Perhaps you’re expecting from the title a post about, maybe, the awkwardness of waiting room silence or the separateness of slews of women enduring the same experience or the writhing discomfort one feels when secondary infertility patients mash their angelically beautiful toddlers into all your rawness so as not to leave them unattended at home with sharp objects and a stove. Alas, no, it is a metaphorical room…again. Shocking, right?
Do you realize that I haven’t really done anything that could even result in pregnancy in almost a year and a half? That’s not entirely true, but the exceptions are limited to three, maybe four natural cycles that happened in between big treatment stuff. I spent the rest of the time testing or priming and therefore abstaining plus three IVF cycles in which they harvested eggs but the embryos were transferred to the freezer instead of the womb. Oh, and lest we forget, there was also last summer’s surprise pregnancy loss, you know, for good measure, which included a D&C and several weeks of waiting to wait while we followed my beta down to zero. How counterintuitive to spend this much money, time, energy, and emotional reserves in an attempt to conceive with only a negligible chance, really, of turning up pregnant on the immediate horizon! Curiously, it sounds worse than it feels because, in the meantime, I have also jettisoned two-weeks-waits, pee sticks, and phone calls from fertility nurses that start with the word “Unfortunately…” It feels really good, actually: I almost resemble myself again, though it’s a different self, one who has grown five years wiser and fundamentally changed from weathering time, hardship, and loss. I snagged a few moments to tend to my wounds and heal during this period in the waiting room; I really needed that. This was eating me alive.
The impact of this waiting and healing on my reactions to kids and pregnancies has surprised me. I always just assumed that the longer this dragged on the more intense that feeling of stumbling through the world with my skin flayed off would become, but it seems that the trauma of ‘trying’ and failing, round after round, was the true culprit. Lately, I can look directly at children under four with a genuine smile instead of a mask to camouflage the stinging envy; I can sit in the same room with a pregnant woman without scrambling for the Xanax. I consider these key victories in the battle for happiness and serenity, like a standing tree pose that maintains breath and focus despite a struggle for balance, like a slave who continues to push out the walls of the ‘shrinking room’ to reclaim patches of space and freedom from my former life.
BUT… (Isn’t there always a “but”?) the waiting room is also an anxious place. I mean I’m not waiting for them to froth the milk on my cappuccino–this is still the verdict on biological children (longest deliberating jury EVER! Fuckers…) and, hey, I’m told my case is strong, but it’s kind of a big deal. So while some situations have become more comfortable (like hanging out with three very adorable flowers girls this weekend) I find it’s magnifying my fears and sensitivities in other areas, and I just need a quick minute to get some of that off my chest because I’ve been roiling around in this swamp of sick/scared/hurt and not wanting to whine about it…posting pictures of flowers to redirect my focus.
(1) B’s brothers and sisters are all older and don’t pose a risk in terms of someone dropping a pregnancy bomb on us. My brother, bless his heart, can barely keep a girlfriend around long enough to exchange the L-word. This put us in safer territory than some other ladies, who try and try for years while their immediate families explode with new grandchildren. That is so tough, and my heart goes out to you! However, B’s cousins are also pretty close, one of whom got married 2 years after us. I have been watching the suspicious happenings in my Newsfeed that point to conception endeavors, like the fact that they just sold their house and want to move to a safer neighborhood farther out in the suburbs. Then I went to lunch with my mother-in-law and B’s aunt, who confirmed that they did, in fact, sell the house because they “want children” blah blah (all the related reasons they put the house on the market). Cousin’s wife is a teacher, and having the inside scoop on how to best plan maternity leave around the school calendar, I know she will likely start trying this summer. I imagine they will smile at each other and get pregnant about 9 minutes from now, and I will be primed for a baby-grenade at the October dinner for family birthdays. This will be about the 1, 982, 427th pregnancy announcement I will have sustained over the years, but this one hits especially close to home and cuts especially close to the bone. Heaped on top of that are the waiting-room jitters, so I keep wrestling back and forth between this dreamy vision of cousins born within months of each other and dark fears about my first embryo transfer failing shortly before Christmas and having to sit across the table from cousin’s-wife with her stupid pregnant glow while I bleed my sadness all over the floor and fantasize about dumping my bowl of linguini over her head.
(2) That bit last week about pretending I’m the Dalai Lama and watching all these friendships float away without attachment: that was cute, right? I’m totally attached! I’m kicking and screaming on the inside. Watching my best friend pack her house, saying goodbye to the kids–I am so fucking upset about it, but I love her, and I know it’s a healthy move to a fresh start, so I try to keep all that beneath the surface in an effort to be unselfish and supportive. This has prompted me to lean a little harder in the direction of my other friendship, and at every turn I seem to find that they’re built on shakier foundation than I originally thought, so I have to make all these painful adjustments to my expectations and emotional investment in relationships with friends. The most recent of these incidents pertains to the couple who got married this weekend. Sitting at the wedding last night, I was watching the bride’s sister and brother-in-law dance with their small children–rain falling in the mountains just outside the tent, light glowing underfoot from the reflection in the dance floor, white ruffles bobbing happily, disheveled hair, big open-mouthed smiles–just wishing and wishing that I could finally get to the point where I am too busy with kids to worry about friends. Here in the waiting room, that fantasy is equal parts hope and terror, which seems to magnify all my sensitivities to slights and snubs and our reliance on our self-centered pals for companionship. Honestly, I’m too old for this shit.
But I start birth control tomorrow to bank more embryos. It seems so utterly ridiculous that I am really doing more IVF cycles, but I know it is a well thought out and reasonable plan. If it turns out I really need a gestational carrier and I want to give myself a chance at pregnancy first, I have to bank more. If I want a decent chance at a second biological child down the road, I have to make an effort to secure that for myself before my ovaries shut down completely. These are choices we made after deep consideration and lengthy discussion with smart doctors. These are choices we made after committing to egg donor in a very real way and discovering that it totally unhinged me. For now we’re stuck in the waiting room, hoping that we’re just a couple of late bloomers, like this year’s hydrangeas, which barely survived the relentless snowstorms and extra helping of freezing temperatures of an especially long and severe winter, but still graced us with a spray of vibrant, purple flowers, albeit a month behind schedule.