It's called nesting when you start frantically making changes to your house before the baby arrives. But what is that grasp for control called when you start doing frantic cleaning prior to or during fertility treatments?
People nest because they are preparing a space for an actual baby. There are the logistics--preparing a place for the baby to sleep or cleaning up lingering projects that you know will be further pushed to the wayside once the baby arrives. And there is the emotional side of it too--it makes the arrival of the baby feel more tangible and concrete. Nesting is our way of making a special space before a baby arrives and it's the last vestige of calm before the storm of a new life in the house. The driving impulse is to take care of the small things now because once the baby arrives, you'll wish you had everything in place as your world it turned upside down.
But there is a form of nesting that comes with fertility treatments. The first time around, I began this frantic cleaning and organizing around month nine--the month when we started learning that perhaps there was something wrong. Josh would come home and everything would be out of the closet. "I'm organizing," I would tell him, simply putting the items back in a more dignified order. Two chapters of my unfinished dissertation and five drawers filled with notes and drafts took up the corner of our second bedroom--the bedroom that was supposed to contain a child. One afternoon, I dumped all of the pages into industrial-strength trash bags and dragged them over to the garbage room in the building. "I don't need them anymore," I explained. "I'm never going back to complete that and besides, hopefully we'll have a baby in there and we're going to want room for a glider."
The cleaning didn't just affect my own apartment. I went to Detroit a few days after learning that I produced almost no progesterone in the second part of my cycle. "You're not going to be able to carry a pregnancy without some help," my OB explained over the phone as I sat in a Starbucks, trying to grade student papers. A huge snow storm hit the East Coast while I was there and I was stuck in Detroit for an additional three days. On the first day, I watched old episodes of ER on TNT. I walked to a bookstore and bought an anthology of pregnancy stories to see if I could glean any information from another person's attempts at trying to conceive (oh...blogs...where were you when I needed you?). On the second day, I started the cleaning. I bleached the bathroom that was already spotless. I dusted the surfaces that had obviously been dusted prior to my arrival. I found the motherlode of organization as I took apart her vacuum cleaner, cleaning out every nook and cranny. My Lady-When-Waiting came home for lunch to find me surrounded by dust-covered paper towels and vacuum parts, sobbing hysterically. "Do you think," she asked gently, "like it might be a good idea to go talk to someone about this? I mean, since you've gotten to a point where you're taking apart my vacuum cleaner for something to clean."
It's nesting when you believe that you need to prepare for a real baby. The cleaning--it's all a grasp for control when you don't believe you will ever have an actual baby (or another baby in the case of secondary IF). It's mooring--a desperation to attach yourself to something more stable so you don't float away. An anchoring of sorts when you feel as if you are surrounded by chaos. It's not supposed to be like this. I'm supposed to be able to make a baby.
This mooring, like nesting, can take different forms for different people. It's nesting when you take a prenatal yoga class, strengthening your body for the demands of labour. But what does one control when their time in the stirrups usually involves a catheter or prewashed sperm? I exercised, waking an hour before I needed to leave for work so I could run on the treadmill. I couldn't control conception, so I turned to the closest thing--controlling my weight and my body. I'm sure there are other forms of mooring that other people have clung to as they navigate the waters of infertility and loss.
This weekend, I cleaned the living room. The stacks of paper that surrounded my desk? All gone--tucked into drawers, filed, or trashed. The books that were making it impossible to sit on one side of the sofa? All gone--returned to the library or reshelved on the bookshelves. One hundred post-it notes have been crumpled or saved. Even as I'm cleaning out boxes that don't need cleaning, I'm searching for the next project. Should I tackle my recipe binder, with hundreds of unfiled recipes stuffed in between pages? Should I clear out the kitchen drawers and send my brother all of the equipment that we never use?
Should I prepare the final bedroom again? Clear out the flippers and snorkels in the closet? Mend the clothes that have been tossed on the guest room bed? Empty the drawers of old sweaters and t-shirts to make room for small onesies, receiving blankets, caps.
Do I believe there will ever be a child in that room?
This mooring, this cleaning and organizing, is what keeps me from floating away.