"I'm sorry, your test came back negative. We will try again next month."
I got tired of hearing that same line and I'm willing to bet my physician was tired of repeating it. I no longer looked hurt or frustrated. The tears had dried up after the first 6 months of this. I just sat there, staring in the direction of my physician, numb and trying my best to suppress the urge to reach in, rip out my dysfunctional ovaries, and cuss them out.
"Are you okay?" my OBGYN asked me in her French accent. She was a middle-aged woman from Senegal and though I used to enjoy hearing her talk to me in her heavy accent, right now it sounded liked nails on a chalkboard. She'd come to know me very well and had gotten used to my different facial expressions. The concern on her face meant my face was projecting my current thoughts.
"I'm fine," I said curtly, looking now at the beige ceiling. I was still laid back on the table unable to move. With every negative test result it seemed my body got heavier from disappointment. Then I looked down at my left hand that was ironically laid over my baron midsection and that's when it hit me again. The 2-karat diamond wedding ring was a reminder that I had to give yet another disappointing report to my husband. I wondered if I should save us both the grief of looking at each other and send a text instead. Either way, I was over this shit.
"We knew this was going to be challenging," my doctor started. "I know you have been trying again for almost a year but I'm not ready to give up. I don't want you to either. Continue to take the Clomid and track your cycles the way we discussed. Based on your journal..."
And that was where I mentally checked out.
I didn't feel like reviewing my journal on how many times I've had scheduled, unsatisfying sex with my husband. Or how many days these hormone drugs made me insane or nauseous. And lest we not forget about how many days I bled and the unbearable cramps. If she liked, I could call her when my monthly dam broke and she could come by and see how large my clots were. I bet after one day she'd tell me to adopt and schedule me for a hysterectomy.
When I looked back in her direction, I realized she had stopped talking. Apparently she'd gotten the hint. Her sympathetic eyes looked into my frustrated gaze and she nodded her head and backed away from the exam table. She picked up her laptop from the edge of the sink that was right behind her and started charting as I began to sit up. Instead of getting off of the table I just sat there, letting my legs lightly swing from side to side. I began looking around the room as if this was my first visit. I noticed how the once radiant beige gloss paint seemed dull to me now. How the picture of the reproductive system hanging on the wall near the door seemed aged and not accurate, at least not when it came to me. I eyeballed the Mom-To-Be pamphlets by the sink, next to the hand sanitizer, and came to terms with the fact that the reading material would never be offered to me. The two green cloth chairs and black stool that my doctor occupied right across from me were new but not cute.
I realized how much I'd changed since I started this journey. It was seven years ago, after our third year of marriage and several attempts of not conceiving naturally, that I finally accepted that something was wrong and sought help. The first doctor told me my periods were not normal and the only way to correct the issue is to be placed on birth control. Sounds odd when you're trying to become pregnant, but I went along with it because I went to school for business, not medicine. After several months, I stopped taking the birth control and my body started to defy me again. Doctor number two then insulted my intelligence and said my size was the issue. Granted, I was fifty pounds past where I should have been, but I was confident that my love for fried chicken and chocolate chip cookies were not my infertility problem. I had seen some women who were twice my size get pregnant and have healthy babies. So, when he asked me about scheduling a follow up appointment, I told him I'd think about it after I lost my fifty pounds and nicely walked out of his office.
Finding the right doctor and the real answer to my problem took a toll on my relationships, especially between my husband and me. What was once a hot and heavy romance had become suddenly stale. He couldn't stand seeing me depressed after each negative pregnancy test. I used to allow him to cheer me up and get my mind off not being able to start a family, but by year five all I wanted to do was stay in the house. Going out had become a joke. I restricted myself to work, grocery shopping, and home.
Getting pregnant had become my number one priority while my marriage had started to fall apart. It amazed me that practicing to make a baby was not as sexy as it sounded. I used to see my husband get ready for work in the mornings and jump his bones. At night, I longed to be near him, smell his scent, and connect like it was our first time. Now sex was a chore. We could only do it this week, at this time, during this temperature, no matter if we rarely talked anymore. Who cares if I hadn’t kissed my husband passionately in years? Did I even know how his day went at work? All that concerned me was that his male organ needed to be ready when I was ovulating. We used to joke about my ovulation time and sing R. Kelly's Seems Like You're Ready. We made it fun then. Now, there were no spoken words.
Thinking about it sitting in this small room, I had become a negligent wife but I was too hurt to admit it. I came off as a bitch but the truth was I couldn't understand how he could love me when I'd failed him by not being able to give him a family. I was supposed to be his everything, and I couldn't give him the one thing he wanted and deserved. I now understood why he found it easy to spend so much time "working" or “with friends" to stay away from my miserable ass.
