Naked except for a paper-thin gown, I sit in a room like so many others that have stripped me of my identity. Cold. Sterile. White walls. White floor. White noise. Paper crinkles beneath me as I shiver and wait for the impersonal touch of a doctor’s hands, the chill of instruments.
I have been here so many times before.
I close my eyes, pretend I’m not here as I wait alone. My husband long ago ran out of vacation days, sick days, the opportunity to attend every appointment. It’s been almost a decade of blood tests to check hormone levels, ultrasounds for ovarian cysts, surgeries to excise endometriosis in the hope of making my body worthy of a baby. I know exactly what to expect as I anticipate being touched in places that no longer seem sacred.
When the exam is complete, the doctor sends me down the hall, the poking and prodding almost through. The lab is warm and bright, the tang of rubbing alcohol and rubber gloves in the air. I extend my left arm for a cheery nurse who prepares to stick me with a needle.
At home I medicate myself with frivolous errands, pointless television shows, baking more than we can possibly eat as I wait for results. My husband joins me at the doctor’s office days later, days that feel like weeks, like months. The doctor says my FSH level is too high. He casually mentions Premature Ovarian Decline, early menopause perhaps.
I am barely thirty-two. Donor eggs are suggested. It’s not an option we consider. The doctor gives us the brush-off. We no longer interest him, this man who calls himself a healer. Though the news of my body’s failure doesn’t surprise me, it still somehow shatters me. After years of trying, hoping, doubting, I have my answer.
We stand stunned, wait to be discharged, as I fight back overwhelming emotion. Reaching the car, sobs overtake me and I say, “It’s all my fault,” though I know it isn’t. My body and my disease are beyond my control.
Yet I still wonder if only I had not eaten the chocolate I craved, had tolerated prescribed medications, lived in a home free of all questionable chemicals, could I somehow have made myself whole?
Nine long months pass. There is no baby. I take a writing class, pick up my camera, contemplate a childfree life, something I can hardly bear to do. We talk and talk about adoption. I discover parts of me that need to, want to be fulfilled, in addition to my longing for motherhood. So much of my life is not in my hands, but I slowly begin to accept that I do have new dreams even when I don’t yet know how to let go of old ones.
In recognizing this, I find myself naked again, shedding my old skin. This nakedness is new and different, an opening up of myself I thought not possible. I no longer know what to expect and it is frightening, exhilarating, awakening me. I haven’t been here before.
A few of the hats Cheryl Boyer wears include being a wife, adoptive mom, sometimes foster mom, writer, and shutterbug. She is the author of Counting Colors: a journey through infertility. Her fuel is chocolate and her joy is the capture of an image, verbal or visual, that resonates or intrigues.