In my wildest dreams about the way I thought the way I would truly begin resolving infertility would look, I never guessed that an espresso machine would play a starring role (or, really, any role at all). Life is a weird thing.
Let me back up.
After the miscarriage, the cold, hard facts were: 8+ years, $40K+ in fertility treatments, 3 miscarriages, 2 D&Cs, 1 failed FET of a genetically normal embryo that felt like a miscarriage, 1 serious allergic reaction, a combined 100+ days in the hospital for me and oldest child, hemorrhage, periviable PPROM, 2 c-sections, and more needles, ultrasounds, and office visits than I can count. Everything about this story screamed “STOP, THIS IS TOO MUCH!” I knew this, Arthur knew this, we both knew enough was enough.
Except that a week after the miscarriage, I went back to work and I don’t know what evil energy in the universe decided to play with me, but the baby song started. I don’t mean something internal here, I mean a literal, audible lullaby that gets played over the loudspeaker signifying the birth of an infant. The first couple of times I heard it, I rolled my eyes and tuned out. Finally, I was working on a project at 2 am, guard down in a way it can only be at 2 am, when the soft strains began again.
I gritted my teeth and made it to the car several hours later before I burst into tears. I sobbed and sobbed and carefully drove myself home between bouts of the kind of crying that just wracks the entire body. When I didn’t immediately come into the house, Arthur came out to see what was wrong.
“Promise me we can try again,” I wailed. “I can’t take this. I just want another baby!”
Arthur, taken entirely off guard, just patted my back noncommittally, which infuriated me. I brushed him off, marched upstairs, sobbed all the way through showering, and flung myself into bed for a nap because on top of everything, I was exhausted.
I woke up a few hours later soggy, stuffy, and feeling like cr*p. Later that evening, I explained to Arthur that despite the loss, despite everything I’d said, I wanted a baby so badly and I wanted to try again. Arthur sighed and said he needed a little bit of time to think about it.
We went back and forth for a couple of weeks as a few more painful moments poked my fresh wound. We both knew there was no way we could take any *ahem* action on the thing until I had my post-surgical check-up, so it was a good time to have discussions. In the end, Arthur and I hammered out an agreement: three cycles, ending with a negative pregnancy test and my period on the third cycle. Another positive pregnancy test was a hard stop, if we had another loss, it had to end there. I ordered OPKs, passed my post-D&C check with flying colors, and waited for my period to arrive.
I had scheduled a surgical consult with my OB/GYN about having my tubes tied shortly after the D&C, and despite the new agreement, I kept it. I wanted to keep my options open, because if I didn’t get pregnant in those three cycles, I needed to know what the end might involve. When my OB/GYN walked into the exam room, I said “I don’t know what you read in my chart, but it’s been kind of a roller-coaster…”
She put the computer down, looked me in the eye, and said “Oh, I’ve read a few things, but why don’t you tell me what you want me to know.” So I told her that I’d had another miscarriage after everything looked good and that we weren’t sure what to do going forward and this was really miserable after all the infertility and the other miscarriages and the PPROM and the IVF.
“I don’t expect you to be 100% certain about being done,” she said. “Actually, I don’t think most women are 100% certain for a while, even if they do choose to go forward with surgery. But I do want you to be at least 90% certain. There are other things we can do in the meantime while you’re figuring life out.”
It was a much-needed change in my perspective. So, so much of what I’ve heard over the years and read has been people saying “you want to be 100% certain. You don’t regret the children you do have, you regret the children you don’t.” Maybe this is good advice for fairly fertile women who haven’t been dragged through h*ll and back on fertility issues, I don’t know, because I’m not fairly fertile and I have been dragged through h*ll and back on this.
She told me to think on it and that the option was open if I wanted it.
In the background of all the angsty conversations Arthur and I were having, there’s the pandemic and all those little things that just aren’t happening right now that sort of oil the gears that turn life. One of these ridiculously tiny things, extremely privileged things, that I was missing was a weekly latte. We’re both lucky enough to have jobs but high exposure risk profiles (public-facing and healthcare, neither of which can be done from home), so it’s true that we’ve been trying to shore ourselves up mentally in whatever reasonable ways we can.
The pandemic put a stop to lattes. I started by trying all the hacks, tricks, and ideas for making ‘espresso’ (and lattes) without an actual espresso maker and none of them really gave me the taste I was craving. I started researching actual espresso machines.
I finally found a machine that fit my specifications that was on sale, bringing it to a price range we felt reasonable. Arthur and I worked out how many lattes I’d need to make at home to at least break even on the cost of the machine. Then we considered.
I ordered the espresso machine when I got home from my doctor’s appointment.
For over a year, Arthur has tried to get me interested in other projects. Landscaping for the front yard, pergola for the back yard, basement improvements, longer-term bathroom redo. None of them really captured my imagination. Even when Arthur would try to get me to talk about trips we wanted to take (pre-pandemic), a subject I’ve long been passionate about, I just…wasn’t really interested.
I knew, deep down, that any of these bigger projects or trips were a significant enough investment in time and money that another baby would be off the table in a practical way. I wasn’t ready for that.
But, an espresso machine.
I got excited about it. Bottomless portafilter discussion? Don’t mind if I do! Exact ratios of espresso to milk? Bring it on. Pressurized versus non-pressurized filter baskets? Interesting! Best coffee beans? I’ll call the local shop that small-batch roasts most of the coffee we buy and inquire about their espresso offerings.
Not coincidentally, the ads I saw online switched from baby and maternity to coffee gear. For a few hours at a time, I didn’t think about babies or fertility.
I thought that I could have both a baby and an espresso machine. I could commit to both (they make decaf espresso, after all). Maybe because it’s not as high stakes, that’s why it managed to wedge open the door, the one locked and shut for so long, the one I ostensibly was trying to open but was really avoiding fervently.
It happened, though: I got genuinely excited about something that wasn’t fertility, child, or baby related. And once it happened, I couldn’t undo it. I couldn’t ignore that there really is an entire life waiting for me where I don’t track my cycles, where I solely enjoy the children I have instead of wondering if we’ll have another, where I find meaning in the myriad number of other pursuits outside of gambling again on a positive pregnancy test.
I’m not pretending that I won’t go back and forth a few more times on this, at least to an extent. It’s taken me over eight years to arrive here (wherever “here” is) and there’s probably further to go before this actually over. But I said a genuine if still not quite ready for the permanent deal “yes” to birth control and even though I definitely have moments of desperate desire for a pregnancy, a baby, they’re slipping away in the face of the sheer amount of energy it suddenly takes to hold them.