Following the Great Crash of 1929, American prosperity came to a halt and folks who once lived high on the hog stood in bread lines for rations. Our economic crash caused a ripple effect worldwide and from 1929 until World War II in 1941, it left some countries with unemployment rates as high as 33 percent. Survival. That was all people hoped for in those grim, cheerless days. Whatever work came their way, they took gladly and without contemplation of the pay – money was money.
In Michigan, the effects of the Great Depression continued to affect my mother, who was a child. She remembered Grandma Glasford making chicory coffee by using a stove top pot. She would boil the water, add the chicory and when it was ready, she cracked an egg into the pot. When the egg was cooked, Grandma Glasford would ladle the egg out of the bottom with all the chicory grounds baked in. Eggs they had, chicory was limited and piping hot cup free of grounds – a luxury. When folks face tough times, they’ll do whatever they can to get through and hopefully, with their wits.
After Brian and I found out we were infertile, I fell to pieces. It wasn’t until then that I realized my entire life built up to that expectation. But who expects when things move along so well in life that one day the bottom will drop out?
As I went through the stages of grief, sadness consumed me and the more I tried to ignore my desire to have children – the more it seemed they and pregnant women surrounded me. I felt like I was starving and had not one penny to my name while everyone dined on filet mignon. Time and again, I faced the questions from friends, family and co-workers as to when were going to have children. Inside, I would feel the lump form in my throat as I would casually toss aside the questions.
The more I struggled to keep my emotional well-being in check, the more my deep desires for motherhood rebelled. But I still couldn’t force myself to tell anyone – I felt so much shame. Is a women a woman if she doesn’t have a baby?
Finally, Brian and I decided that it was time for me to see a therapist. We went through the Navy family services and were referred to a counselor in Santee.
The day of my first session, I sat in my office nervously bouncing my leg and wondering what it would be like. I pictured the movie images of lying back on the couch, staring at the ceiling and pouring your heart out. Upon entering the office, I scanned the room and saw no one from my peer group. They all looked fairly haggered, drug-addled and financially desitute. I checked in and sat beside a woman using an oxygen tank to breath. The office sat silent save her labored breathing.
I was called in. The doctor seemed to very much represent the clientele in the waiting room. The room was dimly lit, the blinds drawn and two chairs sat in opposite corners facing each other. I sat down and suddenly felt very awkward. While I had always had a natural gift for talking with others about their troubles, I found it difficult to open up. The first session progressed more like a tug-o-war than a heart-to-heart. We discussed my depression, our infertility problems and the strain it caused my marriage, but in a very general way. I hardly spoke more than two or three sentences for each of her questions.
I felt lonely. Sitting in a therapist office, telling my secrets to a stranger made me feel more distant from my true self. While she asked prodding questions, I looked at myself from the outside and saw someone I didn’t recognize. For the first time in my life, I felt powerless and afraid. The spark that gave me the strength and gumption to make so many wildly risky, beneficial decisions sat looking for answers from someone who in her early 50s lived alone in an apartment with three cats.
The Rapist (therapist) told me that sessions only work as much as the client does. But after each session, I felt void of emotion, drained of integrity and more lost. The crying jags still continued, to Brian’s dismay, and they happened for a variety of reason: seeing a pregnant woman with children, talking to a friend who “hates kids,” hearing about a girl I know who had two abortions, trying to avoid a conversation that begins “I thought you two wanted kids,” thinking I would never celebrate Mother’s Day or help my daughter pick out her wedding dress, or simply because it was Sunday.
Even worse, I struggled with silence: the inability to tell even my closest friends still plagued me. I felt trapped within circumstances and though The Rapist told me all the answers to my life’s problems resided in me, I still wandered around in the forest of my mind searching for the light.
Some months later, I walked into the waiting room of the unfortunates to see a teenage boy sitting alone. After I checked in, we made the briefest eye contact and I sat down with my magazine. The door of the waiting room soon opened from the outside and a woman in a wheelchair pushed her way in with a relative helping her from behind. The relative told her he would return in just a moment. In the meantime, she was called to the counter. She labored with her right foot, slowly turning the wheels and making her way to the counter.
“Oh my gosh, this is just too much,” she said.
She suddenly stood up and without hesitation, marched up with the counter. The boy and I looked at one another and smirked; we choked down our giggles. After filling out her paperwork, she quickly returned to her wheelchair before her relative returned.
After my session, I walked down to my car and thought to myself: “I really need to get out of this wheelchair.”