On page 20 of So Close, Tertia has a moment where she predicts that her journey to parenthood may be more difficult than she thought even though nothing has happened yet to point in that direction. Have you ever had a moment of premonition like that and if so, did it come true (this moment of premonition can be about fertility or any other aspect of life)?

A lot of people claim to have had premonitions like this about infertility. I had a premonition like this about my mother's breast cancer. Well, not about that precisely, I just felt a vague and impending sense of doom, and looking back, I think it was, and it wasn't, some sort of magical extrasensory perception. Magic, they say, is just something sufficiently complex that you can't quite fathom it out at the time.

The first factor to account for was that I had been on a pretty good streak for a couple of years, and I knew it was unlikely to last, based on brute statistics. That didn't mean my mother was about to get cancer - if I'd had a couple of bad marks on my school assignments I probably would have connected the two just as easily and moved on to better times. But as I looked around me and saw how lucky I was compared to others, I suspected that, since I wasn't actually charmed, sooner or later it would probably even itself out somehow. By the same token, I imagine a young and happy couple, married just long enough to have sorted through the initial adjustment, moved into their first little home, settled in their jobs, brimming with domestic bliss, feeling ready for a baby, and thinking somewhere, in the backs of their minds: how long will our good fortune last? Knowing, deep down, in a vaguely uneasy way, that this luck is not deserved, and that the troubles they see around them could as easily fall on their doorstep, too. So that was the first thing.

The second factor to note was that my mother discovered the lump some months before she let us know. There was an anxious time of deciding whether to go to the doctor or not, the going to the doctor, the tests, the results, the consultations with specialists, the formulation of a treatment plan... and finally, before it all swung into action, the telling of the children. You can't keep a secret from someone you live with and care for on a daily basis without them twigging that something is up. It will come through in your moods, your body language, the thoughtful little pauses you make when you think nobody is looking. At fourteen, I was too self-absorbed to figure it out fully, so what I got instead was a vague but intensified sense of impending doom. In the same way, I imagine the woman with undiagnosed endometriosis or PCOS, not knowing that something about her body isn't quite right in any way she can describe, but at the same time nevertheless knowing that something about her body isn't quite right. And perhaps it's sometimes the same for male factor infertility, too. Perhaps there was an incident in the past - an illness, say - which may have affected the system, which turns itself into a niggling worry long before any diagnosis is pursued. It wouldn't be the case every time, but there are often clues to be found in hindsight, and premonitions are surely how they trouble our foresight. So that was the second thing.

The third factor, I believe, was just garden-variety existential dread. It's a big thing, turning from a teenager into an adult - a major leap in one's life. Things will never be the same again, and you can't really be prepared for how they'll change. There will be responsibilities to handle, strange new problems to negotiate, and people depending on you, when you are used to being the carefree soul whose world revolves around herself. Under the circumstances, who wouldn't feel an impending sense of doom - one born out of nervousness alone? The leap into parenthood is similar in so many ways. It's a new transformation. So that's the third thing.

Afterwards, reflecting on my premonition, I had to admit one more factor - as proof, this time, rather than explanation. The truth was that some of the fourteen-year-olds I'd grown up with had experienced this impending sense of doom, and some of them hadn't. And some of them had hit hard times shortly thereafter, and some of them hadn't. And there seemed to be very little relationship between doom expected and doom eventuated - to a great extent it was a load of old bollocks. Later, on the journey to parenthood, I noticed the same thing. Some friends expected problems and some didn't. Some conceived easily and some didn't. There was relatively little connection between expecting problems and experiencing problems when it came to conceiving children. I began to see it as a mere conceit and then, later, after I'd lost a lot of my bitterness, as a simple reflection of personality. Some people respond to good fortune by growing uneasy. Some people read subtle signs more readily, or more pessimistically. Some people worry to a greater extent about what's to come.

I had an impending sense of doom before my mother's diagnosis of breast cancer. I also had one as we started trying to conceive. I think it was, and it wasn't, some sort of magical extrasensory perception. Magic, they say, is just something sufficiently complex that you can't quite fathom it out at the time.

Question(s) for anyone who manages to still read here and hence finds this:

Do you think ESP exists, and if so, is there a rational explanation for it? Also, have you read Blink, and if not, why not? Ditto So Close?

Learn more about Tertia's book shower at Stirrup Queens. (She has a book too, but it's still in the post.)


7 Comments

Betty M said...

Gosh - it was a surprise to see this appear in my Reader!
In answer to the questions:
1) No. I am of the camp that believes we only tend to remember the occasions when our premonitions came true. I think coincidence is a more likely explanation than sixth sense. I too have had such feelings of impending gloom - sometimes justified but mostly not.
2) No. I am a bit Gladwelled out at the moment and I haven't even read any. I'm surrounded by aficionados of his and fans of things like Black Swan etc and nothing is more prone to put me off reading stuff.
3) No. Not yet. I have read the blog and all of its archives though.

Jess said...

I'm not a big believer in promonition or ESP. However I do believe in instincts and logic, even of the subconcious type. You know what I'm saying?

I could easily say that I "had a premonition" or "just knew" I'd have trouble ttc. And it would be true....in a way. However I had some amount of family history and my own parents' infertility to base the feelings/instinct on.

(Interestingly enough, though, I always pictured myself with b/g twins. Twins and IF both run in my family. While I didn't have twins, I did have almost-twins not found in nature, and they are b/g.)

loribeth said...

1) I'm not sure about ESP. There are some things that are hard to explain. Sometimes I think what's called ESP is simply knowing other people & yourself very well.

2) Haven't read Blink, but I have read The Tipping Point & found it fascinating. Too many books in my "to read" pile lately...!

3) Yes, & you can read my own shower post on my blog. : )

JamieD said...

Hmmm . . . I don't know if I believe in ESP per se, but I can attest to the bond between a mother and daughter.

I have not read Blink, but am bookmarking it right now. Thanks!

And loved "So Close" . . . it is definitely a must read.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

So I know you posted here because it's public, but damn, it feels good when it pops up in my reader. Like an old friend.

I don't know--perhaps the garden variety dread is always directed at something even if we overlook the root or somehow fate ends up missing us...

Etha said...

Yup, I've read blink, very nice and understandable, very logic :)
I am not sure how "premonition" or "esp" would relate to infertility, I think most often it probably applies to you KNOW you're pregnant and then have a "heavy period" a few weeks late. And nobody would ever admit that you WERE pregnant.. stuff like that.

Meg said...

Bea - Have you been updating your other blog. I haven't gotten any notifications for ages.

Meg

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