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I like my chocolates bittersweet

candy-hearts.jpgToday is my birthday. (If you must sing, I prefer Björk to the Beatles — something about that scream gets me every time.)

Let's get this out of the way immediately before anyone starts cooing: There is nothing remotely romantic about having a birthday on Valentine's Day. Even if you buy into the hearts and flowers thing, which I do not, there are serious disadvantages. To wit:

  1. If your husband wants to take you out to dinner that night, neither of you will remember that reservations must be made months in advance. The day before your birthday he will be frantically calling all over town to find some place, any place that has a deuce open — hope you like Denny's. You will be seated at 9 PM if you're lucky, just in time to watch other loving couples stare grimly into each other's eyes over death by chocolate. Your dessert will arrive as the janitors are stacking chairs and bumping your feet with a mop.

  2. If you'd like to see friends that day, you will have to satisfy yourself with only those who are unhappily uncoupled. The others, you see, all have plans, probably involving dinner out at a decent hour, floral offerings, and imaginative pubic topiary. When it becomes clear that a Hallmark holiday is of more significance to them than the actual day of your birth, you will feel more annoyed than is strictly warranted.

  3. If you expect double the presents from your sweetheart, congratulations! You have tapped into the motherlode of the purest crack in the Western Hemisphere. If you've bought gifts for your husband, you will wonder why the hell you're giving someone else gifts on your birthday.
I sound more bitter than I actually am. I learned these lessons years ago; I'm used to the inconvenience of sharing a birthday with a major commercial holiday and have developed a few useful coping strategies:
  1. We don't go out on my birthday. The night before or the night after will suffice equally well. Okay, so there are no lovey couples to sneer at, but I don't have to feel underdressed in my usual uniform of jeans and a black shirt. (Bonus: utilitarian lingerie.)

  2. I don't even try to see friends. In fact, I've safeguarded myself entirely from disappointment by not having any friends.

  3. I buy myself presents, too. This year my hope addict wants something sparkly...something enchanting...I know! A fifth of Ketel One!
This birthday is significantly different from the last two. My last two birthdays were spent with my legs splayed wide, being romanced by a hard shaft of plastic. (In my current sexless state, that doesn't sound too bad.) I mean that I was at the clinic pursuing pregnancy.

On Valentine's Day 2002 I had an IUI. It was my first IUI under the supervision of an RE (as opposed to the ones done by my OB/GYN, who babbled a mile a minute, bobbled his head like it was too heavy for his neck, and slipped his feet out of his clogs and put them up on the table while we talked). I had two Clomid-induced follicles, a great sperm sample, and enthusiasm on my side.

I actually thought it would work.

The IUI was excruciating. Since it was my first one at this clinic, no one had yet discovered that my anatomy demands a catheter bent just so — "like a hockey stick." Afterward I clasped Paul's hand in my sweaty palms and said something naive about a pregnancy being the best birthday present a girl could hope for.

Laugh with me, won't you?

A year later, I was back in the same room, back on the same table, this time for my first ultrasound after starting stims for IVF #1. My follicles were growing apace, my E2 was increasing with appropriate decorum, and I saw, at that point, no reason the cycle should fail.

Again, I actually thought it would work.

This year I quailed at the thought of being back at the clinic. I am more relieved than I can tell you that I will not be celebrating my thirty-third birthday staring up at acoustical tiles, making a wish I'm no longer sure will be granted.