How It Began

A couple of my aunts were infertile, and I almost didn’t realize it until one day I was, too. I suppose it might have crossed my mind once or twice that “Aunt Ethel doesn’t have any kids, and isn’t that too bad?” but for the most part I didn’t think about it. We never talked about it, and I never once heard anyone mention how difficult Mothers’ Day must be, or we’re praying for you, or I’m so sorry. Hopefully they did, but I bet it wasn’t often.

In my teens, not being able to have kids was my biggest fear after acne, but I didn’t dwell on it because the thought of it happening to me was absurd. I’m one of seven children, with scores of cousins on both sides. We have babies. Things got more real when I had an ovary removed at twenty because of advanced endometriosis. Cisco and I had been dating about a year at the time, and out of nowhere we saw our biggest, unlikeliest fear coming true. Just out of major surgery, I lay in a fog of morphine while my doctor told us that he didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to get pregnant. “Try sooner rather than later,” he said.

I don’t know why Cisco stayed. I told him that there would be no hard feelings, and I meant it. I cried when he went home for the night, and imagined what a bad nun I’d be. If a convent wouldn’t take me I could be a stage actress, and coldly turn suitors away without an explanation. They’d stagger blindly into the night, never knowing what I’d spared them, and I would sit alone in my dingy dressing room doing something noble like knitting houses for homeless cats. Vicodin is potent stuff.

Cisco thought and smoked, and smoked and paced. He came back the next morning, and proposed a couple of months later. We got through a long-distance engagement, and married each other two weeks after I graduated. I was terribly happy.

We tried to be realistic about our chances of conception, and we tried to be positive, too. Mostly, I just felt like I was staring down the barrel of a gun, and if it turned out that I really was infertile there was a good chance I’d go apeshit. It was almost too easy, though – Snert enthused himself into existence at the first possible moment. He was born at our tiny apartment the next Spring and the Good Lord, who knew it would be my only childbirth, gifted me with a near-perfect experience. It was my fiercest, proudest moment. “It’s a boy!” someone shouted. “Of course he is,” I thought. “I know him.”

I think I was born that day, too.

We’re still working on the meat of our story, and quite often I can’t see the forest for the trees, but I’m so grateful for that beginning. I have hope for the end.

I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,

Coming for to carry me home.

But still my soul Feels Heavenly bound,

Coming for to carry me home. 

(Wallis Willis, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”)

P.S. I can’t write about Snert’s all-gift, totally surprising existence without saying that I know I don’t deserve it. I am grateful every day, and I’m so sorry for those of you who have lost, or are unable to have children, and those whose children are sick. You are often in my thoughts and prayers. You deserve to be thought of, sorrowed with, and prayed over. You are Those-Who-Mourn, and you have my heart.

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4 thoughts on “How It Began

  1. My dad is one of 11, and my mom is one of 6 — and I have a cousin who never had kids. I assumed it was by choice (but was too chicken to ask, in case it wasn’t), as they had married very young and had a few hard years. After 18 years, she finally had a surprise baby, and felt safe enough to talk about their struggles with infertility all those years. It is a tough road, that’s for sure . . . and so, so sweet to watch them being parents now.

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