There are a lot of books out there dealing with infertility. They tell one if the following stories:
1. I couldn't get pregnant. Then I got pregnant. Yay!
2. I couldn't get pregnant. So I adopted. Yay!
3. I couldn't get pregnant. So I made peace with living without children. Yay!
As a woman who was struggling to conceive, I had a real problem with these books. I was ok until the "yay!" part. How can I relate to a woman who has finally conceived, or a woman who has decided to adopt, or a woman who has made peace with the situation? I didn't know what any of those things felt like, and I didn't identify with any of those categories. I wanted to relate to someone who was struggling. Someone who wasn't finding her peace in the END of her story. Because I didn't know what my ending would be.
So I started to write. We all know how my story ended. (I'm a #2. Yay!) But this book is not about that. "Hope Springs" tells the story of that first year in our Trying to Conceive journey, and how I learned to get up every morning (well, most mornings. OK some mornings) looking at the day with hope without knowing how my story would end. What follows is the prologue to this book.
Monday, May 1, 2006
TLC’s “A Baby Story” makes my uterus hurt. I don’t know who decided it was a good idea to put screaming, writhing women on daytime television. Still, I find myself fixated and I’m exhausted from trying to help this total stranger push. I think I must be as relieved as she is to know that the end is near- just one more big push- when I hear the familiar squeak of our rusty mailbox. This sound begins the most exciting forty-five seconds of my day. During this special time the mailbox has the potential to bring me evidence that someone out there is thinking of me- even if it’s only Ed McMahon. This is exactly the feeling the good people of River City, Iowa sang about as they waited for the Well’s Fargo wagon.
I retrieve the mail and look at each piece with careful scrutiny before placing it on one of three piles. The first pile is for the people who live in the upstairs apartment of our duplex. Their mail is easily identifiable by the fact that it is addressed in Chinese. Pile number two is made up of things that are addressed to my husband Ryan and I, but will go directly into the trash. How many Pottery Barn catalogues can we really need? The final pile is for the things that I will open and shred before putting them into the trash. Although I appreciate the opportunity to consolidate my student loans. Really I do.
There is the potential for pile number four: things that I will open, read, and then do something about. This pile is reserved for the few bills we get each month, and the rare invitation. There is generally very little need for pile number four, and I haven’t made room for it on the table for today’s sort. So when I find an envelope addressed to me from the Freelancer’s Association, I’m not really sure what to do with it. I’m a new member, so I assume it’s a welcome letter. I start to put it into pile number three, but realize that this is slightly heavier than just a letter. It’s almost like there’s some sort of-
Oh God, I know what this is.
My insurance card.
I knew the policy started this morning, but I didn’t think my card would arrive so soon. I do a small victory dance before remembering that I’m still standing in front of the picture window in our very conservative Queens neighborhood. I check to see if anyone is watching, verify that I have escaped embarrassment- this time- and turn my attention back to the envelope in my hand, which shakes a little as I retrieve the small piece of plastic that will redefine who I am. It says HIP in the upper-right-hand corner. I know it stands for Health Insurance Plan, but I much prefer to think of it as an adjective. Yep, this is me alright. It’s all here on smooth plastic in black and white, and it represents the end of my quest to find a business-card-sized sense of self.
I am a wife. I am an actor. I am a church member. And now, with this little card, I am an insured person with a prescription plan and a low co-payment.
I am a card-carrying member of the grown-ups.
I haven’t always been uninsured. Over the course of my ten-year teaching career I’ve had a variety of health-benefits-provided-type positions. But about a year ago, after graduating from New York University with a master’s degree in Music Theatre, I decided to strike out on my own, offering voice lessons to aspiring actors in New York City. It was a risky move, but I knew it was the right one. There is no end to the job satisfaction I feel every single day.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for my NYU health insurance- it ended in June. Since then, every moment has felt like a gamble. I have questioned every decision. “Should I walk to the subway in the snow?” I would ask Ryan. “I might slip on the ice and break my leg. Or worse, I could break my finger, and then I couldn't play the piano for lessons. I could catch a cold from a stranger at the movies that could settle in my chest and keep me from working. Or a beam from a construction site could fall on my head.” The risks were everywhere, the worrying was exhausting, and Ryan was running out of nice ways to say “you’re completely paranoid and crazy.”
Then two months ago I started noticing funny ads on the subway:
"Echinacea is not an acceptable form of health insurance."
"A Constituency of Free Spirits large enough to count."
"A Federation of the Unaffiliated. Unity. But no hugging."
The Freelancer's Association.
It turns I’m exactly the kind of person they’re here to help. And today, after a seriously long, complicated application process, I proudly hold my new insurance card in my hand.
And if this were the story of my career and how I established myself as a freelance musician in New York City, it would probably be the end. I went to school for a long time, I taught in Ohio, I moved to New York, I went to school some more, I had several different jobs, I started teaching privately, I joined the Freelancers Association. I did it, and so can you. Work hard, stay in school, don't do drugs. Praise Jesus. The End.
But that's not what this story is about.
Truth be told, health insurance isn't even that important to me. Oh, sure, I can say I'm concerned for my general well-being, or that I’m worried about my thyroid condition, or the depression I battle by going to therapy twice a week. But I’ve been paying for those things out of pocket just fine for the past few months. And I can pretend I have some deep desire to be a conscientious adult- that I want to be prepared in case of an emergency. But who am I kidding? I need health insurance for one reason, and one reason only. I've been in hard core Mommy Mode since the moment I graduated from NYU. But without a decent job nor any way to pay for prenatal care, it just wasn't time yet, I knew that. I may be an artist, but I do have some sense. Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch.
And now, as I slide this new insurance card into my wallet, I no longer have to hit the snooze button on my biological clock. Having health insurance makes me feel like the responsible parent I know I'll soon become. So now that my card has arrived, my story can begin.