“Flying out tonight – can’t believe we’re here… Bags packed, bins out, our lovely house sitter installed – we’re through our lists!! Hardest part will be dropping off max and no doggy cuddles for three months! Would be excited, but a bit too exhausted – will crash in the plane. Wishing you the very best for the next three months dear friends – will post updates as often as the interweb allows!! much love, sarah and kev xx”
Of all the places for this story to begin, we start in Brixton. (Cause all the great journeys of the world start in Brixton right?)
Image from http://www.brixtonbuzz.com
Early Sunday in late August, we left our cosy London nest. Surrounded by loving faces, we walked through the cool, leaf strewn streets. My dear sister, her hubby and 7 year old twins chatting merrily. Fully kitted out and finally on the road, we were catching the tube to Heathrow.
We’d been in the UK for three weeks on holidays, visiting family, recovering from jetlag and preparing for the big trip. The escalators descending underground, we glimpsed back over our shoulders, daylight impeding our vision, the excited foursome standing near the flower stand, waving goodbye and cheering us on.
Image from http://www.yelp.co.uk
Watching their joyful back-lit silhouettes, we wondered – “What have we done? Are we mad?”
We were subdued, nervous, lost in our thoughts. We floated down the long escalators into the tube. The first of many days together.
Surrounded by Londoners going about their daily lives, I reflected on the way the extraordinary camouflages itself amid the ordinary details of life. Each person who passed carrying their own story, experiences, meaningful connections, thoughts and emotions as complex and vivid as my own.
As the tube carried us along, my thoughts strayed to that conversation with my friend nine months earlier.
“This isn’t going to happen for you is it?
“No, it isn’t”
And in that moment, the truth that i knew but dared not hear, came upon me. The decade long dream for Kev and I to have children was over. Yes there were other possible options to pursue, surrogacy, egg donation, adoption, international adoption, fostering, etc. But for us, we were done.
We had reached our limit, our line in the sand, we had given so much for this dream and it was time to move on. Beyond expensive fertility treatments, the emotional roller coaster of hope, grief and despair. I was done, emotionally spent, exhausted!
It was time to pack up that part of our life. We were walking away.
The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage was the punctuation mark at the end of that sentence. Not necessarily a healing journey, or a journey of grief, but our simple intention was to create a buffer of time, an experience between one era of our life and the next. A full stop.
We were heading into the unknown and we weren’t prepared to layer this experience with the burden of expectation that weighed down the preceding years. I had no idea what it would look like, i just knew we needed to stay open.
When we initially ended the fertility journey, I spent two weeks feeling immense relief. It was like I had been living two lives – the one I was in, plodding through each ordinary day yet propelled towards the one in my imagination, being a parent. It felt like parallel lives and I was truly present to neither.
Image from http://www.seraphimguardian.wordpress.com
This second life inhabited my mind, sometimes at the front as a problem to solve, but mostly lingering at the back. Emerging during those quiet moments, idling at traffic lights, cooking dinner, showering, my mind wandered. At these times i would contemplate what else could I do to achieve a live birth? What other aspect of my life can i upend to become a parent? God knows we had already upended them all. How else could I turn myself inside out to achieve motherhood?
We had put our life on hold and isolated ourselves, riding the monthly roller coaster of hope and despair. We weren’t great company most of the time. All life decisions filtered through the hope of a pregnancy and preparation for the changes that entailed. Where to live? where to work? lifestyle, diet, exercise, routines, habits, conversation topics – this ‘big dream’ seeped into every aspect of our lives.
Image from http://www.andyscotttherapies.co.uk
At the moment of the decision to stop trying for children, something released inside me. I’m not sure what, like a snapped cord, I felt these two lives merge into one. I’d become whole again, although shards of myself lay scattered at my feet.
Sitting at traffic lights after a movie, the realisation dawned, my stray mind hadn’t turned to babies, conception, parenthood etc etc. My head space was freeing up, allowing room for something else. The unknown beckoned.
All seemed fine for two weeks, until i crashed deeply, into sadness and despair. Childlessness grief hitting me front and centre, coinciding with the final three months of my father’s life.
Image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk
Back at Heathrow, we headed through check in, customs and security to find ourselves in the swarming crowd. I lost Kev in the shopping atrium, but we eventually found each other and we made our way to the gate.
We boarded the flight to Biarritz.
The adventure begun.