Winter Solstice is a time when I usually rejoice because it’s the shortest day of the year and the darkest night of the year. So, I tell myself, it can only get better from here, right?
As a child, I couldn’t sleep with a night light on but, I was also afraid of the dark, so I insisted on sleeping with my teddy bear. It was a transitional object that reminded me of my mom’s love and allowed me to sleep in comfort. At 39, I’m still afraid of the darkness, but the depth of my fear has evolved. I’m afraid of the darkness which has come to plague my soul, as I struggle to understand why God has not granted my one simple wish: to give birth to my own child.
I’ve prayed, meditated, clenched my fists and banged my head up against the wall countless times in protest against my infertility. In an effort to find peace, I’ve consulted several ’spiritual counselors’ and ministers who have all told me the same thing: everything is in divine order.
Well that might be true. I am powerless. I am human. I am frail. But how do I come to accept that? I need a road map, a bridge from here to acceptance, not a catch all phrase, a bridge that leads me nowhere. Part of our challenge as human beings is to learn to accept our powerlessness, to accept our frailty, to accept our morality in the face of fear.
As a seminarian, studying to be an ordained minister, I’m really struggling with the fact that I will never experience the joy of childbirth. From a young age, I always knew in my heart that I would join the ranks of my mom, my aunts, cousins and, my namesake, my grandma, Eva, all of whom gave birth to numerous children. It was my birthright. In the face of my last IVF failure, I’m grappling with my morality and the dissonance between my dream-filled prayers and the stark reality of the last three barren, TTC-filled years.
How do I accept the fact that I will never be pregnant when it seems to have happened for so many of my relatives, friends, relatives, co-workers and, let me be frank here, even some of my enemies? Ad it seems as if every time on turn on the TV, or surf the web for news, I am assaulted by another celebrity pregnancy. What water are they drinking? And where can I get some?
Things may be in divine order but it sucks. Even in the midst of moving ahead with my adoption planning, even in my finest hours, when I’m excited about adopting a newborn, I’m angry about my infertility. I’m furious about it.
I don’t want to be the kind of minister who sweeps things under the rug. I want to inspire people to embrace the darkness. The problem with infertility is that it’s hard to talk about. People get embarrassed when talking about menstruation, sex, sperm, the birds and the bees; besides people get emotional when talking about sexuality. It’s taboo.
So imagine the discomfort when my situation is presented. I’m an infertile lesbian who tried to get pregnant using frozen donor sperm. My infertility is invisible in a culture where we can’t talk about sexuality. It’s hard for people to wrap their heads around my struggle.
Several ministers have said to me, “well, just take a break and relax and it may happen for you because my niece relaxed, went on vacation, and ‘pouf’ she got pregnant; or “it happened to my sister, she adopted and the next thing you know, she was pregnant.” Well, I’m pretty sure that it won’t happen for me.
Given the fact that I’m a lesbian, I told them, I just just go to bed one night, have relations with my husband, or boyfriend, and wake up pregnant the next day. Once Nadia and I decide to stop trying, that’s the end of the road, which brings me back to the darkness.
This summer, I went on a seven day meditation retreat. I went by myself, stayed in a stark (by my city-girl standards) tent cabin with a sleeping bag and minimal electricity. And I really didn’t talk to too many people. I just wanted to be alone and sort of ‘get away from it all’. Well, it was a great trip, but it rained a lot. One night, I was walking back to my cabin with a flashlight because the lights went out on the campus. It was pitch black.
When I was about 50 feet from my cabin, my flashlight went out too; the batteries died. “Holy crap”, I thought. “There is no one in sight. And I hate the dark. I’m wet and I’m lost what am I going to do?” I was trembling with fear. Suddenly, it started to thunder and lightning and, I’m not kidding, I used the lightning bolts as a guide. I was able to get to my cabin safely, dry off, and I actually had a pretty good night’s sleep that night.
Tonight, I will lean on my faith to help me get through this night. The winter solstice is a time to embrace the darkness, to embrace our fears, to embrace our depression, our grief, our anger, our sadness, and to be one with it. Tonight, I’m going to try to accept the darkness and not try to explain it away or turn my back on it. I’m going to try to come to terms with it, remembering that for thousands of years, both women and men have celebrated this pagan holiday because they were certain of a one thing: no matter how dark it gets, the night will be followed by daylight.