Beaches, a Birthday, and “Compartmentalization”

This post is not about infertility.

When all there is to do but wait, life happens.  As my therapist said on Saturday, “There’s more to life that just trying to get pregnant.”  For three weeks the IVF and pregnancy loss saga had seized my life, taken it hostage, to such an extent you’d hardly notice it was summer vacation.  I made it to the beach for the first time on Friday, nearly a month after the end of school, when B and I went down there after he came home from work to escape the heat wave and watch the sunset over the dunes with our toes in the sand and the heartbeat of the crashing ocean in our ears.  For the first time I felt my mind and my body exhale into summer like one of those deep yoga stretches that comes after pushing a muscle until it burns.  Saturday we packed the Suburu with friends, food, blankets, and beach chairs and took the long way out to Montauk, looping around the north side of the fork through Sag Harbor, past farm stands and vineyards and quaint family summer homes, plus a pit stop at Citarella for crusty bread and colorful salads.  We spent the afternoon drinking cold beer and eating sandwiches and laughing in the warm sunshine.  We drove around to Navy Beach to drink wine and watch the sunset over the bay, then dinner, and drove home after midnight, sleepy, with full bellies and happy hearts.

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Just an observation: It’s funny how almost losing the chance to do this IVF—which I had completely discounted as a pointless formality, an exercise in futility designed to provide closure—gave my perspective on the cycle a renewed sense of urgency and hope. It’s also funny how being forced to think about treatment—which I normally obsess on tirelessly—has eradicated (if only temporarily) the compulsion to worry about it because I’m just so goddamn sick of thinking about this that I feel possessive about the rest of me and my life and things I love unrelated to baby. I have now been assigned (by therapist) to engage in “compartmentalization” in which IVF is over there in its corner, planned and thus unrelated to this moment, and my life is here, sitting in front of me like a neglected puppy, begging for some acknowledgement and affection. The next 3 weeks are a time for sensual pleasures, powerful distraction. Time is a commodity.

And so I’m firmly planted in a continuing celebration of B’s birthday. He is feeling mortal and old, and I know how age feels more significant when you’re stuck in this. I want to be the force that lets the air into the room, changes the mood, whisks him away on an adventure, helps him forget his troubles for a minute or two. Sunday we went to his mothers for lunch; we played with her new kittens—a pair of rambunctious, outgoing brothers, tumbling and pouncing on one another, batting knick-knacks off shelves, stealing make-shift toys off counter tops, nestling in fruit bowls and magazine baskets.

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We sat on the back patio amidst the hydrangea and lily of the valley in the shade and soft breeze of the first day post-heat-wave. I listened to them talk about a visit to the William Floyd mansion and history and exchange jokes until we sang “Happy Birthday” around the most perfect cupcake. I leaned into the sweetness. I love this man. I love this family.

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At midnight I tried to kiss away his birthday blues, but they were stubborn and he woke up for work in a black mood.  Still vying for my Wife of the Year award, I set about changing the tone of the day–planning an overnight stay on Fire Island at his best friend’s beach house, battling all day to finagle dog-sitting and only finding success at the eleventh hour, shopping for food and wine and cake, packing everything, oh, and a quick jaunt into Manhattan (after all, I don’t get into the city nearly enough these days) to meet his musician pal and former bandmate at the Sam Ash superstore to pick out his brand new ukelele.  We went with a sexy little Portuguese number with a pick-up so he can plug it into the new amp he’s so jazzed about.  He came home from work strung out after enduring incessant chatter among the biddies at his office about the birth of the royal brat, but the ukelele changed everything; it was a smash success.  He took it with him on the ferry, and everything was uphill from there.  In the morning when we woke up sandy and sticky from humidity, I asked him, “Did you have a good birthday?”  He said in that soft voice and with those smiling eyes that make my heart sing, “I had a great birthday.  Thank you.”

Happy life, happy wife.

2 thoughts on “Beaches, a Birthday, and “Compartmentalization”

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