The other day I met a woman with a son the same age as Sasha; her second child is due this month. As we discussed her unexpected pregnancy, I felt split open. The memory of being pregnant pulled at me as my eyes traced her full belly
She had not noticed me oggling her stomach and was clearly blind to my desire. "I was pregnant in the fall but I lost the baby. I really want another child."
Perhaps it was the desperate sound in my voice that prompted her to hold her bump. "I'm sorry."
I've been imagining myself pregnant again and each time that I get close to ovulation, my excitement quickens. This month I decided against a second try at a natural IVF and opted instead to return to the more basic intrauterine insemination. To further reduce the stress, I also chose not to drive into the city for daily monitoring and instead just show up at the clinic a few days before ovulation day. Today is day 12, and I anticipated ovulation late on day 13 or early on day 14. Instead I awoke to an egg in the display of my clear blue easy--a peak day--which meant ovulation was sooner than I'd planned. Better still, I reasoned, to keep the anxiety already rising in check. Just two days in the city. Monitoring today. Insemination tomorrow. But as Sasha and I went through our morning routines and prepared for our voyage, I had a feeling that this development was not a good sign.
The clinic was packed as always and as I settled in for what I imagined would be a long wait for blood and ultrasound, Aaron and Sasha headed off to Central Park. When I was finally brought back for the ultrasound, I felt on edge. The ultrasonographer entered the room and quickly got to business. After just a minute of scanning, she pulled out the probe.
"It looks like you've already ovulated."
"What? Are you sure? Can you just take another look?"
She looked at me and frowned as she waved the probe in the air. "Since you didn't come in for any monitoring this month, I have no baseline. I don't know which follicle was dominant or where it was. There's only a hazy sac right now so you could have ovulated or are ovulating. I don't know. But this really could have been prevented if you'd just have come in." Until she was certain that her admonishments had their effect, she continued to remind me of what a mess I'd made of this month.
"What should I do now?"
"I'd wait for the blood work and see what they want to do. But don't leave the city."
"I'll do it stat but it will be awhile." And with this, dismissal she left and the real torture began.
In my attempt to make this situation less stressful, I have created a new stress--another missed month. Why was this happening? Last month an egg retrievel undertaken too early. This month, I ovulate ahead of schedule. There is so much more to this than science, so many variables, but the one I focus on is myself. I ought to have done more. I should have.... I wished I... I felt angry and pitiful at this opportunity gone to waste. Was there any way to put it right?
I got dressed and called Aaron on my way out. No answer. I started walking toward the park and tried again. Still no answer. I passed our car on 74th and kept walking. The temperature had hit 94 and I was sweating as I reached the playground. It was crowded with children but not my own. I raced to the other playground. Not there. Then back toward the car, and the clinic and back to the park. Every few minutes, I placed another call. Now I was panicked. Why wouldn't Aaron answer his phone unless there was something wrong. On my final trip back to the clinic, we spotted each other. Relief flooded me instantly as I grabbed his arm and kissed Sasha; then I was upset.
"Why didn't you answer your phone? I was desperate to talk with you."
"I haven't had any service and I imagined that you didn't either. After an hour, I went to call you and then realized I couldn't make a call so I headed back to the clinic. They said you'd already gone so I headed toward the park and then back again."
It sounded like we'd made the same circuit. My mind immediately returned to the other drama.
"There's no dominant follicle."
"They think I may have already ovulated but they don't know." As I began to relate the facts, Aaron's face revealed the same disappointment that l felt.
"This would mean that you must have peaked right after you checked yesterday and ovulated at the shorter end of the surge window. That's not typical for you."
"I don't know. Perhaps it's because of the failed egg retrieval last month. Do you want to stay and wait for the blood results?"
"If there's still a chance, I do. Let's wait."
"We won't know when I ovulated or if the egg is still alive at this point."
As we began to walk toward a restaurant for lunch, my cell phone rang. "The doctor would like to do an IUI."
I nodded my head. With rapid decisiveness, Aaron and I turned back to the clinic. But what were we moving toward? The waiting room was starting to slow down. I wanted to ask one of the assistants if this endeavor was even worthwhile but Aaron told me not to bother.
"Either we get lucky and you just ovulated, or we don't. We're going to need some luck. "
We signed the paperwork to get the sperm processing underway. It was 4:30 before I was finally in the room ready to be inseminated. The nurse practitioner entered the room and I foolishly asked her what was going on.
"So was what the ultrasonographer saw the follicle ovulating?"
Indifferent to what it meant for me to be laying there on that table, she said, "Who knows what's happening. That could be a cyst or the rupturing follicle. The follicle could just be impossible to see at this point. We have no baseline. But your progesterone and other hormones apparently suggest ovulation."
I waited for her to say that this could be a fool's errand but instead she held up the vial of sperm in front of me and prepared to do the task. Her lips drawn back, she asked, "Do you have any questions?"
"Okay then, you'll feel a lot of pressure and then cramping as I pass the cervix and enter the uterus."
Check and check. The moment of insemination was completely stripped of any warm touch and then it was over.
"Just lay here for about 15 minutes or so, then you can leave."
Aaron bent over to kiss me and Sasha tumbled onto my chest. He then began to try to hurl himself off the table. "Why don't you take him out to the waiting room and let him walk around?"
As I remained on the table, I heard Sasha's squeals of delight and then I began to chastise myself again: You should have attended to your physical symptoms more than the kit. Abundant cervical mucus on Monday and Tuesday and Aaron was oh so appealing despite the snuffly nose and hoarse cough. I reflected on how difficult it is to stay relaxed which is important for conception and not to get too caught up in the process of intervention which is so inherently stressful. I feel at times like I am war with the clinic, with my body and with my mind that repeatedly reminds me of times in my life when I wouldn't have needed frozen sperm.
In the end, my mind is the true battle ground. I tried to map out this month and take back control and harness my own power, but the outcome was not what I'd desired. How can I yield to this situation and still feel solid and full of belief when I know that people aren't always rewarded for faith or for effort?
I know what I want and I remembered how I attained it in creating my son as I remained on that table. I remembered the sound of the birds and the ocean and the way the early morning light slowly warmed our room. I remembered a cloud of pillows beneath us and the way that we knew a child was coming to us that month. I knew it without a doubt. For a moment, I was back in that place and then the nurse knocked on the door. "All set."
I opened my eyes to my surroundings. What a stark contrast. I eased myself off the table, dressed, and then we dragged ourselves to the car and sat with our disappointment in the rush hour traffic. Wanting to let go of this sorrow but having nothing to take its place, I was a ghost.
The other day I told my friend, Lisa, that I want to remain in a mental place where I am accepting of the idea that whatever is meant to happen with regard to having another child will happen but as I recall the woman so full with child as she held her son, I am not sure that I can do it.