This I Believe

bretton - salt lake city, Utah
Entered on December 1, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Doctor, “I Am At Peace”

As a female physician many months into the thick of infertility I have come to see myself in a different way than I did just a few months ago. Before, I thought I was invincible. I thought I’d pulled off the impossible task of being “perfect”. Then my husband and I started trying to get pregnant, earlier than many of our other professional friends, yet at thirty-five, we knew we were running late. Still, life had been swimming along for us, and we assumed it would continue to do so.

It hasn’t gone the way we’d hoped. We’re two years into our marriage and twenty tries into pregnancy. Infertility is humbling and has required that I face imperfection and life’s frailty. I’m broken, flawed, and so far helplessly unable to conceive a child.

Rather than liberating me, the choices available that might lead to a child have temporarily immobilized me. Thoughts of clomid, intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization, adoption, and remaining childless swirl regularly through my mind, leaving me exhausted and unclear about our next step. I’m in a holding pattern, a waiting corral with my incredible husband at my side.

Last week I met a new patient, Marjorie, an elderly woman with newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer at her home. Facing innumerable choices about the direction of her care, she chose hospice. During the visit she gripped my hand and, with twinkling, youthful eyes despite her aged body, said to me in a scratchy voice, “Doctor, I am at peace.” Her words got to me, in the pit of my stomach, and they changed me.

She had not lived a “perfect” life. She was alcoholic, widowed for many years, and lived alone. One son was now moving in to care for her. She was real rather than perfect. I fell for her instantly because she absolutely knew that life was messy and she didn’t care. She liked life anyway. The wrinkles around her smiling eyes told it all.

I was drawn to Marjorie, transfixed by her calm, her laughter, and her insistence that this pancreatic cancer diagnosis would be ok. As I struggle on the path toward motherhood I wonder if I can learn to trust, like Marjorie, that life has a way of working itself out if you can make peace with its imperfection.