20; What’s Behind Door #8?

Before I get into my primary spiel, just a quick update on the medical side of things. Our clinic’s financial department approved the $1,500 biopsy fee for our embryo genetic testing as opposed to the $4,000, thank GOD. They have enough of my money so really, one less thing I have to fight is great. We need to pay it by Aug. 1, and then the actual testing cost at the lab they send the biopsied cells to is another $1,500 ($250 per embryo plus a $250 flat rate for shipping). So $3,000 total which…kill me, but it’s better than $5,500.

I went to Quest for them to draw blood for my roughly 38473482 tests yesterday, to check for potential chromosome issues in me that would prevent me from carrying a healthy pregnancy. Nervous to get those results back. Josh does his tomorrow — obviously not to check for things that would be an issue with pregnancy, but things that would affect embryo normality I guess, in a way where we’d have to screen them in a more in-depth and, you guessed it, expensive way. The doctor told us it’s rare for anything to come back abnormal, so I guess we’ll see. So far we’re ticking off all the bad “rare” boxes, though, so what’s one more, eh? #jaded #salty

Our short-term plan is PGS testing on our five embryos in August, September biopsy on my uterine lining, and then assuming we have at least one chromosomally normal embryo, transfer in October. Third time’s a charm, right? Or I guess I should say eighth, considering the five IUIs before we started IVF. Which brings me to the title of this blog post.

In my last post, I talked about how the only time I’ve really broken down and cried since finding out we miscarried for the second time was once, while considering the person I am now vs. who I was before we started TTC. I was sitting on our couch, staring at this beautiful collage of photographs from the trip we took to Europe in September 2016, which was the official beginning of our TTC journey. I went through and was pointing out to Josh how much effort I had put into the photos I’d chosen to include.

Excuse my reflection in the glass. I’m a writer, not a fucking photographer, aight?

The big spaces were for the landmarks from each city (Paris, Munich, and London) we visited that corresponded to these canvas wall art pieces we had made when we moved into our house. The squares at the bottom of each of the three sections were of food from each place. The middle rectangles were of both of us for the London section (thought technically it was from Disneyland Paris, whatever), me alone (France), and Josh alone (Germany), to represent our respective heritages.

But even through all that, the one photo that stuck out to me was the second from the bottom, on the left side — us in Salzburg, which was the only big part of our trip that was almost completely impromptu. We went there for a single day on a suggestion from one of the waitresses in an Oktoberfest beer tent, since it was a two-hour train ride away and we didn’t have anything planned for our last day in Munich. So we thought why not?

O hi, Bavarian Alps and old FitBit and dress I don’t fit into right now.

This is not only my favorite photograph from our trip, but it was taken on my favorite day of our trip and during my favorite moment — right before watching the sunset over the Alps at the restaurant attached to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, where we sipped wine and just hung out for like two hours. Watching Josh find peace sitting high above the world and looking around and taking countless pictures (something he doesn’t do often) and telling me he was thankful I’d persuaded him to take this trip, even though he’d initially had reservations, was everything. Truthfully, if I knew what I did now about how much fertility treatments would ultimately cost us, I might’ve been hesitant too.

But the biggest thing I think about is how this moment was unplanned. And it turned out to be my favorite moment — me, a type A person to the point that my (multi-page) wedding-weekend itinerary is still a running joke among our poor bridesmaid and groomsmen friends, almost five years after our wedding. And it also made me realize a few things about life that, if you’re like me, I think you just can’t really understand until you live them, like how to find patience — true patience, not tourist-walking-too-slowly-on-a-narrow-sidewalk-in-front-of-me patience — and let go of things you have no control over.

I look at the girl in these photos and see so much anticipation for the next chapter of life. Someone who armed herself with the key to all the big milestone doors along the way well in advance, dotting every I and crossing every T to make sure when she got to the BABY door, the key would slide in and turn without much resistance. High-school and college graduation, financial independence, health, a decent amount of travel, marriage (I had to wiggle that key a little, admittedly) — you name it, I was able to achieve most of what I wanted through hard work and perseverance and just being a generally good person. The person in those photos knew that preparation was the answer and, in turn, the key to all those big life-milestone doors.

