I left off the first section of this story at the turn of the years 2009-10, our fears and desires dangling prayerful and hopeful as we sat by the water of Lake Jindabyne. We were a month away from moving to a new city, a new job. Would a change of scene also mean a change of circumstance, a shift of inner landscapes as well as outer ones… perhaps even a resolution to our infertility impasse?
Sometimes when you pray about something for which you desire clarity, the response appears clear. Answered prayer confetti rains from the sky, iridescent and light. Other times, communication feels less smooth, more confusing. More like a maze than a map. Only later, looking back, you start to see how the dots joined.
That’s 2010 for us. Now, I see purpose, but then…
In the second half of this story, I head back to 2010, the year answered prayer came upon us surely and stealthily, even as we stumbled through the night.
Something worse than no-quiet
These days life is anything but quiet. Our two bedroom apartment reverberates with voices, shouts, screams, laughter. We long for moments of peace. We search for spaces of solitude, without the tug of a little hand,the bombardment of small, needy bodies running through our days, leaping over our beds, our desks, our schedules, like junior raiding parties, intent on chaos-creation.
Then I remember
There is something harder to bear than too much noise. There are different forms of quiet of course, but in 2010 we met one of the darker types head on. Not a gentle, peaceful quiet, but a heavy quiet. And at the same time empty. The sustained, uncertain quiet of infertility. The quiet of a roaring absence.
On returning from our holiday my mum told us she had some information we might be interested in. A friend of hers had a daughter. Her friend’s daughter had endometriosis. Her friend’s daughter had seen and been treated by an exceptional doctor. Had we heard of him? We’d never heard of him, which was somewhat strange as we soon found out that he was famous (perhaps infamous is a more accurate term) in medical circles. Would we be interested in seeing him?
With only a couple of weeks to go before our interstate move we scheduled an appointment.
Enter Dr C
We’d seen some pretty impressive looking offices on our journey to this point, but Dr C’s suites made all the others look like playrooms. Sitting in his busy waiting room was like watching some sort of medical stage play. Staff didn’t walk in this office, they swept. And no one swept better than Dr C himself. Before we met him personally we watched him cross the room, back and forth, back and forth again. He swept in a flock, an immaculately dressed, efficient flock, several staff always behind him, he at the helm. And he swept so swiftly that you could almost feel the breeze brush your skin as you waited.
Unfortunately M and I didn’t get off to a good start with Dr C. We weren’t efficient, or streamlined. We didn’t sweep our way in, we came in feet shuffling, heads hanging. We had broken the cardinal rule of seeing a specialist for the first time: we’d forgotten our referral. We muttered our embarrassed apologies as he sat studying us, neat, and compact, emanating barely suppressed energy from behind his giant desk.
We thought for a moment we might be evicted.
But then we started to tell him our story. The story of our all-stops journey, of Dr A’s initial discovery, of Dr B’s search and destroy mission, of my glued-together insides, of our failed attempts to move forward, of the pain that remained, of the living in limbo, of the endometriosis that stood like a road black in our journey, like a mutating monster rearing to regrow. We thought he might dismiss us at any point. But he leaned forward. And further forward.
It turns out we didn’t need the referral.
Before we’d reached the end of our tale he’d ordered copies of our gory-glue photos to be sent from Dr B. A quick perusal of our scans and we watched as his eyes lit up. Severe, he said. Rare, even.
There were areas of my insides Dr B hadn’t dared venture upon, due to their very tricky geography. Dr C had no such qualms. I will go there, said Dr C. I must go there. And until we go there, we cannot be sure we have got it all, and while it is still there, it will grow again.
We were heading to Melbourne. Dr C was based in Sydney. Suddenly we had a decision to make.
We left for Melbourne alongside our delivery truck, the contents of our lives travelling with us across the seven hundred or so kilometres between the two major cities.
On the other end, Dr M’s job started in only a couple of days. As we unpacked we missed the familiar presence of family who had helped us in all our other moves. But the novelty of the charming 1930s art deco apartment that was ours for this season distracted me. It was high summer, 40 + temps were not unusual. We were grateful for the shade of the apartment. We failed to notice the lack of outside space in our current quest to escape the sun. We were residents of bohemian, tourist-attracting St Kilda.
In the beginning we soaked up the summer festival feel of the area, staying out late, eating out often, walking along the crowded coastline, listening to the bongo playing backpackers on the pier, exploring, watching the sun set each evening like a perfect orange ball before it dropped over the ocean.
Dr M started work, I tried to work on my dissertation which I had brought with me from Sydney. And I did my best to forget about another event looming just on the horizon.
Time to Jump
Before we left for Sydney, we met once more in Dr C’s office.
Doctors, I have learnt, are prone to eccentricity. Perhaps it’s just how they cope with the life and death demands of their profession. Dr C was no exception. It was on this second occasion of our meeting he gave the speech I will never forget. It had all the drama and scope of a Shakespearean monologue.
