OUR “WE’VE BEEN DENIED BIO KIDS” VACATION
PART 1, PROLOGUE
I had always said I’d stop at 42. Stop trying to conceive, that is. I suppose I had figured that at that point it would cease to be worth the time, effort and money. And as fate would have it, that’s when we had to stop, almost precisely, since our last fertility treatment failed nineteen days before my 42nd birthday. We had gotten too close for comfort to the brink of spiritual, emotional, financial, physical, and life in general ruin.
The night leading into February 19, 2014 was a restless one. I’m still not sure if it was due to the 2nd cup of Barry’s tea (one of my can’t live without things and yes I’m a lightweight) I had in the late afternoon I don’t usually have, or if it was due to what I was trying to ignore. But either way I tossed and turned and at one point kind of woke up. In the process of rolling over to change position, my husband’s elbow jabbed me right on the bone above my left eye. Amidst the ouches and I’m sorrys it occurred to me…..I’ll bet……I grabbed my phone and lo and behold the time read 5:04 am. With my husband in the restaurant business, we are NEVER awake at this hour. “Happy Birthday” my husband grumbled sarcastically. “The elbow in the eye just about says it all, doesn’t it?” I muttered back with a helpless sigh. I was officially going to turn 42 in five minutes.
The cruelty of baby making never let up. I was just coming up for air after a lot of tough shit around the time of my birthday, to put it mildly. Our fourth round of IVF that calendar year in September/October of 2013 was a prolonged hideous circus worthy in and of itself of its own reality TV series. Perhaps entitled “When Infertiles Want to Kill” or something appropriate like that. After that we were left with six frozen embryos to transfer, since EVERY forty one year old gets six frozen embryos from IVF #’s 3 and 4. Yeah, that happens. With my well-functioning reproductive system taunting me to the bitter end, I went back to the doctor the first week in December to start the protocol for my transfer, knowing full well this would be our last shot. Only to be turned away, having to wait ANOTHER cycle to finish this nonsense since my transfer would have coincided with the holidays and lab closing. Looking back, my transfer had I been able to do it that cycle would have fallen right on Christmas day. This should have come as no surprise since the retrieval for my 2nd IVF was on Easter (easter EGG, get it….harty har har) and the retrieval for our third IVF was on the 4th of July. In addition to the irrelevance the holidays tend to take on when you’re infertile, for me they have also taken on a meaninglessness that is both bitter and benign. My January FET done on a natural cycle included the longest LH surge occurring since the dawn of man (five full days) because hey why not extend the torture? The best though was that the day of my beta, the lab didn’t run my beta. Yes, you read correctly, but I feel the need to reward that debacle a paragraph all its very own.
The day of my beta, the day that would determine whether or not we would EVER have biological children, THE LAB DID NOT RUN MY BETA. I had peed on a stick but the blood work confirmation is rather important. You know, kinda sorta. The Lab Corp people somehow couldn’t make their way down the whopping mind boggling list of TWO ITEMS to run, progesterone and beta. I was of course convinced that the mistake was made by a grotesquely fertile person, either a darned prego too enthralled with her ordinary self to make it to the end of a two item list, or an older fertile who was distracted by the horrible unjust burden of having to pay for college. And I had no problem with ranting about this theory (in between loving reminders to myself that I wasn’t going to die) from the time I had expected the results (around 5:00 pm) until 11:30 the NEXT morning when we finally got the phone call. More than twenty six hours after getting my blood drawn.
And all it was all for, in the end, was to leave me grappling with the loss of our bio kids less than three weeks from my 42nd birthday. In a sense I was ready to turn 42, since I had been feeling about 90 for the past year anyway. And I was able to muddle through the day because we were about to do what any other prudent and broke couple grieving the loss of their biological children after over 3.5 years of hard work would do. We were charging a trip to Vegas.
“I feel like a looser.” I confided to my friend a couple of weeks after our final failed treatment. “There’s so much in my life that is really really good, but I haven’t been able to enjoy it.” It’s not that I beat myself up so much for this, since grieving our loss is crucial and necessary no matter what good things it temporarily veils. However I do find it sad and frustrating, and what if something is gone tomorrow that I wasn’t able to enjoy when it was here? That had become one of my concerns which was easy to talk about with my friend. I’ve known her since we were seven, and she was tragically and unexpectedly widowed almost three years ago at the age of 39. “Well, it makes sense that you can’t enjoy the good stuff with everything you’ve been forced to deal with,” she patiently validated. Early on in my infertile journey I was often advised to “try and enjoy the life I DO have”. This would irk me to no end because every part of the life I had was effected by infertility and the incomprehensible change and devastation it brings. But at this point I had been through all of that upheaval, walked through fire after fire, and was wanting to at least in part attempt to enjoy my life again, free from dumb old ART (assisted reproductive technology). Infertility taught me that anything can be taken from you at any moment, as I’ve run across people in my travels who are hit with infertility AND cancer, or infertility followed by the unexpected death of a spouse. So in my mind part of my job has now become to enjoy what I have when I can, and that’s what we intended to do.
So off we went, leaving behind Long Island’s ugly dirty snow that wouldn’t melt, still often spilling out into the streets revealing remnants of typical half assed New York plow jobs. We were also glad to be taking a break from the incessant pot holes, unforgiving cold, and sheets of ice that were now accompanying every snowfall and forcing me to be attacking my front step with a metal shovel three times a day. Taking a break from infertility is impossible though, since it is not something that a sane person can compartmentalize, no matter what people may say or write. We had no quaint notions of this, but we figured our best chances of coming close to a break were in Vegas.
“Is this a belated birthday trip?” the young woman checking us in at our hotel quipped. “Uhhhh,” I paused, dumbfounded that I could be so dumbfounded over something as basic as my birthday. Which I had insisted on referring to as “Wednesday” this year. “I had forgotten about that…..” Gee, could I at least attempt a lie? Oh no, that’s right, I am the world’s most unskilled liar, alas……… “You forgot about it already? It was only four days ago,” she (thank you so very much) reminded me. Exuberant youthful “trying to do well at my job” energy is something I’m actually a serious fan of. Plus, she probably had never experienced something in life so horrible it makes you not want to have a birthday. I really have no need to ruffle this kind of sweetness. (However, the unsolicited advice giving crew of people who are old enough to know better I am absolutely committed to heckling to the bitter end.) “Ok then, YES, it is a birthday trip, what the heck??” This seemed to satisfy her, and we were off and running.