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You reproduce — I'm bitter.

If all goes according to my diabolical plan and my hCG level drops as expected, it should return to 0 around the end of this month. If I ovulate two weeks later, I should get my period sometime in mid-May. This means I could possibly do another IVF cycle in June.

I feel myself getting hopeful for the first time in weeks. And then I think, Wait. So far nothing's gone according to plan. Why in the world would it start now?

It's hard enough to come to terms with the loss of potential. (I don't even really think of it as the loss of a child — I'm not sure I'd dared to think in those terms.) What's almost as difficult is resigning myself to the loss of hope.

I don't mean I think it's hopeless for us to attempt IVF again, or that our hopes of becoming parents are forever dashed. Nothing that melodramatic or final. I mean that I don't think I can approach another pregnancy, or even another IVF cycle, with the same optimism I felt before.

The day I had my first beta test, I talked to my friend T. on the phone. T. has two gorgeous children, the result of two effortless conceptions and two uneventful pregnancies. I suppose I was pretty low-key about it, because she asked, "Aren't you excited?"

I told her, "Until I see that the second number doubles, I'll be hopeful, but cautious."

She said, "I can't imagine that. As soon as I saw those two pink lines I was choosing names and decorating the nursery."

It seems that infertility changes your whole frame of reference. Losing a pregnancy shifts it just as drastically. I didn't have that luxury, that heedless joy, in my first pregnancy. How cautious will I feel during the next one?