The last birthday I skipped was when I turned 6. I was in the hospital, having my second surgery for a ruptured appendix, and the nurses asked me if I wanted to wear a badge that said, “Birthday Girl.”
“Today’s not my birthday,” I said.
“It is!” they said. “You’re turning 6!”
“It’s not my birthday, because I’m in the hospital.” My birthday obviously couldn’t be in the hospital. My birthday was at home, where things didn’t smell like disinfectant and things that needed disinfecting.
That’s how I feel this year. It’s not my birthday, because I’m about to turn 41 years old, and I’m not a mother. We spent the better part of two years and thousands of dollars to try to become parents, and it hasn’t worked. Three years from now, even the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (pinko land of my birth) will acknowledge that I’m too old to keep trying.
I’ve been thinking of giving up. People who haven’t gone through fertility treatment might see that “I” and wonder where my husband is in all this. He’s resigned, mostly, but supportive of whatever I decide. Which also unfortunately means that I have to decide something.
I’d be crazy not to think about quitting, at this point. But I can’t quite pull the trigger. I’ve been doing acupuncture lately, hoping to get my kidney yin in order (apparently). People tell me they’ve had miracles through acupuncture, but it’s hard not to feel like a fool while I lie there on my lounge chair, crying quietly so I don’t disturb the other clients.
I think I always knew I wouldn’t be able to have a baby. When I think about being pregnant, it feels like an impossibility, as if I were a man or already post-menopausal. I can’t really picture it happening. But then, I can’t really picture a headache going away when I take an ibuprofen, so it’s possible that I’m not super strong on cause and effect.
The worst part of all of this is that I know it will never really go away. My shrink told me that this kind of grief is like losing a person you loved very much. At first, you think you’ll never laugh again. About two weeks later, you laugh about something stupid and feel guilty about it. In short, you get used to it.
On a long enough timeline, I know I’ll get acclimated to the grief. I’ll be able to carry it around so that other people never even notice. But it will always be with me.
For now, I’m still here, waiting, figuring out if I’m still trying or if it’s time to move on. If I’m still trying, 41 is a hard age. If I’m not trying, I have to figure out what to do with the portion of the next 20 to 40 years I was going to spend parenting. Frankly, it’s kind of exhausting.
Either way, I don’t feel much like cake.
Image: Paul Downey/Flickr