From The Under 35 Project: “Sweet Child”

Here’s the latest from The Under 35 Project, by Carol Lorton Shilor.

There I was, digging through our bathroom garbage can. Wrist deep in old toilet paper rolls and my husband’s used Q-tips. Finally, I found it. The ovulation prediction test that I had taken a week prior. I kneeled on the cold bathroom floor, trying yet again, to decipher those two pink lines. Had I not ovulated? Would I never be able to conceive a child? I hadn’t been sure of the results when I first took the test. I was even less sure now, as tears streamed down my face; making everything blurry… including my own state of mind.

This journey had started years ago, as a young girl transitioning into womanhood. Something was wrong. I spent all those years convincing myself that I didn’t want children. A feeble attempt to protect myself from the feelings of loss and inadequacy that comes from infertility. But once I got married, and realized that both my husband and I wanted the joy and responsibility of raising a child, I could hide no longer. My infertility became a mountain, and I felt completely alone to climb it.

Yes, my husband was supportive; always quick to remind me that he would be happy with just us; if it must be that way. But he didn’t ‘get it.’ He didn’t know how it felt to be the reason we would never have children. He didn’t feel broken. He didn’t feel responsible… I did.

This issue tore at my soul to the extent that it almost ended our marriage before it ever began. I knew how much my husband wanted a child, and I so desperately wanted to spare him the loss of that dream. I remember several nights in his arms, months before our wedding, crying uncontrollably; apologizing for my critical shortcoming. I would repeatedly ask, “Are you sure you want to marry me? Even with this ‘problem?’”

We pushed on and said our vows; starting a journey down a bumpy road to an unknown location. I would try to climb this mountain, while shielding my husband from how very empty it made me feel. I would go to doctor after doctor. I would get exam after exam, and medical test after medical test. I would take pills that made me feel pregnant. I would take pills that made me feel menopausal. All in an effort to produce just one egg. One magical egg that would make everything better.

And it would all lead to that fateful afternoon, alone in our apartment, clutching that test in my hands. Sobbing. Mourning. I cried there, alone, for what seemed like hours. I could hear each teardrop as it fell from my face and landed on the stark linoleum.

This was clearly a moment of despair. Of envy. Of suffering. Of self-blame. I was completely unable to give myself the compassion I bestowed upon others. But as I sat there, alone, humbled by my own desperation, I knew this was not who I wanted to be. This was not the spirit in which I wanted to bring life into the world.

I had become so consumed with the goal, and the obstacle, that I lost sight of the journey. So, I took a deep breath, and let it go. With my heart open, my body collapsed. My head felt heavy as it fell slowly; forehead pressing into the fluffy, green bathmat. I lay there like a child. Breathing in. Breathing out. The familiarity of the air conditioning humming from the vent above me, along with the smell of the shampoo that still lingered from beyond the shower curtain, told me one simple truth… I was completely in this moment.

For the first time, in a long time, I was aware. I was awake.

And I didn’t get there with one of my many malas, or in my meditation space, or while reading profound words from profound authors. I found myself at peace, in the solitude of a bathroom, kneeling by a toilet.

While struggling to create a child, I accepted that I was a child. A sometimes lost, sweet child of this world, just starting to find my bearings. A child that deserves compassion; especially from herself. The journey need not be a struggle; but instead, a series of moments. Just moments to accept. Moments to embrace.

Now, many months later, we are still trying to conceive. I still take the pills that make me feel pregnant. And the ones that make me feel menopausal. But I’m no longer pulled to dig through the trash in order to confirm, or dwell on, each test result. I’m no longer overwhelmed by the height of the mountain before me. I’ve, instead, learned to notice the majestic beauty as I climb. The desperation has dissipated into acceptance. And though I’m grateful for the spiritual awakening that occurred within the four walls of that small bathroom, my head has not touched that fluffy green bathmat ever since.

If one were to take one lesson from my story, it would be this:

Apparently, clarity can find you; wherever you happen to be.

Carol is 31 and lives in Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband. She has degrees in psychology, criminology and philosophy, and calls herself “a curious mind. A skeptic, but a hopeless romantic. A realist, but a dreamer.” Read more from her at her blog.

To see the rest of our Under 35 Project posts, click here. To read more and submit your own work, visit the project’s website.