Eli's Corner


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wisdom of the desert fathers

Over dinner last night with a couple of friends who happen to have theology degrees, I learned a little bit about the Desert Fathers.  Ascetics who eschewed the mainstreaming of Christianity by Constantine, these forebears of the monastic movement removed themselves to the desert to rediscover what their faith truly meant.  I think they were probably  a little cray-cray if we’re being honest.  But I looked them up this morning because I was intrigued.  Their torment was largely self-inflicted, but they discovered how to live in torment as a result.  And I’m taking a couple of notes.

“Sit in thy cell, and thy cell will teach thee all.”  As I have nowhere to be but my cell in the moment, I am willing myself to be taught by it.  As I am feeling more spent, vulnerable and powerless than I can remember feeling, I am making a conscious effort to ask for help.  As the people who I consider to be my support have demonstrated themselves to be clumsy and inept at helping me in this particular area of my life, I am learning to hold part of myself back as I reach for help.  As this process has alienated me from some of my closest friends, I am making an effort to be more honest.  As I know this may further hurt these relationships, I am standing by myself and not retreating to the safe territory of trying to make other people happy.  My cell has taught me this.  That sometimes I must need.  And some things I must hold back.

One father’s mantra was, “Today, today, today.”  He repeated it to himself over and over so as not to focus on terrors to come, but to only deal with what he was facing today.  I think I’m going to tattoo that backwards on my face.


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linea negra

Once you come up on a year, suddenly everything is an anniversary of some kind.  We were at the park yesterday for my niece’s second birthday, and I kept remembering her first birthday, playing volleyball and starting to black out every time I exerted myself and eventually having to quit (despite the fact that I was over the moon that people were willing to play volleyball).  Sharing knowing glances with my husband because we had this crazy awesome secret.

Yesterday, we headed to the pool at that same park.  Putting on my swimsuit, I looked in the mirror to see that faint shadow of a line connecting my belly button to my pubic bone.  I was taken right back to the first moment I saw that line.  It was a few days before this party last year, and it was the first indication I had that I was pregnant.  I hadn’t tested yet, but I knew once I saw that line appear on my tummy, that something new was happening, and I was overjoyed.

A year later, that line is still there – a physical mark declaring what I have lost.  Most days I resent it.  I feel like it’s taunting me, refusing to let me put this loss away.  But somehow yesterday, I found myself wishing that someone would notice it.  Maybe just for a moment.  As the world marches on around me, I wished for someone to see that this episode that happened so long ago that nobody talks about was, in fact, real.  And my body still carries it.


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sometimes, when a man and a woman love each other very much…

…the man goes into a small room with a jar and a magazine…

Any realistic future talk about where babies come from in our house would have to be a little different than the one I was given.

It’s needles and machines and pushing back afternoon meetings because the sperm wash is taking forever.  It’s making masturbating jokes with your broken-armed husband.  It’s asking your husband to come back there with you, because if you’re going to get pregnant, it seems like he should at least be in the room.   It’s him making the obligatory “threesome” joke – thankfully before the nurse arrives.  It’s taking selfies together in the exam room while waiting for the nurse.  It’s him prodding your side (in warning rather than support) because you’ve asked the nurse a question which requires her to answer using the words “egg” and “uterus”, and that might make him puke.  It’s you asking another egg-related question on purpose because he’s not the one having his uterus probed and you are.

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It’s laughing about it all as a means of reclaiming your dignity.  It’s realizing that you’re pretty lucky to have somebody to laugh with about this.  Realizing that if you’re in this, you’re glad it’s with him.  And I guess in some kind of way, that’s romantic.  And hopefully someday we’ll be able to completely horrify our teenage child by whipping out those selfies and telling him or her that they were taken moments before s/he was conceived.


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one year on

One year ago today, my nephew fell off climbing wall in what would turn out to be one of the defining moments of his life.  I remember that day.  I remember the call.  I remember we had found out we were pregnant the day before.  I remember seeing him in the hospital before they wheeled him in for the first of many surgeries, listening to him say that he couldn’t feel his legs.  I remember sitting with his mom, gently repeating the prognosis that she was having difficulty absorbing.  I remember sitting on such happy news, such wonderful news, in the waiting room until the wee small hours while the surgeons dug splinters of bone out of my nephew’s spinal cord.

A week or two later, when he was more stable, and while the family was still gathered, we shared our news.  It was earlier than we would have otherwise done so, but it seemed alright…we all needed some good news, and we were all together.  There was a lot of celebrating, but the kind of muted celebrating one engages in when one knows there’s grieving going on too.  It really does not feel like this could have been a year ago.

I remember how getting laid off suddenly seemed providential, that it seemed like a great idea to start helping my husband out with the business and then just transition into being a mommy while helping out here and there.  A good way to not have to leave the work force entirely, but to still get as much mommy time as I needed.  On that front, things were working out.

And then we had that horrid ultrasound.  I remember we found out the baby was dead the day before my nephew left the hospital.  My husband insisted that we go to the party they were throwing for him.  It was too soon.  I was raw with grief.  In hindsight, it might be good that some of them saw me like that.  Otherwise I think they might assume that this whole thing was fine.  I just don’t think they have any idea.  People said some well meaning but clumsy and hurtful things.  I tried to not look as though my heart had just been ripped out.  I smiled for the photos.

On the one year anniversary of the fall, my nephew is walking.  He walks with a cane.  He wears a catheter.  He has no feeling in his groin or backside.  His foot has been welded together in a solid lump of bone, and he has some brain damage.  He is in almost constant pain.  He has a sense of humor.  He’s the same charming, self-effacing, fun-loving, slightly lazy kid he was a year ago in many ways.  He’s adapted amazingly well to his new life.  But I’m still unwilling to accept that this is his life.  I still want more healing.  I want him to be able to use the bathroom and have a normal sex life.  I don’t want pain for him.  It’s such a mixed bag.  So much to be thankful for, and still much to grieve.

And in my parallel little trajectory, I’m getting inseminated tomorrow.  My husband came out of surgery ok and is expected to regain function of his arm after his accident.  So much gratitude that he is ok.  So much gratitude that I have him.  Some grieving over a career cut adrift for no reason and a year lost without a child.  Some grieving of our son who would be four months old.  Some grieving over the uncertainty of the future, the “what-ifs” that will come into play even if we are pregnant again this time.  Some distance from family and friends who have ceased to be enthralled with our struggles and are just waiting to tune in for the happy ending.  Some loneliness.

I guess life is a little bit like this.