Back in West Texas for the fourth year in a row, I am reminded of the roads I’ve
traveled throughout my infertility journey. The desert appears to be the perfect
metaphor for infertility – barren and unforgiving terrain, and so it’s with little
surprise that I’ve found myself drawn to this land time and again.
My husband and I first visited the Big Bend Getaway, an adobe rental cabin
surrounded by the Chisos Mountains, after officially deciding to end all infertility
treatments and pursue domestic adoption. The decision was both hopeful and
heart wrenching, and we needed a space to grieve and put closure to the last five
years of our lives. We needed to forgive ourselves and the universe for trying at
something with such rigor – and – losing. Forgiveness is something I discuss with
various clients often, encouraging them to gift themselves this practice as a way
of letting go and freeing the self of the bitterness and resentment that can silently
breed. Looking back now, I realize what a hypocrite I was! Infertility planted an
enormous seed of doubt in my body and its abilities, which was a stark contrast
from the days as a modern dance major where I relied heavily on my body to
express inner emotions and move me forward professionally. My body was
something I could count on to heal me, and so I thought, to eventually conceive
and birth a child if I chose.
About two years into our infertility treatments, I experienced my first miscarriage.
The anger and betrayal I felt towards my body was visceral. As a woman striving
desperately to become a mother, my body failed to nourish a developing life that
I fought so hard to create. I failed at the one thing I was supposed to do as a
mother – protect my young. I saw my body as hostile territory, much like the
desert. A few months later, I had a vivid dream where I took a butcher knife and
cut out my reproductive organs in a vengeful moment. Forgiveness? No.
Luckily, I never took actual revenge on my body, but my mind was another matter
altogether. John Milton said, “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a
Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” That’s damn right. The lens of infertility
filtered experiences for me, highlighting what I didn’t have and dismissing what I
did. A hellish place to visit, my mind now entertained incessant reels of anger,
resentment, blame, jealousy, and grief. The legacy of loss that encapsulated our
journey could, at times, be all consuming.
Clear on the other side now, with only hints of infertility memories revisited, I
raise my seven-year-old daughter and reflect upon my sense of forgiveness
throughout those challenging years. I discovered a physical limitation about my
body, and realistically, it will be the first of many, until my body fails me
completely. I am not the first or the last to feel betrayed by my body. This
experience teaches me a humble lesson – that the body is strong and fragile;
capable and limited.
As I set out for a brisk morning walk to take note of the rising sun, I reflect on the
magnetic attraction I have to this place. As a woman who thrives on novelty,
we’ve strangely returned to the same isolated rental cabin year after year. I think
it’s because the desert, which at first appears hostile and devoid of life, is actually
not what it seems. If I quiet my mind and footsteps, I hear a flock of quail taking
flight in the distance. And if I listen close, I see that the desert is teaming with
life. It’s a pleasant and unexpected discovery. And so is the return of
Sarah Rivers Deal, PhD, LPC
If you're experiencing infertility please know you aren't alone. At RPC we have a Fall 2022 Infertility Support Group. If you would like more information click here.