Last night when Zoe’s foot was nestled in the small of my back and her elbow wedged into my neck, as we listened to the Banana Slug String Band for the fifth time, trying to drown out the sound of hail on the window and thunder in the air, I was thinking. What else was there to do? Sleep was not an easy option.
Among other thoughts, I was thinking about the appointment scheduled for this morning to begin testing for fertility treatment. After three years of trying to create a sibling for Zoe and only a miscarriage and two D&Cs to show for it, we realized that something needed to change. We didn’t want to give up. But continuing to do what we’d been doing seemed fruitless, and if you’ve ever been down this road, you know the fun diminishes rapidly. I’ve tried acupuncture, herbs American and Chinese, and supplements. I’ve taken all kinds of well-intentioned advice, and ignored some. What clearly worked like a magic charm for everyone else hadn’t done the trick for us.
And we’d already consulted a fertility specialist a couple years ago. He was rude and arrogant and supremely unhelpful. So part of me dreaded seeing someone else, given our unpleasant experience. But someone reminded me that our sample was very small. So I made an appointment. Then I postponed it for a week. They sent us a lot of forms to fill out. They asked me to call our insurance company, which covers pretty much nothing. They cover the cost of seeing a doctor to see if something’s wrong with you, and if it is, they will pay to have you fixed. But technically one’s inability to have a baby is not a medical problem that requires attention.
So every step I took slowly and consumed with apprehension.
I felt somehow like going to a fertility clinic was admitting defeat. Saying we’d failed at doing this thing that people are supposed to be able to do easily. This thing that everyone else in the world seems to have no trouble with, at least that’s how it appears when I feel like I’m being assaulted by an army of pregnant women every time I leave the house. I do have a few friends who conceived their babies through IVF. Of course I don’t think that they failed. They did what they had to do. But the fact that we’re at this point where I feel like we have to do something is maddening. I don’t want to have to make this choice. But I want a baby, and waiting around does not improve the odds. As our new doctor (who reminds me a bit of the actor Richard Schiff) reminded us when we met him, you really can’t think about the odds too much, because you’re either pregnant or you’re not. Zero or 100%. But when you’re thinking about treatment, you have to look at the numbers. At my age, the changes of getting pregnant during any given month are only 2%-3%. Turns out every month when you think you’re ovulating, you’re only sending out an egg–or at least a good egg-maybe half or two-thirds of the time. And you have no way of knowing when the good months are and when you shouldn’t bother.
The doctor said there’s no reason we shouldn’t have another baby. The fact that Zoe exists and that she was conceived naturally is the biggest item in our favor. But, as Tom Petty so eloquently put it, the waiting is the hardest part. So the doctor said he recommended IUI, which is a step below IVF in terms of invasiveness and in cost. None of this is cheap, for sure. And it all involves a lot of hormones and ultrasounds and blood tests and all kinds of things that you wish you didn’t have to do.
Which, obviously, I don’t have to do. No one is forcing this on me. But we want a baby. Zoe wants to be a big sister more than anything. She has long been so interested in pregnancy that we’ve predicted she will become an OB or midwife or perhaps a neonatologist. And I loved being pregnant with her. I want to be pregnant again. And I don’t want to be 45 when it happens. At the same time, we have this wonderful girl. As much as we all want a baby, when we are getting dressed at the pool, or going to gymnastics class, or driving anywhere, and I see families with more than one child, I realize how relatively easy we have it. Zoe can feed and dress and bathe herself. She can read. She can swim. We’re in a good place.
I was seven when my sister was born, to the utter surprise and delight of my parents. So I enjoyed being an only child for quite a while, as does Zoe, but I too begged for a sibling. I don’t even know what reproductive technology was available to my parents, but they just assumed they were lucky to have me, and that was that. I know we are spectacularly lucky to have Zoe. I don’t think it’s wrong to want more though. But having to step into this world of unknowns and procedures and calculating the odds seems so forbidding.
I had my appointment this morning. Everything was normal. Which is good. Next test is Friday. I’ve realized that the scheduling of this procedure will depend somewhat on Zoe’s school schedule, because the testing they do is all in the morning, when I am typically driving Zoe to camp. Obviously most people they’re treating don’t have to worry about anyone else’s camp schedule, and would give anything to have such a complication.
From down the hall I hear yet another round of the Banana Slug String Band. Evidently Zoe can’t sleep either. I heard her reading Mouse Tales. I heard her coloring pictures of princesses (ok I couldn’t hear what the pictures were of, but I went to inspect). I don’t know what she’s thinking about. I told her to count American Girls to help her sleep. Maybe I should try that too, or maybe visions of ripe follicles filled with healthy eggs ready to burst forth into fallopian tubes. Or maybe I should stick to sheep.