Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Dante was led by Virgil through the nine circles of Hell, just as I was led through my own circles of Hell by my own personal guide, hope.
And such as with Dante and his journey through Hell, once I embarked upon my journey through infertility, there was no turning back. The moment I entered that first circle of Hell, I had no choice but to continue all the way through.
It has been over three years since I passed under the inscription over the gates of Hell, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”. I walked right through those gates without really even realizing it.
Circle One, trying naturally. I spent about a year in my first circle of Hell. I hoped, I timed, I charted, I temped. To no avail.
On into the Second Circle, diagnostic testing. I am thirty. Pain. machines. Dye. Speculums. Bad news. More bad news.
In the Third Circle is where I had to come to terms with the fact that we were infertile. We have a 3% chance of achieving pregnancy on our own.
The Fourth Circle is where we made our decisions. Adopt. IUI. IVF. ICSI. Painful, difficult, expensive decisions that shouldn’t have to be made. We decide to adopt. We sign up with the County Social Services. We go through the classes. Time drags on and on. It feels like we will never finish. A year after starting the process and still not being finished, we decide to try IVF.
I floated into the Fifth Circle in a cloud of hormones. Cycle one. Bravelle. Ganirelex. Menopur. Two shots a day, then three. Acupuncture and vitamins. Asprin and folic acid. Transfer. Morning sickness. Pregnancy. Heartbeat. We’re sorry, the heartbeat is gone. D&C. I cry and cry on the operating table as the anesthesia washes over me. The Fifth Circle was so very dark.
The Sixth Circle is where it all begins to twist. I walk out of Circle Five, damaged, heartbroken. I crawl into Circle Six. Mom has cancer. There is an operation. Two weeks are spent in the hospital. I am in the midst of preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer. I do not cancel it because life must go on.
In the Seventh Circle I am pregnant. Sick and pregnant. I am sick and pregnant until I am told that I am not really pregnant. That is, in the sense that there is no actual fetus. There is only an empty sack. The Seventh Circle is a blighted ovum. A second D&C in five months time. I wake up from the procedure and lay with my face under the warm blankets and cry. I am able to make it through the Seventh Circle much more quickly than the previous two. But I do not come out unscarred. There are scars, and they are deep. Wounds that may never fully heal.
It is in this Eighth Circle of Hell where my relationship is tested. We can not agree. I am depressed. He hates it. I hate that he is not more damaged. I want him to be as damaged as I am. I am angry at him and at the world and at God and at Cancer and at chemo. We must figure out how to meet back in the middle. It is not easy.
We try and try and we enter the Ninth Circle together. Do we keep trying or do we move on? In the Ninth Circle we are faced with the most difficult of decisions to make. Keep going? Give up our dream? Can we fully recover if we never try again? Can we fully recover if we do try again? We played our hand with IVF. The odds were good, but good odds just weren’t enough.
Through the Nine Circles of Hell and out the other side, Dante enters purgatory. Purgatory is now where I sit. Waiting. Going nowhere. In a stalled state. Reassessing. Trying to find peace. Climbing every day. Higher and higher, climbing toward happiness. Toward Paradise.