I fell off my Danskos today. I am exactly that graceful. A ballerina. A dainty sprite. Yes, an airy goddamned sylph, if I do say so myself. While standing, not even walking, on perfectly level, newly paved asphalt, my ankle turned and I went down, Charlie in my arms.
It happens so fast that you don't even think about it. In a contortion born of pure reflex, I hit the ground with elbows, wrists, knees, and flanks, twisting elaborately to make sure Charlie didn't. It had been raining for hours, so I was soaked to the socks, flat on my back on the pavement, with a raincoated Charlie sitting upright on my stomach, looking down at me in bewilderment.
Well, wouldja look at that, I thought, smiling back up at him to show him nothing was wrong, though I felt badly shaken, didn't spill a drop.
On the drive home, he kept telling me the news over and over, a one-boy CNN: "Mama fall down parking lot." You're right! It was scary, but everything's fine now. "Mama fall down parking lot." Yes, baby, I know. "Mama fall down parking lot!" You're right; I was there. I'll back you up in court. "Mama fall down parking lot." Right! Now. Let's click over to Fox and check in with that nice Bill O'Reilly. I like the way he thinks.
I've been trying all weekend to write about how angry I am at this latest cancellation. For someone more comfortable with flippancy and humor, no matter how brittle and forced, than with unadorned negative emotion, it's not easy. I type, delete, swear; type, delete, growl; and type, delete, swear some more until I'm banging my head against the keyboard like Don Music.
I am angry. In fact, I'm most royally pissed.
What I didn't ever foresee was that having a child wouldn't cure my infertility. Having Charlie most certainly relieved the daily anguish of childlessness. A small boy glancing over his shoulder, a tiny pajamaed Orpheus mournfully lowing, "Goodbye, flannel blanket" as he leaves his bedroom is a jim-dandy analgesic. But it turns out that childlessness was only a symptom — a most debilitating symptom, to be sure — of infertility, a deeper, more pernicious disease.
Some women find that they're healed by becoming a mother at last, regardless of how it happens. Others consider the question of finding solace in a low-tech pregnancy and birth after the high-tech machinations of ART. And others hope that a future pregnancy and birth might eclipse bad memories of an earlier, scarier one — the therapeutic do-over.
None of this helps me. I had a baby, but I'm not healed. If I do get pregnant again, I'll be monitored more closely, dosed more thoroughly, and frightened more dreadfully — taking comfort in midwives and waterbirths is entirely out of the question. And the emotional revisionism of the do-over isn't for me; I can't do the heavy lifting necessary to make myself believe my body would cooperate, a belief which seems essential to the exercise.
So where does this leave me? Better off, I know, than I was before I had Charlie; certainly more fortunate than my friends who are still pissed off and childless; grateful but still really angry.
My body has failed me at every turn. I — because it is dishonest to divorce "my body" from myself that way — have failed in achieving pregnancy, sustaining pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. How can I not be furious?
And what do I do with the anger? How do I handle the betrayal, the failure, the rage? Because one child didn't cure it, I know another won't. And I do not know what might.
"Mama fall down parking lot." That fall may be my saving grace. Taking a tumble for Charlie without an instant's thought.
I hurt today. I'm sore from the twisting and tender where my body made impact. My ankle is swollen, damn those treacherous clogs, long may they founder in the Goodwill bin. But. Because of that pain, I am forced to recognize that my body doesn't fail me always. I can protect my son. Because of his very existence, I know that I can, with some difficulty, conceive a child. I can keep him safe inside long enough, if only just. I can give birth, even if "have birth taken from me while I lie there in an immobilized daze" seems more fitting. I can feed him, though, Jesus, we all hated that. For all the failures — cancellations, negatives, miscarriages — there is one living, undeniable success.
I and my body can do this. After all, we've done it — badly, and narrowly, but we did it. I'm not sure we can do it again, and for that reason I'm still angry. Still furious, in fact, at no one and nothing and myself and the world that my body can't do what it should.
Maybe I always will be. But now and again the truth lands on my stomach in a scaled-down yellow slicker, and I hope one day I won't.