Our last ICSI cycle was full of hope, tinged with an unpalatable dose of realism. We knew, from our previous cycle, it was unlikely to be successful but we still hoped. We still dreamed. We got one stage further in the process, and made it to egg retrieval, and as I waited in the theatre, I could feel myself getting emotional.
To calm myself down, I started singing Chasing Cars in my head. As the drugs took hold I started to hallucinate, I imagined I was in our back garden, playing with our child – I had images of us playing swings and airplanes, climbing a huge apple tree (we had bought a very small apple tree a few days earlier), running around in circles and finishing up lying on the grass beside each other. When I came around, I was very disoriented and the song was still going around in my head.
The following morning, our hopes were smashed. Like a glass bauble, they smashed into tiny pieces that exploded everywhere. They’re still turning up in the most unexpected places, hurting us. I know someday those glass pieces will reform to become a new dream, they will fuse together to become something different and beautiful. But tonight, they are pieces of broken glass.
Despite being an affirmed atheist, I used to love Christmas. Last year, I found Christmas difficult – our first ICSI cycle was cancelled and we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to start a cycle in January. I found myself muttering, for the first time, that Christmas was for children. I wasn’t having an easy time, and was beginning to realise that we might never have kids.
This year, we know we will never have kids. So, in our family, Christmas can’t be just for children. Things have been hectic for me in work recently – we had a big conference this week – so I haven’t really had much chance to think or plan for Christmas. But I realised that I had, without realising it, been wondering how to ‘reclaim Christmas’. So, I’ve decided we’re going to have a ‘sophisticated Christmas’. Of course, M. did snort with derision when I proclaimed this, pointing out our distinct lack of sophistication.
Two things that don’t go with children: candles and crystal. So, I’m busy getting candles of all variety of shape and sizes. I’ve also recently bought lovely crystal glasses, that will get their first outing on Christmas day. And we will have a lovely twinkling, flickering Christmas.
Our tree will be decorated with the decorations we’ve gathered over the years, without any ornament on top. Every year, as the youngest in the house, I’ve put whatever (its varied from year to year) on the top of the tree. We’re starting a new tradition in our home, the top of the tree will stay unadorned.
I wasn’t one of those women who grew up knowing they wanted kids. In fact I rationalised all the reasons I didn’t want kids – the world is overpopulated, I enjoy my career too much, we enjoy travelling too much, our lives are too chaotic, we couldn’t afford to. The real reason was that I felt it really important that I didn’t just wander into having a family, because that was the ‘given thing to do’. I thought that nothing was more important than a child being born where they were very much-loved and wanted, not because it was the usual thing to do. I also thought it important that if we did choose to have children, that we would be able to love and care for them with a reasonable amount of emotional and financial stability. All of this melted away once we did decide to start ‘trying for a baby’ . Once that decision had been made, nothing else really mattered. At first it was great fun and exciting – and of course we expected it would happen quickly. We laughed about those various frights over the years when we were actively making sure we didn’t become parents. We talked about how great it would be, what great parents we would make and how much we were going to enjoy it. Gradually we stopped talking about it, we quietly worried. Afraid that if we verbalised our thoughts, they would become a reality.
We were both anxious not to turn ourselves inside out, that we did not want this (without ever defining this) to take over our lives. We set ourselves limits, there was only so far we’d go. And then suddenly we were anxiously waiting to see when we could start our first ICSI cycle. And then, 6 months later, we were hearing that there was no point attempting another ICSI cycle. Within two years we’d gone from excited anticipation to numbing despair. We went from talking about how we’d be great parents, and how we’d do things differently from everyone else (and I know how arrogant that sounds!) to realising that dreams we’d never fully articulated are never going to happen.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m getting my life back on track – other times it comes out of nowhere and grabs me by the throat. Despite everything, we turned ourselves inside out in our quest to become parents. We entered into a tunnel where nothing else mattered. Nothing else was within our field of vision. Now, we’re beginning to crawl back towards the light. Blinking a bit at times, and at times wanting to run back into the cocoon of darkness. Trying to get our old lives back, while knowing we’ll never have our old lives back.