The person today, who’s a few years older, a few years wiser, and a few notches sadder, doesn’t feel that way. Not completely, anyway. I feel like I had the right key and it unlocked the BABY door, but something unexpected happened: Another door appeared just a few feet in front of it instead of giving me a 9-month-long hallway to make my way down until I reached the next door, MOTHERHOOD, which I had the next key for tucked firmly in my pocket. There was no middle key, that I knew of, but my focus was so zeroed in that it seemed I missed some piece of information that everyone else picked up except for me. And I’m still figuring out what the label on this next door says, because it’s like it’s in a different language or code that I’ve been working on cracking for the past two years.

A door at the Salzburg fort with creepy puppets behind it. Don’t ask. Also, floral flats with a floral dress? WTF, Jennifer.

Another issue? The BABY door I came through slammed behind me, which I was used to with all the other doors I’ve passed through in my life because I was always moving forward. It was never an issue. But the problem now is that even though these doors have little windows in them, they feel soundproof. So I sit here and look through them and pretend to be happy, both for the people still behind the BABY door and already past the second mystery one, but I can’t be a part of either of those groups because Josh and I are perpetually trapped in this limbo room.

The first group, we’ve left behind. We don’t party anymore. We don’t do things that people without kids do, not really. And on the rare occasions we do, we don’t get the same satisfaction anymore. And then we have friends with kids whom we’re happy for and we love their kids, but we can’t fully care. Because when you can’t have kids and you want them, the last thing you want to do is be around someone else’s kids all the time. And even if you did, you’d just have to sit there and pretend to care when all they’re doing is talking about their kids, even during the rare occasion when said kids aren’t around.

I was talking to my friend about this a couple of weeks ago (who, incidentally, just had her second baby, who was with her at the time and snoozing like the angel he is) and told her what happened, and she said she sometimes struggles with being the person she was before children and wants to change that and tap back into her independence more in her hobbies and things like that. She listened and sympathized and then did what any good friend does: She told me, in so many words, to love myself, and encouraged me to try and be the person I was before I started trying to have a baby because that person is enough.

The problem with that is that the person I was before thought she would have a biological child someday, and the person I am now isn’t sure of that anymore. Not that my entire identity hinges on the idea of motherhood because it truly doesn’t and I don’t think it ever will, but I knew how to enjoy and be who I was before this because I knew that part of my life that was important to me — much more important than I even realized three, five, 10 years ago — would happen. Eventually.

Almost exactly 10 years ago. One time was enough, though.

I explained to my friend that I feel like once you unlock the next phase of your life, it feels like, for me, permission to breathe and settle back into your old bones — the ones that have kind of held you there the whole time, waiting for you to come back once you figure out the next thing. And I don’t know how to settle back since I haven’t figured this big thing out, for the first time in my whole life.

So now, in these next few months leading up to our October transfer (assuming we have a normal embryo in there), I’m working on finding out who I am outside of the assumption that I, one day, will have a biological child of my own. I truly don’t know that anymore, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t scare me. But now, over a month after learning we lost the second pregnancy, another breakdown hasn’t come. And I don’t think it’s going to. Which I don’t see as strength, really, because crying is OK, but I think it’s a sign I’m working toward getting to that life-without-kids or life-with-kids-in-a-different-way mindset, even if I’m not meaning to or even if I don’t completely understand it. And that’s all I can really ask of myself right now.

I’m in that group of people who love The Greatest Showman. I KNOW, OK? But I saw it right when it came out and loved it immediately so whatever. Anyway. I was on an outdoor run for the first time in literally months a couple of weeks ago, and I put “This Is Me” on to take me through the last couple of minutes. For the first time, I heard the lyrics in my own voice as they applied to this infertility journey and I just lost my shit. Thank God 1. No one else was around, and 2. I was wearing sunglasses. But I just felt those words in my bones and it felt good to feel something.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t know if this is all just some test of patience or willingness to let go or sanity or all of the above, but if it is, I just wish whatever powers that be would believe me when I say I’ve learned the lesson. Because while I’m OK most days, other days I feel like I’m screaming into the void, just waiting for someone else to pass through who will eventually remember where they left their key and give me a sympathetic nod as they leave. Because the one constant is that they always do. And right now, I’m figuring out whether to keep searching for my copy of that key to the mystery door or resigning myself to the possibility that I might have to start accepting that there is another way out.

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