Prometheus, son of Japheth. Emblematic of humanity’s quest for knowledge and power and a cautionary tale against their unintended consequences.
For the sin of breathing fire into humanity, Prometheus had his liver ravaged as he lived, only to heal himself and submit the next day to the same torture.
Pursuit of life as eternal suffering. (Being a titan sucks).
Shortly after marrying, Darcy and I traveled from Nairobi to Cape Town overland. Public busses in Africa are like Africa herself; unscheduled, full to the brim, and not for the faint of heart. They are also the only option. If we wanted to make the journey, we would need to submit to the fray.
Self-preservation demanded that, once the wheels started rolling, there could be no second-guessing. We crossed the width of the continent casually denying our imminent danger, sharing only the blank stares of desperate vagabonds. We defied all odds by emerging unscathed
From this experience came one of the first true stitches in the fabric of our young marriage – an incantation that reminds us to abandon reason for the sake of the objective. “Just another bus ride in Africa,” Darcy will whisper. And I will set my jaw, embark.
What does it take to give up destiny? When do we stop believing we are headed in the right direction and take the opposite one instead? What happens when the blueprint is wrong, and we are forced to recant that which we had always held as true?
In my line of work, we call it spinning the message, and I am good at it.
I’m no titan. And I can’t put myself together again in just one day, only to be torn apart once again, and again the day after that.
It takes me twenty-eight.
There were two moments of perfect clarity. The first was two years into the blinding pain of infertility, and I was on the floor, crying. Someone had just remarked how happy I seemed. The depth of my own self-delusion came crashing home. Darcy, helpless, let me weep. Then I set my jaw.
The second was some time later. We were being up-sold on treatments. If you opt for three rounds of in-vitro, they only make you pay for two. My doctor, purported saviour, blushed when I asked what the motive was for taking advantage of emotional vulnerability, because being obstinate sometimes makes me feel brave. We declined. I had decided to trust Prometheus, and endure the pain. But only once.
Years of darkness cannot be overcome by simple faith, not for me, anyway. We had spent two years indulging in the second prize; a life unencumbered. We feasted on it; work, leisure, travel – all assumed at the frenetic pace of people trying to accept that this could be enough.
But indulgence did not easily overcome longing. I could not continue living one life while pining for the other, split in two, never fully in the moment. Slowly, I forced my heart to abandon hope, to embrace the childless life as one of my own choosing. The day I started to believe that lie is the day we signed up for treatment.
We are conditioned to celebrate life. Conception, as everyday occurrence, is unabashedly announced and heartily congratulated – sharp daggers to we, the outsiders, your friends and relatives lurking on Facebook, suspiciously silent. I had grown used to silence as an antidote for suffering. We got pregnant in secret. There was more fear than joy. And for good reason.
I bled at 14 weeks, and once more a few weeks later. For two years, red blood had meant failure. Sitting in the emergency room for hours waiting to be admitted felt familiar and inevitable. “Bus ride,” whispered Darcy.
The fetal heartbeat was strong. Technicians mulled the ultrasound and said everything in the way they said nothing. I was sent home.
Still, I expected it would end in blood.
It did, at 38 weeks. The doctor performing the cesarian was taking far too long for things to be going well. I was hemorrhaging badly. There was a moment when, close to passing out, I was warned I could wake up without a uterus, that my life was at risk. My son was in the next room, drawing breath, meeting his grandmother. I could not find the words to succinctly express my indifference to my own mortal danger. “Ok, sounds good,” I said. The bleeding stopped.
I want to believe fate is a fiction, a milquetoast consolation that only works in retrospect. Arrived at my destination, it would be easy to assume this was all meant to be. But I made a choice to seek out the power to create a life that surpassed my physical ability, and at times, endangered my very soul. I, like Prometheus suffered for this denouement, and the scars run deep.
My son, sometimes you must set your jaw and embark. There will be consequences.