After traveling from the West coast to the East coast to visit my mom, then traveling back to the West coast to have sex (yes, actual sex followed the syringical sex at Dr. VaJayjay’s), it is now time to head back to the East coast – this time for work. Lyena has been hired to perform her one-person show, Caterpillar Soup, at a theater in Vermont and I get to tag along as her Technical Director.
We make a quick stop in Maryland first to drop in on my mom and I find myself, once again, struck by how normal everything seems. Lyena, too, seems to think my mom looks surprisingly healthy for someone in hospice. After a few days, we say our goodbyes, steal my sister’s car and make the long trip north.
During the drive, there’s a lot of time to think and talk about how we’re feeling about our baby-making adventure. Though we’re both bummed that our pregnancy the last time didn’t hold, we’re also relieved in a couple of ways. First, we’re glad that the loss happened early. We both know families who have lost pregnancies much later in the process and we know that the pain, sorrow and loss grow exponentially as the weeks progress and the due date nears. If you’re going to lose a pregnancy, earlier is much better. Second, we’re actually a little encouraged, because it means that we can, in fact, conceive. We now know for sure that my swimmers and her eggs are compatible enough to join forces for the good of humanity.
And so it is with hope that we head to Vermont. Hey, it’s only been a few months and we’ve already gotten pregnant once. Some people spend years in this process and don’t even get that far. Maybe this means it will be a short journey for us. Maybe this one will be the one.
As part of our trip, we stop by to see some friends who moved to Burlington a few years ago. They, too, struggled with pregnancy, navigating a long road with two miscarriages, one of which more than halfway into the pregnancy. Somehow they kept up their hope and in the end they had a beautiful, charming daughter. During our too-short few days with them, we spend a lot of time talking late into the night about the joys and pains of pregnancy and parenting. I grill them for any advice I can get and they empathetically laugh at my requests. “There’s no handbook, Dean,” they tell me. “It will be what it will be. And it will be truly amazing.”
After our visit, as we drive down to the theater, I imagine the “amazing.” I imagine a pregnant Lyena, all bulging belly and odd (or should I say odder) cravings, and me having to hunt down a sprig of fresh dill, some celery root and organic gluten-free oatmeal at three in the morning. I imagine holding our child for the first time. First words, first steps… all the first everythings. For once, it seems my mind is on my side – keeping me afloat instead of tearing me apart.
Lyena’s show is running at an adorable little theater called Sandglass in an adorable little town in southern Vermont called Putney. It’s quite literally a one-intersection town, and exactly as adorable as you expect a small Vermont town to be. The theater itself is actually a converted old barn that sits behind the house of the adorable husband and wife team that operate it. Did I mention it’s adorable?
We roll into town and start our work. I proceed with setting up the technical aspects of the show and Lyena facilitates several workshops in the community. For a while, the distraction of work pushes aside the imaginings, and at times, I almost forget that Lyena might be pregnant. A few days into our visit, however, Lyena comes out of the bathroom with a sort of sad acceptance on her face and informs me that she got her period. It’s going to be a little bit longer journey still.
I don’t think either of us really knows what to feel at this point. It’s still relatively early for us in this process. The doc says that only one in four or five eggs is even viable. We know we can get pregnant, so that’s good. But the fact is, the repeated maybe-being-pregnant and then not-being-pregnant is really starting to take its toll. The more hopeful I allow myself to be during the “maybe” times, the harder it is when we find out it isn’t happening.
This, of course, leads me into a bit of a quandary, as I try to balance the joy of hope and the pain of disappointment. Increasingly, I find myself purposely avoiding my joyful feelings, looking away when I begin to imagine a future with baby or child in tow, because that blissful future is full of hope and I don’t want to risk it taking another hit. So, often, I choose the dullness of forced-indifference instead. Not a particularly comfortable place to live.
Just off the intersection in Putney there is a small jewelry and art store. It is the kind of store Lyena goes nuts for. Though it’s only the size of a small studio apartment, I swear I could lose her for days in a place like this. Handmade jewelry, note cards, accessories, and various other artful knick-knacks adorn the scattered racks and shelves, with pieces ranging from the bizarrely interesting to the extraordinarily beautiful and everything in between. There are even a few things for guys.
Needless to say, we spend a lot of time in this little shop over our week in Putney and quickly become friendly with the proprietor, a joyfully artistic woman who clearly loves what she does and where she does it. Somehow, at some point during our final purchase, it comes up that we are trying to get pregnant and we find ourselves in a surprising (and surprisingly interesting) conversation about the power of frogs.
Apparently, in many cultures frogs are symbols of transformation, creativity and birth. I’m not really sure why, exactly, but it seems to have something to do with the vast numbers of tadpoles a little froggy-mama gives birth to every year. As the shop owner is explaining this, she pulls out a cute little decorative frog and tells us that while she was trying to get pregnant, a friend gave her a frog like this one as a talisman to put by her bedside and, wouldn’t you know it, soon after she did, she became pregnant. We’ve heard a lot of stories like this during our pregnancy journey – things to try, foods to eat, etc. – and I just take this as another anecdote until she proceeds to wrap up the little frog and include it in our purchase. “I’d like you to have this,” she says. “As my gift to you. May it bring you as much good fortune as it did me.” She won’t accept any money for it, saying that it must be a gift in order for it to work and telling us with a smile to pay it forward when the time comes.
We’re both pretty stunned. It’s not like it’s a hugely expensive piece or something, but that’s hardly the point. This woman runs a tiny little jewelry and arts store in a tiny little town in Southern Vermont. I can’t even imagine how she manages to make ends meet in this business and in this economy. And yet her kindness and compassion outweigh whatever financial burden she may feel and she gifts us, two near-total strangers, with a little piece of hope and support.
Come on, little froggy-mama. Do your thing.
Up next… VaJayjay-cation