We’re at a Diwali celebration and the house is packed. Caterers in the kitchen pull lamb and garlic flatbread out of the oven, assemble crab and corn samosas, dish out chutneys and arrange pistachio and cashew cookies on a platter. Tiny girls run around barefoot, their chubby tummies poking out from their midriff-baring saris.
Our friend Josh is sitting across from me, his 6’5″ frame perched on a wooden ledge in the living room. I’m trying to get comfortable on the low, squishy couch, but at 4.5 months pregnant, my sense of balance and mobility is already shot, and I am a seal negotiating the sand. Josh looks concerned because my husband, who is sitting next to him, has just told him I’m having complications with my pregnancy.
“Some things are…um…weird in my uterus!” I shout over the din, gesturing in the air. I don’t know exactly why I phrase it this way. Maybe I’m tired of explaining it to people, maybe it seems like an odd place to have such a discussion, maybe it’s having to yell over all the merrymakers that makes me not want to bellow the words “subchorionic hemorrhage” and “placenta previa.” As soon as I speak, though, I know how lame it sounds.
“I don’t know what that means,” Josh yells back. No kidding.
My husband Joe tries to fill in the blanks while I reflect for the umpteenth time that trying to be vague about what you struggle with, what you fear–never works.
I grew up with a mother who asked me about my feelings, who wanted to know what I was afraid of, and how she could make It better. For years I told her, and she did make It better. But she never told me what she was afraid of, and despite knowing she struggled with depression, with anxiety, I never ever saw It. She wanted to protect her children from It.
I moved away from home. I made friends. I asked them to tell me about their feelings and I wanted to make It better. Sometimes I told them what I was afraid of, but usually not, and over the years, I kept my struggles to myself, and sometimes away from the family that had told me it was okay to talk about It.
You know people like this. We don’t say It because it means being vulnerable. Or risking judgment. We don’t say It because it means we might make you uncomfortable. Or worried. We don’t say It for so long that we lose the ability to say It, and It hangs around our necks like an anvil.
By the time I was two years into fertility treatments, I had had nearly two decades of practice being silent. Silent about OCD, silent about depression, and in recent years, silent about infertility. I finally became pregnant…and quickly miscarried. It was the end of being silent. Like a rubber band pulled farther and farther apart, there were only two ways to ease the tension: break the band…or let go. I let go. I let go far and wide and free. I stopped guarding the secret of infertility like an unwanted treasure. I stopped saying, maybe someday we’ll have kids; maybe when Joe doesn’t have to work such long hours; maybe when we get our student loans paid off. I said It to the people I loved, the people who wanted to be compassionate, who wanted to support me, who knew I was carrying around something big and dark and unspoken. I’m saying It now to anyone who is reading, who has been there and couldn’t say It.
It has not been a perfect coming out. People say dumb things; people clam up when you’re finally ready to talk about It. But now that we’re here, I wouldn’t go back. The pain of keeping infertility, and then miscarriage, a secret, was much worse than the experience of being open about It.
So we go forward with this second pregnancy and this time–no secrets. Joe tells Josh that I have bleeds in my uterus. The placenta is in the wrong place. We don’t know if the baby will make it; we don’t know if my health will be compromised. We hope for resolution; we hope for a full-term pregnancy. We are thankful for each day I carry the baby we’ve waited five years for. We are scared. We are optimistic.
We are saying It.