Physicists have a theory. Alongside our universe is a parallel universe with the same components and properties as ours. There are trees, cars, people, beaches, and poodles. There are just minor shifts in the equation that sums up the reality of the parallel universe. This makes everything look just a little bit different. The people and poodles are upside down and backwards.
In my parallel universe, I imagine those small little shifts make life quite different. Upside down and backwards equals everything I long for. In a parallel universe I spend my afternoons doing carpool and homework, laundry and bath time. In a parallel universe I have a husband who I built a life with professionally, financially, and emotionally. We hear the pitter patter of little feet when we want to. We eat normal food at normal restaurants and as long as it’s my parallel universe, I am one of those women who we all hate for being so thin and leggy. In parallel-ville my partner and I face our challenges together, we are a team. We are a family.
Except as this equation plays out I am the one living upside down and backwards. After seeing 12 patients and driving an hour and a half, I sat alone in the waiting room of a leading fertility specialist. Every woman had a hovering husband prepared to do anything just to keep their wife’s mind occupied. Another couple left pregnant, yes, a wonderful event. But, alone I sat, frantically Facebooking my pilates instructor to keep my mind distracted from the building sorrow. The obvious was very apparent: on that day, at least, I would not be leaving pregnant, no one would hold my hand, no one else would bear the financial or emotional burden of any of this.
This is life in this universe. Life in this universe has me making decisions with only the doctor to discuss them with. I never imagined this life; minute by minute one life altering decision after another. I don’t know what my partner would want because I don’t even know who my partner will be. Will he care if it’s a donor egg? Would he care if the only way to salvage my eggs is donor sperm? Does he even want a child? I cannot even answer one of these questions. In this universe nothing else is in this exam room aside from the fertility specialist and a very expensive ultrasound machine. Neither of them seemed like they wanted to say anything I actually wanted to hear.
I started the process of egg freezing many years ago. I went to an OB/GYN because I gained weight. She worried I had a cyst and at 33, told me to find a very good fertility specialist. Knowing the rest of my family, she went on and on about not wanting my family’s bloodline to die with me. Egg freezing? I was in horrible pain. I was so bloated I cried getting dressed every morning. I could barely get into the car each day to get to work, let alone enjoy working. On a routine ultrasound she found a 7 cm cyst. Within months, that supposed cyst ruptured, tore my ovary in half and sparked an unrelenting quest to find, not just any surgeon, but a guru who would be able to save the ovary and what felt like my life. That quest did in fact spare my life. But, pain issues aside, egg freezing has evolved into nearly a last ditch effort to salvage what I always believed would be my connection to this universe.
I assumed life would be much like it is in the parallel universe. I’d grow up, finish school, get married, and have a family. Yet, the reality of this life is sitting in a doctor’s office alone with my soul completely ripped out of me by the truth. Having one ovary really doesn’t offer too much in fertility math. My equation for this universe has changed.
Welcome to Infertility Awareness Week.
Sentences like, “When I have kids,” or, “At my wedding”, all at once seemed like phrases that will only be uttered in a parallel universe somewhere. In this universe, I sat silently, unaccompanied; half dressed in front of a quasi-colleague with my heart and essence bruised beyond repair. I may never make peace with the absence of what everyone else takes for granted.
Another doctor casually informed me that it was my fault I don’t have a child (at an endometriosis conference, incidentally). He explained I chose to have a career and live a life instead of seriously looking for a man. It seemed as if he failed to realize I didn’t do anything to cause this disease and I didn’t even know I’d wake up to all this after surgery. I never made a choice to live with insufferable pain for most of my adult life. That pain kept me from dating, from professional opportunities, and from living fully. It’s not like I somehow chose to go into private practice instead of getting married. Even with endometriosis, I didn’t realize it was a choice, one or the other. They are actually things I should be able to do at the same time.
I want life as a team, a life as a family. Those are things that perhaps may only exist in a parallel universe. Here, where everything is upside down and backwards, I struggle to make it all add up. I take everything day by day. This is what this universe has to bring, for now.