Monday, November 01, 2004

A House I Don't Live In

Infertility is a house I don't live in anymore. I packed up my boxes, loaded up the truck, and drove away into the night. I should type, into the morning, but that's not true. I drove away into the night, and it took me a long time to unpack at the new place. It took a long time for the new place to feel like home, and for the sun to come up. Pregnancy and birth and my babies' infancy--they were the dark hours between one house and the next, and I spent a lot (too much) of that time feeling homeless, and lost.

For a long time, the old house--the infertility house--was still home. I moved through the rooms of the new house, the house with a pregnancy and then (even. still.) the house with our babies, but the rooms of the old house still shaped my mind. I woke to bright, harsh mornings and squinted at the world, wondering where the long, golden sunlight of my autumn afternoons had gone, the soft, familiar ticking of the clocks in that house I had known so well. I had grown accustomed to the shape of the infertility house, the familiar path from bedroom to bathroom to bare refrigerator door, and at night, in the dark of the new house, I stumbled against the walls of hallways I didn't know.

Unpacked boxes lay in heaps against the walls of my new house for months and years. They sprang open at unexpected moments, spilled out onto the corners of the dining room floor, and I could never tell whether to throw away the contents, had a hard time untangling myself from the blankets I found inside. I pulled out the photo albums, photos of sorrow and rage and self-pity, and their aura seeped out into the new house so it felt like a place I knew. I looked at those photographs, and they reminded me of myself, when the new self was a stranger who baffled me every day. I held onto those photographs like a talisman, and they kept me company in the dark.

If I dare, in the moments before sleep, I can float back to the nursery we brought our babies home to, the lawn whose shade I tracked so their infant skin wouldn't burn, the kitchen they spattered with sweet potato and tofu. We live in a new house now, the house we hope will carry us to our children's adulthood, a wonderful, light-filled, airy new house, surrounded by more grass and more trees than one family deserves, but a part of our life stayed behind in the precious walls of that old dusty house on its cramped city lot. Infertility is another house I've left behind, a house I have longed for without understanding why, a house that shaped who I was, even after I moved out.

When do memories of old homes lose their power to transport us? When does the ache of remembrance fade into the past? One of the biggest rooms in my old house, my house of infertility, was the room of my broken body. What Julie wrote, about the enormity of desire, about the grief of self-betrayal, I felt that once, I lived in that room. For how many years did I stay there? I half expect to find another one of that room's unopened boxes even now. My body remains unforgiven, and when Julie writes about eagerly embracing medical interventions, I remember: me too. Oh, yes, me too.

And looking at those photographs, going back to that room--of cerclages and wheelchairs and shower stools and fear--what I see more than anything is the grief along the edges, the angry denial of body and self that lurked under those words when they came from my mouth. I wasn't going to allow myself, not for a minute, to pretend I didn't need those interventions. I was going to embrace my modern high-tech motherhood as a badge of conquest, a medal of honor, and damn those silly home-birth mothers for not understanding, not knowing, the shape of the world as it truly was.

Grief will have its time, whether you fight it or not. There was, for me--though I denied it at the time--grief in all those machines, grief in all those technologies, loss and pain and sorrow. Some days, I look at the fading photos of those griefs, and it's as if I can walk right back into them, through the doorways of my mind. And other days, they're just photographs, and I'm glad--so glad--to live someplace else. At last.


Anonymous said...

This is beautiful writing.


Amy said...

The first time I read this, I just couldn't make my brain understand. I finally "got" it last night. I have re-read it several times. I think maybe I just wasn't at a point of even realizing I was in a new house. Thank you for writing this.

Anonymous said...

You said beautifully what I've been trying to put into words. The scars of IF are still there- even though my kids are 4 and 2. And they'll remain. But some days, its like it happened to someone else and other days, its like it just happened yesterday. But the "just happened yesterdays" are slowly receding.

I like my new house, I truly do. And I hope for neighbors, very soon.