A. J. Demare
2004 by A. J. Demare
As an old songwriter, now turned dead poet once wrote, “People are strange.” I agree. Seems we’re all searching the pages of a aspirant best seller for that one ultimate fix. According to the bestseller list, if it can’t be found through channeling, then there’s always meditation or yoga. Or, why not discover tarot reading, or even hire a self-awareness Guru? And, don’t forget Tai-Chi. (At least that feels good.) Can someone help me to understand how people can justify spending money on a “pet psychic” to speak to their pets? Are they actually buying all that nonsense? Woof!
Yes, discovering new-age spiritualism has never been so exciting. Or has it? It seems some of these fads have been around before. Like an old hair-ball regurgitated from our past, they’ve come full circle and now they‘re back, sporting a new name and claim to fame. Here’s a reality check for anyone under thirty. They didn’t work then and probably won’t work now. I like to keep it simple. I believe in miracles.
Large and small Miracles occur every day, yet many go unnoticed. It’s human nature to refute God’s work by writing off miracles. We’ll chase after UFOs and accept the likelihood of their existence, but scoff at the existence of miracles. When a phenomenon occurs we’ll say, “Knock on wood”, or “It must be my lucky day.” Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I heard, “It’s a miracle!”
The more our world advances, the less we believe in the existence of a supreme power. Who knows? Maybe good isn’t exciting anymore. Or maybe what’s good gets upstaged by what’s evil. We sit in front of our big screen TV and channel-surf our way through the news for a daily dose of child abductions, war and drive-by shootings. Now, that’s excitement! It’s rare, though, when you hear about the homeless man who, finally learning to read, filled out his first job application. Now, there’s a true miracle, if you think about the road he would’ve taken if not for someone caring enough to teach him to comprehend the term, “self-respect.”
Far too many people have lost their faith. Not me, though. Faith is the daily air I breath. Astounding miracles have occurred in my lifetime because of faith, and If I can affect even one person’s life by sharing mine, then I‘ve kept it‘s power alive. By revealing my story of heartache, anguish and triumph, I might inspire other women to have courage and never give up. Keep the faith! The miracles are out there. You only need to open your hearts and believe.
Summer of 1978
It was a warm August morning, hungry for languor, so when the alarm sounded I rose grudgingly, hesitant to meet it. I wanted to stay in bed and work on my dream tan, but I was due at the Gynecologist’s office at 10:00 AM, and it was ten minutes after nine already. After sinking four Oreo cookies into a quick cup of coffee, I got dressed and raced out the door. A warm breeze passed, lightly brushing my face. Like soft hands it massaged my nerves. What a shame to waste this magnificent morning at the doctors, I thought, but I really needed to be seen.
I should have slept in, because it was 10:40 before the doctor finally showed. Seeing his face, I knew something was wrong. Uncertainty spread. Slowly branching out from my gut, it consumed my last bit of nerve.
“Don’t panic,” I told myself.
Fidgeting with my bracelet, I stared at the doctor as he shared the test results.
I was told by my Gynecologist that my tubes were blocked beyond repair. I’d feared something was wrong, yet had no idea how severe the problem really was. I’d been experiencing heavy bleeding and ongoing pain in my abdomen these past four cycles. Now I knew why. I was nineteen years-old and I was infertile. I still recall the casual expression on the Doctor’s face, as his words unknowingly destroyed my life.
“I’m sorry, Ms. ******, but you’ll never be able to conceive naturally. I recommend you have a complete hysterectomy. We’ll see a difference in the pain and bleeding immediately.”
It was as if I no longer mattered. My boundless dreams of motherhood had been reduced to only one with non-functioning female parts; parts which could be removed for a price.
“Wait. I…”, I managed to squeak out before my throat closed completely.
“Don’t worry,” he continued. “I’ll have my nurses take care of all the paperwork and blah, blah, blah,”. My head was spinning. I wanted to scream. Ironically, Stop, You’re killing me, doc!, popped into my head. God, I hated my sense of humor. “Blah, blah, blah,“ he continued with his monotone ax. I didn’t hear a word. All I could think about was never being able to hold a baby in my arms; never being able to embrace my child. Suddenly, I felt barren inside. Then I heard it. A small voice whispered, “Wait.” The sound was barely audible, but I heard it, none the less. Or was it a thought? It was gone as fast as it came. The Doctor tried his hand at compassion. “It’s not the end of the world. You’re young. There are other ways of acquiring children.” As he spoke he glanced toward the clock.
The emptiness I‘d felt earlier was gone. Suddenly I wanted to kill this man, yet all I could manage to say was, “ That’s easy for you to say, you’re a man.”
At least he didn’t try to rationalize that fact. I couldn’t help but wonder if a female doctor would have relayed the news with a bit more compassion.
