End of the World| July 16, 2020
My husband and I knew our journey to parenthood would be a somewhat rockier than others’
I’m peeling potatoes and my eyes are raining. My younger sister-in-law just had a baby and I’ve been crying over my half-prepared supper since the phone call came.
I was scheduled to have a pre-treatment test today, and I couldn’t even get it done because of a minor allergy I mentioned that sent my doctor into a tizzy. We rescheduled, and I will be back at the clinic for the test tomorrow. Same time, same place. Again.
I know we all have our journeys, but right now the differences between my sister-in-law’s and my own seem so stark. I can practically see our separate cars flying on the highways of life, roaring off in opposite directions.
I struggle to make sense of that, of my empty little car with a mind of its own.
But then I look out into the highway and there’s another car, just ahead. I know that driver, I met her one night, not long ago. And now we drive parallel as we travel this ever-quieter stretch of road.
A while ago, I decided what the end of my world would look like. It involved a round table decked in a silk tablecloth and adorned with flowers, my friends from school, and conversation I could not be part of. With all I was going through, it’s almost ludicrous that this was the scene of my nightmares. But somehow, that image, complete with the faces of my peers, was worse than everything else…
I got married pretty early. Life was good. It was a while before I noticed we were different. Women who had married months after me were showing up in maternity. The first few “It’s a girl!” text messages and visits, where blanketed bundles took center stage were nice, exciting. I joined my friends’ simchahs with happiness, if tinged with concern.
Months later, with a PCOS diagnosis on my charts, my husband and I knew our journey to parenthood would be a somewhat rockier than others’. We knew there’d be stepping stones and we started wading through the waters of treatment, step after step.
I had always been gregarious, the life of the party. This was new; a “party” just for us. I couldn’t — didn’t want to — share it with others. How could they understand? What did they know of bated anticipation and wrenching disappointment, what did they know of insidious questions that crept into my soul: Was it okay to stop hoping that this would be the successful month, when maybe the yeshuah is in the hoping? And in the dead of night, when it seemed the morning star would never rise: Would we get there, would we be parents, ever?
The night my world ended, a good friend got married. A dear friend, one of the few I would really talk to. It had been a long time since school, and everyone was excited for her — and to meet everyone else. To me they were a chattering, carefree bunch. They converged on the table and the talk began. Cribs and carriages and the merits of pacifiers. Nursing versus formulas and babysitters and school options and on and on and on. I ate the whole first course. The entire piece of salmon. I hate fish.
It was happening, the end of the world. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry — and, more immediately, who to talk to, where to look.
Eyes tell stories, even under carefully applied mascara and the tightest of smiles. I looked out into the ballroom and I noticed someone’s roving eyes. I didn’t know her all that well, but I recognized the story. It was my story.
I went over to her.
Turns out she got married a scant two days before me, and we had both been waiting to turn the corner for the same time.
“I’m not talking to anyone at my table, I don’t want them to become all unnatural just to include me, but it’s kinda the end of the world for me,” I said absurdly.
“Oh yeah?” she countered, not unkindly, “I’ve just had a molar pregnancy…”
They thought it was a simple miscarriage, and when it was all over, they sent the fetus away for testing. Weeks later, recovered and less of a teary mess, when they were just considering trying again, she got the call from the hospital, “Come down as soon as you can, and whatever you do, don’t become pregnant again anytime soon. You’ve just had a molar pregnancy.
“Oh, and don’t go looking it up online,” the nurse added, “you’ll think you’re dying.”
Molar pregnancy? No one knew what that was. She called Bonei Olam. They said they’d heard of it but couldn’t give her more information. She couldn’t wait, she looked it up online. The crazy stuff she read was confirmed by the hospital:The pregnancy she’d had was cancerous, the cancer feeding off the pregnancy hormones. Though the fetus was a thing of the past, it had left cells and tissue. If her body wouldn’t get the message to stop producing more hormones in time, she would need chemo…
Blood tests every two days followed. Baruch Hashem the numbers were falling so she was out of danger, but due to the risks, they’d have to wait almost a year before trying again…
Suddenly my end of the world was ridiculous. And not because of her story, not because it was worse than mine — though I couldn’t fathom it — but because she turned to me and said, “You know what, it’s not the end of the world.”
Sitting there, talking in hushed voices, music blaring and glasses tinkling all about us, I realized that it wasn’t. Not the end of my world either, because maybe tonight had taught me something, maybe it was a beginning of sorts, with a woman who could really understand me at my side.
And not the end of her world, either, because we were mechazek each other, realizing that if Hashem was pushing us to the edge, He was also there with us, grasping us close, tight, so we wouldn’t fall.
We speak to each other often now, and she’s introduced me to a few others still out on the road. We laugh and cry and see how He’s there in the details, how little things work out, even if the big ones don’t yet, we see how others are handling things we couldn’t dream of. And together we learn resiliency, we marvel at friends who are getting up, getting on, getting back into the car, and we know that whatever happens, it’s never the end of the world.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 537)
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