Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
Each and every day, I sit here in silence nursing my fractured heart. I am not writing to you because I want your sympathy or your pity. I simply want your understanding, not only for myself, but for all of the others who nurse their fractures each and every day – often in complete silence.
Their fractures, your fractures, don’t have to be like mine, we all have them. It could be about money, education, even having a home to call your own. It could be about having or not having a parter, the ability to travel – anything that you might think is harmless, may only be harmless for you, and not others.
We talk about reflecting and being reflective practitioners. We talk about nurturing empathy. I ask you to reflect upon these words and extend empathy to your colleagues. Think about what you say, how you say it, and to whom you say it. I am opening up my wound. I am talking to you about what I struggle the most with right this moment in my life. Pregnancy. Babies. Children. Ironic considering this is my career. I can care for the children and do my role without much issue. It’s the staffing conversations and complaints and chatter and gossiping that cuts me.
When you talk about your pregnancy, and how much you resent the morning sickness, indigestion and the tightness of your clothing – remember that you may be talking to someone who has had multiple failed IVF attempts, or even a miscarriage. I would give everything up to have what you have right now. I wasn’t blessed early enough with a relationship consistently stable enough to facilitate a family of my own. I’m now in a position where I can try to create a family, and we are trying. We have been trying. Naturally and with assistance. IVF carves out your finances in such a big way and it shatters your soul each and every time you go through the cycle of hormones, surgery, excruciating abdominal pain, the hope and failure. Failure. Fracture. Heartbreak. Debt.
You are hyper aware of your body and any symptoms. All your parts work in theory. They passed all the required invasive and sometimes demoralizing tests. You are, according to test results, fertile and capable. But in reality you are living a different story.
You have blood tests and scans before you start work. You inject yourself at night with powerful hormones. They affect how you feel both physically, psychologically, emotionally. When I started this IVF process, I did it as a single woman. And I cannot tell you how lonely this path is. It is the loneliest of the lonelies. You medicate alone. You wait alone. You inject alone. You go into surgery alone. You wake up alone and look for the dreaded tape upon your hand with a number written upon it. The number of the eggs they might have collected. For my first time around it was 11. I thought that was a beautiful number. I’ve always liked 11. Until I found out that only 4 of them were viable. Four fertlised, but only two divided well. Then two died. Then the other two. Dead. Done. Dusted. Donated to train students so that they might have the skills to help someone else. It is the least I could do. You can’t nurse a cluster of cells in your arms.
My second time around, nine with eight viable, four fertilized. One grew beautifully. One strong embyo. I lay on that table and I looked up at the screen of the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. My embryo. Placed inside me. Wishing. Hoping. Praying for it to become implanted. Then the phone calls to tell you how your other three embryos are growing, dividing, dying, dead. So your hopes are pinned on the most beautiful cluster of cells you’ve ever seen, and then unseen. Then the weeks of waiting. The weeks of injecting blood thinners into your stomach because apparently that helps. Two weeks of trying not to think about it.
You go into the clinic, resigned. You offer them your veins yet again. You wait hours upon hours for the call. It didn’t take. But you knew that in your heart of hearts. Friends say in what they hope will be a supportive way – “be positive” or “it will happen when its meant to happen.” I’m sorry, I know you’re trying, but fuck off.
You cannot discuss it at work because you don’t want any pity. You don’t want people to look at you in a different light. The people who do know, you can see their sadness for you in their eyes. And it cuts you deeply. You don’t want invasive questions being routinely asking you “Did it work?” “Well, how’s it going?” and later when you tell them that it wasn’t successful … “When are you trying again?” As if it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s especially not easy when you do it by yourself.
Waiting. Waiting to save all over again for another round of hopeful misery. And in that time that mean-time, you chart your cycle. You collect symptoms and signs and try to create a life to add to your life. Each month trying, and waiting. Collecting your pennies to hand over just in case nature wasn’t on your side … for another cycle. Yet another cycle.
I pull myself together and I chat to children and parents. I answer the questions of “Do you have children?” from parents who are getting to know me, and “Where’s your baby?” from young children who assume that adults of the female persuasion are mums as well. I am the one told when parents become pregnant because they need to have their not-yet-born placed on our extensive waiting list. As I smile and pass on my congratulations, my heart fractures a tiny bit more. Little by little.
Why can’t you be happy for them? You are happy for them, to a point. After that point, you remember that beautiful little bundle of cells. They looked like a cluster of bubbles sticking together. Little grey bubbles. And you know they were just cells. They were just genetic material. Your genetic material and that of your partner. They were only a hypothetical. A possibility. An aspiration. A dream. A hope. They were my everything at that moment. And then they were nothing.
So, as you complain over and over about your pregnancy in the staff room or in the hallway – remember, you have what I want. You have what many others want. Be grateful.
I haven’t chosen a pirate name as such in which to publish this, because I don’t want to put a name my pain. I am anonymous. I am me. I might be your sister, your cousin, your friend, your neighbour, your colleague. I am a collective. I am of the Pirates only to give a voice to my hurt. I have no voice otherwise.
Silent Voiceless Sister
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