Brad looked into the mirror. His short light hair was looking lighter these days. The greys were beginning to creep in. What a bummer, he thought youth would never leave him. He had also managed to pack on quite a few extra lbs. in the past few years. Definitely didn’t help him look younger. He looked away from his en suite mirror, into the bedroom, where his wife lay sleeping. Just a head of beautiful curly hair poking out above the grey duvet, pulled all the way up to her chin. All this despite the beautiful sunny and warm morning. Brad surveyed the house around him, a beautiful, good-sized home that he never dreamed would be the place he lived in. He so didn’t believe it, it wasn’t until other family members made the leap into their new house that he would allow the thought to creep into his head, that he and his wife could upgrade from their starter home. They quickly had decided to upgrade into a house double the size of their previous one, with an undeveloped basement available to make it even larger.
Thinking about their home, made him realize how lucky he and his wife were, but the two unused rooms in the home were a reminder of what their life had been deprived of. Brad didn’t really know that using the word, deprived seemed right. He had grown up a very fortunate person and that had continued now into his thirties. Born into a wonderful home with loving, caring and supportive parents. Parents who had forgiven him for what a pain in the ass he had been as a child and had continued to never make their problems his, even as an adult. A sibling who he had tortured as a child and had become a friend in adult hood. Not bad. He didn’t want for much as a kid, he had a home to live in, participated in the activities that interested him, had new clothes whenever needed and fantastic food on the table. He didn’t really understand terms like food insecurity because he hadn’t ever come close to facing them. As a child the worst things he had dealt with were bullying in school. Really who hadn’t had to deal with that.
As an adult he had found a soul-mate who truly brightened his day. Their whirlwind romance had led to a wonderful marriage. They shared everything together and spent little time apart. And while others laughed at them for this, they were happy with the results. Certainly Brad was incredibly happy with his marriage it made him smile just to think of how great his wife was. Aside from the happiness, he and his wife brought home good salaries. His wife was a leader in her industry and provided them with the luxury of spending like drunken sailors, which they fairly regularly did.
Brad felt selfish thinking of his happy experience’s, he had been to Disney multiple times, been on a cruise and travelled to Hawaii a lot. But still he felt deprived was a good word for him to use, for their situation. Deprived of the truest joy in their life. Through all these good things, they were missing the one thing they wanted the most and despite all their efforts they had never been able to get. Looking at his wife sleeping reminded him of this because she had been deprived the joy of this experience and she had suffered the most in the process.
Brad moved to the edge of the bed and laid down beside her. He rubbed her shoulder through the duvet and the only change in her was a slight smile. Her eyes didn’t open and she kept sleeping. He looked at her and remembered meeting her and talking about their future. The family they would build together. The home they would keep with a dog or two and a playful child or two to match. He looked around the room. Above his wife’s head slept their small dog, on her own little pillow, at her feet was a large dog taking up as much bed as it could without getting kicked off, and on the floor was a puppy pacing, wondering what to make of the first movements of a Saturday morning from the humans. They had certainly built that part of the family, if anything they over built that part.
But the emptiness came from the missing of a small child racing into the room to cuddle or demand the day get started. This was the one thing in their life that they had truly been deprived. Not for lack of trying though. He looked at his wife and remembered the early efforts to get pregnant on their own. The frustration month after month. Finally it was clear it wasn’t just bad luck, and it was time to see a specialist and this is where they began to truly be deprived.
They would from now on truly be deprived of the joy that came from creating a child in a romantic manner. Their love-making would be calendar based as per doctors orders. In fact they would for a little while be deprived true love making as their encounters became less about romance and love and more about the machinery in motion. From time to time this would deprive Brad of his confidence. He would wonder if his wife could still love him with the poor love making he was now providing. It was after all tough to perform and his anxiety would climb the days leading up to the prime reproduction days. Deprived of good sex was the first step.
Next they would be deprived of the act of pro-creation altogether. The many tests would lead to the clear knowledge they would need some more help than the calendar was providing. So they moved into the treatment phase of infertility. They were already being deprived of the word fertile as a description of two people in their late twenties. He looked at his sleeping wife again and a tear welled in his eye, which he sucked back quickly, he still thought he had to hide his pain, even from her. The tear was in the memory of the pain his wife would experience during treatment. The many needles she would take two times a day. A memory of leaving a party in her honour and pulling over a few minutes down the road so his wife could do her injections and cry while he rubbed her back. Each day a call at work so he could talk her through the needles and he could listen to her sob quietly in her office. The entire treatment phase was created to deprive them of all their joy. But then they were deprived even the opportunity to complete treatment as the drugs had not done their job. Deprived the hope of a future attempt, when one bitch doctor told them they stood no chance.
While his wife made great money, they would be deprived the toys that others who worked so hard for their money would enjoy. Brad chuckled at this thought. He lived in a large house. In the garage was parked a new car, for his work mainly. They had nice televisions and Brad got to enjoy his video games. So he chuckled at his selfishness but it was in his own head, so why not. They had been deprived of the BMW they had test drove and loved, and could afford with their salaries, easily, but for one problem. The previous treatments had drained their bank accounts, their credit and their help from others. The future treatment needed, in another country, would tax their ability to commit money to anything else on financing. In fact the new car was more of a burden because up to that point they had been car payment free and that money was going into a savings account for their next treatment. Yeah it was selfish for Brad to think of the toys they could have, the vacation property they would have bought, but his wife worked her ass off for that money and should have the things she dreamed of owning. All those nights working till 3 am and up at 6am to drive to the office had to have some materialistic rewards, reminders of the fun that comes with the work. But for now that was not to be.
Brad broke from the selfishness of that last thought and looked out his back window, thinking of how he had been deprived of the access to health care his country promised him. Brad scoffed at those who said the Canadian health care system was great because of universal access to all. He laughed because the $80,000 in treatment he had already spent begged to differ with those who spoke of “free health care”. Wait times were bad enough but the truth was the Canadian system cherry-picked what they wanted to provide for. He laughed because drug addicts, drunk drivers and chain smokers made choices that the health care system took care of. His wife and he had made no choices regarding their fertility, yet the system had deprived them of help and told them to go it on their own. So much so that they would now be taking the next steps of treatment in the United States, a country that’s competitive health care system was no more expensive for fertility treatment but offered money-back guarantee programs. A huge benefit.
Finally he thought of how the world had deprived them of a realistic narrative. How often people would say “just relax” or “have a glass of wine”. People just assumed the movies were the real narrative of infertility, where at the end it all worked out. This was the one that hurt more than most thought, because Jennifer Garner played the role of a woman with fertility issues who was blessed with a miracle baby. Because it always works out. The truth is most of these stories didn’t end like this at all and people said stupid shit to them because of this narrative. People included Brad’s mother-in-law, who he thought had a great sense of humour, but a terrible sense of understanding infertility. She made a habit of regularly saying things to Brad’s wife that left him picking up the pieces at the end of it. Strangers annoyed them, but words from family had a way of hurting.
Brad laid in the bed beside his wife, who clearly was going to sleep till noon today, and laughed. He wouldn’t want anyone to hear him say deprived because he thought it was selfish to feel that way. Then he remembered we all have problems and from his perspective his were pretty tough on him. He watched his wife sleep and hoped they wouldn’t be deprived the opportunity to grow old and die together like in The Notebook. So many families who battled infertility were deprived that opportunity. He thought about how hopeful he was, and he truly was, about the future treatment working and smiled at how far they had come through this minefield. Brad reached down to the foot of the bed and gave his large dog a pet and decided to stop wallowing in self-pity. He had been depriving his pets of breakfast, he would have to worry about his own problems another day.