Early in our relationship, Melissa and I were on a road trip, probably up to Boston where I attended film school, and we hit traffic. The likelihood of hitting traffic on a trip from New Jersey to Boston hovers somewhere in the area of 50 percent, increasing to 100 percent if you’re foolish enough to take I-95 the whole way. I hated traffic so much that I became obsessive about avoiding it. I researched and tried out various routes until I was sure I had the best way. I would leave only at a certain time of day, even if it meant dragging Melissa out of bed at 5:00 AM after a night out behaving like twenty-two year olds. And so we would depart, customized “I’ll outsmart not only other travelers but also the computer” MapQuest printout in-hand (this was in the days before Google maps and traffic alerts, of course).
Nevertheless, despite my best efforts and strategies, one day we hit an awful jam. I was enraged. It was a blow to my ego. I don’t hit traffic. I’m smarter than everyone else and figured this thing out. This does not happen to me. And there I was fuming, probably cursing, maybe yelling. It’s a miracle Melissa married me after seeing my traffic behavior. Watching me fly off the handle, she did probably the worst thing you can do to an irrational lunatic: she reasoned with me. “It’s just traffic. Why don’t you make the best of it?”
“Best of what? This is the worst possible thing that could be happening right now.”
“There’s probably an accident up ahead. Someone might be dead. We could be dead in an accident. Or hurt, or a lot of other more horrible places than traffic.”
“That’s just stupid.”
“You can’t spend your life being pissed off at things you can’t help.”
“Well I wanted to be there at 10:00 AM and now who knows when we’ll get there.”
“Life doesn’t stop when you leave Point A and start again when you get to Point B. All that space in between is still life. And you’d be a hell of a lot happier if you filled that space with something besides freaking out about when you’re going to get to Point B.”
Boom. Melissa, as she so often does, dropped knowledge. Sad to say, but I lived my life so obsessively by the clock, by an agenda, by what comes next, that I had never in twenty-two years looked at life like that. I was enlightened. I calmed down.
Do I still obsess about traffic? You’re goddamn right I do. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t still act, as Melissa so affectionately tells me, like “a whiny little bitch” in the heat of a traffic catastrophe (sometimes in Melissa’s battle between passionate feminism and North Jersey attitude, North Jersey wins). In the over ten years I’ve known her, however, I try to take her words to heart. If we’re stuck waiting for a table at a restaurant, or in a crazy long line at the store (who am I kidding, does anyone go to stores anymore? Amazon!), or counting down the days before an exciting vacation: Life exists between Point A and Point B. Embrace the journey.
We’ve been saying that to each other quite a bit over the past year.
Melissa and I are both planners. As our 30s approached, we watched friends having kids and we thought, “We’ll know when we’re ready.” As “ready” approached, we told people, “Oh, we won’t be like those crazy people who track ovulation and all that weird stuff. We’ll just stop not trying and when it happens, it happens.” But then we decided we were ready, Melissa went off of her birth control, and a month later we looked at each other and said, “All right baby, get here already.” Once we want something, we want it. But as it continued to not happen, we took a deep breath and remembered the mantra. Hell, when you’re first trying to have kids there’s a hell of a lot to embrace, but along the way, after three months, six months, OBGYN checks, urology appointments, and multiple semen analyses, it became more and more difficult.
Now it’s harder than ever. We’ve reached a new, major phase: the fertility clinic. The past few months have been a struggle of stress and frustration. We’ve been searching for an outlet, searching for meaning, searching for a way to embrace a part of the journey that leaves little to embrace (and little in your savings account). We came to realize that people don’t talk about infertility. People get pregnant, they make an announcement to the world, and they celebrate it. Guys are happy to point out if it only took a month or two of trying, but stories of pregnancies that took years and visits to the fertility clinic rarely leave peoples’ inner circles. This code of silence is even more prominent around male-factor infertility.
Why aren’t we talking? What can be gleaned, or gained, around a broader topic of infertility?
It’s time to find out.