A few weeks have passed and I still struggle to fully comprehend what is ahead of us. There was no denial; we received exactly what we prayed for and in exact response to our outpouring of faith, our miracle was delivered. In that very moment our faith was honored and made tangible.
Buuuttttt… faith is a funny little thing. It requires that which, at times, can become the most powerful of all human faculties; BELIEF. That power of belief has started and ended wars, created and dismantled religions, and challenged the boundaries of scientific progress for centuries. For Monet and I, we just wanted to believe that we could be parents to the children of our own creation, being the kind of parents that we were both fortunate enough to grow up having. I just…wasn’t feeling it yet. I didn’t feel like a father. All of the answers to the world’s questions and its litany of mysterious didn’t appear before me in a flash of light. I wasn’t imbued with the powers and knowledge of the fathers of my ancestors and their eons of paternal instinct. I just had a massive headache.
And that headache lasted for roughly 48 hours.
Existential dread, for the uninitiated, is a feeling of angst or anxiety stemming from the philosophy of existentialism. This is to say, that life has no real meaning aside from what people bring to it. In my case, I was filled with the type of despondency that French Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre captured in his play No Exit. In it, the play’s main characters found themselves in the afterlife, trapped in a room due to confluence of the poor choices they made while alive. I could easily relate. For a full 48 hours, I replayed every poor decision that I could recall over my 34 years of life. I poured over every lie, every failure, every opportunity not taken. I was an absolute mess.
To be completely honest, I’m still not quite sure how I came out of it, either. I recall distinctly calling my mother and trying to talk to her about it, only to be interrupted by suggestions of what I had to do for Monet and what she had to eat and what needed to be picked up from the store or what she should not be doing. There wasn’t really time to discuss how I felt the implosion of the world careening down upon my head or how I felt the full weight of 20 years of (questionable?) decision making staring intently into my soul. My wife needed baby aspirin and orange juice; my existential crisis would have to wait.
I knew that continuing to house this feeling wouldn’t help, just as I knew that giving in to the dread would only make matters worse. So I pulled a Jack Shephard (yes, that Jack from LOST). I opened the flood gates and allowed all of the fear and anguish and pain and regret and dread in. Then, I metaphorically closed the door and, for five very long seconds, I looked each of them squarely in the face. Did I have all or any of the answers? Would I be able to live up to the standard that my father set? Would I disappoint my children? Will I love them and be emotionally available like they need me to be? Can I afford to give them what they want and, more importantly, need? Will they love me? Will I love them back? I acknowledged each fear, I took ownership of every past failings, I accepted (again) every loss. At the count of zero, I casted everyone of those thoughts down and kicked them all out.
Are the fears gone?
Did I suddenly have answers and rebuttals to all of life’s questions that endlessly stalked me for my 48 hours of self-pitying?
But what I gained was the realization that my darkest fears could not and did not devour me, even when I allowed them in. I thought about the very things that I consciously spent energy trying not to think about, and I survived. I still don’t have any answers for what’s coming. Oddly enough, however, I somehow found peace in a quote from former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.”
I found an equilateral balance in his words. It helped me realize that for all the threat and worry and condemnation, there will always be unknown unknowns. But stressing and focusing on these figments of possibility can prevent me from addressing the real threat to my family, both what is known and pursuing the answers to the unknown. The rest would have to take care of itself, but at least we’ll be equipped to face them as a family. That much, I do know.
The glow from the doctor’s monitor was the only light in the room. Four people crammed together in a tiny room in the back corner of a doctor’s office, searching for a tiny bean.
I’ll be the first to admit that I had absolutely no idea what we were looking for, nor what it would look like once we found it. The doctor and his magical wand of ultrasound. Now, to be fair, we’ve been through this before, though mainly in preparatory visits and to monitor the progress of any follicle growth. Typically, they would locate whatever the object of the day happened to be (follicle, cyst, etc), snap a screenshot, and click for length and width. Easy enough, I know how this game is played. I was convinced that it would be easy enough to keep up.
CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.
But this time we weren’t looking for a follicle, or cyst, or what have you. This time we were looking for a tiny person.
“Infertility” is a heavy word with an even heavier connotation. Besides inviting a trillion invasive questions from friends and families and all too impolite associates, it is an ominous and definitive label that is not always as defining and hopeless as it sounds. But sometimes, it can feel as though the label is thrown out there to help keep your hope and prayers at bay, just in case fortune doesn’t smile on you. A preemptive “thanks for playing”, before the games have even begun. Throughout our four years of marriage, Monet and I have fought to always view that term to define a current state to overcome rather than a diagnosis.
As a newlywed, you’re always asked the same question by single people longing to be in your shoes and by those married long enough to snicker at the naiveté in your answer. “How did you know he/she was the one?” I’ll spare you all the sparkling bells and overcooked superlatives. I was willing to commit my life to this woman was because I stared into her heart and saw her for the delicate and intricately woven snowflake that she is. In her, I saw a shape that I knew all too well; my own.
Our spirits merged together again in Charlotte, shortly after marrying, in a movie theatre parking lot. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what we were going to see but, we caught a preview for a movie titled, “The Odd Life of Oliver Green”. In it, a young couple facing infertility placed their wishes for an unborn child into a box they proceeded to bury in their backyard. Magically those wishes somehow gave life to the child of their dreams. Or something to that effect, I dunno. We never got around to actually seeing that movie. Spoiler alert, sorry.
Anyways, it took every ounce of my testosterone to fight back my tears during this preview. Going through my twenties, I did not father a child despite many of my friends doing so left and right. It left me with an unnatural fear that I may somehow be incapable of having children and that terror has followed me every day of my life. Unbeknownst to me at that time, Monet also shared this soul shattering fear. We both (somehow) managed to hide our tears during the movie but wound up discussing the preview shortly after the movie, sitting in the parking lot. I came clean and admitted my fear, as did she. It was amazing that we both didn’t somehow drown in all the tears that we shed that night. There’s a freedom in true transparency that can only be experienced once you really bare your soul to another. The feeling is entirely indescribable. We drove away that night aware of our innermost terrors and committed to finding a way to overcome them with our faith. Together.
CLICK. CLICK.CLICK.CLICK.CLICK.CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.CLICK.CLICK.CLICK.CLICK.
“That’s a whole lotta clicks, Doc. What in the world is going on? Are you double checking something?
The lights flicked on and our doctor was dead silent as he stood up and removed his gloves and stood up.
His face was beet red.
“Okay, well…”, he started. I noticed his assistant shuffling over to the far corner of the room where I was seated, still trying to count up all those damn clicks. She put a hand on my shoulder.
“We knew this was a possibility…”
My eyes squinted. The assistant’s hand tightened.
“Congratulations. You are very, very pregnant. You’ve got four babies in there.”