Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Road to Motherhood Can Rock Your Soul (PART ONE)

By Rose Ross

All I have to do is glance at my children today -- the way my daughter's straight dark hair falls to her shoulders, the way my son laughs, a real deep belly laugh -- and I realize it was all worth it. As tortuous as the road to children was for me and my husband, if I had to do it all over again, I would not hesitate a millisecond.

It was the summer of 1980 when we decided to start a family. In the beginning it was all so romantic: weeks and weeks of love making accompanied by candles and wine. But when weeks turned into months and I still wasn't pregnant, we began to wonder. We had several discussions assuring ourselves that everything was all right but decided --just in case-- that I should visit my gynecologist. I took all the tests offered and was given an all clear.

Next was my husbands turn. He willingly had his sperm count tested and was found that he was a giant among men. "Oh, yes, Mr. Stern, you will be able to have many children", the doctor said. Luckily my husband knew better than to boast and insured me that we were going to have our baby. We just needed to be patient. However, patience was never my strong point.

Each night unable to sleep, I retraced the steps of my past, trying to remember if there was anything I had done that could have been responsible for my not being able to conceive. And then it hit me! It had to have been the glorious years of the sixties and seventies when, Hendrix, Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Dylan, Woodstock, free love, LSD, came on to the scene and changed my life as it did many others. I had been right in the thick of it and loved every second of it. It had been an amazing ride. And now, I was paying for it. I became convinced that it was all my fault!

The experience of infertility is pure agony. The sudden envy and dislike that I experienced every time I saw a baby, child, or a pregnant mother, poisoned my mind and body for almost a year. Something as simple as looking at a magazine ad showing a perfect smiling, baby would make me reach for a bottle of Valium, a pack of cigarettes, or a fifth of vodka, and sometimes all three. And pity the person that out of pure kindness or concern asked me how I felt.

I went through months of finding the right specialist . . . and then when I did, I walked into a office where twenty other women sat, looking as miserable as me. The only hope I had during my visits with " The Miracle Worker," that’s what the gossip columnists called him, was, that every once in a while, a woman would walk out of the examining room with a euphoric smile on her face and you knew that she had hit the jackpot. She was pregnant! I and the others in the waiting room would look at her in awe hoping that we would be next. Before any of us could congratulate her, the new expectant mother would run out of the office for fear if we wished her good luck it might be a bad omen. So we sat there, each in our own thoughts feeling hopeful but also jealous.

The worst part of that year was the process of having to calculate the moment of ovulation. After the first few weeks I gave up on any lengthy foreplay. The hot and heavy passion my husband and I had always enjoyed, was now equivalent to a warm glass of milk. On the days that I was ready to ovulate, we would warm up as if we were going to the gym. Once we were relaxed, we would position our selves in various gymnastic poses which normally would have been thought of as erotic, but this was pure business.

After the deed was done, I would do my headstand, get a headache, pray that sperm would meet egg and wham, I would be pregnant. I also prayed forgiveness for all my sins and promised that I would be the best mother in the entire world and if I were to win the lottery, I would give it all away to all the starving children in the world. But, after a few minutes, my legs would start to get wobbly and with the help of my husband , I would slowly ease my self down. Exhausted, I would just lie down and fall asleep, while my husband went into the other room and watched TV. Most nights I would wonder why he was still with me.

Then there were the jars of semen that we had to bring in during ovulation. One time, I carelessly threw out my Gerber baby jar the night before. The next morning I handed my husband a 16-ounce Hellman Mayonnaise jar. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind. " I can’t fill that jar" he said, "I am not an elephant!" I tried to explain to him that no one expected him to. I just needed him to give me his best shot. After all, remember what the first doctor said, " A giant among men".

Not convinced, he sat on the edge of our bed and sulked. "This is not a big deal, it’s just a jar." I said. My husband looked at me with exasperation and walked into the bathroom, muttering to himself. After that day I bought a case of Baby Gerber jars.

After one more year of failing to conceive, I decided that I could no longer go on this way. I had become a total self involved, depressed bitch. I was afraid of ruining my marriage and losing my friends. My husbands constant support and patient behavior only annoyed me. I was miserable.In the past my husband and I talked about adoption, but I was no longer interested. What I wanted was time to figure out how I was going to define my role in life. If, I wasn’t going to be a mother, what was I going to become? How would I fill my life? How would I make a difference? I had assumed that I could have it all, husband, career and motherhood. Maybe it was not meant to be. I called my doctor's office and told them that I would not be back.

Writer Rose Ross lives in Old Chatham, New York and is writing her first stage play. Stay tuned for PART TWO OF her essay on infertility.

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