A girl grows up dreaming of meeting the perfect partner, getting married, having children. At least in the 1970s when I was born, that is what little girls dreamt of. My husband and I met, fell in love, got married, got pregnant. We were thrilled! Total bliss. That sacred circle of becoming a woman in my mind was now everything I had imagined it to be. I was crossing the threshold.
Then I woke up on a Saturday morning bleeding. Our naive and wonderful world crashed in around us. We called the OB. He sent us to a lab to have my blood drawn for a hormone level. The level was low but needed to be checked again the following day. It could be nothing he said, we just have to wait and see. This began an extremely long 24 hours of waiting.
It just so happens that I was also to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding that day. I got ready after we got home from the lab. I put on my dress, numb and in a fog. I walked down the aisle and stayed for a picture or two. Then we ran back home to hide away from the world. We needed to just hold one another and hope against hope.
The next day, my blood level dropped and it was official, we were losing our baby. Our first miscarriage. I was bleeding and grieving. I was confused more than anything. Why was this happening? I thought I had done everything according to the grand plan.
I hated my body. I felt betrayed by my body. The inability to either get pregnant or stay pregnant left me feeling somehow on the outside of that ephemeral sacred universal circle of women. Why couldn’t my body do what all other women’s bodies could?
Flash forward a year and a half later. We are pregnant again! A little uncertain and scared, but truly thrilled. We were finally excited again. Maybe that first miscarriage had just been a “fluke” or “just something that happens sometimes.” This time it was all going to be fine.
But it wasn’t and I miscarried again. I will never forget the day because we had saved up money to buy really expensive theater tickets. This was our big night out… but I started bleeding again. We were hysterical and we gave away our much-anticipated theater tickets. We waited at home again for the OB to call. Again, waiting.
The next day, the lab test confirmed our worst fears. Even going to the lab was emotionally excruciating. I wanted to hang my head low behind a hoody and stop crying just long enough to get in and out unnoticed. I wanted to hide away what felt like shame at the time. Again, I was aghast that my body couldn’t manage to hold onto this life inside of me. I felt so broken. We went home and hid away from the world again.
This second miscarriage was much worse. There was now no denying that there was a problem. We had lost two pregnancies in the space of two years while purposefully trying to get pregnant. Thus began the testing. The tests revealed that nothing was biologically “wrong” with either one of us. Then the fertility medications started. 4 ½ years later on the crazy train of infertility medications and still no baby. No pregnancies either.
Romance Goes Out the Window
Five years of marriage. Tons of marital tension. Infertility is awful on any couple. Loads of sex. Too much sex, for that matter. Sex only on certain days, trying certain positions. Romance goes out the window.
Every single person has a piece of ridiculous advice on how to conceive a baby. And, of course, we desperately tried them all. The problem was that they are mostly old wives’ tales. Things we want to believe will help get us pregnant. And, if I had a dollar for every ovulating stick or pregnancy test I ran during those almost five years, I maybe would have had enough money to pay for all of the fertility stuff. Ovulation schedules, temperatures, etc… It is all just too much.
Entering the Sacred Circle
I was truly feeling betrayed by my body after both of our pregnancy losses and the long years of infertility. The grief of the miscarriages came back each month as I bled through my periods. I started feeling like I wasn’t a “real” woman. I wasn’t in that sacred circle. I could get pregnant but not stay pregnant. And then, I just couldn’t get pregnant at all. It was misery.
We needed a break from the infertility roller coaster. I stopped taking the medications and we stopped all of the scheduled sex. What we started doing was taking care of one another again. We started going to a grief therapy group that dealt with pregnancy and child loss. We started little by little to just relax back into just being us together. I started returning to my body, too.
I began to explore all of my deep, deep feelings of not being a “real” woman. It was an awful, alienating, self-loathing that I had to face. I really started to feel connected again to being a woman. I finally started understanding I didn’t have to earn the right to be in a sacred circle of women. I didn’t have to feel shame. I just had to love me. I needed to accept and understand that the future holds whatever it does and can’t be manipulated or controlled in any type of way to give me what I want. It just has to unfold. Eventually, my grief subsided away. Slowly, it ebbed away.
I realized that I had, as a little girl, oversimplified what it even meant to be a “real” woman. This was a single-paned view that only included marriage and motherhood. The definition of the sacred circle just evolved and finally came into focus for me. Being a woman isn’t just wedding dresses and babies. It’s suffering and loss and sisterhood and education and equality and so, so much more. It is not just a romanticized idea of love, joy… and reproduction.
I just had to let myself BE. I was walking in the glorious light of the sacred circle long before I gave birth or got pregnant again or had a family. I just didn’t know it at the time because I just didn’t know me yet.