"Mama, I'm so glad I'm not a girl," my 7-year-old told me while waiting for me to finish my makeup routine. I wondered if it was because he thought there was too much pressure on females to be attractive and all "made-up."
"Why do you say that?" I muttered while hurriedly slapping some mascara on, being careful not to take my eyes off the mirror.
"Well... It's just too hard! I don't want to get pregnant or give birth. And most of all, I don't want to have any of the pokey!"
It was a good thing I was already done with my eye makeup at that point, because I'm pretty sure I would have ended up shaking with laughter and poking my eyes in the process. In our family, we say "pokey" for anything that refers to injections or poking yourself with a needle. Apparently, my son has heard our conception story often enough to remember that I had to go through A LOT to have him in our lives. Our son is an IVF baby.
"Oh, honey. Not everyone goes through that just to get pregnant. It's just that my body has a hard time making babies, so I needed all that stuff."
It was all I could say to remind my son that what I had to go through was not the natural way that most people experience. It was as far as I was willing to go in order not to say too much about sex and the whole reproductive process. I didn't think he, or I, was ready for that kind of conversation yet.
Whenever I share some details with my son about how he was conceived, I always find myself trying to be really careful that I don't make it seem overly scientific. I don't ever want him to think that the route his father and I took was completely "sterile," matter-of-fact, and unromantic.
Though on the surface it may seem that way to some, the truth is that our experience was really quite romantic.
My husband and I had several appointments where we were both around, and knew it took solid commitment, dedication and sacrifice from both of us to make it work.
My husband was always around to assist me with the most difficult and most painful shots, in order to give me the hormones I needed to trick my body into thinking that it was getting ready for pregnancy. It didn't matter whether we were home or out at a banquet hall attending a wedding. He knew that when it was time for my injections, he had to show up to help me.
My husband had to comfort me during those painful injections, when all I could do was lie on my stomach and cry in pain as I felt the fat needle and the viscous fluid being injected through my flesh.
Both of us worried when I had some spotting after my embryo transfer.
We held hands, cried and prayed together while on our drive to the hospital, rushing through intersections that early November morning as I bled at almost 20 weeks of gestation, terrified that I'd lost my baby, this baby we'd worked so hard for and hoped for.
Aren't all those romantic?
In spite of heavy reliance on predictability and timing, our incessant monitoring of numbers and obsessing over the slightest of symptoms perceived, we never felt more bonded, and I wouldn't trade any of it for a more traditional route.
Romance shows up differently for different couples. Most of all, sometimes looking too hard for romance the way you expect it might make you miss the real things when they show up.
Having someone stay with you in uncertain times...
Having someone strong enough to cry and grieve with you in moments of pain...
Having someone embrace you for all that you are, with all your sense of inadequacy and guilt...
All of those are romantic AND more. They are real things that not only make your heart leap and melt, but, most of all, break it wide open so beautifully to flood your life with hope.
This essay was originally published on Catharsis.