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How to Tell a Story That Doesn’t Make Sense

By Susan Bisno Massel
Published in Resolve for the journey and beyond, Winter 2011

The other night, as I was putting our 20-month-old son to sleep, our normal routine wasn’t working. I offered him more milk, and he said “No, no.”   I offered him a different book, and again heard “No, no.”   I sat on the floor and offered him a seat in my lap, something I love as much as he does, but he still wasn’t interested. So, I climbed back into our comfy overstuffed rocker and said, “Do you want me to tell you a story?”

That night, for the first time, I made up a story for my son. It wasn’t from a book, but from my heart. Oh, and it wasn’t made up. I told him the story of how he was born.

I began with our marriage, and how much my husband and I love each other. Then, I told him about the falls, winters, springs and summers that passed, as we hoped and prayed for our baby to arrive. I tried to explain about doctors and shots. I tried to tell him what it felt like when all of our friends were pregnant and having children, some after only a month of trying!  I tried to explain to him that what began as “Let’s have a kid,” and then inched into “Ok, we’ll do one IVF, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll just move on,” turned into a process that was the center of our lives. Much like he is now. 

As I told him all of this, he relaxed in my arms, his cheek against mine, my hand rubbing his back.  He really seemed to be listening.

I went on to tell him that our journey lasted five years. I told him about that first pregnancy our excitement, and then our deep sadness. We were sure, then, that success would come again quickly, but it did not.  When Western medicine didn’t provide the solutions we longed for, we turned to Eastern medicine. I told him about the herbs, the acupuncture, the laying in bed at night and begging God.  Then, finally, I told him that after those five long years and those crushing disappointments, we got the wonderful news that he was on his way.   He looked up at me and smiled.  I swear.

I was not finished with my story, yet.  I told our son that when I was 36 weeks pregnant, so close to finally meeting him, I rode on an elevator that didn’t level correctly with the ground when it stopped.  This created a step I couldn’t see and I tripped.  I broke both my wrists slamming into a wall across from the elevator, trying not to fall on my tummy, where he was already living and waiting to come into the world.  When he was born a week later, I couldn’t take care of him, couldn’t lift him, couldn’t change a diaper. 

I told him everything.  And, then, a few minutes later, I put him in his crib, and he cuddled up with his lambie and went to sleep.

The next night, again, he didn’t want to read his favorite book or to sit in my lap. So, I asked him, “Do you want me to tell you a story again,” and my gorgeous little boy looked me square in the eye and said “No, no.” And I laughed and thought, I don’t blame you, kiddo!  It’s not something I like to think about much either. 

Those of us who traveled the infertility road -- and were finally able to have a child -- have memories we will one day share with our children. Will they understand?  Does anyone who hasn’t been through this really understand?

I am now a volunteer with RESOLVE, leading a support group in Chicago.  Every month, these amazing, brave women walk into my living room.  Some have water, some have wine, depending on where they are in their journey.  Almost all have chocolate.  We catch up, laugh, hope and try to understand this story that doesn’t make sense to most of us.  If we could, I’m sure most of us would say “No, no.”  But, when you finally do get to yes, one way or another, it is a sweet story to tell.

Susan Bisno Massel lives in Chicago with her husband and son. She works in public relations for the City of Chicago and also volunteers for RESOLVE by leading a support group.