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Opening Pandora’s Box

LAUREN_CARDICKI am a failure. This feels true.

My husband and I are married on a gorgeous day in January. Our days are joyful and wonderful. Anniversary number three is here before we know it and we think to ourselves, what could be more joyful and wonderful than adding a member to our family? It is, as they say, “time.” We are as ready as we’ll ever be. I chuck my birth control and never look back.

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into, but I’m secretly thrilled all the same.

Nearly a year later, we have no baby on the way and each month is more disheartening than the last. I don’t know what we’re doing wrong. Any control I feel over this process escapes through my grasping fingers.

We regroup and call in reinforcements, and I make an appointment to see a reproductive endocrinologist. She is kind and endlessly supportive and I’m sitting in her office so grateful to have her on my team. She tells me this will happen for us. I believe her.

Days before Christmas, blood tests reveal elevated prolactin levels.

This is easily corrected with medication, but might be caused by a benign pituitary tumor. Diagnosis requires an MRI. I can’t hear anything past tumor. The mere idea of being trapped in an MRI machine threatens to bring on a panic attack.

Sam holds onto my knees as I cry inside the machine and try not to move my face. A measly 5 mg Xanax is like a whisper against the roar of my anxiety. But I get through it and there’s ice cream and it’s okay. Until my doctor calls in the late afternoon to say the MRI shows signs of inflammation at the base of my skull. What does that even mean? She doesn’t say – she doesn’t know – but gives me the name of a neurologist.

I sob on the phone to Sam. I just want a baby and now I have something wrong with my brain?

The neurologist diagnoses a cholesteatoma, which is really a job for an ENT. “Almost certainly benign” is not enough reassurance. I tell myself not to Google it. I do it anyway.

Another referral, another ten phone calls to my primary care provider and my RE and my health plan. The ENT agrees with the neuro but orders a CT scan and – oh hell – another MRI to capture it from a different angle. If it is growing inside the bone, surgery.

The second MRI is louder and colder and more claustrophobic than the first, and the table shakes and my earplug falls out in the first minute. But I get through this one too and there’s more ice cream and thank goodness my husband knows me so well.

LAUREN_CARDICK_QUOTE

I have no results, only fears and betrayals and a hope that dims like Tinkerbell’s light after she drinks poison. There are mysteries lurking in my body. My body is Pandora’s box.

I cry and rage and wonder why this thing that even teenagers do accidentally is so cruelly beyond my reach. I watch with sincere joy and simultaneous pain as friend after friend announces her happy news.

I lean extra hard on Sam, who remains positive that this will work out. I try to ignore the incongruence of pursuing something so aggressively that I’m so terrified to actually achieve. Because if it works, then I’ll be pregnant…I’ll be a mother. My God, what then?

But this is hypothetical because I am a failure.

I am a failure. This is a lie.

Having a baby is not about “failure.” It’s about timing and luck and fairy dust and biological magic and hope, but it is not about failure. The control I started this journey with – the control I really believed I had – was a lie. I cannot control everything. I cannot control most things. I cannot strong arm this process and I cannot will a baby into existence.

The right baby will arrive at the right time.

And baby, if you’re out there, I know this is the truth: you are oh so loved and oh so wanted.

Your mama is waiting for you.

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