I also isolated myself from my friends. I was the only one left without children. When I was in my twenties, it seemed my friends were getting pregnant every five minutes. I was dating my then boyfriend and having fun. I always thought having kids in my thirties would be the best time and laughed at my friends for starting families so early. When I got married in my thirties and started to wonder when it was going to happen for me, I began to envy my friends. The invitations to their kids' birthday parties and graduations bothered me, but I could conceal it behind my fake smile. It was the new pregnancy announcements that tore my heart out. And as much as I wished I could be happy for them, I couldn't. These women were not struggling like me, and they questioned getting pregnant after already having two or three kids. Why them, they would complain. They were done having babies, and they couldn't believe they had to do it all over again. I would listen, laugh when I thought I should, and wait for them to change the subject. They would never understand how many nights I would cry, ugly cry face and all, wishing I could be in their position. To have a house full of kids to get ready for school, prepare dinner, participate in after school activities, and get frustrated at bed time when they wanted to stay up. Or when the holidays came around, to overspend on gifts in order to see those smiling faces on Christmas morning with a living room full of wrapping paper and gifts strewn everywhere. They could never fathom the burden that I carried, knowing I can't just look to my husband and say, "Let's try for another one because it was so easy the last time."
Some of my friends didn't rub it in my face that we didn’t have kids. They would always involve my husband and I with their families and even let us babysit from time to time. But the more intense my baby fever grew, the less time I would spend with them. I even stopped hanging around women who were pregnant and wanted to make sure you knew about it. You know the kind, every time you turned around they had their hands cupped around their stomachs or stating every five minutes their baby was actively moving. "Bitch, I'll never know that feeling so please stop telling me" was what I wanted to say, but instead I would blink the tears back and give the fake, "Awwww, that's so cute" statement. People thought I was just too busy or I didn’t want to be bothered, so they stopped asking me to hang out. When my girlfriends did call, I didn't answer the phone. If they texted, it would be days before I sent a response. I deactivated my social media accounts so I wouldn't be tempted to see what activities I was missing out on. The truth was, I missed them but we didn't have anything in common anymore.
I think it was when I stopped attending church that my husband knew my bitterness had taken me to an all-time low. We didn't attend church service every Sunday, but we attended often. We were there enough for people to recognize us, but we didn't get involved in too many activities. But a few years ago, I got so angry that I just stopped going completely. My husband asked me why I stopped attending and I couldn't really explain it. It felt wrong for me to question how God could bless a fourteen-year-old girl with a baby she couldn't care for when I'm over here ready, willing, and able. How could He breathe on the wombs of women who couldn’t care less about the beautiful angels they gave birth to while my heart full of love was connected to an empty void? How could I go to church and worship when I was comfortable being full of contempt? When I wouldn't answer my husband, he thought it was time for me to seek help and talk with a professional. I recommended he go to hell. He never brought it back up again.
I took some time off from trying to get pregnant. I gave my body a break from the hormones and allowed myself to just exist. My husband and I were living practically like roommates. I switched to a position at work that allowed me to work from home so I wouldn't have to face my peers every day. I stopped attending family functions because I got tired of the "when are you going to finally have some babies" question. After I refused to answer, I was then told I had an attitude problem. Nothing like family to make you feel lower than you already were.
Then one day I realized I was a year away from being introduced to the 40 and over club, and I thought this would be my last attempt at having a baby. Surely, it would happen now, right? I started researching and I found my current physician. I was back to my routine of trying to be fruitful and multiply just to be faced with same unsuccessful results. And now here I sat, wondering what it had all been for. Why did I keep putting myself through this torture? Were the disappointments not enough? When would I accept that my marriage would have to be sufficient? Did I still even have a marriage? Would I be able to find who I was again? Would God forgive me for being angry with Him and doubting whatever plan He had for me? I dropped my head and inhaled deeply, knowing I had to answer those questions a lot sooner rather than later.
My physician looked in my direction as if she sensed my conclusion and got up from her seat. When she stood up, I noticed a small bulge around her stomach area underneath her white coat. I smiled a little, silently thanking her for not bragging about it, but hurt that she felt she couldn't share her news. She turned her back briefly to me, placing the stool underneath the sink, and I simply said, "Congratulations." She absentmindedly touched her stomach and turned back around to me with a huge smile. She nodded her head, said thank you, and assured me I would be in her shoes soon enough. She reminded me to stop by the nurse's station to pick up my prescription and exited the room allowing me to get dressed. I took my time putting my clothes on and taking in the room as if to capture every detail. It would be awhile before I would be back again, and I had to be okay with that. It felt like the end of a one-sided relationship, where I gave it my all but received nothing in return. The few tears that I allowed to streak down my face got wiped away with the back of my hand. It was time for me to be done with this fantasy though it hurt like hell. I grabbed my purse and headed out of the room door.
The office was a little busy, but that was normal for a Monday morning. Front office staff were checking people in and out while nurses were escorting patients to their exam rooms. I spotted my doctor talking to the office manager in the opposite direction of the exit, close to her office. This was a small reminder that life did not stop just because I placed myself on pause. I bypassed the nurse's station and went to the registration desk to pay my co-pay. She asked me what date and time I wanted to come back the following month, and I told her I wasn't planning on coming back until my next annual checkup. She looked at me surprised and asked about the prescription the doctor gave to the nurse for me. I told her I no longer needed it. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she couldn't. I had already made my way through the lobby and out of the exit door, towards my car.