I was thinking this morning about the transition between TTASP and choosing to live child free. You all know the “Infertility Island” metaphor right? To recap, there’s a ferry that runs between Infertility Island and the mainland, call it Motherworld. And the ferry comes, but you never know when your ticket is going to be called. You wait and wait and hope and wave goodbye to your friends and wish them well and simultaneously feel miserable that you’re not going with them.
Then one day, for whatever reason, you realize that you simply CANNOT stay one more day on the Island. Could be that you’re going crazy, could be that your spouse forces your hand, could be that you run out of funds, could be … any number of reasons. But you can’t stay. And you still can’t go to the mainland cause you don’t have a ticket for the ferry. So you jump in the water and let the current carry you where it will. And pretty soon, you wash up on another island downstream. There’s a great big jungle on the side of this island that faces infertility island that’s deep, and dark, and foreboding, and hides all the villages. But once you hack your way through the jungle, you realize that there’s a gorgeous beach and friendly neighbors with lots of tequila to share on the other side.
The ferry doesn’t come to this island (well, occasionally it’ll show up without any warning, but it’s a complete surprise because no one here expects it). For the first few months after you wash up on the island, you force your way back through the jungle to watch the ferry travel back and forth between Infertility Island and the mainland. It’s sad, it’s painful to watch the ferry and know that you might have been a passenger, that your ticket might have been called this month. But after the first month or two, you get settled into your new routine and you realize how much WORK it is to trek through the jungle to watch the ferry arrive. So you delete the arrival date from your calendar, you try to find something to keep you busy on the day the ferry arrives. You still know it’s there, but you make a conscious decision not to keep watch for it anymore. More time passes, and one day you realize that you really don’t know when the ferry schedule is anymore. And the absence of that knowledge is an absence of pain. Sometimes you’ll think about the ferry, or catch a glimpse of it as it travels over the water, and you remember. Some days the memory is sharp and it cuts like glass and leaves you bleeding. Some days the memory is a fleeting ghost that you catch out of the corner of your eye and then it’s gone. But the vast majority of your time is spent doing things other than thinking about the ferry. More time passes, and memories grower paler and the pain grows duller and then one day you wake up and it hits you: you are happy. Not just faking it, not just the absence of pain, but true and real joy in the life you have instead of longing for a life that might have been. And that is a wonderful day.
Y’all know me, I find my words so often in the mouths of other writers. And I love me some Fight Club, so I’ll paraphrase here: …first you have to give up. First, you have to know, not fear, know that someday you are going to die. Only after you’ve lost everything, are you free to do anything. And then, once you’ve hit bottom, you start deciding what you are going to do with your freedom. I think that part of the reason that there are so few women who keep blogging about unresolved infertility is that they are either a) in the stage where they are deliberately trying to NOT think about the ferry or b) busy living the rest of their life. I’m a big believer in perspective and have been accused of observing situations instead of participating in them. And choosing to step off of the ART train, choosing follow a different path, requires a big ol’ dose of perspective. It takes a true and wholehearted belief that there is a life for yourself that does not include children, that you can be happy, that time will heal emotional wounds, that eventually you too will be free of jealousy and anger and bitterness. But it takes a choice to start that process, to embrace that belief, to stop watching for the ferry, to walk away. And that’s a hard motherfucking choice to make. But once you make it, once you start walking that path, it gets easier with every step you take away from the beach.