I’m slouched over a king size bed in a deluxe room at the Beverly Hills Hotel wearing a robe, scanning my surroundings like it’s Groundhog Day, almost positive this is the same room I stayed in when I was last here in June. It is not Groundhog Day, though. It has only been five months, but I assure you, today I am a different person. The last time I was here, it was only for one night, and when I woke up to sunlight, I found my husband completing a meditation on his side of the bed. Both of our eyes freshly open, he asked if I wanted breakfast. I got up, went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and when I came back, I sat down and cried.
“Will I ever be happy again?” I asked.
“Of course you will be happy again,” he replied as he opened his arms to accept a dejected embrace. All I could think that day, that week, that month, was that I wasn’t okay. I had not been okay in at least two years, but maybe it had been longer. I blamed it on everything that could have possibly contributed to a newfangled malaise that seemingly encapsulated the sum of my parts: where I worked, who I worked with, what I did for work, the amount of stress that enveloped it all; where I lived, who I lived with, my mom, who could never understand what I was going through given the ease with which she birthed four children.
I felt consistent guilt every time Abie had to answer me when I asked, Was I ever happy? Will I ever be happy? Did you know I was like this when you married me? He would remind me to look up at the light, not down at the darkness. Then he’d count on his finger tips, as if he needed to keep track for my sake, all the ways in which we were blessed, I was blessed. Intellectually, I understood. I agreed. But emotionally, I couldn’t shake the interminable feeling that I wasn’t supposed to be here — that the earth was rejecting me but not letting me die.
By last June at the Beverly Hills Hotel, it had already been seven months since I first learned that I was pregnant with a nonviable fetus and six months since the pregnancy ended. We had passed all the milestones, including the would-be birthday of the baby-that-never-was. I “should have” been recovered by then according to the heartbreaking stories of loss I was fed. “Once the oven is hot, it yearns to make more kids,” they would tell me as if a conciliatory prize. But where were mine? I wasn’t even close. I was dead inside. Cold.
I had tried everything that winter to recover: acupuncture after three rounds of Clomid (an ovary stimulator), infrared sauna emergence, yoga, meditation, hypnosis and Letrozole (an ovary stimulator — and breast cancer treatment method, actually — that purportedly works better for thin people), journaling, progesterone, a mood-lifting diet, a fertility diet. I recorded all of these pursuits, hoping that just as it had been before, writing would serve as a sweet release. But none of it worked. I hoped it would eject the darkness that trailed me like an annoying cough, but it only threw me in deeper. I felt shame every time a sun salutation didn’t put me at ease. I cried when I was too scared to meditate because I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts. That fertility diet was bullshit.
None of it worked because I hated myself. I had locked my heart and thrown out the key, and what I thought I needed was to get away, not to dig in deeper. This culminated at some point shortly after my return from Los Angeles, when I convinced myself that I could not get pregnant because I was in an incompatible relationship. Aggressively, I read through astrology books and called upon mystics and asked anyone who would listen if they thought I deserved Abie, if we were really supposed to be together. The mind will take you to the depths of desperation, distort fact and eradicate truth if you let it. When you close your heart, invariably, too, you close your mind — and there is no light.
But (thank God) what would be my final tango with hormone therapy reached its own culmination and by the 4th of July, my reproductive endocrinologist confirmed that I was pregnant with twins. I spent the rest of the summer hurled over toilet seats or public garbage cans or with my head inside the plastic bags I would carry around as I navigated a hot and very smelly New York City, anticipating the 12-week scan where everything unraveled last time.
Then we got through the scan, until the next scan came, and the one after that; and I’m 22 weeks pregnant now and I can’t believe that all the energy I spent trying to run my company and my marriage and my life into the ground was a byproduct of how desperate I am to become a mother.
I thought a lot about how I would share this news and whether, frankly, I would share it at all. Here I had selfishly shunned those who announced their pregnancies, citing how it could ruin a perfectly good day or throw me into a 12-hour bed coma. When another afflicted woman would emerge on the better end — uterus full and all — I would feel betrayal. It was twisted. But now, because in some ways I have become a totem for infertility, a human talisman of despair for my comrades to lean on, I feel that I am the betrayer, and as a result, a twinge of shame and a bit of guilt and a lot of self-awareness neatly wrap my evolving pregnancy.
Mostly, though, I feel frustration because I still don’t know what to say to make it better. If you’re going through it, I still want to be here for you. I haven’t graduated from compassion. If there is anything I have learned, it is that no state of existence lasts forever. If you could remember a version of yourself who you loved, she’s still in there and sometimes recognizing that is enough. The real irony of joy is that you can’t actually know it, I mean really know it, until you’ve hit rock bottom. My road was freckled with fangs that threw me off course so many times, but perspective wants me to tell you that I don’t regret it, that I wasn’t actually thrown off course. That was my course. This is my course. I wish I had known this. I wish I could have believed Abie when he said I would be happy again. I hope that you believe me when I say you will be, too.
Photos by Edith Young.