One of the most appalling things that I experienced during pregnancy was having my belly rubbed by an absolute stranger in the subway. Like I was a Buddha. Since when has it become socially acceptable to randomly caress a strange person’s body? I can be pretty superstitious sometimes, but I didn’t realize that many people actually believe that it will bring them good luck to touch a fertile body. Maybe that person on the subway was down on their luck, or maybe they were struggling with infertility, and my belly somehow brought them hope. Either way, I will forgive them their indiscretion. I have reason to sympathize with those who experience the pain of infertility.
Rewind to one year prior, hubby and I had decided we were ready to start a family. Only one problem, hubby had been delaying a small and relatively simple procedure that was necessary before we could conceive. Upon my insistence, he went off the the doctor to make the appropriate arrangements. It was lucky he did, because they caught the cancer quickly and removed one of his testicles. It was all a bit of a blur, we were told that testicular cancer often spreads quickly, that there was the option to bank sperm because radiation and chemotherapy would affect his fertility. We were crushed, and waited anxiously for several weeks for the results of his tests. And then by some miracle, it was declared that he was cancer-free. The cancer had not spread, and the lump that was removed was an incredibly rare form of cancer that was extremely unlikely to become malignant.
He would need to have routine testing done of course, but we breathed a sigh of relief that nothing terrible would happen to him, and for a moment we forgot about having babies.
The whole experience brought us closer together than ever, and at the time we were not married yet. He proposed on Valentine’s Day, while ice-skating at a quaint, outdoor rink with a gorgeous view of Toronto’s harbour front. We had a vacation planned that month to Cozumel in Mexico, and when we learned that the Mayan ruins there were dedicated to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility, we started wondering if babies were in the cards for us. We did a bit of reading and learned that in ancient times, many Mayan women from the mainland would pilgrimage to the shrine of the goddess at some point in their lives to ask for fertility, not just for themselves, but also for crops and prosperity. We decided that we would make a point of visiting the San Gervasio ruins during our trip, and upon arrival in Mexico, we became acquainted with a very friendly tour guide of Mayan descent! He explained to us that on these pilgrimages, people would bring an offering for the goddess, usually something made of corn. So for the next few days before we had planned to visit the ruins, we were on a mission to find a corn-husk doll, or really anything made of corn, but it proved to be a more challenging task than we had anticipated.
On the morning that we had planned our pilgrimage, we were still without an offering, and were pretty bummed about it. While we sat in the resort’s breakfast buffet contemplating our future, we discovered that the buffet had those adorable personal-sized cereal boxes and we decided that the Mexican version of ‘Corn Pops’ would do in a pinch. We set off to the ruins and had a magical experience learning about the amazing structures there, but were disappointed to find that the small building that was specifically dedicated to the goddess of fertility was closed to tourists due to vandalism! Our only option was to toss our Mexican Corn Pops into the small window and hope that our offering would be carried to the heavens by the birds. We sat on the steps holding each other and prayed with every fibre of our being for a baby, and nine months later, we gazed into the eyes of our beautiful baby boy!
Considering our disadvantage having only one testicle to work with, and that I was still breastfeeding our baby boy, you can imagine our surprise when we discovered I was pregnant four months later with our daughter! Our friends and family would jokingly attribute our ‘Irish twins’ to super-sperm, or they would imply that we must be sex-crazed maniacs to beat the odds. Maybe they were right. Or maybe our prayers were answered, and the Mayans had it right. Either way, we got lucky. More than once. I feel incredibly blessed when I look at my little people, and my heart bleeds for anyone who truly struggles with infertility. I can’t possibly imagine what that means for some people, but I can certainly understand how people would go to great lengths to bring a child into the world. If I am willing to go to another country and pray on the doorstep of an ancient and foreign god, then who am I to judge the stranger in the subway who finds hope in the promise of new life?