I started biting my fingernails when I was four or five years old. Despite everyone’s best efforts, nasty-tasting substances placed on my fingers, bribes, pleas, and manicures, I did not stop biting my nails. No, I bit my nails through lower elementary school, upper elementary school, middle school, three proms and high school graduation. Finally, when I was 21, one of my close friends was getting married and asked me to serve as her maid of honor. I decided I was going to go to that wedding with nail polish that matched everyone else’s and not stubby, chewed up fingernails. I managed to quit in time for the wedding and haven’t bitten my nails since.
Until last week, when I looked down one morning at my hands and realized that every one of my usually nice nails were gone. I’ve spent this week trying to convince them to grow back.
And here I thought I was doing so well staying cool and composed.
The anxiety is seeping out in various ways at this point – the aforementioned nail biting, of course, but there are other manifestations as well. I bought a couple of nice pairs of black yoga pants that are presentable enough to wear out of the house to accommodate the swelling ovaries I anticipate during my cycle. I found a fabulous pair of socks for retrieval day and a pair for transfer day, because accessorizing my hospital gown (“the most fabric you’ll ever wear for the least amount of coverage!”) is definitely going to result in a successful IVF cycle.
As Arthur and I were watching The Hunger Games movie recently, I couldn’t stop myself from commenting wryly that the line “May the odds be ever in your favor” ought to be painted over the door of every fertility clinic. It wasn’t my best effort at a wise-ass comment, but I figure I get points for trying.
Then there is the crying: my heavens, I find myself tearing up at just about anything. I found my eyes filling with tears when (spoiler alert) Rue died. I found myself nearly bawling when Katniss steps on stage after volunteering and the district silently salutes her, honoring her sacrifice and her likely impending death. I had to choke back tears the other night watching The Prestige the other night at one moment. I’ve decided to preemptively strike Big Fish and The Return of the King from all further rotation on my movie list, as they both nearly always make me cry even on good days.
It isn’t just movies. I was reading Good Eggs by Phoebe Potts and alternately laughing and sobbing. I made the mistake of picking up Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It’s one of those books that has been on my reading list forever, and I had grabbed it to find something other than infertility books to read. It has a wonderful, touching, triumphant ending, but dear God, the in between parts were so horrendous and sad. I sat, much to my husband’s surprise, and cried for about 45 minutes after finishing the book because the awful things humans choose to do to one another was simply overwhelming (although I think this one I probably would have found upsetting even without all the heightened emotions). Don’t get me wrong. It’s an important story that deserves telling and remembering, but I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to read it and process it.
And finally today, I’ve reached the point of a nasty depressed mood and general total frustration. If dementors (as described in the Harry Potter series) were a real thing, I would think there is a whole host of them lurking around my home.
“I don’t want to do IVF,” I announced to Arthur, shortly after going by the RE’s office to sign the final paperwork and consents.
“I know, sweetie. I don’t either.”
“Everything is pissing me off. I feel like I can’t even think right now.”
Arthur wisely just nodded sympathetically and patted my hand. Since I was sitting at my desk and computer, I decided to click over to the online library site to check out some books for my kindle. Maybe that would distract me. In the meantime, I continued grumbling to Arthur.
“It’s not fair. I mean, I know. Life isn’t fair, there’s worse crap out there, and why not me? But damn it, I’m only 30 f*cking years old. I was 29 when we started trying! I’ve maintained my health. Everyone told me not to worry, I probably wouldn’t need IVF, just some drug therapy and maybe some IUIs. I hate everything right now, including myself.”
Arthur reached over and gave me a hug.
“And I hate feeling like this. It’s totally awful and immature and unreasonable. And I want to stop feeling like this. But I just can’t seem to do it. Every time I start trying to think about something else, I just get frustrated. AND WHY IS THE DAMN LIBRARY SITE NOT ACCEPTING MY CARD! THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH MY LIBRARY CARD!” I set my head down on my desk and started sobbing. “WHY WON’T THE LIBRARY TAKE MY CARD? I KNOW I DON’T HAVE ANY FINES! DAMN IT!”
This is how I know I have a most wonderful husband: instead of doing what any sane human being would do and running for his life, he calmly reached over and rubbed my shoulder. “I’m so sorry sweetie. I wish I could change this for you, for us,” he said.
“Me too,” I managed. He just sat with me for awhile, both of us hanging on to one another.
I wish I could say here that I had some grand moral epiphany or moment of clarity or there was a Patronus to chase away the dementors. There wasn’t. But, and perhaps here’s the important thing, I am finally starting to believe that tomorrow might be better, whatever happens with the IVF. Which represents a huge change from the feeling I struggled against all spring and summer, where I felt as though I’d never find my way back. That I’m not stuck here, in this moment, in this dark place forever. And that makes all the difference in the world.