On Writing: Stains On the White Couch

on writing: stains on a white couch
family photo by kati mallory

One of the first things people always say when they walk into our house for the first time is how crazy we are to have a white couch with two toddlers and a slew of pets. I always assure them that this particular couch would never have survived our menagerie without bleach and slip-covers. What an amazing combo those two things have been. This couch has endured many a-stain in the 8 years we have owned it. A full glass of red wine knocked over by our favorite cat, a long streak of black ink from a poorly capped pen, a handful of squashed blueberries that my youngest had no taste for. A LOT of baby pee from before we wised up our techniques for changing baby boy diapers, and a random smear of chocolate (we hope it was chocolate) that no one can seem to account for.

We’ve been lucky, we say.

Last week I randomly glanced down mid-episode of Sesame Street to discover a new stain. Mind you, I had just deep cleaned all of the covers less than a month before in anticipation of my mother-in-law’s holiday visit. And we had also already conveniently flipped each cushion as evidence of our family’s daily trespasses became visibly noticeable. So when I noticed the splotch of bright red blood, fresh and mocking, my brain rapidly fired off two thoughts – first was, dammit I’m gonna have to strip all of these cushions again to get that out. And second, more alarmingly – who’s bleeding? I jumped up to investigate. 

My youngest, the most resilient and rambunctious son, was unceremoniously playing with his matchbox cars beside me. With no suggestion of injury or pain, he was mostly annoyed by my short (but thorough) nursing assessment. Definitely not the source. My more sensitive son, the one who requests ice packs and bandaids for the slightest offenses, was still upstairs napping. I supposed the kitten could be bleeding but that was unlikely. It took me a solid few minutes before it occurred to me that I was the offender. 

The momentarily mortifying realization was reminiscent of those early teenage days. Learning the ropes of “maturity” and how dangerous it can be to wear white shorts to school by mistake – it’s not a lesson you need to learn more than once. Except I’m 40. And you’d think I would have a better handle on my cycle after a quarter of a century of experience. My feelings shifted abruptly. From embarrassing relief to sudden disappointment…

Another month lost. 

Not that we were “trying” or anything. We – being the key word there. I have to admit that on some deeper level, I have been causally aware of the moon’s cycles and our love making opportunities for months now. My husband, on the other hand, is content with life as is and in no hurry for a third. Perhaps as he sees it, we have plenty of time for that in our future.

At age 40, a woman’s body has a 1 in 4 chance of releasing a viable egg for fertilization each cycle. And the chances of miscarriage or genetic mutations increase by alarming proportions.

(Thank you and F* you very much Google.) 
on writing: stains on a white couch
laptop and a latte

As though life and God have not already taught me the value of patience, I find a feral restlessness clawing at my conscience. We always said we wanted three kids and I feel like my time is almost up. “My biological clock is literally ticking down,” I say emphatically to my husband a few weeks later. Two hours into a family road trip, our boys snoozing deeply in the backseat, I find myself reeling in the realities of this existential crisis, out loud, for the first time. Speaking the words brings them all the more into my view. He drives my car steadily along I-40W and tries to diffuse the time bomb of my emotions that is ticking down as well. 

In 10th grade I had to memorize a poem for a communications class assignment. I chose one by Edgar Allan Poe called A Dream Within A Dream. If I remember correctly, my delivery was on point and earned me an A (and some gloat-worthy attention from our teacher, Mrs. Caldwell, who was quite impressed with my choice of poems). “I hold within my hand, grains of the golden sand. How few, yet how they creep, through my fingers to the deep, while I weep – while I weep!”

For some reason, I have been able to recite that poem ever since and the cadence of those words has carried the intensity and despair with me all these years later. The image of that sand slipping away hits me clearly now. What I crave so deeply and yearn for seems to be slipping away by the moment.

It seems like everyone minding our business for us these days wants to know if we are “trying” for a third.

I know it’s all well-meaning. Most of these people know how delightful our two children are, so naturally they are eager to know of our plans for another. Our two boys are truly delightful. Sometimes the truth of this haunts me the worst. I find myself terrified that wanting another means I’m not truly grateful for what I have. For all the blessings of motherhood that have already and continue to be bestowed on me – I carry a heavy side of guilt with the burden of this truth.

It seems like just yesterday, drunk on sleep deprivation and fourth trimester hormones, I held my tiny newborn son to my swollen breasts to nurse and never once considered this baby could be my last.

on writing: stains on a white couch photo by kati mallory


I wrote this piece a few of months ago and decided on a whim to share here tonight. Back in February, I shared a post about starting a mini-series on writing. In that post I mentioned that I had been taking various writing courses through the Exhale creativity community and one of my assignments was to write about something hard to write about. Sifting through my collection of emotional baggage for potential, I felt particularly drawn to write about my experience with infertility.

The hardest part was that I wasn’t sure HOW to share my story. And I still haven’t figured that out yet. But this is a part of that story, and I told you I’d be back as it continued to take shape. So here I am to share it with you now. It is still very much evolving, as all of my writing continues to be these days. In January of this year I wrote that one of the things I’m still learning, is that I want to share what I write from a work in progress place. Raw and vulnerable and off the cuff. Work in progress, just like me in real life

So here I am. Writing and reaching out to share with you – because I believe that we can all benefit by sharing our stories with each other.

Thanks for being here with me.

Yours truly,

Eliza B.

on writing: stains on a white couch
photo of boys walking

Black & white photos in this post were captured by Kati Mallory.

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