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A New Year’s Expletive
When fantasy collides with fertility
“I fucking hate my life!” are the exact words I used to usher in the New Year at midnight on January 1, 2023.
Seth and I had spent our Saturday driving back and forth to the fertility clinic in Burlington, two hours away, only to learn that our first fertility treatment since April was no longer possible because I’d already ovulated. The nurses had failed to account for my shortened menstrual cycles when they drew up our treatment calendar.
Now Seth and I were back home in bed, having just made a belated attempt at “timed intercourse” in a last-ditch effort to intercept my already-released eggs with his millions of sperm.
We’d been trying on our own like this for two-and-a-half years, performing conjugal duties at well-timed points in my cycle, and all we had to show for it were three dead babies planted downstairs in a flower pot. None of them survived past eight weeks gestation.
In two and a half months I turn 43, an age that feels like the point of no return for my ovaries.
I had just about given up on parenthood and was a week away from embarking on an epic road trip from New Hampshire to the southern tip of Baja in Mexico when my period returned for the first time since our miscarriage in June, and suddenly I had the option to try again. I drank in this rare taste of hope, too scared to miss one last chance to have a baby, yet no longer certain if trying again was worth the sacrifice.
Indulging in the fantasy of being a mom bordered on delusional at this point. Far more likely was either: a) another 3 to 6 months of fertility drugs, needles, and fruitless trips to the clinic without success, or b) a fourth pregnancy shrouded in fear and uncertainty, waiting weeks to hear a heartbeat and then wondering when it might stop, followed by intense emotional and physical trauma.
Compared to those two options, overwintering on a beach in Baja with my dogs sounded pretty nice. I’d spent the past three months collecting all the necessary gear — travel guides, roadmaps, collapsible water jugs, recovery boards (to get unstuck from mud and sand), a tailgate awning with bug netting, and an all-wheel-drive 2004 Honda Element with a bed built in the back.
But setting aside the dilemma of my fertility, the other major complication to jumping in my car and driving south was my dog Laney, who just had a small lump on her leg diagnosed as probably cancerous. The first available surgery date was a week after our scheduled departure, followed by a 2 to 4 week recovery, so even if I could put my fertility treatments on hold in the name of adventure, could I risk letting cancer metastasize to Laney’s lymph nodes and systemically kill her?
My head was spinning New Year's Eve with the weight of these decisions, and were they even decisions anymore, or obligations — to keep trying for a family; to keep my beloved dog alive?
In our post-timed-intercourse haze, I’d drifted off and then awoke with a start a few minutes before midnight. I hated to miss the Times Square countdown — a final moment of reflection on the year that’s passed, and a celebratory nod to the possibilities to come.
I wasn’t feeling very festive, but I frantically opened the YouTube app on my phone, searched “Times Square,” and clicked the first link that popped up. But the video sputtered and froze. I clicked back to try another one, but that lagged as well. And by the time I made it back to the clock on my phone to do my own 10-second countdown, I saw that it was five seconds after midnight.
I threw my phone in a fit and screamed my infamous first words of 2023. Seth tried to kiss me, to calm me, to celebrate with me, to remind me of the two "beautiful” follicles that had shown up on the ultrasound that morning (in my nurse’s words) whose eggs we’d just worked to intercept. I briefly engaged the fantasy of lying in the same bed next New Year's Eve with our two dogs and twin 3-month old-babies, but I knew deep down:
It was safer to be angry.
It was safer to hate my fucking life.
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