Too late now, my inner-voice chastised.
I drove home in silence. My mind was racing with a million unanswered questions. I decided to wait on the Hysterectomy until I had a clear understanding of what initially caused my infertility.
When I got home I didn’t allow myself the luxury of a good cry. It was too soon, I told my self. Besides, logic was the key that opened this door, not an emotional breakdown. So, I called my mother. Together we’d get to the truth.
While mulling over my medical history, we remembered that when I was eight, I’d been sent home from school with the flu. By the time my family got home, my appendix had burst.
I was rushed to a nearby emergency room. After hours of surgery, the doctors sewed up what they could of the gaping hole in my stomach and stuffed the rest with surgical gauze. They told my family to call in a priest to administer last rites. I’d lost too much blood and, in all likelihood, wouldn’t survive the night. Yet, because of the grace of God alone, (that’s how the doctors explained it,) I awoke the next morning. Although it didn’t make the evening news, an everyday miracle had taken place. My life had been spared.
I spent the next seven weeks in the hospital, five of which were in it’s ICU hooked up to an oxygen tank. My mother watched helplessly as blood and glucose IVs protruded from my frail arms. With private nurses watching over my every move, slowly I regained my health.
When my appendix burst I’d become a victim of peritonitis. ( Peritonitis is an after-effect of a ruptured appendix.) When the appendix bursts, the fluids settle over the abdominal organs, and/or into the Fallopian tubes, causing severe scaring. Often times it leads to a complete blockage of the tubes.
Having learned my fate, I’d gone from being a happy teen to becoming depressed and bitter overnight. And when I researched further and found out that there were alternatives to having a complete hysterectomy at nineteen, I was beyond bitter. I was Furious! I thanked God that my angel of reason told me to wait. Finding out that I was infertile at nineteen was too much for me to endure. Logic be damned! It was now time for that emotional breakdown. I turned to partying every night, eventually losing all hope of respecting myself in the morning. I was in a race with mortality, with the devil at the finish line, polishing the trophy.
Three years after plunging head first into bottle after bottle and sabotaging every relationship I‘d gotten myself into, I met my husband. I thought for sure I’d send him packing, just as I’d done with all the other brave souls who’d come before him. With all of my self-pity and acrimony (which had become as daily a ritual as my morning cup of coffee), I knew it was simply a matter of time. But Marcos was different.
Even before we were married, my husband knew I couldn’t give him children. He admitted that he was disappointed, but also told me that it wasn’t the end of the world, either. He saw how broken-up I was inside. I’d been robbed of every woman’s natural right, and it killed me a little more every day. Part of who Marcos was could never be shared, at least not with me, yet he chose to stay, nonetheless.
I’m still amazed at how we crossed paths. I believe God brought us together for reasons unknown to either of us at the time. Around six months before we actually started dating, we’d briefly worked together in an Italian restaurant. Marcos had been there the first day I’d started the job.
“Hello” he said, as he washed off heads of lettuce at the kitchen sink.
I asked him if he liked his job and he smiled and said, “Not really.” He had a mischievous grin and straight, white teeth. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy my new job.
Although we’d only exchanged a few words, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed the next day when, much to my surprise, the owner told me that Marcos was gone. Yesterday had been his last day. That chance meeting was not a coincidence, however, but the first in a series of events that would change my life.
After three months of working at the Italian restaurant, I became a victim of sexual harassment. I realize now that if the situation had occurred today instead of in 1979, things would have ended much differently!
The Dinner Chef (who’d taken a liking to me) had asked me out on several occasions. Each time I’d said no. He was much older than me and had a reputation of bothering the waitresses. This went on for a few months. “No” was not in his vocabulary, so he’d play games with my orders, thus sabotaging any chance I had at making decent tips. The proverbial straw came when I turned in an order for two Chicken Marsala dinners for the owner’s wife and mother-in-law. After waiting 20 minutes for the orders to come out, the owner asked the chef why it was taking so long. The “baffled” chef told the owner that he never saw the ticket. All eyes were upon me. I realized what had happened, but knew it was useless to try and explain. The chef got busy, and the owner left to smooth things over with his family. When the chef turned to me and winked, well, it was all I could take. I walked out the door. I was fired the next day.
The following Monday I started job hunting; depressed or not, I had to eat. After a few long months of unemployment, I finally landed a job at a coffee shop less than a mile from my house. As I walked through the doors on my first day, as if by fate, there stood Marcos!
From that day on, every time I’ve walked through the doors of what’s mattered in life, he’s always been there to meet me.
After a few months of working together, Marcos finally found the courage to ask me out. We started a casual dating relationship, but nothing serious or exclusive, at least not at first. One thing led to another and a year later, he asked me to marry him. On April 8th, 1983, we tied the knot.
