There was one particular scene in March of the Penguins that crushed me. A mother is passing her newly-laid egg to her partner so he can take over caring for the young penguin inside. Their movements are clumsy and hesitant. Because the pair is young and inexperienced, they have not yet perfected the dance that keeps the egg safely off the ice and unexposed to the air, which is a frigid 80 degrees below zero.
The egg rolls onto the ice and within milliseconds, a crack forms on the shell. The freezing Antarctic air swiftly seeps in and ice crystals expand the crack. The young mother lets out a long, plaintive squawk, helpless and unable to stop nature's cruelty. Her partner waddles closer to her and she places her beak on his neck. They bow their heads together and watch as their egg breaks in half.
Good job, Documentary about Flightless South Pole Birds' Mating Rituals. You just made me cry.
Dusty and I have also had a long, arduous journey toward parenthood. Our march seems like it began the moment we got married in May 2003, when our parents could legally urge us to start producing grandchildren. As the months progressed and we still weren't squirting out any grandbabies, my mother stepped up her campaign. She and my father (Et tu, Daddy?) began talking to us about their methods of successful conception, most notably the "7-11" method, in which you are supposed to abstain from sex for seven days after the last day of your period and then have at it for 11 days straight.
Interwebs, let me tell you that "have at it" sounds even dirtier in Tagalog, and SO wrong when uttered by my very Catholic mother. Watching my husband squirm in his seat while my parents advised him on how best to impregnate their daughter was delightful. If, by "delightful", you mean I was silently invoking Kali Ma to swallow me whole before my mother could ask for the 45th time whether or not we've tried out the 7-11 method.
We did try out the 7-11, along with tracking my basal body temperature (BBT), and using ovulation predictor kits. These kits are fast becoming the most advanced nanotechnology available, with microprocessors that test pH levels and report results on tiny LCD screens. And I pee on them!
The BBT tracking actually worked in January 2005. Then in February 2005, I had to have surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy. Our baby Bean had grown inside one of my tubes and it had to be taken out before the tube burst. That winter was the darkest we have ever known, and not just because it was our first winter in this arctic tundra, where we had no family and no close friends just yet. We both felt helpless and unable to stop nature's cruelty.
Good job, Memories. You just made me cry.
After all Dusty and I have been through, some of you might be wondering, "Do you really want to do this?" Do I really want to journey across a frozen landscape to try to have a child with this man, the Paragon of Goodness and Light? Do I want to go through more heartache and pain, endless tests and trials, just to have a baby that might inherit this man's gorgeous green eyes, brilliant mind, and enormously generous heart? Gentle readers, I say: HELLZ YEAH!
I will happily pee on advanced nanotechnology. I will breathe through painful diagnostic tests. I will be patient when well-meaning, misguided people say awkward, intrusive things like "Do you want to have a baby or do you want to give birth to a baby? You can adopt one, you know." Wow, thank you for pointing that out because I totally did not know that. Hey, maybe I can get them to wrap my new baby in paper, not plastic! I'm trying to be environmentally responsible. And for the love of Brahma, stop telling us to "just relax and it will happen." When we are most relaxed, we are humping like bunnies, so why hasn't it happened yet, o wise one?
Okay, maybe I need more patience. I'm just a little tired of dealing with people who have good intentions but clumsy tongues. Longtime couples of a certain age are always asked whether they are trying for kids; I used to ask that question myself. Sometimes it was just an icebreaker, the sort of question you ask after "How long have you two been together?" I generally do not ask "Are you trying for kids?" anymore. If I do ask, "Yes" or "No" are good enough answers. Beyond that, it is none of my business. And none of yours.
Dusty and I have a long way to go before we can have a wee beastie. Every time I get discouraged, I just have to remember the Emperor penguins and their quest to reproduce. At least we don't have to waddle on slippery ice for a week, in 80 below zero temperatures, with 100 mph winds whipping around our heads, just to fight for the chance to have a baby. Thank Goddess for small mercies.