Empty Spaces

Cardboard pushes against wood with a whispered swoosh. I scoot the IVF box with my toe to a new position in the house—closer to the stairs, closer to the door. It lived for almost a year in our bathroom, covered discreetly with a towel. [Shhhh. You’re a secret.] 

Mostly, the box is full of needles leftover from a batch that drew beads of blood from my belly and thighs, filling me with hormones and other synthetics so doctors could have control over my biological dashboard. Before the last stick, I howled long with deep barreling heaves of sadness and resistance. Honestly, it never felt right. I just wanted to bring shape to this energy between him and me—to grow round and full with heavy breath and throbbing, new-life energy. To be invited into the circle of womanhood—the mamas and grandmamas. To fulfill the deepest longing that turns to love when a baby squirms into this world all blood and gunk and breath and life. 

First, the box was shuffled quietly to the space under a red chair by the dresser. I had hoped my husband would deal with it. Instead, we ignored it with veiled emotion. It gathered dust. Maybe. Maybe we would still need it.

Another time, I picked up it up with my hands. I placed it purposefully, carefully in the upstairs hall among yellow walls and stacks of unshelved books. Not even the cats peered inside. 

Now, I empty the contents on the floor. I save some needles. Maybe I would need them when we are old with illness. It seems prudent. (Hard to let go.) Blue tablets condensed with estrogen go into the “lady stuff” bin. Menopause isn’t that far away, I guess. All that’s left is a business card of an egg donor consultant we never called. We still could. But we are older now. One year later seems like 10. What once seemed in our grasp feels far away except for the lone soul hovering above my bed at night—that same collection of love energy waiting to be brought into this world. It will eventually move on to a younger, fertile vehicle.

Age isn’t just a number. It’s a cut off. A reminder that we don’t control anything, no matter how much we try. 

I still feel an ache in the hollow of my hip from the dozens of eggs aspirated from my body: the 24 that fertilized, the five that percolated for a weekend and the two that carried on only to be deemed genetic misfits. 

And he and I hold each other and cry when it’s time, and sometimes wonder and make plans and hope beyond reason.


Richmond, VA

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