Crochet is easy; you just tie holes together with string.
I curl the final strand of pastel green ribbon with my scissors, the ripple of a smile tugging at my lips as the swirls bounce into place. The ribbon gathers the cellophane in an imperfect scrunch around the little Peter Rabbit box. I tighten the final bow; closure, and exhale the breath of a new beginning.
It’s been a week of painstaking concentration, tantrums, blistered fingers and bitten lips but it hadn’t taken as long as I’d expected. With every chain and swirl of loops I was astonished by my progress and mystified by the magic of it. I was tying holes together with a single slither of yarn. A week ago this didn’t exist, this creation staring up at me. A mere ball of wool and air. Yet here it was; a little elephant. Innocent, hopeful eyes, floppy ears, and a woolen skin speckled with hues of blues and purples. From having never picked up a hook and wool in my life, I had created an actual object, a tangible and recognisable, if a little squiffy, elephant. But it was so much more than that.
We found out you were expecting 364 days after seeing our own two pink lines. You were nervous, I could tell. Though whether about the news itself or the telling of it, I wasn’t sure. I’d grow over the following weeks and months to suspect the latter, specifically in relation to us. You were nervous of us. But this would change that. This perfect gift for tiny hands.
Just not our tiny hands. Ours didn’t make it that far. With fingers and thumbs and nails too small to see. Ours was just a heart. Just. A tiny flutter of beats like the fins of a sea horse. The flurry of a hummingbird’s wings. And just as brief. We didn’t know when we saw it on the screen that that was our goodbye. Nine days later I was coming round from surgery, euphoric on morphine and so astonishingly unaware of how heavy we would become in the aftermath of the implosion.
The year passed in a wash of empty milestones, the midwife appointments and scans that never were, the maternity t-shirt that never saw the light of day, the due date that flickered by in the puff of a flame. And all the while yearning for the two pink lines that never appeared, despite months of trying and tracking and testing, our days becoming nothing but waits.
And then a day shy of a year since it all began. Since our lives changed forever, and our relationship became so much deeper than anyone could fathom. The year that never was. We hear your news. Six months after your wedding. Four months after moving into your first home. Two months after your honeymoon. One month trying.
And everything I felt was everything I shouldn’t. This was new, it wasn’t heavy like grief. This was a burning twist of the knife, sharp and coated in shame. I was winded. And I was angry that I was angry. Because I was happy. For you. I was just so, so sad for me, for us. So I smiled, and raised a glass, and swallowed gin and tears.
And I watched through frosted glass as your milestones arrived, mustering strength from the depths to override my sadness so I could share in your happiness. Trying to stop my eyes trailing to your growing boobs, hips, belly every time I saw you. Trying to laugh into my wine when you joked about the torment of sobriety. Trying not to yawn when you did because I wasn’t exerting the energy you were in growing a human. I tried and we tried and tried and tried. Month after month. But the tries chiseled away until there was nothing left of us but air. Air and failure. Holes.
That’s when I fell off the face of the earth.
I floated in the abyss for three months, ignoring the existence of everyone around me. I floated through GP surgeries and blood test clinics. I floated through hospital waiting rooms and clinician’s offices. I splashed down into the soggy puddle of a burst fertility bubble.
“It’s unlikely you will conceive naturally”, he said, looking at the glaring 0.0 of the sperm morphology result. The year that never was threatened to become the year that never would. He went on to dance through the list of IVF procedures as if selecting toppings for a decadent sundae. Only the toppings were drugs and hormone injections and surgery and the sundae was me.
It was at that moment, as all control and ability to create was stripped from us, that I picked up a crochet hook. I began looping the empty holes of us together. Nothing can silence failure like tangible progress between your fingers. The body of an elephant was beginning to form but it was wounds that were being stitched.
And so I sit amongst an explosion of gift-wrap paraphernalia, curling ribbon on a box too extravagantly wrapped, overcompensating for the first-attempt of a new hobby. Or perhaps wrapped just right. For within the box is more than just a squiffy crochet elephant. It’s an apology and forgiveness. It’s excitement for new beginnings and grief for those that never begun. And it’s hope, for what holes can become if laced together just so.
We’re at the start of our “fertility journey”, a phrase I never thought I’d have to say. It’s too early to know what this path has in store or if it will work. It’s too early to think about failure. So we just keep placing one foot in front of the other, hand in hand. We just keep looping holes together.
Hopefully one day I can crochet something for little hands of our own to hold.