Today we have a guest post from Robin Silbergleid. Thanks, Robin, for blogging for us this week! Robin is teaching a writing workshop, Women Write the Body, for us on June 14th in East Lansing, MI. Here’s a link to the workshop details. Please consider joining us!
Living and Writing in the Aftermath
By Robin Silbergleid
This is how it goes. I’m at a school function for my eleven-year-old daughter. The auditorium clamors with families. A woman rushes by, tugging a toddler’s hand, an infant in a front carrier. On the stage, a teacher is visibly pregnant. My son, age three, draws a picture, asks when the show, which hasn’t started yet, is going to be over. Behind us, a baby fusses.
And somehow, I’m mentally spinning, back to the April four years ago when it looked certain that I would miscarry yet again.
It’s such an odd mix of emotions that hits me at these times: gratitude for having the children I do, and that old longing and fear. I won’t have another child. Won’t experience pregnancy again, the thrill of two pink lines on a home test, the faint rustle of a fetus at ten weeks.
I kiss the top of my son’s head. Watch my daughter rush past, holding a flag that says Texas, the state of her birth, so quickly I can’t snap a picture to preserve the moment.
I didn’t set out to make a career writing about infertility and pregnancy loss. But, as I’ve said in other contexts, I began my professional life the same time I started the journey (oh so innocently!) toward single motherhood via anonymous sperm donation. And I was so profoundly changed by those long months of blood draws, ultrasounds, and injections that for a long time I couldn’t write about anything else.
To borrow a phrase from poet Carolyn Forche, we all live in the aftermath of what has happened to us.
It’s been four years since I walked out of the clinic with a gritty ultrasound photo and a hug from my doctor. I am, all things considered, a “success” story. I have the second child I so desperately wanted. He’s now a chatty three-year-old obsessed with Elsa from Frozen, equally happy to wear blue fingernail polish or dig for worms on the playground.
And, to be fair, most of the time I’m so busy with the work of parenting and exhausted from chronic sleep deprivation that I don’t have much time to think about the failings of my ovaries or the uterus my ob/gyn described as ‘hostile’.
But all it takes is a certain song on the radio, or driving down I-96, or finding an alcohol wipe in my backpack, or heaven forbid a letter from the clinic, and I’m there. What if I’d started trying a few months earlier? What if I’d done IVF at a different clinic? What if I’d chosen to transfer one and not two? What if I’d waited one more month? What if.
It’s not so raw anymore, the way it was in those hormone-addled days of high risk pregnancy, breastfeeding, and new motherhood. But, as writer Melissa Ford has so rightly said, resolving childlessness is not the same as resolving infertility. And there’s no question: infertility has been a defining experience my adult life, both personally and professionally. I see it every time I look at my son, with the blue eyes and light hair he clearly did not inherit from me.
Writing has offered me a way to process those experiences, in all their complexity. My writing about infertility has gone from unprocessed scribbles written in a waiting room to poems with diagnostic codes, rants and thank yous. I’ve written now a memoir and a full-length collection of poems about infertility and loss, on top of numerous shorter essays. And while I do not think that writing is in and of itself therapeutic, over the long run writing has provided me with the language and narrative to make sense of what I’ve experienced, to reframe it and work through it. Beyond that, sharing my story, and reading and listening to the stories of other women with similar experiences, has led to enduring connections and relationships. We are reclaiming our bodies and our selves, one word at a time.
Robin Silbergleid is the author of the memoir Texas Girl and the chapbooks Pas de Deux and Frida Kahlo, My Sister. Her collection of about infertility treatment The Baby Book is forthcoming in November 2015 by CavanKerry Press. She lives, writes, teaches, and mothers in East Lansing, Michigan. You can find her online on Twitter @RSilbergleid or at robinsilbergleid.com.