After the honeymoon, the reality of my infertility returned, and I spent the first two years of our marriage crying. I remember being mad at my mother for not taking me to the hospital before my appendix burst, mad at the doctors for not telling me about the possibility of becoming infertile, and mad at God. I was really mad at God! Late at night I‘d lie on the floor crying, “Lord, why can’t I be a mother? Why can’t I have a baby?”
I remember the emptiness I felt deep inside. It burnt from the inside out, and all the alcohol in the world couldn’t stop the pain.
I hadn’t completely given up hope, though. I’d cry and wallow in self-pity by night and look for a super-cure by day. I’d gone to numerous infertility specialists and clung desperately to any hope of getting pregnant. Unfortunately, nothing worked.
First, I underwent a surgical procedure where the doctor literally opened my tubes at the top, much like opening petals on a flower. Unfortunately, the new scaring closed them right back up.
Next, I’d had my tubes “blown out.” The first attempt was excruciatingly painful. When the doctor injected dye into my tubes so he could see if they were partially or completely blocked, I thought I’d die. He explained that the greater the blockage, the greater the pain. When I passed out from the pain during the second and final “Blow out”, the doctor realized it was hopeless.
The third year of our marriage was almost a repeat of the first two, except for one slight deviation; I was driving my husband away. Marcos was close to walking out the door, and who could blame him. I was surprised that he’d lasted as long as he had. I accused him of wanting to be with another woman who could give him children. I blamed my drinking on his insensitivity. Yet, instead of my driving him away, (which probably was my intention all along), he stayed. I couldn’t figure it out! I guessed that maybe he was a glutton for punishment. Or maybe a stronger force held him there.
Not only did Marcos stay, he served up a fresh dose of reality as well. He made me realize that I needed to keep fighting. If I wanted to adopt, then so did he. When I suggested a surrogate, he was open to the idea as well.
I decided to get to work. For far too long I’d been channeling my energy into only the negative, never allowing any of the positive in. I was done mourning for what would never be, and ready to celebrate the possibilities.
The next series of events happened quickly, leaving both our heads spinning. It all came about one day while watching TV. I’d been watching a medical documentary about infertility. The narrator was explaining about the newest medical advances in the field of infertility. I listened with curiosity about a new procedure called In-vitro Fertilization.
A doctor explained how the procedure was performed. The medical breakthrough called IVF gave women a chance to give birth to their own children. Women who previously had trouble conceiving, now had a glimmer of hope. I now had a glimmer of hope!
The following day I was on the phone gathering information about IVF. Then letters were written and mailed out. Just a few weeks later we were placed on a waiting list at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Our long journey had begun.
Four months later we got the call from Cedar Sinai asking if we were still interested. I was beyond interested, I was obsessed! I made an appointment for the following week.
Marcos and I needed to have a complete fertility work-up, which would be time-consuming and costly. Marcos grew a bit concerned, but I didn’t bat an eye. I was both scared and anxious at the same time, but willing to try anything to conceive. Marcos, on the other hand, was more concerned with the emotional cost if the procedure didn’t work. After we arrived and checked in, we planted ourselves in the waiting room and did just that. I noticed a variety of women that I assumed were all there for the same reason. Like myself, they were all infertile.
Our group was really quite unique because our cultures, jobs, ages and incomes all varied, and yet in one matter we were all the same. We all shared the same heartbreak.
It’s amazing how open women become when discussing their grief. Listening to each personal story of heartache and hope helped me realize that I wasn’t alone. Even though it’s been many years since talking with those women, (although I don’t even remember their names),I am still touched by their courage.
Infertility is not some shameful curse. It’s not a disease, either. It is a tragic medical condition. And it’s real. You’ll see it take a detour past the children’s section at the department store, or feel its gut-wrenching pain upon hearing a newborn baby cry. Infertility alienates as well. It RSVP’s “no” onto every baby shower invitation, and gets sick on holidays to avoid relatives who ask, “When are you two starting a family?”
When all of the testing was complete, we were reminded of the cost of the IVF procedure. Sadly, we realized that ours would be a one time attempt. Marcos and I were by no means well-off. Then we did the only other thing we knew would help. We prayed.
I took fertility medication to “Over-stimulate” my eggs and when they were mature enough, we returned to the clinic. The doctors removed the ripened eggs from my only functioning ovary, while my husband went off to “The happy room” (as the giggling nurses called it) to contribute his part.
The next step was to fertilize the eggs as they would’ve become if they traveled through my tubes, only now they could receive the extra help they needed.
