“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper.”
What should have been easy wasn’t.
What will be easy, at least physically so, is ending our childbearing years.
I am finally ready for us to take that step. Frank was ready years ago. I knew after having Kaelyn that I didn’t want to add to our family. Still, there was a sharp needle of doubt, and it was threaded by the question of what if. I couldn’t predict how we’d feel about another child in five years, and what if, for some unfathomable reason, we felt that having another baby would be right for us? Well, it’s been seven years, and not only do we not want more children, but we are also at a new point in parenthood where we are actually catching glimpses of and looking forward to having grown, independent children. We’re thinking about diplomas in our future, not diapers.
I never conceived in 2.5 years of trying without intervention, but I don’t trust the laziness of my ovaries enough to rely on it as a form of birth control. We’re so resolute in our desire not to have more children that other forms of temporary birth control are pointless, too.
So, that leaves us with the option of sterilization. Sterilization. The word is severe, especially in contrast to the fertility for which I’ve spent most of the last 15 years fighting. As finite as it is, that is what we are ready for. The question, then, has come down to which one of us it would be.
Frank has always been okay with it being him. I wasn’t, oddly enough, and I couldn’t clarify why. In my gut, there was just a pervasive sense of wrongness about it being him. I’m almost insulted by the idea, and I knew that I couldn’t go forward with either one of us going under the knife until I could figure out why. I had to make heads or tails of all emotional arms of this move.
When we talked about it again last night (and by “talk” I mean that I processed out loud and Frank listened), the answer finally crystallized for me.
Frank hurt because I hurt, but there never really was a pain that he could call his own. I neither begrudged him his peace, nor was I resentful. We were headed in the same direction on the same path, but whereas his side of the road was smoothed by his characteristic mind-over-matter trust in the future, mine was craggy and potholed with worry and doubt in the present. He was there for me. He held my hand across the divide and was there for balance, for support. Still, there was a sense of isolation even while his hands wiped away my tears.
Maybe it would have been different if it had been his body that was failing us. The fact that it wasn’t gave me ownership of the pain, both physical and emotional. It was a strange bedfellow. I curled up with it, its angular and bony corners uncomfortable in the soft parts of me. It was mine. It was my thing to deal with. It was mine to accept. Mine to embrace. Mine to hold and wrestle and tame. It was mine from which to recover. It began with me.
And so, to have it end with Frank, well, he just doesn’t deserve it.
I don’t mean that by sparing him of the physical discomfort of vasectomy, I would be taking onto myself a physical discomfort that he doesn’t deserve to have. No.
What I mean is that I have always shouldered the burden of infertility’s pain that affected us as a couple. About permanently ending our childbearing abilities–whether by changing his body or mine–he does feel a small degree of…something lost. However, it is only a mere suggestion of loss, just a momentary, wistful pause with barely a backwards glance before filling his lungs with air redolent of freedom.
But I, I see the countless permutations of him and me never to be realized. Though neither of us desires more children and this is a decision which comes as a relief to me, too, it doesn’t pull on Frank’s orbit the way it does mine. For me, this moment…this ending of things…is heavier than a pause, and his whimper of loss would be too weak, too insignificant, against the gravity of it all. Frank doesn’t deserve the sympathy and catering necessary to support him through the recovery of a vasectomy. This circle is mine to close.
Selfish? Maybe. But as liberating as it ultimately will be for both of us, for only one of us, there will be an emotional pain coupled with the physical to endure. Even if he were, for once, the one to be on a doctor’s table, I will nevertheless be curled up one last time with that strange bedfellow, the angled corners uncomfortable in different places, but still hurting. And, not to be funny, I won’t care one whit about tending to the ache in Frank’s groin when what I’ll need is to be supported through the ache in my heart.
And so, like I’ve always done, I will take the pain, and Frank, like he’s always done, will take my hand.
It began with a whimper. The bangs, Frank will smooth away from my forehead before he kisses it and once again, tells me that everything will be alright.