Visits to the RE’s office make me think of the scene from the movie Juno where Jennifer Garner’s character is first introduced. She’s one of those Pinterest-perfect Martha Stewart types, and when we meet her, she is straightening her beautiful McMansion and nervously tugging on the sleeves of her subtly expensive shirt. She’s trying to create the impression that she is responsible and well-off, and that in short, she belongs in the mommy club. Watching the scene, I can almost feel the tension radiating off of her.
It’s not unlike what happens when I’m getting ready for a visit to the RE’s office. Except that instead of Jennifer Garner’s cool nervousness, I’m a ball of cranky anxiety. Monday morning found me having a full on FWP* snit trying to choose between a pair of embellished navy cardigans. I’d put one on, decide I didn’t like the shirt I’d layered underneath, try on the other, change the undershirt, put the first one back on, then tear through the laundry looking for the pair of jeans I wanted to wear.
Much easier to freak out about which cardigan to wear – or straighten one’s house – than focus on the kind of potentially life-changing stuff that’s about to happen.
It’s funny how, as a friend once put it to me, the days can be long but the weeks, months, or even years are so short. When we had our consultation with Dr. E at the beginning of June, August or September seemed far away and plenty of time. Some of it, I suppose, is the profound ambivalence I feel surrounding the whole cycle. The first time we chose to go forward with IVF, there were some issues, there were some doubts, but on the whole, I felt strongly that IVF was the right choice in our situation. It was something we were certain – if not of the details – was the choice we needed to make.
This time, things are so much murkier. There is a part of me that wonders if I’m not stupidly setting myself up for even more heartbreak. When I look back at my writings or remember my thoughts prior to the first IVF, I remember trying to prepare myself, to be realistic in my expectations. I also see a great deal of lovely, naive hope behind all the fear that actually got me through a lot. Unlike the last time I sat on the eve of an IVF cycle, I’ve explored more of the dark places personally and what I’ve learned is this: it doesn’t matter how thoroughly I’ve mapped their surfaces. There is always a sharp spot to catch on and it will not be less painful for being familiar.
At the same time, I have to take into account all the other pieces. After talking extensively with Arthur and having some sessions with a therapist to work through all the flotsam and jetsam of emotions, we’ve come to the conclusion that we want to give it another shot.
Some of it has to do with the fact that for us, we both worry that if we don’t take it in five or ten years we’ll look back and regret that decision. When it becomes time to move away from treatments – and we both know that with or without a child, that day is coming – we want to do it with the understanding that we have done everything reasonable for us. We want there to be as few loose ends as possible, as few regrets. We don’t want to wonder ‘what if’. It’s a decision made with much difficulty, entirely personal to our situation.
After meeting with Dr. E (having finally picked a cardigan – the one I happened to have on when we needed to leave), I feel calmer about going forward. For starters, it was so entirely different than what happened before my first IVF. Last time, I was in tears midway through the teaching consult with the nursing staff when the nurse was trying to go over the protocol instructions because there were some things they were bringing up that Arthur and I hadn’t planned on. This time, Dr. E calmly explained why he wanted us to use a particular form of progesterone until beta day which was a question we had. We went over restrictions as far as lifting and exercise and he worked with me to come up with a plan that helps me manage my stress, live my life, and not have issues with my ovaries. Dr. E also helped us plan a start cycle date that worked well for all of us so that he’ll be the one able to really supervise my care.
The other thing that’s different now is simply that while I am still very afraid of hurt, sadness, and more loss (a reasonable fear, given my history), I am far more at peace with the idea of life without a child. One thing I’ve learned through all this is that, much to my surprise, I did survive what I previously believed I could not.
This time, I know something I hoped but didn’t know before: my life will go on. While sometimes that feels more like a threat than a comfort, especially on the days where it feels like only enough light gets in to make the darkness feel even more oppressive, it’s the truth. And eventually, the light gets brighter and while these losses are never going to be okay, I know I will be. Not right away. Not easily. Not without pain. But it will happen.
Because I am so much more than my reproductive capabilities (or lack thereof). No matter what society or anyone else says.
* FWP = First World Problem