For the past month, I've been transfixed by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370. I'm not the only one, if the 24/7 news coverage on CNN is any indication. The idea that an entire airplane could disappear without a trace, along with all 239 people on board, is profoundly unsettling. In those first few confusing days it seemed almost possible that the plane and its passengers might actually be found somewhere in one piece, although this would have required several creative leaps of logic and a whole lot of luck. Personally, I kept returning to the principle of Occam's razor: the simplest solution is usually the correct one. Which meant that the plane was more than likely already at the bottom of the ocean.
And yet, when reading or watching news coverage of the event, I continued to be struck by the insistence of the passengers' friends and family that their loved ones might still be out there, and could still come home safely. That it might not all have ended as horribly as seemed increasingly certain to everyone else. As sympathetic as I was to the plight of the families, as the days passed I found myself wondering how they could possibly still believe that everything was going to turn out all right. How could they not recognize that they were deluding themselves? Didn't they realize, deep down, how crazy it seemed to hope that their loved ones were still alive out there somewhere?
MH370 disappeared on March 8. Or CD27, in my little world. For the past two years, I'd watched my cycle slowly dropping in length to an average of 26 or 27 days. I hadn't had a 28 day cycle in at least a year, and nothing longer than that since probably before I went on the pill a lifetime ago. After my chemical pregnancy in February, I'd told myself that I wasn't even going to bother timing my cycles anymore to try naturally. There was no point. And yet, as the days dragged on and my period still wasn't showing up, I started to wonder if the old wives' tale about being more fertile the month after a miscarriage might not be true. CD28 came and went, then CD29. I got out a calendar and counted backwards. If I'd ovulated on CD10 (as was the norm for at least the past year), then we'd had sex once in my fertile window. Sure, I'd had a headache the night before last, which usually preceded my period. But it could also be an early pregnancy symptom, right? And yeah, I was spotting, which always happened before my period too. But people also spot in early pregnancy!
I toyed with the idea of taking a test, but I knew that even if it was negative I would find a way to doubt. Perhaps the test would be faulty, or I would be one of those mysterious women who wouldn't get a positive HPT until six weeks into a pregnancy. Whatever happened, I knew I wouldn't be sure until I saw blood. Only then would I be able to let go of the hope that this cycle wasn't going to end the same way they've all ended, for almost three years. When my period finally arrived on CD30, I felt a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness for yet another chance lost, and relief that I could finally let go of the hope that I'd always known, deep down, was false.
I try to imagine myself in the position of the MH370 families. Can I really fault them for refusing to believe all of the evidence in front of them, when I do it myself every single month? Can I blame them for desperately hoping that their loved ones are alive, just as I hope against all odds to create the life of one that I will love? If there's one thing that infertility teaches, it's that hope is a double-edged sword that can cut you as easily as it defends you against despair. For the families of the missing, it seems that all we can hope for now is the bittersweet relief that would come from debris in the water.