First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes a woman struggling with a baby carriage. Although marriage in general seems to be in a rapid decline, baby-making is not. That being said, many still choose to wait until marriage to have a baby. Is this notion old fashion or outdated since childbirth outside of wedlock is no longer frowned upon by society at large? Hardly. The standard of the two-parent home is still alive and well. The thought of solidifying a home with the commitment of marriage and a baby are goals that quite a few strive to attain. But, what about when one goal is reached and not the other? Can a childless marriage, although not planned out that way, be sustained? I personally can’t see why not. I was an ‘oops-baby’ and my parents have been together since Moses crossed the Israelites through the Red Sea. If marriage can withstand surprise children, then why not the surprise of no children at all? Perhaps for the same reason that some do fall apart after a child is conceived. Self hate.
Just like Jolene, the main character in the Needle Worker’s Baby, I too struggled with infertility. This, to my knowledge, was not something that anyone else in my family had to deal with. My mother had four children, one of my aunts had ten, a cousin has five. There are no women in my family that have began having children and have less than two, unless by choice. We are, by some sort of biological default, fertile women. Or at least they are. My body was the one at the genealogical party that got the button, so to say. The only dud nut hanging of off the family tree. My husband and I began trying for a baby right after we were married and for two loathsome years, I was barren. I hated my cervix, my uterus, every single part of me that spent vital energy producing worthless eggs that refused to be fertilized. My desperation was so apparent, I took to asking women who were clearly pregnant or who had new babies in their arms, what exactly had they eaten or drank before their child’s conception. What activities had they engaged in? Mini golf, movies, the vandalizing of a city bridge? My questions even delved into the personal aspects of how they became pregnant. To my greatest thanks, once every single one of them saw that I was sincere in my questioning, they answered them sincerely.
I got to the point where I was no longer interested in my husband, with myself, and with life. Depression and self-hate had stolen all the color from my world, leaving behind useless husks in drab shades of putrefying grey. One day, my husband invited me out to his high school reunion. I had no interest whatsoever in reliving a part of the nineties I was unable to remember, with people who would inevitably look down on me because of our age difference. But Pierre insisted, stating that we needed a fun night out. Well, the night was anything but fun for me. Music I had never heard or couldn’t remember, blared as people did dances I didn’t know. Upon seeing my stillness at a table as opposed to moving about like the others on the dance floor, one of my husband’s former classmates joked, “hey P, maybe we should ask the DJ to play something your wife knows. Hey yo DJ, you got that Barney? Naw? Well how about that Sesame Street then?”
My husband told him to chill out and although everyone else was entertained by the man’s needless outburst, I was not. But, what did entertain me was the seemingly endless supply of Long Island Ice Teas my husband kept plying me with. By the sixth concoction, I didn’t care if the venue caught fire and we all burned with it. If the Barney or Sesame Street theme songs had played through the speakers, I would have gladly danced to them, pulling my husband along and daring anyone to judge me. By number seven, the world began to blur, and I lost count at eight. From the videos and pictures I’ve seen of myself of that night, I still appeared lucid and put together in my heels and black party dress as I laughed with the people who didn’t rub me the wrong way and shared one dance with Pierre. But, if you were to ask me, I remember none of that. The last image that plays in my mind from that night was looking up at the sky as my husband opened the passenger side door of our shared car. I commented on how beautiful the stars were to which my husband agreed.
In the morning, I was slightly ill but nothing I couldn’t manage and by that afternoon, I was off to work like the whole evening never happened. Then, a few months later, I started to feel tired all of the time. It didn’t matter if I had slept the entire day. The moment I opened my eyelids, I was once again drowsy. My mother gave me iron pills, stating that they should clear my fatigue right up. When that didn’t happen after a week, she very matter-of-factually said, “you’re pregnant.” Of course I didn’t believe her, being the not-so-proud owner of a useless reproductive system and all. Another week passed and I finally took two tests that confirmed what my mother had said. Excited but cautious, I went to my doctor the next day and it was confirmed. I had my fairy tale ending after two years of agonizing. But the question remains, what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten pregnant? I was already well on my way to hating myself due to my body’s inefficiency to do what I wanted, and I was starting to resent my husband as well. Would our marriage have lasted? Would I have given up on having a baby all together? Would I be typing this blog from a bungalow in Tahiti while my husband sleeps next to me, instead of from the couch as my son watches Detective Pikachu for the millionth time in a row?
Who knows. I surely don’t. What I do know is that even though I got the sweet little gift of a bundle of living love in my arms, many wanting and worthy women have not. I know what that feels like first hand. Clutching at ones sanity can feel like a rock climber hanging onto the side of a mountain for dear life. The mark of a good and successful marriage isn’t or at least shouldn’t be based on whether or not a new human life is formed because of it. Jolene did what she did in the book partly because she just wanted to do it, but also because she was beginning to lose self-worth. The people around her viewed her as worthless due to what her body couldn’t do and eventually, she seemed to resent life itself. When her heart finally broke, a little piece of her brain broke with it.