Content note: infertility, pregnancy
I hate curtain patterns that don’t repeat in a nice orderly fashion. Something about them makes my brain twitch, and I don’t like to think how much of my life I’ve spent staring at drapes (or wallpaper) trying to find the nice clean border where everything starts all over again.
It feels like I should draw some deep-and-meaningful lesson from that but I can’t think what it is.
The curtains in the little rooms – more like cubicles – in the old Fertility Associates office in Wellington did not repeat. They were an obnoxious mess of green and blue and orange and yellow, squares and swirls and stripes, and oh, what a relief for my brain it was to have that chaotic vomit to focus on instead of what was ahead: our second embryo transfer, with the spare, frozen blastocyst from our first round of egg harvesting.
The clinic was busy that day and I could hear parts of murmured conversations in the neighbouring cubicles. It felt very isolating, and not just because I was on my own for this one. The thing is, you and every other person in there is in exactly the same boat – nobody else in the world knows as well as they do what you’re going through at that exact moment – but you’re separated, by literal walls and also social ones. This isn’t a waiting room where you make eye contact and smile at other people, much less strike up a conversation. You don’t know what stage they’re at – what news they’re here to hear – but you know exactly what the worst case scenario is.
The clinic is obviously aware of this dynamic, so there’s a sign on the cubicle wall for their Facebook group. Here, it says, here’s a safe place to make those connections. We never joined. I don’t like sharing my grief in the moment (she says, on her public blog), I don’t even know how to contain it within myself, it just felt too hard to push it onto others or have theirs pushed onto me.
Once again, it was a quick, clean procedure. Almost too much so. There’s nothing big and scary like sedation or a waiting period to focus your anxiety, so it all goes onto the next week-and-a-bit waiting for the next pregnancy test; and in my case, on work. I was at Parliament while we went through this, and our second transfer happened at the end of July; only six weeks before Parliament dissolved and I lost every scrap of job security.
They say there’s never a good time to have a baby, but I still feel like we chose a particularly terrible one;* on the other hand, it wasn’t a choice. It was a need.
And then the results came in.
And we won the lottery.
I’d spent the whole month, since our first transfer failed, telling myself over and over that someone has to beat the odds. That’s the ironic thing about what I mentioned in the last post, about the idea that every infertility story has a happy ending. When you’re going through it, it feels like everyone you talk to has an unhappy ending. Or tried and tried and tried and tried again and maybe, finally, through sheer force of will and luck and persistence, it happened.
I don’t think I know anyone who got as lucky as we did.
J was home when I got the phone call, so he found out almost as soon as I did; and in true J fashion, his first question was whether there was something performative he was supposed to do. I told him jewellery, or a car.
It was the happiest day of my life, and yet … it’s the same story I feel I’ve told already. Every bit of success on this path just opens up more avenues for failure and anxiety. This blood test was good. But there was another only days away. Three weeks after that, the “early scan”. More appointments in the diary to get good news, or the worst.
I just assumed these early days are when there’s the highest risk of losing a pregnancy. But no one ever said it. I guess you don’t need one more thing to worry about.
Probably the worst bit was having to keep up the damn pessaries. I was looking forward to having clean underwear again.
And on top of all that we had J’s contract at work ending, the election another week closer, and at some point we had thought about moving house before we had a baby, and …. how???
I’m almost happier now, reflecting back, than I was on that day. Because now I’m free of those worries (found plenty of new ones, have no fear). I know that the Wednesday blood test will be strong again, and the early scan will be the first time I see my baby’s heart beating, and everything, everything will work out. Hindsight is great like that.
*Four days after the pregnancy test, four cases of COVID-19 were found in Auckland, which went into a level 3 lockdown, the rest of the country to level 2. Great timing, like I said.