years of trepidation I was suddenly focused. When once again the man I loved for far too long dated someone else, I realized I needed to move on. Being a mother began to overtake my thoughts. But had I waited too long?
I went to see a doctor at a nearby fertility clinic and learned I was able to produce enough healthy eggs to start the process. Then reality set in. I was not of great means or in ideal health. I’d be doing this completely on my own. Against nature. Against logic. Was I strong enough?
Single motherhood meant no plus one. There’s no we, it is only I. I had to inject needles into my body. I had to wait alone with all my fears and insecurities. I had to have hope, even when I wasn’t sure what I was hoping for. It was becoming more than I could handle. I doubted myself every step of the way, yet persevered.
My first attempt felt natural. No hormones, I was certain it would work. That’s when they discovered a tube blockage that would prevent pregnancy. I would move onto IVF. The acronym I’d become all too familiar with, the one responsible for the preponderance of twin strollers in my neighborhood, the one that gave women hope.
On my first try I produced 18 eggs. I paid extra for genetic testing and narrowed it down to one choice ovum. The on-call doctor phoned me before we started the final procedure, “It’s a boy,” she said. Too early. Too soon. Perhaps if I had never known the gender, never been given hope, it would have been easier to move on. Instead, I saw my son in strangers’ children, ones with large brown eyes and olive skin. I wanted to mourn, to process all that was happening to my body, but there wasn’t time. The next month I started all over again. Then the month after that. Each treatment wearing me down further.
I needed help and had friends take turns picking me up after each procedure. There were so many procedures and people with active lives; it became increasingly difficult to get anyone to commit. I thought if I did get pregnant, I might actually end up delivering all alone.
The employees at the clinic became an intricate part of my life. The women at the lab became my confidantes. On the fifth try, with the sun and smell of spring in the air, two nurses called me in unison to tell me two words I never thought I’d hear at 44. “You’re pregnant!” I’m pregnant, I whispered to myself with a resounding joy.
The next two weeks I filled my life with joy. I went to outdoor concerts and dinners with friends and began to imagine what my life would be as a mother. A single mother. I was no longer afraid. I went for a final blood test, hugging the attendant tightly.
A few days later the nurse called again, her voice now still. I knew instantly my baby was gone. We spoke briefly, not cognizant of her words; they became distant sounds and melodies of songs I didn’t want to hear. I sat there numb for days.
When alas my energy returned I called the doctor directly and we met in person. That is when he began to cry too. For me. For all my losses.
“You have the eggs, but for some reason it won’t stick,” he said sweetly.
I decided I would no longer fight science. I knew I could not win. I waited 44 years. And I had waited too long.
I cannot say I’m truly resolved. Motherhood may still be a label I will wear some day, in a different form, under a different guise. For now I am still waiting to see which direction life takes me. I am not sure where I will land, but hoping it will be towards love.