I was in the car coming back from the grocery store, listening to the country station on the radio. (Someday when I look back on my life, I will notice that some experiences, though small, were the refrain of the entire story. Listening to country radio will be one of those.) Taylor Swift's song "White Horse" came on - a good song; country music isn't Beethoven, but her songwriting is pretty consistently good - and I was singing along in my head, and feeling for the narrator in the song.
I realized that I do that a lot - I'll hear some story of someone who's been mistreated or suffered, and I'll be angry, not just for them, but for my life. I read stories of other infertile women, who have suffered things of which I really have no understanding, and the obvious conclusion would be, you know, I don't have it that bad. I'm blessed. I should be grateful. But I don't think that - I think, infertility is that bad! This is a heavy cross to bear and I'm not crazy to take it so hard. Look: people suffer terribly. (Even though I don't...)
Back to the song - I was listening to "...I ain't a princess, this ain't a fairy tale..." - the song of too many young (and not-so-young) women these days, who have never had in their lives permanently, reliably, a man who loved them selflessly, permanently, unconditionally; who was faithful and kind and good; who believed the noblest thing he could do was to protect her and make her happy. Some women, with heavy burdens to carry - small children, sick families, difficult jobs - have to do all that and guard their hearts while they try to find a good man to love them, too.
And tears came to my eyes as I realized something: I AM a princess; and this, my life, this is a fairy tale.
I grew up unused to what unconditional love is. My mother is mentally ill. It's not that she'd have stopped loving me, but that in many ways she didn't know me and still doesn't. She can't remember things and she doesn't understand things and she rewrites history all the time. And she didn't have the emotional stability to raise little kids who were impossible as the result of a nasty, long, drawn-out divorce between acrimonious parents, and our relationship with her growing up was very bad.
And my father - well, my father's love was absolutely conditional. In his defense, sort of, he's not entirely stable either; he's now been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and he's definitely depressive, always has been. But he's so brilliant. Every little girl thinks her daddy is brilliant; but I'm a grown woman now, I know he has a lot of shortcomings, frankly by leaving my mother (and certainly by the way he did it) he cemented his status as a failure as a father. And I'm pretty darn sharp in my own right. And I still know he's one of the most brilliant people I know. Just being that gifted made it possible for him to cut through a lot of his other shortcomings. But in some ways the scripts in his head were even more rigid that my mother's, even though he's not really crazy. Family loyalty, some sort of Polish ethnic pride, all sorts of things, they were inviolable to him, and he couldn't deal with the idea that his kids would grow up and move on, and when I made decisions for my adult life (which law school, which husband; heavens, I'm a lawyer, got my JD at 24, and I was a virgin on my wedding day. What most fathers wouldn't have given!) he disagreed with vehemently, he acted as if I were dead for three years.
So my first experience of undeserved, gratuitous love was - my freshman roommate; who was loving and good to me for no darn good reason, and who will always be one of the most special people in my life, even though I rarely see her!
And then I met my husband. He's flawed. Sometimes, even, he's not very nice. But - a friend said once, that the husband should always be more in love with his wife than she is with him (because woman are naturally more stable and loyal). I understand her point, as a social matter, but for life, for my life, I'm not sure that's an ideal. But I know that's true of my husband. He'd jump in front of a bus to protect me without hesitating. He'd do anything to make me happy. He's so in love with me. There's nothing I could do, ever, that would make him stop loving me. And I know I love him, with all my heart, but I look into his eyes, and I wonder if it's even possible that I love him that much, as he loves me.
And because of my husband, my child's broken heart, which I received from my years that I'd learned, without ever realizing it, that if a man could leave my mother, could stop loving her because she was annoying, or difficult, or crazy, then there wouldn't be anyone who might not, someday, stop loving me - has healed. Because somebody loves me so much I never have to doubt it - and not because I've earned his love, but because he is so good.
I've read the stories of some other infertile women in this blogosphere, who, like me, have been tortured by this journey, at times into very twisted versions of themselves, and, as I do, lash out at the last person in the world who deserves our anger from this disease - our husbands who love us, even though they don't understand how badly we've wanted children. And sometimes I read other people's stories, and think what I think of my own: he forgave you for that? Why?
Because he loves you that much.
The fairy tale doesn't include a castle full of children, not as I remember it. It may, someday, or maybe not; but the fairy tale is unconditional love, right? The fairy tale is that the most wonderful man in the world picks you up out of an unsurvivable life and makes you the queen of his heart forever - so that you will always be a queen in fact.
Anyone can have a baby...I have a fairy tale.