Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wrinkles in time

Last week my former thesis advisor James was in town to give a talk. I hadn’t seen him in over eight years. After the talk they had arranged to take him out for lunch and somehow I got included in this group as did Don, a colleague of mine (also my former boss, and current friend). We chatted about work and who was doing what. Any children? Dr. J asked.
Noooo I replied, staring at my plate, suddenly very interested in my salad, ‘but Don has a lovely baby girl!’
Don gave me a quick smile, ‘she’s 17 months now’, he said. And the talk turned to his baby.

Seventeen months.
We had gone to the same clinic only weeks apart, Don’s wife and I. It was my first IVF cycle and her fourth. I was wildly optimistic. Like many newbies I assumed that IVF was a golden ticket. If it didn’t lead a baby on the first try, surely all we needed to do was try once more. Don’s wife was much more realistic. He first cycle had been cancelled, the second resulted in one embryo, the third was cancelled too. She only had a few follicles and was hoping for two or three embryos. That’s exactly what they got. I was in my two week wait when they got their positive Beta. By the time her little girl was born I had gone through two more negative cycles. By the time they were celebrating their baby’s first birthday I had gone through six. Now she is 17 months.
I saw her just before Christmas. She has inherited her father’s curly hair and cherubic face.

Sometimes it feels like the last three years have flown by. What have I been doing the past few weeks, months? I don’t seem to have accomplished much at work, or at home. My long list of unfinished projects keeps getting longer. Suddenly it’s the middle of April and it’s 2006. How did that happen?
Other days it feels like I have been here FOREVER. It has been an eternity since we got married and started ‘trying’. Everyone, it seems, has two or three babies in the time I’ve been trying for one. Even my former students send me photos of their newborns.


I’ve been planting seeds in trays of soil in our dining room. You open a packet of seeds and there are hundreds inside. Some of them will sprout and some won’t. You give them equal attention, good soil, lots of water but only some of the sprouts will thrive. Out of the entire packet I’m usually left with two dozen strong seedlings. The parallels are obvious. My husband found me hunched over a tray, nearly in tears. Any entire flat of nasturtium sprouts had died. You see, I said. ‘I give them love, a cozy home, and they’re fucking ungrateful. Why won’t they grow?’
‘Aren’t you taking this gardening thing too seriously?’ He answered.

Later we were lying in bed, both of us trying to talk the other into a back massage. Mine was sore from the hunching over, his is always sore. We are old I thought. When my mother was my age I was a teenager. ‘Even if we do ever have children’, I said to him, ‘we will be geriatric parents who complain about their sore backs. We will be too tired and too decrepit to play with them. We will be grey haired and wrinkled* with bad knees and arthritic hands.’ He disagrees. He thinks we are still young. We have years and years ahead of us. This is not comforting when there is a good possibility that those ‘years and years’ will be spent without children.
‘Were you really ready to be a parent in your 20s?’ he asks.

Yes I think I was.

When I was 20 something my body worked. It was dependable. Nothing hurt. I exercised, I did yoga. I drank coffee in the mornings and wine at night. I had two ovaries and two tubes. I never thought about them. Except the occasional cold, I never got sick. I’d never been to the hospital. I had never heard of endometriosis, or vaginal ultrasounds, or donor eggs, or ICSI or assisted hatching. I had a job, an apartment, a new car. I was ready to have a baby. He was not. He wanted to wait until we had a house, until his career and our finances were more stable. Well, we’ve got the careers now and the house. But the house it empty.

It would have turned out differently, I used to think, if we started earlier. If only I had insisted. If only he had been ready. I drove myself crazy thinking about this after the first few failed cycles; wishing I/we had made different decisions. But now I realize it doesn’t matter. I’ll never know what could have been. Perhaps I would have just been a younger infertile. Would that be any better? No. Plus we wouldn’t necessarily have had the resources to pursue IVF, and I don’t think we would have had the strength (in ourselves and in our relationship) to go through everything we’ve endured for the past four years.

So, it is what it is.

*The wrinkles have already started. I’m starting to develop something called ‘laugh lines’. Funny thing is, I don’t remember doing much laughing in past few years.
Laugh lines my ass. Who came up with that?


At 12:52 PM, Blogger Lut C. said...

I get what you mean about time slipping away. Am I whishing my life away by obsessing about the next round of treatment? It seems just yesterday that I was eagerly awaiting the first round of Clomid.
Now it's six months later. I don't remember doing anything, execpt the 6 rounds of Clomid.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Chee Chee said...

I can completely relate to your feelings. It is so difficult to sit around watching your family, friends and colleagues have child after child and feeling like you are standing still. Good luck with your next steps.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Krista said...

I agree - laugh lines are overrated. And although there are good days and bad, it sure would be nice if there was a limit to this infertily shit. What you have been trying for 4 years - oops we missed your deadline - here's your baby. I am thinking of you and aging as I plan my next step.

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Millie said...

I can't believe I've lost the last 3+ years of my life to this. It's such a loooooong time. All I can think about is the next birthday or anniversary or whatever. And not being closer to where I want to be. I never meant to be such a 'mature' mom but guess that's what's going to happen.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Pamplemousse said...

They are crying lines! And I hear you on the ungrateful plants too!Smooches, sweetie.

At 4:20 AM, Blogger tricia said...

i am waiting and prepping for IVF#4 and can relate to your feelings (you are not alone). it was painful enough to sit on the sidelines and watch "normal" friends have babies. it hurts even more to watch fellow IVFers succeed and go on to have big bellies and fat babies.

although i am truly happy for them, and rejoice with them, knowing what they've gone through, i can't help wishing inside "why wasn't it me...."

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Thalia said...

I was ready too, but he wasn't here until recently, so I know that our children couldn't have been born any earlier. And although I was ready, I guess the endo would have been a problem even then. It's so hard, it's just very very hard.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Sparkle said...

Yep, I too was ready earlier - but I chose not to make children an 'issue' and enjoy our relationship.

I do wish we'd started trying earlier, but there is no way I want our relationship now to be all about blame.

I hate watching time - it's even harder when you see people who didn't even have a relationship at the time we started trying - now have children!

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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