By Kathleen O’Grady
For more than eighteen years of my sexually active life, I did everything possible to keep from getting pregnant. I took the birth control pill from age seventeen to thirty-two; I made my sexual partners use condoms; I even abstained from penetrative sex from time to time when I thought I might be particularly fertile, substituting lesser, though no less pleasurable, means of sexual gratification. And I had a lot of sex.
It made sense then, all of that messing around. It bonded me to my partners in serious, intimate relationships. It helped me to explore and discover my own body and my own pleasures. It helped me become a confident adult who knows what she likes and does not like, and is not afraid to say so. I learned my borders and respected the borders and boundaries of others.
But I also knew, even in the heady days of experimentation, that eventually all of this sexual activity would lead to a life. That the intimate mixing and mingling of bodily fluids would one day create a new living being, and that my sensuality, and that of my partner, would be forever embodied in another person.
Now, in my late thirties, I feel ready. I have found a man I respect, admire and love, and who feels the same way about me, and together, we want to build a loving and caring family.
But nature, as we’ve found out, does not work on our time clock. For several years now we have been trying to conceive, and every month, as the end of my cycle approaches, I wait with great anticipation, and then deep sadness, as my period comes.
All of those years of lovemaking have come to this: an empty stillness in my body where I had hoped one day a baby might be.
I had read all of the statistics, that one in five couples now have difficulty conceiving, that pregnancy gets exponentially more difficult to achieve as you enter your mid-thirties. But somehow I never thought I’d be one of those numbers. Somehow, I thought when I was ready, my body would be too.
There is no comfort in knowing others are going through what you are experiencing. Their pain does not alleviate mine. Their sadness is not my own, and does not ameliorate what I’m feeling.
My husband has done all of the tests. He’s fine, and I’m happy about that. That’s one hurdle down. Now it’s my turn to be poked and prodded, and mused over. I’ve already had half a dozen blood tests and an ultrasound, with other tests to come. The wait is interminable, literally: I had to wait nine full months, a life in itself, to get the specialist appointment, and another few months to do the tests.
It all seems so difficult now, somehow. Pregnancy was not supposed to happen like this – with the cold medical hands of specialists leading me through an intricate web of possible bodily malfunctions. But through a spontaneous moment of grace, a sacred orgasmic moment when one plus one makes three.
We’ve now had to face that we may never have a child of our own flesh and blood. At first, this was devastating and we both cried buckets of anxious tears over what we should and should not do, and what we should have and could have done.
But now, at last, we’ve reached a kind of peace, a fateful acceptance that what life holds for both of us is a surprise, and not to happen according to our will and wants. It is what people who’ve experienced the death of a loved one know and learn intimately – that the biggest things in life are not in our control.
This is not a fatalistic capitulation to anything that happens, but a profoundly human response to the sacrality of life – that it is larger than anything we can master. This curiously religious response feels awkward for me, an agnostic with a deep suspicion of faith talk. But life, like death, makes me wonder at the bigness of it all, and how little, despite our childlike playing with reproductive technologies, we really comprehend.
So we will keep on our journey, practicing, through the intimacies of lovemaking, to make a life, and hope that one day it may happen for us too. And we will explore the possibilities of adoption. And work hard to create a strong, loving extended family of friends and relatives.
We wanted to build a family, to love and nourish, and that’s just what we plan to do.