Last time I visited Vee was the first time I didn't see Max.

That's mostly what I remember from our trip last year. His absence - at least his physical absence - caught me off-guard when I walked through the door, even though I knew (of course) that he was gone. There was something about... seeing him not there. I'd met Vee face to face a handful of times prior to that, and I'd never seen him not there before.

This time it seemed more normal. So did Vee - that is, in a certain manner of speaking. Whenever I see her she seems to be holding it together abnormally well, but last year was especially awe-inspiring. She was not just functioning. She was actually coping. Or perhaps she was just distracted by the way I got so horribly lost I turned up for her home-cooked lunch closer to dinner time, then somehow managed to throw it all around her lounge room. I guess if I was that busy concentrating on remaining graceful and accommodating whilst setting up trundle beds and portacots for my hours-late guest and - I might add - facilitating doctor's visits for her son and then shampooing tomato out of my carpet and easy chair I probably wouldn't have time to fall apart either.

Still, there were brief moments when it bubbled to the surface, and in those moments I wondered how she kept from spilling over. This time, it was... well, the not-spilling-over seemed more like a given. Something she does with ease, every day, but not (I'm sure) all the time.

We visited her home, their home, the one she shared with Max and then also with Boo and then only with Boo, in the final week before she emptied it of its contents and headed for higher ground - higher both geographically and, I hope, emotionally. This time I marked our agreed time of arrival down in my calendar as several hours earlier than our actual agreed time of arrival, totally baffling Vee when I turned up on time babbling about being horribly late. She took some great photos she's not happy with but everyone else is, and she taught me a new recipe which I am yet to try and have so far not thrown onto anyone's carpet. PB enjoyed being at Boo's house even better than riding on the bus or giving Surprise Baby "train rides" in her cot around the hotel room or even chasing helpless pigeons whilst making a horrid, loud, and highly irritating screeching noise, which I thought was his favourite thing ever. And we enjoyed ourselves, too.

Thanks, Vee - you're a wonderful host and an amazing woman. And despite what you might feel, a darn fine photographer, too.

To heal, first and foremost, you have to want to heal. It sounds trite, and more than a little dismissive, as if everyone hurting is doing it on purpose for the attention, or perhaps to annoy. The thing is, some of the time we are doing it on purpose, but usually for a different reason. We carry our grief, our anger, and our resentment for further than is necessary when we haven't yet decided what to do with it. We have, after all, paid dearly for our pain. It's not reasonable to expect us to part with it easily, even though it is ugly and burdensome. Tossing it aside - "letting go" or "moving on" - is not our goal. Instead, we seek a transformation; a suitably valuable exchange.

A friend asked me this week to talk with her about IVF, as it has just been recommended to her as a course of treatment. How does she feel? I haven't met up with her yet, but from initial accounts, not great. She tells me I don't have to agree to the discussion - perhaps I'd rather not go over that period of my life again. Perhaps I am trying to put it behind me, to forget. I tell her that is not the case. I want her to understand that if I can transform any part of my sorrows into something that helps her along her path, we can both end up closer to healed.

And the truth is, I am ready to be healed. It took a long time after the birth of The Prata Baby for the process to start - I had to consciously set the task aside for a while in order to focus on caring for a newborn, and I think I underestimated the amount of damage I'd sustained. I was going well, you see, I was coping ok with our infertility in the leadup to his conception. I mistook that for being able to, afterwards, listen to conversations on gender disappointment or ideal age gaps without wanting to snap people's heads off, either figuratively or literally, and I was wrong. These days, however, it almost warms me to hear such naivety, as if I'm reassured by the notion that some parts of the world, at least, are running as we'd like them to run. And there is a practical sense in which infertility has lost its hold on me. Yes, we still have to go back for those frozen embryos, but since Surprise Baby's birth I have been feeling fully content with our lot and willing to surrender the rest to the will of the unknown*.

But I'm worried about this meeting, all the same. My friend already has a honeymoon baby, and is experiencing secondary infertility, which I have never really known. Second time around, I found it far, far easier to front up to the fertility specialist and set the wheels in motion, and everything fell into place a short time later. I am trying, in advance, not to shrug her off because of that. I am trying to remember that she isn't pre-adjusted to her membership in the infertility club like I was when we started trying for number two, that it's the first time around for her on this crazy, sometimes terrifying ride. And that anyway, she's not me, and can't be expected to react in exactly the same way as me at all times.

So I'm trying to figure out what I can possibly say - if, indeed, I am called upon to say anything at all other than, "Hmm... oohhh... gosh... dear me..." which, I suppose I mustn't forget, is entirely possible. Does she want practical information about medications or procedures? Does she need help deciding which path to take? Is she expecting me to give her some magic balm to make the confusion go away, because honestly, I don't have one, despite my prior experience and a great deal of wishing one into existence for the benefit of myself and others. All I have is the belief that she will, on a day too far away into the future, find herself smiling to hear fertile folk talk of trivial concerns, her heart warming with the reassurance that some part of the world, at least, is running as she'd like it to run. A belief that someday, she will find herself ready and willing to transform the pain she is now feeling into something better, to exchange it for something equally valuable, but much more gratifying.

Your input is appreciated.

*This may change. We'll see.

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