Dew clings to the sleepy grass of an early spring morning. I make my way slowly to the creek with the intention of a quick, heart-stopping dip in the frigid water.
As I begin to undress, my thoughts drift to the night before and the man whose sleeping bag I have just left. The memory of his warm arms clashes drastically with the prickle of piercingly cold, damp rocks on my now bare feet. The discussion was the same; he is ready for children, but I argue for my career.
I fling a rock in frustration and watch as it disappears beneath the flowing water without making a ripple. I may be fooling him, but certainly not myself. I want children, badly. But they haven’t come yet, and I’m beginning to think they never will.
I never told my husband about the surgeries when I was younger, the cysts and the inevitable scar tissue most likely leading to my infertility. I never told him because it wasn’t relevant in the blissful chaos of falling in love, and when it became important, it was too late; a constant needle of guilt forever poking into my psyche.
Just as I am about to step into the water I sense movement a ways down the creek. I look up in time to see a mother black bear and her cub rustle through the bushes to the water’s edge for a drink. My heart pounds loudly, pumping blood and fear and excitement through my veins. I stop all movement, hold my breath, and give a silent prayer of gratitude that the light breeze is blowing my smell away from the bears.
The cold morning air plays across my naked skin. I watch in awe these two magnificent creatures as they drink peacefully at the creek in the dappled light of a rising sun through the forest canopy. Mother bear nuzzles her playful baby, licking water droplets off his furry face. I watch the bears each performing their part in the ancient relationship of mother and child. I feel a stirring deep within me, a knowledge forming that I too will someday conceive, that I am not broken, but merely waiting.
A twig snaps behind me and I jump, slipping on the damp, mossy rocks as my arms fly out in an effort to gain stability. My husband grabs me gently, keeping an eye on Mother bear. She, thankfully, does not appear interested in a fight and quickly prods her baby into the bushes and trees beyond.
We hold each other for quite a while, pounding hearts and darting eyes, assuring ourselves of our privacy and safety. I cling to my husband, breathe in deep his love and strength, his commitment. There, in the sheltering stillness of the forest, in the arms of my husband, I allow myself hope. He kisses my forehead and leans back to search the lines of my face.
“I love you, children or no.” His hand touches my forehead gently and smoothes the stray wisps back into my hair. “It’s honestly a bit terrifying, the thought of having children. We might be better off without them.” I hear it for the lie he is trying to protect me from.
I smile weakly at him and turn towards the creek. I search deep for the reassurance I have so recently felt and grasp a wispy tendril of hope.
I step towards the water, hoping to cleanse my spirit of misspoken truths, and feel the familiar release of possibilities onto my thighs. Perhaps, I think, it is the final debut of my husband from this morning. I turn back towards him to see his eyes drop and follow his gaze to the telltale streaks of blood on my thighs. I sigh and swallow an aching disappointment.
Some intuitive sound from down the creek catches my attention, and I see the baby bear poke his nose out of the bushes briefly, as if sending me a last hello, before turning back to the forest and his mother.
I will keep waiting.