Cycling

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Chapter Eight

I was up bright and early for the first appointment of my frozen embryo transfer cycle. I’d only be taking estrogen for now. Once my uterine lining was deemed thick enough, I’d add progesterone and our thawed embryos, assuming they did thaw, of course. I didn’t even want to think about getting to transfer day and not having something to transfer. Ugh, one more thing to worry about.

First hurdle: the baseline ultrasound and blood work. Make sure things were as they should be.

I hated to start my day with a dildo cam invasion, but I thought it best to get this out of the way so I could get on with my day. Strip from the waist down, throw on the little gown, lie back and think of England.

Dr. Gray was gentle as always. “Let’s take a look at what is going on in there and send you on your way as quickly as possible. I know you have to get to work.”

“I appreciate that.”

“You seem tense,” Dr. Gray said.

“Sorry,” I replied.

I took a deep breath and tried to relax my body. It didn’t do much good, but I felt that putting up the front that I was trying to calm down was important. I didn’t want her to start worrying about me.

“What’s wrong?” Dr. Gray asked. “Nervous?”

“A little. So many what ifs, you know?” I replied, thinking I would seem nonchalant. Of course, there was a lot to worry about while trying to conceive, even without assisted reproductive technology. I couldn’t possibly be the first patient she had ever had who seemed nervous after a couple of bad outcomes.

“I do know,” she replied.

“I don’t know if I am ready for another negative,” I said softly, knowing that deep down this was my greatest fear.

“We’re hoping to keep that from happening.”

“Aren’t we always?”

“Of course.”

“Then what makes this one different?”

She shrugged. “Who knows? Some cycles are better than others are. You’ve gotten pregnant before.”

I groaned. “I really can’t hear that one from you.”

Dr. Gray looked up from the ultrasound screen to meet my eyes. She smiled softly. “Sorry. I know that’s a forbidden phrase.”

It was. Along with “Just relax” and “If you just adopt, you’ll get pregnant right away,” this was one of the lines fertile people threw at infertile people. Who cares if I’d been pregnant before? I didn’t want to be pregnant. I wanted a child, and I still didn’t have one of those, did I?

I sighed. “I’m feeling a little uneasy about this cycle.”

“Well, all I can say is that your uterus is textbook perfect.”

“Finally, something about this process is perfect.”

“We’ll tentatively schedule the transfer for a week from Sunday. We’ll see you for a lining check next week. We’ll move the transfer if we need to, but I have no reason to believe that you won’t stay on schedule.”

“Sounds good.”

“I’ll head out now. Go ahead and get dressed, and I’ll see you again next week.”

After my appointment, I checked my phone and found texts from Paige and Julianne, asking how the appointment had gone. We decided to meet up for lunch tomorrow to compare notes. I had much better prospects for lunch today, so the girls would have to wait. It was Ben’s light teaching day, and I was going to get to spend extra time with my fabulous husband.

We met up at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican place, where we gorged ourselves on chips and salsa, and talked about everything except trying to have a baby.

“How’s the semester going?” I asked Ben between bites.

“It’s too early to tell. We’ll see how things start to shape up after their first test next week.”

“I’m sure it’ll go fine. I mean, this isn’t your first test.”

“Yeah. Glad to be past those days. A new semester brings new challenges. We’ll see how things play out.”

“I’ll be cheering for you.”

Ben laughed. “My one-man cheering section, huh?”

“Always.”

“How’s work on your end?”

“Oh, usual stuff. Big push with the fall books coming out. Probably a few late nights at work. But once we get those out, we’ll coast through the holidays.”

“Always nice. We should do something this year. Travel? Not to visit family, but something for us.”

“That sounds nice. Aruba maybe.”

Ben laughed. “I was thinking more like Vegas or New York. Semi-local.”

“Not requiring a passport.”

“Right.”

“Well, I’ll try to think of something.”

It was so nice to talk like this. To not have to stop and say, “But we might be pregnant,” or, “But we need that money to cycle.” We were normal people, living their lives, not worrying about what might come next. It felt great.

Even though I couldn’t stop myself from pulling up a calendar as soon as I got to work. If the transfer was next Sunday, then the beta would be two weeks after that. And the due date would be thirty-six weeks after that. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Counting chickens before they hatch, indeed. I needed to start small with this whole positive thinking thing. The due date was too big. But the beta. Yes. I would pencil that date onto my calendar, sure that smooth sailing could last at least that long. Everything would be fine leading up to transfer, the embryos would defrost like they were supposed to. I would make it to beta.

