To demonstrate what a "changed" person I've become, I met my pregnant friend for a drink the other night. Well, I had a "drink" in the sense of the alcoholic beverage while she sipped a dainty ginger beer. But since the no-smoking ban came into force in Scotland, there is really no excuse for knocked up women to avoid the pub/bar. This is great for those of us who want to ease the discomfort of such social engagements with a double vodka. Works for everyone.
The last time I saw this friend was in October at a party. There we both enjoyed a number of "drinks" in the alcoholic sense, and I didn't get home until 5am. Unheard of for me, but delightful all the same. During the festivities, she confessed over a couple of glasses of wine, she and her husband were "trying". Oh, I said, I can give you lots of tips. Or, at least theoretical tips, since as we know, not a single one worked for me.
As it turns out, my little pearls of conception wisdom were not needed, because she must have already been a couple of weeks along by that point. The next I heard from her she was going for her scan, just before Christmas.
Just like that. So simple, isn't it, for some. You want a baby, you have sex with your partner, and hey presto. The thing is, this friend is one of those people who always seems to effortlessly achieve whatever she wants; great job, great house, great man. I wasn't in the least surprised that the baby came along, on schedule, as intended, exactly at the right time.
I've known this woman a long time. We went to university together, she shared my flat for about six months, we danced at her wedding. I like her; she is kind, funny, bright and beautiful. And I knew that unless I could bring myself to make some gesture now to acknowledge, indeed to embrace and celebrate her pregnancy, then I wasn't putting my money where my mouth is as far as getting over this whole infertile-bitter thing. Or for that matter, being much of a good friend.
So I emailed her, arranged to meet her. They don't go in for baby showers here, and this was my only opportunity to give her something for the impending arrival. And as it happens, I had something to hand. Because, you see, when you are learning to knit, baby things are quite easy to churn out- small, not too time consuming or soul-destroying when you fuck up and have to frog the whole project. I had whipped up a little hat and matching booties with some lovely yarn that Anna H. had sent me for my birthday. Cute baby gear sitting at the bottom of my knitting bag, going nowhere.
I fished it out, and wrapped it in some nice paper. As I did so, I came over all funny. I found myself clutching the hat in my hand, unwilling to let it go. Come on, I told myself, reaching for the tape, get over it. Get over it get over it getoveritgetoverit. It's just stuff. You can always knit another set if you ever have a kid. Oh wait, right, you're not going to. But if you do. If you did. If... Oh shut up and stick the package in your handbag.
I was early, as always, and standing outside the bar was afforded an excellent view of her bump (surprisingly pert, considering she is eight months along) as she walked down the road toward me. As she approached, I suddenly had the old horror. Shit, I thought. This was a really, really bad idea.
We had a nice enough time, I suppose. She was pleased and touched with the present, which made me feel a little better about being able to give it. And the talk was fairly evenly balanced for the most part (my tales of woe over the last months versus antenatal classes. Career ambitions verses decorating the nursery). As I left, I congratulated myself for not once revealing there were moments when sitting there with her felt exactly like a hot poker was being driven through my heart.
I walked home feeling troubled. Guess I haven't changed so much, after all. Guess there are certain days and certain spaces when this is still so very hard. But the worst thing was the mental battering I gave myself for days afterward for not being over it yet, for not being all OK about it, for not being able to effortlessly celebrate my friend's seemingly effortlessly obtained happiness. I went out and asked the slowly budding bay tree: how long is it going to take? How much longer until I can honestly, truly say it doesn't bother me anymore? What if I can never say it?
What I realised today was this: the amount of time it will take for me to feel better about not being able to get pregnant and have children is directly proportionate to the amount of time it will take for me to start feeling better about the life I have, or can have.
Such a simple equation, and yet so very hard to calculate.