An IVF procedure (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
Over the last three years, my body has slowly closed up shop. Four months between periods, then six, then almost a full year.
So, I guess we’re done here.
It’s a weird, bittersweet feeling — no more bloats, stains and mishaps. I’ve started to feel as if I’ve floated into another galaxy, where most of my friends are still on Planet Menses.
That one time a year when it does arrive, it’s cause for a minor celebration. I secretly tell myself, maybe, just maybe at 47, I could still have a kid. Even though I know it’s a distant, nearly improbable concept. I do have a few friends who’ve had planned kids at 45 or even second and third “oops” kids at 45-plus — one, in fact, who grabbed me by the proverbial collar the other day, glared at me and said, “what have I done?!?”
I’d never once fantasized about the perfect family, being a mom, spending time packing up carrot sticks in plastic baggies. That was, until I met my wonderful husband, who would, unquestionably, be the perfect dad.
I went through the casual beginnings of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) process over the course of a couple years from 2008 until 2010. I say casual because I wasn’t 100% sure I was ready for a kid. I adore kids, my five nieces and one nephew, but I’d mentally fast-forward my own progeny to soccer practices and eventual drug-use (because in my future, I wildly ignore my child and am too busy working and writing and being selfish). It often felt overwhelming and wrong. I’d never once fantasized about the perfect family, being a mom, spending time packing up carrot sticks in plastic baggies. That was, until I met my wonderful husband, who would, unquestionably, be the perfect dad.
When we married, my husband was a 38-year-old architect; I was a 40-year-old editorial director. Neither of us had been previously hitched; we were both just busy working at demanding jobs while waiting for the one. He was, and is, the one.
So I thought I’d give it a shot. A last ditch effort to get pregnant. I wanted to see his beautiful face in a child.
Problem was, I just couldn’t get the blood to show up. I had an ovarian cyst in the way, and very irregular periods. Even finding a vein was a pokey proposition. The nurse would jab and jab my arm to find a viable vein that would deliver necessary information about the status of my fertility, my cycle and whatever else. Turned out, I also had — and have — a high sedimentation (sed) rate, which marks inflammation. They couldn’t figure out why that was. (It’s always fascinated me: the more you dig around, the more you’ll discover. Occasionally, it’s better not to know.)
Some of my issues, I credited to being overweight too, which doesn’t make trying to have a child any easier. I thought, well maybe I can shed 20 pounds fast, but it just added an extra layer of stress and panic.
Through the tests, it was revealed that I had about half an egg left, so we needed to move quickly.
While I discovered a newfound interest in having a baby, my body had already decided it was done.
The first doctor I saw, Dr. No-Bedside-Manner, handed me an overly Xeroxed drawing of a uterus and drew all over it as he described the fertility process in under one minute. And he urged me to get cracking on those eggs. That at 39, I had half the fertility I had at 31, and between 39 and 41, it would drop by another half again, and between 41 and 42, well forget about it. Time was a-wastin’. It’s worth noting that since then, the Atlantic published an article that those statistics were oversold. But I bought into his fear, even if I found another, drastically more compassionate doctor at Cornell Weill. (Much later I’d read that the other doc got a 2.5 on Vitals.com and someone commented, “At the end of our Doctor-patient relationship, he told me to ‘take a vacation’ and I’d probably get pregnant.”)
That second doctor was much more encouraging, until the blood tests and sonograms to check out that cyst, and a period that just never came, revealed I was a trickier patient. I bought the fertility drugs, but never actually went through a single cycle. We couldn’t even get to that stage.
I saw a famous baby-inducing acupuncturist, started eating special (barely edible) herbs and taking prenatal vitamins and lots of folic acid, but nothing appeared to help.
Finally, we called it.
It was during a visit to the doctor at Cornell Weill when she told us, “You have a 5% chance of succeeding here.” Which I restated to her as “you mean a 95% chance of failure.”
“That’s right,” she said. “And even if the egg ‘takes,’ the chance of a successful delivery is even lower.”
We didn’t like those odds. I looked at my husband, his beautiful face wet with a tear.
We didn’t lose a baby, we never even had an egg and sperm shake hands. But it was a loss nonetheless and the doctor sent us to grief counseling.
If I’m honest, there was an ounce of relief, too; that part of me that had never been sure of my ability to mother came back with a force. Reading someone like Tamar, in the pages of this site, I’m in awe of her assuredness. I was never that clear.
But every time I hear someone complain about their period, forgetting their tampons, grousing about the pain, I’m reminded of the blood that just wouldn’t show up when I needed it.