The passage of time is difficult to understand. I feel I am moving slower than the world, as if caught in a bubble, a pocket of suspended physics where a month is only a day and a year not so much more than that. I feel often like slowed down character in some poignant movie scene, where the world is sped up around their still form – people whizzing past, clock hands circling rapidly, life being lived. In the Courthouse I practice, there is a baby explosion. My co-workers, the District Attorney’s Office, Court Reporters, children of Judges, friends of friends, all of them expecting. I hear the initial announcement; I recognize the first noticeable signs of a pregnant belly. I see it enlarge. And then there is the birth. And yet, it feels like no time has passed at all. I find myself staring in confusion at the picture of the newest newborn and I try to remember how long it takes to have a baby. Was that really nine months?
I say “three years” a lot in an exasperated, tired way. I like to throw my arms down helplessly, spreading them out at the elbow to show the great expanse of time three years are. You can get a law degree in three years. You can meet someone, fall in love, and get married. You can lease a car and then return it lease completed. You can finish an entire contract with a sports team, near the end of your presidential term, gotten old enough to go to school, and have already been re-elected to your congressional seat. You can watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies the day they are released and still be done in three years, and already working through the same equation for The Hobbit. When I throw my arms out and let my face sag and say with exhaustion “three years,” I am trying very hard to convey just how long that is to be doing something over and over again with no result.
But if you asked me day to day, or month to month, I would not know where the time went. I would not know how it passed the way it did. I would not know the actual day probably (only the day of my cycle) and I would be both surprised and confused as to how you got married, got pregnant and already have a child, though none of those things had happened back three years ago when MJ and I first started trying to conceive. When did the time pass? How did it add up so quickly? Doesn’t your clock also reset every month?
When our latest co-worker gave birth it hit me particularly hard. My jealousy and consternation mingled together into a frustrated depression with life. I can still remember the night we agreed to start trying. I can still remember being at one of our favorite Asian restaurants, sitting at a table for two against the window, waiting for our food to come. I remember toying with the small tea pot that housed the soy sauce; it was earthenware with a blue glaze and was tiny enough to fit neatly into the palms of my hands when I folded them over it, which I did over and over in an effort to avoid eye contact. I remember being nervous talking about it (we had not been together as long as I think either of us would have liked, but we knew then that time and my health were already issues), and I remember this look MJ had on his face when it was agreed, cause it was this smile that reached his eyes but somehow remained subtle and subdued. There are times when MJ smiles just for me, and times when he smiles for himself. This was the later. And I am not always great at remembering things, but I have never forgotten that face.
“I can’t believe she’s a mother,” I told MJ the day we learned the news, after we are home and in private. I meant it for a lot of reasons, but what I meant most of all is: I can’t believe it’s not us. I can’t believe it’s been all this time and it’s not us. “We should have a two year old by now,” I admitted out loud. “We should be past all this.” What I am really thinking, in a pouty foot stomping way, is “We started this! We were first! It should be us.” And I might exhale an even pettier “copycats!” as I wind down my internal tirade. To be clear, the passage of time does not result in the accrual of any rationality or common sense.
Tonight is Friday, exactly one week since our IUI failed. I’d like to write that we really put all our eggs in one basket, but its way too on the nose and cheesy. I’d rather just say, hey, this was our shot, and it failed (and ignore the double meaning of shot). One week later and we have yet to talk about things. I have put it off continually. When MJ asks for a third time on Thursday if we should talk, I say, “I need to wait till Friday. I need to wait till we can talk without having to wake up and go to work tomorrow.” Because I don’t know what conclusions we will reach, and I no longer even know which ones I am rooting for.
It is a beautiful day, full of sunshine and blue skies, and though our sleepy Midwest town seems to finally have admitted it is Spring, there is still a cool breeze coming off the lake and when it touches my skin it feels like heaven, like those places you are always talking about wanting to live in, where the weather is not too hot and not too cold and Goldilocks perfect all year round.
I plan a whole thing for the night. Our small but quaint stretch of downtown, with its art galleries and boutiques stays open late one day each month, and the shops all open their doors and put out refreshments and sweets and invites the town in. When it gets warm, it’s a wonderful sight. The sidewalks get filled with people, all of us eager to get outdoors after the long winters, happy to support the local economy. Families walk together, some bring their dogs, artists play the guitar or other instruments outside shops, a popcorn vendor walks up and down filling the air with salt and butter. And all you need at any given time is to turn and look east to watch the sun set over the lake. It’s a small picturesque moment in an others sluggish small city. I’ve been looking forward to it all week.
I call one of our favorite restaurants, located across the street from the one we ate at three years ago, for reservations. I plan in my head our walk downtown. We’ll wander around the stores, then to the art museum (which offers free admission these nights) where a Chihuly piece has arrived that I want to see. Then we’ll walk to dinner, passing the new bookstore to confirm sadly that is in fact a Christian bookstore and not a mecca to all things literary as we had hoped when it first opened a few months ago. After dinner, we’ll head back stopping at the one bar downtown that carries MJ’s favorite beer, which he cannot find anywhere else. Then back along the shops to the very end before the parking garage, where, if we still have room in our stomachs, we’ll stop at the gelato café and eat a scoop or two while the themed café plays opera and Dean Martin songs. And all the while we are going to discuss our future, be it to keep trying to conceive or to put this all behind us.
MJ things this is a bad idea. I can tell as he listens to me recite the key parts of the night (I leave the beer out as a surprise). He agrees to everything with a half-hearted smile, but I can tell in his eyes he is already picturing me having broken down on a street corner crying loudly in despair and depression. I try to explain that I think it will be good for me to discuss this out and about, so that I don’t just give into being sad, cry and then walk away – which he would admit I have a tendency to do at home when things just get to be too much.
What I don’t explain to him cause I’m not sure how, is that it’s more than just building in safety mechanisms to force me to face reality. It’s about an entire feeling I want to have. The night we went downtown and walked around and ate dinner and decided to try and get pregnant was one of my favorites, no matter how much sadness has come since then. And though I am devastated to not have children, though I don’t think I’ve even remotely worked through or even accepted the sadness and loss this brings, I feel this need to make t tonight special too.
I keep thinking, that if everything is perfect. If we have a good time, and a nice walk, and good food and are happy together, then maybe, after all is said and done, and all the crying is over and all the loss is accepted, we will remember this not as time we gave up on the life we thought we’d have, but as the time we decided to create a new life together, a happy, loving, equally fulfilling life. And I’m hoping when we do that, when we get to the end of the night, it will make MJ smile just the way he did three long (or was it short?) years ago.