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Chapter 1

I walked up to the door of the fertility clinic, still not entirely sure what I was doing there. It had been my clinic, or, well, I’d been a patient there, for two years. Then I’d gotten pregnant – miracle of miracles. And three months later he was gone. My son was gone. And now I was thinking about trying again.

Only…what if it didn’t work? What if it did? What if Ben didn’t want to start this nightmarish process again? What if I didn’t want to be poked and prodded for months on end?

This is why I paused, my hand on the door, ready to go inside, but not sure of what I would do once I was inside. My hand slid from the handle and I stepped back, reconsidering. Then forward again, then back, the dance of a person who wasn’t sure she wanted to be where she stood. I took a deep breath and pulled the door open, walking inside to at least take this step, at least go in to consider my options, to find out what those options were. Then I could tell Ben. I could go to him with my mind clearer and our options in hand, so that at least I wouldn’t be as confused with him as I was with myself. I had made this appointment on impulse after seeing the little square on my calendar where “due date” had been written and then hastily erased a few months later. I didn’t want to face that day without knowing where we were going next.

I gave my name at the reception desk, and then sat down in the waiting room. Usually I liked that there was no reading material in the waiting room, rather than having to wade through copies of “Parents” or “Parenting” or whatever mom-oriented magazine I always found at my OB-GYN’s office. Now, though, I sat in one of the dozen or so wooden chairs, wishing I had something to occupy my thoughts. My left leg wouldn’t stay still, so I crossed my legs, trying to hide my nerves. Then I began to nibble a thumbnail, and gasped a bit as I drew blood. My nerves were definitely getting the better of me.

As if I weren’t already nervous enough, I realized that two of the other patients in the waiting room were talking about me. At least, that’s what it looked like. Their heads were bent together in conversation, and every few seconds one would glance up at me. We were the only patients in the room, so it was fairly obvious. The woman on the left had brown eyes and gorgeous curly red hair, the kind of hair I had always dreamed about, as someone with straight blonde hair that I could do nothing with. She probably hated her hair, which was almost certainly a giant pain for her to deal with every day. The woman next to her was smaller in every way, both shorter and slimmer, younger too, with straight brown hair worn in a chin-length bob, her eyes a bright blue. I was working up the courage to say something to them when they beat me to the punch.

“You’ve been gone a while,” the redhead said. “I thought you’d graduated.”

I felt a pang at her words. I had graduated. I’d seen my son’s heartbeat, and I’d been sent to my OB-GYN for the remainder of my pregnancy. Unfortunately, the remainder had only been another six weeks. Then he’d just…stopped. I had graduated. Now I was back.

“I had,” I replied. “But I lost my son. So…now I’m here again.”

“I’m so sorry.”

I held up my hands, trying to stop the apology. “It’s okay. Really,” I said, but of course it wasn’t. I knew if the conversation when on much longer, I’d almost certainly end up in tears. No one wants that. “And how did you know that I’ve been away for a while? Do you keep track of the other patients?”

“Hey, a girl needs a hobby,” she answered. “It can’t all be baby, baby, baby.”

“Can’t it?”

“Oh, honey, no. That’s how you go crazy.”

“I think it’s too late for me.”

“Eh, you seem fine. I’m Julianne Walker, by the way. And this is Paige Harris,” she added, pointing to the woman beside her.

“Elise Heller. Nice to meet you both.” I paused. “Are you here…together?”

“No,” they replied in unison.

“Do we strike you as lesbians?” Julianne asked.

“No. But two women sitting together at a fertility clinic… The thought just seemed natural.”

“Well, it’s the middle of the day,” Paige said. “Our husbands are at work.”

“Of course.”

“I assume that’s where your husband is? I also assume the guy with the glasses who’s usually with you is your husband,” Julianne said.

“He is. You’re kind of coming off like a stalker.”

“Oh, it’s nothing that serious, believe me. Just a hobby. So what are you here for? Cycle day one? Day three bloodwork? Follicle check?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m not cycling right now. I’m just…checking in. Getting my options. I’m not sure I’m ready to start again.”

“How long has it been since your miscarriage?” Paige asked.

“Five months.”

“See, you’re far from crazy,” Julianne said. “I’ve never been able to take off five whole months after a loss.”

“You’ve had a miscarriage?”

“Three. One at seven weeks, one at nine, one at nearly twelve.”

“That’s what I was,” I said. “Twelve weeks.”

“Did you name him?” Paige asked.

“We did. Daniel. We’d been talking about names, and after we lost him, we just knew that was the right one.”

I smiled a bit, wistful for those carefree days when I’d been pregnant. If we did try again, and I did get pregnant again, I wondered if I could ever have a carefree pregnancy moment again.

“You’re so brave to keep trying,” Paige said.

“I don’t feel brave. I mean, I still don’t have a child. So not trying again isn’t an option. It’s something I have to do, or I have to give up the idea of having a child of my own. I don’t know if I’m ready to give that up yet.”

“You’re here, aren’t you?” Julianne said. “You must not be ready to give up.”

“Well, I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

“Elise Heller.”

I looked up at the sound of my name. I’d been so caught up in the conversation, and now I was reluctant to go.

“That’s me,” I said, rising. “It was nice meeting you both.”

“Do you want to grab coffee when you’re done?” Paige asked.

I smiled. “Yes. That would be great.”

“We’ll meet back here later? When our appointments are done?”

“Sounds good.”

The nurse who had called my name led me directly to Dr. Gray’s office, a surprisingly masculine office, furnished with a large mahogany desk and leather armchairs. This was the room where she and I had met, a painful and awkward first meeting. Fresh from an official infertility diagnosis, we’d been seated in this room when our reproductive endocrinologist had walked in, eight months pregnant. I know I must have looked horrified. But as her story came out, we were more at ease. She was an IVF veteran too, and there was a comfort in knowing that anything we tried, she’d done before.

This was where she’d told me and Ben over and over again that what we were trying wasn’t working, and then helped us figure out our next move. This room had symbolized hope for me, the hope that we would figure out what was going wrong and how to fix it. Hope that Ben and I would have a baby, that we’d be parents.

When I stepped inside the office, Dr. Gray rose from behind her desk, crossing the room to take me in her arms. The tears began immediately.

“We named him Daniel,” I said softly.

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