Gilbert — eat, pray, love
And since I am already down there in supplication on the floor, let me hold that position as I
reach back in time three years earlier to the moment when this entire story began — a moment
which also found me in this exact same posture: on my knees, on a floor, praying.
Everything else about the three-years-ago scene was different, though. That time, I was
not in Rome but in the upstairs bathroom of the big house in the suburbs of New York which
I’d recently purchased with my husband. It was a cold November, around three o’clock in the
morning. My husband was sleeping in our bed. I was hiding in the bathroom for something
like the forty-seventh consecutive night, and — just as during all those nights before — I was
sobbing. Sobbing so hard, in fact, that a great lake of tears and snot was spreading before me
on the bathroom tiles, a veritable Lake Inferior (if you will) of all my shame and fear and con-
fusion and grief.
I don’t want to be married anymore.
I was trying so hard not to know this, but the truth kept insisting itself to me.
I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to
have a baby.
But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old. My husband and
I — who had been together for eight years, married for six — had built our entire life around the
common expectation that, after passing the doddering old age of thirty, I would want to settle
down and have children. By then, we mutually anticipated, I would have grown weary of trav-
eling and would be happy to live in a big, busy household full of children and homemade
quilts, with a garden in the backyard and a cozy stew bubbling on the stovetop. (The fact that
this was a fairly accurate portrait of my own mother is a quick indicator of how difficult it once
was for me to tell the difference between myself and the powerful woman who had raised
me.) But I didn’t — as I was appalled to be finding out — want any of these things. Instead, asmy twenties had come to a close, that deadline of THIRTY had loomed over me like a death
sentence, and I discovered that I did not want to be pregnant. I kept waiting to want to have a
baby, but it didn’t happen. And I know what it feels like to want something, believe me. I well
know what desire feels like. But it wasn’t there. Moreover, I couldn’t stop thinking about what
my sister had said to me once, as she was breastfeeding her firstborn: “Having a baby is like
getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you com-
How could I turn back now, though? Everything was in place. This was supposed to be the
year. In fact, we’d been trying to get pregnant for a few months already. But nothing had
happened (aside from the fact that — in an almost sarcastic mockery of pregnancy — I was ex-
periencing psychosomatic morning sickness, nervously throwing up my breakfast every day).
And every month when I got my period I would find myself whispering furtively in the bath-
room: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me one more month to live . . .
I’d been attempting to convince myself that this was normal. All women must feel this way
when they’re trying to get pregnant, I’d decided. (“Ambivalent” was the word I used, avoiding
the much more accurate description: “utterly consumed with dread.”) I was trying to convince