Peanut didn’t stick around to grow into a child. Heartache came along with the fleeting joy.
We all experience grief and longing in our own way. Peanut’s brief, hopeful appearance gave Miriam and Michelle, and those of us who love them fiercely, a couple weeks of agonizing anticipation. These two special young women dreamed. They made plans, and the plans were dashed.
I remember the days of hope. For three years I went through infertility testing, temperature checking, and procedures that weren’t supposed to hurt. My husband and I timed and positioned our sex life to increase our chances. We dreamed. We planned.
My monthly cycle was never regular. Sometimes it was 26 days, other times 34. Each time Day 28 passed with no sign of blood, I was sure this time, at last, I was pregnant.
I never was. The story is much longer and more complicated, of course. I share a small piece of it now because I’m sure Miriam and Michelle are receiving a lot of misguided sympathy and bad advice.
Well-meaning friends tell heterosexual couples to relax. They tell them if they adopt a child, they’ll get pregnant. They recommend special diets, particular exercises, and counseling. Everyone is friend of a friend who went off caffeine and alcohol, took mineral supplements and warm baths, and got pregnant. They gush over junior’s first steps or proudly announce they are pregnant for the fourth time and then shoot pitying glances your way.
None of it helps.
I don’t know what bad advice people offer same-sex couples who are trying to conceive. Their journey to parenthood is perilous and misunderstood. I do know they have the same deep yearnings to bring new life into the world, the same willingness to try their best to be good parents.
I do know the one thing that helped during the years I was trying to conceive, the one thing that helps now, when conversations turn to grandparenting. What helped was open-hearted listening. Not pity. Not advice. Not judgment. Just listening.
How rare that is.
Farewell, Peanut, and thank you.
Cathryn Wellner, 2010
[To see more of Abby Lane’s extraordinary photography, click here.]