For those skeptics who say that IVF is not a natural way of conceiving a child, I disagree. IVF is an assisted, natural way for an infertile woman to conceive a child. With all of the anger in the world concerning the violent abortions taking place, how could anyone criticize IVF? It allows an infertile woman the right to give birth to her own child. Tragically, IVF couples are often ostracized by society. They’re made to feel guilty of committing some horrendous crime against humanity, simply because they want to raise a family of their own.
After arriving back from L.A., I put my feet up in our old, blue recliner and dialed my husband’s workplace. I felt a wave of peace wash over me as Marcos’ familiar “Hello,” came on the other end of the line.
“Hi, Papa, I said, as the tears sprang to my eyes. “We’re going to have a baby.”
Marcos told me not to get my hopes up in case it didn’t work out, but I knew. It’d been only four hours since the doctors had performed the procedure. But I just knew.
Nine days later the nurse called with our results. We had been sitting in the same spot for hours, waiting and praying. “Congratulations, you are officially nine days pregnant!”, she said.
You could have knocked Marcos over with a feather, he was so surprised! I remember both of us crying, but this time they were tears of joy and gratitude.
For the next nine months we walked on egg shells. Ours was a high-risk pregnancy, and we weren’t going to take any chances. Looking back, those nine months were the happiest months of my life. All the sadness that had for years been imprisoning my spirit was now replaced with an ever-growing joy. Never again would I doubt the tenacity of love when overcoming the impossible.
On August 2nd, 1988, I gave birth to a beautiful miracle. Marcos Christian came into our lives weighing 8 lbs. and 2 ounces of pure love. Upon being yanked from his safe haven, he screamed at the top of his lungs. The delivery team all laughed.
“He’s healthy, alright. All boy, that’s for sure.” they chimed.
Our beautiful, baby boy was finally born. His thick, black hair, tinged with white from his journey, was standing straight on end. This time I laughed. With his wide-open mouth and unruly hair, he reminded me of the Boxing Promoter, Don King. He was the most exquisite baby I’d ever laid eyes upon. And he was ours!
After they cleaned him up and checked everything, they placed Lil’ Marcos into his father’s arms.
The Doctor said, “Wow, he looks exactly like his father.”
I’ll never forget the look of serenity on my husband’s face as he stared down at his newborn son. As if knowing theirs would be a lifetime commitment, our son reached up and latched onto his Papa’s finger with his tiny, red fist.
Sixteen years later our son still looks like his father. And I never get tired of noting the resemblance, either. He still latches on to his hand as well, only now it’s when they’re trying to out-muscle each other during an arm wrestling match.
We’re not perfect, but our little family is as normal as the next. I still cry on Marcos’ shoulder every now and then when I imagine the daughter I never knew. After almost 22 years of marriage, I’m sure he’s tired of it by now. Maybe not. He’s still here, so that’s a good sign. And we fight. We’re normal parents who make rules and set limits for our normal son. (who normally complains about them.) We have our moods, and sometimes we can even get downright nasty and unlovable.
Every now and then I forget to count my blessings. Often, when I’m cranky and unappreciative, I’ll travel back to the summer of 1979. I remember sitting in a doctor’s office with an uneasy feeling growing inside. Thank you, uneasiness. If it wasn’t for you, I might have listened to the Doctor’s advice and had a hysterectomy.
Thank you, small voice of reason. Without you, I’d have lost that race. Thank you, everyday miracles. Now I know what real joy looks like at 4 AM on Christmas morning. Together, we’ve discovered the mystery of where half-eaten sandwiches hide. We’ve found the golden egg, and smelled a new puppy’s sweet breath. Because of you, miracles, I’ve been hugged at least once every day. Sometimes more. I’ve had the courage to face the toughest of moments. Together, we’ve watched a young heart get broken in two, knowing there wasn’t a thing we could do about it. (Thank you for hanging around to help pick up the pieces.) If it weren’t for you, everyday miracles, I would’ve missed the melody of forgetful feet playing across a damp kitchen floor, or returning to get lunch money just before missing the bus. I would’ve never sang, “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” a record breaking number of times, or repeated the praise, “Be careful” at least a zillion more. Thank you, miracle of Patience!
If it wasn’t for you, magnificent everyday miracle of life, I would’ve never held my newborn son in my arms, or known the greatest of all miracles; the rite of motherhood.
So you see, I have much to be grateful for in this lifetime. God sent me a series of everyday miracles, and while some came in the form of insight, most came about from love, faith, hard work and commitment. Without them, I wouldn’t be sharing this story today.
Writing is my passion, but teaching pays the bills. I teach creative writing techniques daily. I am an elementary school teacher. I'm currently halfway through my first novel, and have recently submitted poetry to numerous publications. I am qualified to write this non-fiction submission because I am infertile. This is my own story.
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