You never wanted kids, plural or singular. As a child, you pictured a life full of adventure, exciting careers in art, business, and everything in between. In your young mind, five years dedicated to each endeavor would be sufficient. Then you would move on to something else, something new. In fact, you didn’t even think you’d get married. Maybe you’d have a companion, someone to share the adventures with, but not a husband—never a husband.
Your parents’ marriage was proof positive that nothing good came from being a wife. In your twenties, you changed your mind. Yes, it’s a dated institution. Yes, you are an independent woman. Yes, you get a special, weird kick out of being called “Mrs”. Yes, you belong to him.
And he belongs to you. In the whole world, you have not found a place that gives you the same feeling of peace and safety that you feel when you’re with him—and you’ve really looked for that place. So you like married life; it’s not that different from regular life. Only there are tax benefits and health insurance and a pretty ring.
Years go by like seconds. You’re an adult in age alone.
You watch helpless, heartbroken, as your sister—your closest ally and confidant—goes through the tortures of infertility. And they are tortures. She is poked, prodded, tested, injected, dejected, slit open, split apart, and resilient. She goes back, time and again, looking to fulfill a dream. You cry for her, with her, knowing your words will never be enough. Thinking this will never be me. After countless obstacles and painful procedures, her dream becomes reality.
Family assumes holding your sister’s baby will change your mind. It doesn’t. You fawn over the infant’s plump pink cheeks, his adorable yawns, and wispy hair. You wait for his eyes, new and innocent, to awaken a primal need. But you feel no such need; only happiness for the woman who conjured him into being by sheer force of will.
Other women around you find and fulfill similar dreams. They join an exclusive club filled with smug smiles and phrases like: “You don’t understand; you’re not a mother.” You want to understand. You start thinking about your age. You think maybe this is my dream, too.
Then—one day, without warning—that primal need finally makes an appearance. In an unbelievable twist, that need seizes your husband at the same time. On a magnificent vacation, the two of you talk about trying. And then you try. And try. And try. Each month brings fresh disappointment—a mounting feeling of failure. You are a failure.
Against your husband’s protests, you trust doctors and seek their help. You are poked, prodded, tested, injected, dejected, slit open, split apart. You hum upbeat music to yourself while sitting naked under a sheet in a dim room, waiting for life to begin. The process breaks your spirit, breaks your heart, breaks the bank. You always trusted doctors before. Not anymore.
You struggle to keep your sanity and consequently your marriage. You feel unworthy of a child, biological or adopted. The two of you decide to stop. Stop trying, stop fighting. You decide to start. Start walking away from a dream you’re not sure can ever come true. Walking away hurts. It’s a stabbing pain that pierces your heart and insides. It surfaces at night when you’re trying to sleep. It follows you in the day, mostly in silence, until you come across happy parents with happy children. Their laughter mocking you with a vision of what you’ll never have.
Veronica Klash loves living in Las Vegas and writing in her living room. Her work has appeared in such publications as Desert Companion, Cheap Pop, Ellipsis Zine, and X-Ray Lit. You can find more about Veronica on Twitter @VeronicaKlash.