Alice in Wandingland
I was reading MissConception’s blog recently and I was struck by all the othernesses she was experiencing, one on top of the other. How she felt removed from the world around her as she went through this cycle.
I used to teach at a university, and my clinic had a satellite office on their campus in the hospital. I would go teach my earliest class, then walk over to the clinic for the blood draw, and then return to teach another class. And every time I had to do this, I would think of myself as Alice in Wonderland, except that instead of a tea party with the Mad Hatter, I was having a transvaginal ultrasound. Which I guess isn’t the same thing at all.
The point is that whenever you’re engaging in an otherness, there is a sense of removal from the world around you. How can there not be? The students saw me as someone who taught sociology, who liked to talk research papers. I saw myself as separate from everyone, both mentally and physically entering this alternate universe where I couldn’t procreate. They had no idea where I went between classes.
Adjacent to the university was a convent of cloistered nuns. I have to admit that I was blown away by their otherness, the way they purposefully removed themselves. I didn’t want to be removed, but felt removed due to circumstances — all I wanted was to conceive on my own and carry to term like my friends. And here were nuns who chose to be removed, who got a lot out of being removed from the rest of the world. They let me use their parking lot — they certainly didn’t have cars or any need for the spaces. Which meant I cut through their campus on the way to my own. They took me into their building and showed me this gorgeous room with a rose window where they sat and prayed for hours.
I was struck by this thought as I read her blog of the otherness inside the otherness inside the otherness, running down almost as deep as Inception. There is the general otherness of not being able to conceive without assistance. And then there is the otherness — deeper than that — of utilizing something that is emotionally and physically painful (IVF) in order to bring you this wonderful thing (a child). And deeper still is the otherness of trying to conceive again after a loss.
It would be as if Alice went into Wonderland, found another Wonderland, and then found a third Wonderland in that, and then had to go back to the real world and interact with people who don’t know what she has seen, how deeply she went into the otherness. How can you possibly explain to someone what it feels like to conceive with assistance? Or to conceive via something emotionally and physically painful? Or to conceive after a loss? You can’t. We can’t even really explain it well to each other; even amongst those who know, who have experienced their own personal version.
The twins were born at the same hospital on the university campus because they were the hospital in the area that had the highest level NICU. Sometimes I walked the other way, from the hospital to the campus and back to the hospital in order to buy a cup of coffee at the student union. I would look at all these students milling about, students I might have been teaching if I hadn’t turned down the teaching position that summer. They had no clue why I was in that building, what I was thinking, what we were going through. All they saw was a thirty-something woman buying a coffee; the same action I took the summer before when I was teaching and doing treatments.
They had no idea how deeply I felt my otherness, just as I had no idea looking at them how deeply they felt their own othernesses. I guess the only way we could have overcome that would have been to talk about it. If I had been a nun, I would have brought them into my praying room, let them see the way the sunlight hit the wood, and I would have tried to help them understand that even with the things that divide us from each other, there is always that current underneath, that commonality in the existence of the otherness.