I breed guppies.
It’s not really that hard, put some guppies together in a tank, and you will have fry usually before the week is out. The trick is in keeping the parents from eating them, and then keeping them well fed at the same time, then changing them into a new tank and raising them until they are big enough to sell.
I do it for a variety of reasons.
Having fish tanks in my office is very soothing. It helps me relax and creates a great atmosphere for writing. The sound of running water, the swirl of colours as they swim, the pleasant rise of air bubbles.
I can re-sell the babies for store credit at our pet store, which helps us offset the cost of keeping our menagerie.
They present a challenge as I try to create interesting new colour patters through select breeding, and a fun puzzle as I try to figure out which traits are dominant and recessive.
The end results so far have been extremely attractive, including a male with a black spotted red tail and rosette patterns across his body, and two males that have a hot purple shine to their scales in the light. It’s been fun, but the breeding serves another purpose.
Some time ago, I accepted the fact that I might never have a biological child of my own. Because of my illnesses, I don’t have the physical capability to carry a fetus to term safely. I won’t have the ability unless I go into remission, something I’ve been trying to do for close to a decade with no success.
As my symptoms worsen in the last year, so too do my hopes of ever getting to experience my own pregnancy.
Breeding guppies helps me stave off some of that pain, by letting me be involved in the procreation of some kind of baby.
For someone who actually wants children, the loss of procreative ability can be hard hitting, especially if you grew up thinking you were straight and cis. You grow up being told that procreation is your birthright, to pardon the pun.
I made plans for my future pregnancies. I remember thinking that I would play classical music for my bump, and that I would sing lullabies to it, so that my eventual baby would recognize and be soothed by my voice.
The other day, when singing a lullaby for someone, I found myself crying at the realization that I will most likely never be able to do that.
In a normal situation, when you lose the ability to do something, you lose it and you can move on. What makes this so difficult is that it is not a completely conclusive loss.
It’s possible that my reaction to medications will suddenly change. That I will go into remission while still young enough to conceive. It is possible that someday I might be healthy enough and in a stable enough place to be able to consider having a biological child. It is possible, but all signs suggest that it is unlikely.
So while I mourn a loss, there is this deceptive cruel thread of hope that keeps you rooted and doesn’t let you move on. It’s the pin that keeps scratching at the surface of your composure, which keeps reopening the wound and keeping it fresh.
In order to heal from a loss, you have to reach the stage where you accept it. As long as hope remains however, it can be hard to fully accept. Hope is that little voice that says “maybe this is not a loss you face” and makes you have to face it again and again.
This is how hope, for all that it can save, can also kill.