Editorial

Into the muck

Three and a half years ago I had a miscarriage and I haven’t been able to get pregnant since. At a primal level, the desire to reproduce is one of the strongest human urges. On a personal level, the desire to be a mom has been deep in my bones for as long as I can remember.

The article I’m reading lists multiple causes of grief, but the major betrayal of my body is missing from the list: infertility. It doesn’t get talked about very much, though it affects more than 10 percent of couples. It’s rarely mentioned in church. It’s taboo on Mother’s Day. Even Hallmark doesn’t profit from it. I’ve never seen an “I’m-thinking-about-you-in-this-shitty-time-of-infertility” card.

Three and a half years ago I had a miscarriage and I haven’t been able to get pregnant since. At a primal level, the desire to reproduce is one of the strongest human urges. On a personal level, the desire to be a mom has been deep in my bones for as long as I can remember. A few years ago, I found a worksheet on career options that I completed in elementary school. With my six-year-old hand, I had written, “When I grow up, I want to be a mommy.”

Our North American culture tries to convince us that we should always be looking good and smiling wide. So we avoid pain and mess. We avoid trekking into the muck – until something knocks us off our feet and we can’t stay out. And we really avoid voluntarily wading into the muck to sit with others. But mindfulness teaches that this is the way to grow. Sitting in the muck teaches us that we have much less control than we thought we did. It strips away our expectations, the ideal images that we have created of ourselves. It humbles us. If we’re paying attention, it shows us that all around us, others are hurting too. They need us – we need each other.

How can we truly support one another in our hardest times? The answer isn’t pity or avoidance or even trying to make people feel better. We need to find ways to roll up our pants and climb into the muck with the people we care about. We need to roll around in it for a while and admit that it hurts like hell. We need to find ways to say, “Hey, I know it sucks. I’m here. I’ll sit with you for a while.” If it sounds too simplistic, that is the irony. To just be with someone is a hard thing to do – and it’s very powerful. You and the one you sit with will both be changed.

My future fertility is unknown. I can tip the scales in my favour, but I cannot control the outcome. It’s infuriating and it’s true. But accepting this lack of control is not akin to hopelessness. Somehow, after being in the muck for a while, I realized I could live through it and that I was going to be okay. Sitting with the pain led me to recognize the depth of both my weakness and my strength.

Hope thrives in the raw, real truths of life. So here I sit, waiting to see what comes next, full of reality and full of hope. Infertility has been the impetus for my pilgrimage into the muck. It could have been something else. It likely will be something else at another time in my life. But right now, this is my beast.

Tanya Hoover is fascinated by synapses in the brain that are strengthened through patterns of relating. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Issue 18

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 18, Summer 2010, The Body Issue.

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Issue 18, Summer 2010

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