That was all the optimism could do for now, but it was better than nothing, I figured.

“We picked our guy,” Paige said, pulling a sheet of paper from her bag.

“Weird,” I replied. “I’m sorry, I can’t even imagine picking a guy to father my children from a book or something.”

“It sounds like online dating,” Julianne said. “Let me see the lucky guy.”

“Well, we don’t have a picture or anything. But this is his info.”

“Six feet tall, blonde hair, blue eyes,” Julianne read. “Boring. He sounds just like Jake!”

“That was the point,” Paige replied.

“This was your chance to go exotic. Spice things up a bit.”

“And then always have to explain why our child doesn’t look like us? No, thank you.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want people to know that we had to do anything to have a baby.”

“Besides have sex, you mean.”

“Ssh,” Paige hissed. “That’s not appropriate talk for lunch time.”

I glanced around the mostly empty restaurant. “I think we’re okay.”

“It’s not about people overhearing. It’s not polite to talk about.”

“Okay. Sorry. We know I’m bad about that,” Julianne replied. “Your guy sounds nice.”

“I think so too. I’m so excited to know what we’re doing. Anything that means we’re moving forward makes me happy.”

“I hear you,” I said. “I feel like I’m sitting around, doing nothing. Compared to the usual routine of shots and monitoring? This feels too easy.”

“How long until your transfer?”

“Over a week. And I only have a couple of scans to go to, and I only have to slap on an estrogen patch every few days. Boring.”

“You don’t even have to give yourself shots?” Julianne said, knowing full well that I didn’t. “That’s really not fair.”

“Well, you’re the one who agreed to do a fresh IVF cycle. You knew what you were getting yourself into.”

“Fair enough.”

“Although I’m sorry that I’m complaining about things being too easy for me,” I said. “IVF sucks, and I’m sorry that you’re dealing with it.”

“It’s okay. I say this every time, but it’ll be worth it when I get a baby.”

“True.”

The problem was that it was a big if. If she got pregnant, if the pregnancy held on, if there was actually a baby at the end of it.

If things went the way they were supposed to.

My cycle continued to progress normally, and on the scheduled day, I went in for my embryo transfer. The embryos both thawed normally, so we would transfer both of them. The procedure wasn’t too painful; it felt kind of like a pap smear. A bit unpleasant, but not bad considering how much worse pain I had gone through to get to this point. After the transfer, I reclined on the exam table, allowing the embryos time to settle. After the prescribed wait period, Ben and I headed back to our house. He settled me on the couch and began fixing us breakfast. Before heading to the doctor’s office, I’d put my laptop beside the couch so that I could email Paige and Julianne with an update. I was officially in the two-week wait now, as was Paige, who’d had her donor sperm intrauterine insemination a couple days earlier. Julianne was a few days behind me in her cycle. Two weeks from now, I would know if I was pregnant. For now, I was pregnant until proven otherwise. For the next two weeks, I would have to live as if I were pregnant. No drinking, no sushi, no soft cheeses, depriving myself in hopes that it would work, that I would end up pregnant.

The two-week wait was always the hardest part of the cycle for me. Am I or aren’t I? Am I nauseous from morning sickness, or nerves? Are my breasts bigger, or more tender? And are all these symptoms simply figments of my imagination?

I was still a few days or even weeks away from symptoms, but I would surely overanalyze every twinge. I certainly had plenty of times before. When you want something as much as I wanted a child, your mind and body work against you. Mind fetus, I’d heard it called. When your brain wants a baby so much it starts faking all the symptoms.

Ben came into the living room with breakfast plates. He had made omelets, which were brimming with veggies and cheese, and toast with jam. He settled into the chair next to the couch and handed me my plate and fork.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Okay. Normal,” I said, and then shrugged. “Nervous. You?”

“About the same.”

“I think I’m going to try to pretend it’s not happening.”

“Well, in that case, let me go get you a beer.”

I smiled. “No, thanks.”

“Eat your eggs,” Ben said, noticing that I hadn’t taken a bite. “The protein will do you good.”

I took a bite to appease him. I didn’t have much of an appetite. The nausea was already kicking in. It was probably only nerves.

Probably.

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