Imagine I am a pilot, he said, and we are flying, and then suddenly, there is a storm! There is thunder and lightning, and I say to you – ‘Will you jump with me. Will you jump out of the plane?’
He held out his sure surgeons hands, and I couldn’t help thinking of where those hands had been, what they had done. Will you trust me?
I laughed nervously, looking sideways at Dr M, whose facial expressions were suspended somewhere awkwardly between shock and hysterical laughter.
What Dr C could never have known was how uncannily placed his choice of words were. I struggle with anxiety. By this time I had done so for many years. Certain triggers make me nervous, among them storms and planes. Not to mention medical procedures. And adrenal sports. Dr C had somehow managed to fuse all three together into some sort of diabolical doctors brew.
His promise was big: this time the enemy would be defeated. But at what expense? At what risk? He certainly had the confidence. I wouldn’t want to be his opponent. Only we knew it well by now. No matter what anyone told us, or how emphatically they did so. No guarantees.
But there was still the hope…dangled out…the prospect of possibility. I took a deep breath, and nodded….
We drove back to Sydney for the scheduled surgery. Dr M flew to Melbourne to teach while I prepared my body for the big event.
And, while I went under, Dr C went exploring. He excavated more endo from the far reaches of my body. And he left very little remnant of his mission behind. It turned out he really was an expert. My recovery was quicker than anticipated.
Now we wait and see, he said. What happens next.
Winter came early to Melbourne on our return from sunny Sydney, and it stayed late into the year. The trees were already loosing their leaves in April. The summer fiesta was over. I discovered for the first time that year how much I needed the sun, how much I enjoyed where I had grown up, and the importance of roots when everything else is shifting. More could be written on that time. Suffice to say we all experience different seasons, whether as part of a fertility journey or any other type of journey. This season for us was dark. We longed for light. Literal, and metaphorical.
There were patches. And their patch-like nature made them all the warmer. Mike’s colleagues were more than welcoming. And understanding. We made some wonderful church friends. Our family and friends in Sydney were beyond wonderful.
But still the dark.
And where was God in all this? I ask myself that question now. He was there, of course, but I was not perhaps seeking him as I should. Sometimes, when anxiety and when darkness press in, it is hard to do much of anything. But He held me, I have no doubt He held me.
Winter brought with it a string of virus’ that found us ex Sydney-siders easy targets. The virus’ led us to a local GP. The local GP happened to also be a writer, and a sympathetic soul. She listened to more than our surface problems, and read the tensions of the plotline beneath. Six months after the wonder-surgery, and with still no movements on the fertility front, it was she who came up with a suggestion for our next move. To be honest, without her, I’m not sure if we would have moved at all. Answers to prayer come in all shapes and sizes. And at all different times. In this case it was a zany GP with curly hair and a particular fondness for fellow oddballs.
I have a friend from uni days.…she said.
With that she landed us an appointment with Dr D, one of Melbourne’s top fertility experts. I only found out much later that his waiting list is at least six months long. We were scheduled to see him in two weeks.
Dr D had an unusually friendly face, and despite his senior position, a simple, understated office. He was one of those rare people who make everything, even the most difficult and delicate of matters, seem easy. His calm burst a little of our tension-bubbles. He looked at my results, heard our story as we told it yet again (anyone with a recurring/chronic condition knows the pain, the weight, of endless repetition). He noted Dr C’s excellent ground work.
And he smiled.
He’d try to help us, he said. He’d try to help us by Christmas.
I still have the parking ticket from the day we found out we were pregnant just a month or so later. We couldn’t believe it. I remember the celebratory meal we took on a waterfront cafe perched on seats where the land leant over the water, our bodies turned in to the fresh summer wind.
I recal walking hand in hand across a stretch of green grass, watching the birds cross the midday sky, composing messages to our praying friends, drinking in the amazed responses of joy, hearing the laughter and the tears in written responses and in person through the phone. I think we made dozens cry. It was still early days, we reminded ourselves, we reminded others, but it was possible. What this had shown us was that it was possible.
E was born in Sydney in Spring after a mostly uneventful pregnancy, and I found my body, which had been so sluggish at making a baby, was excellent at growing and birthing one. Even feeding came relatively easily.
W was born twenty months later.
And twenty-one months later again, Baby J came along. Our God gives even more one.
And here we are today. Three kids, three carseats, too little sleep, and too much washing. A whirlwind of chaos, but a bounty of blessing.
I hope this story has helped anyone reading it. The waiting room is a strange place, largely because you never know when, or if, the door will open. And if it does, what will meet you on the other side.
If our story taught me anything, it taught me this: We are not in control.
We cannot shift the seasons. We can only lay them at His feet…and wait…and see.
And we can sit alongside one another as we do so. There are many different waiting rooms but there is always more than one chair.
Feature photo and final three photos in this post by Rob Viuya