Back in West Texas for the fourth year in a row, I am reminded of the roads I’ve traveled throughout my infertility journey. The desert appears to be the perfect metaphor for infertility – barren and unforgiving terrain, and so it’s with little surprise that I’ve found myself drawn to this land time and again.
My husband and I first visited the Big Bend Getaway, an adobe rental cabin surrounded by the Chisos Mountains, after officially deciding to end all infertility treatments and pursue domestic adoption. The decision was both hopeful and heart wrenching, and we needed a space to grieve and put closure to the last five years of our lives. We needed to forgive ourselves and the universe for trying at something with such rigor – and – losing.
Forgiveness is something I discuss with various clients often, encouraging them to gift themselves this practice as a way of letting go and freeing the self of the bitterness and resentment that can silently breed. Looking back now, I realize what a hypocrite I was! Infertility planted an enormous seed of doubt in my body and its abilities, which was a stark contrast from the days as a modern dance major where I relied heavily on my body to express inner emotions and move me forward professionally. My body was something I could count on to heal me, and so I thought, to eventually conceive and birth a child if I chose.
About two years into our infertility treatments, I experienced my first miscarriage. (I plan to add a blog specifically about miscarriage in the near future because it’s a neglected topic.) The anger I felt towards my body was visceral. As a woman striving desperately to become a mother, my body failed to nourish a developing life that I fought so hard to create. I failed at the one thing I was suppose to do as a mother – protect my young. I saw my body as hostile territory, much like the desert. A few months later, I had a vivid dream where I took a butcher knife and cut out my reproductive organs in a vengeful moment. Forgiveness? No. Violence? Yes.
Luckily I never took actual revenge on my body, but my mind was another matter altogether. John Milton said, “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” That’s damn right. The lens of infertility filtered experiences for me, highlighting what I didn’t have and dismissing what I did. A hellish place to visit, my mind now entertained incessant reels of anger, resentment, blame, jealousy, and grief. The legacy of loss that encapsulated our journey could, at times, be all consuming.
Clear on the other side now, with only hints of infertility memories revisited, I raise an almost 3-year-old daughter and reflect upon my sense of forgiveness throughout those challenging years. I discovered a physical limitation about my body, and realistically, it will be the first of many, until my body fails me completely. I am not the first or the last to feel betrayed by my body. This experience teaches me a humble lesson – that the body is both strong and fragile, capable and limited.
As I set out for a brisk morning walk to take note of the rising sun, I reflect on the magnetic attraction I have to this place. As a woman who thrives on novelty, we’ve strangely returned to the same isolated rental year after year. I think it’s because the desert, which at first appears hostile and devoid of life, is actually not what it seems. If I quiet my mind and footsteps, I hear a flock of quail taking flight in the distance. And if I listen real close, I see that the desert is teaming with life. It’s a pleasant and unexpected discovery. And so is the return of forgiveness.