I am endlessly hopeful. I taught high school English for over a decade, and every time a student would plagiarize or be rude or a policy was put into place that made no sense my reaction was always the same: incredulity. To really understand my intense hopefulness, let me elaborate.
At the start of my Macbeth unit, I had a cheer that I made my students do on day one.
“When I say Mac, you say Beth! Mac — ”
Of course, this was met with crickets. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s 7:15 in the morning. I’m trying to excite 17-year-olds who have been up since 2 a.m. on Snapchat. And yet, I stood there in front of my students, shocked and disappointed that no one was as excited as me to read Shakespeare.
The worst part of this anecdote is that I did this for over 10 years and not once did my hope waver that my students would participate in this cheer. I was hopeful that they would join in because my enthusiasm was too much to ignore. It’s stupid. What was I doing? When will I learn?
I inevitably would stand in front of the classroom begging, “Come on, guys. Please?” And some sweet child would take pity on her nerdy English teacher and gather the troops to do a really shitty version of the cheer.
I’d straighten up, confident again.
“When I say Mac, you say Beth! MAC!”
“Beth…” they groan in unison.
Of course, optimism is absolutely necessary in order to be a teacher, but friends, it has its drawbacks. It could also be that maybe my issue with all this idealism and hope is that it seeps into other parts of my life.
I’ve been applying for professor jobs across the country for a decade, and whenever I apply for a job that looks super-promising, I stupidly get on Redfin to see what houses cost and what schools are in certain neighborhoods that my child might attend.
This is lunacy.
Friends, if you know anything about how the academic job market is a dumpster fire hellscape, you understand why this is lunacy. And if I’m doing this for a job hunt that’s been going on for a decade, can you imagine how much hope and excitement I experience the week before my period shows up to remind me how my lady parts have failed yet again?
There’s only so many times you can cry in the bathroom at work and re-enter your classroom like all is fine before you decide it’s time to draw the line.
So, as I enter this final month of fertility treatments, I’m trying to hold back on the hope. I’m trying to not think “this is the month it happens.” I’m trying not to imagine tapping my husband on the shoulder and just crying tears of joy.
I’m not going to hope I can tell my son he’s going to be a brother. I’m trying not to think that if I get pregnant this month I’ll have a little Cancer on my hands come June 2021. I’m trying to not look up the character traits of a Cancer because what are the chances that this time it will work? The fertility specialist says less than eight percent.
My plan this month is to enjoy the treatments because acupuncture is fantastic. I’ll be keeping up this gluten-free-dairy-free-alcohol-free bullshit for one more month. To keep exercising, not because exercise is good for fertility, but because exercise releases endorphins and this chick needs endorphins. But, I’m also mentally preparing to say good-bye to the possibility of baby number two. I’m trying to be positive, but I also think I need to be prepared for the very real possibility that I’m going to have one kid naturally. I’m going to be preparing to mourn the very real loss of that big family with four kids I once imagined for myself.
Here’s the thing: in my endless hopelessness, I hear those voices that say, “You know when you stop trying is when it happens.” I hear that and think, for just a short breath that maybe it will happen. Maybe I shouldn’t give up. This is the time the kids get excited about the Macbeth cheer. This is the job where I’ll need to know about neighborhoods, better check Redfin. The spiral happens quickly, my friends.
It really is hard to let go of that hope, and maybe not all of it has to be let go, but giving up is critical for me. I need to shut that fucking door. It’s been swinging open and shut for three years, and I’m tired of hearing it click open and having it damage the drywall. Every time my cycle has been a day late. Every hopeful pregnancy test. Every time my husband’s work schedule meant the timing was right that month has just chipped away what’s left of me.
One of the hardest parts of this whole experience has been grappling with the lack of control. My husband loves to remind me that I can’t force anything. Things will be what they are, and there isn’t much I can do about them. The fact of the matter is, if this month it doesn’t happen, I have to be ready to say goodbye to that image I created of children running around. I’ve got to let go of those big holiday dinners with my kids and their kids and their partners. The containers of baby clothes need to be removed from the attic. I have to let all of that go. It’s necessary though because the half-hopeful, half-depressed lady that roams the halls of this house has to move on for the sake of the other inhabitants and frankly for herself.
Being present as a mother and spouse is difficult. We are all pulled away from the moment by all the things: work, the news, a fucking pandemic, laundry, our parents, our siblings, our friends. I’ve not been at my best these past three years. I’ve been an absent mother worried about the next one that might never be. I’ve been an absent partner to my husband who deserves a wife who isn’t thinking that this is the time she got pregnant. That one felt like the one. He (and I) deserve intimacy that doesn’t have to be about the end result.
So, every day of this last month of treatment, I’ll be working on gratitude for the beautiful family I already have. Finding the positives in what not having another baby might look like for all of us. In preparing to let go of what might have been. In so many ways, I’ll have to think about ways I’ve not failed to give my son this one thing that I wanted to gift him so badly while simultaneously reminding myself of all the gifts I’ve already given him. But mostly this month will be about mourning what I never had to lose while still letting a small dose of hope gently tugging at me for the last time as I wait for one more little miracle.
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