I'm feeling reflective today. Maybe it's because this morning I had a moment of perfect happiness with Ben, watching his face uncrumple from sleep as he rubbed his eyes with his fists — such a thoroughly little-kid move that I haven't stopped smiling yet. Maybe it's because Charlie turns ten next week, his birthday coming hard on the heels of World Prematurity Day, when I spend the day thinking, I almost missed this. So many do. (No, I cannot explain this picture. Why are we not holding him?) Maybe it's because a friend pointed me to the latest papal finger-wagging about IVF, and I realized I just couldn't muster much indignation. Which is weird. I'm generally up for taking the Popemobile for a spin. This time around I feel quieter.
I made myself cry in the shower imagining the things I'd say if we took turns at the Thanksgiving table expounding on our gratitude. We don't, so I'll just stare really hard at each child in his turn. I'll touch my earlobe discreetly to remind Charlie not to bellow. I'll gently daub at the gravy Ben will have splashed into his ears. When I catch Paul's eye over the ruin the kids have made of the table, my look will say, Can you believe this?
You know what's weird? Taking your walking, talking child for a tour of an IVF clinic. I was invited to an open house hosted by former doctors of mine who've struck out on a new venture, and I took Charlie with me for reasons of convenience. ...As I type that I hear such a strange echo of the 2003 infertility blogspace. The discussion of whether it was ever appropriate to take a child to a clinic with you was freighted with so much pain that I can't make light of it a decade on.
But I can make light of this: you know what's even weirder? Taking your walking, talking child for a tour of an IVF clinic, repeatedly reminding him not to touch the microscope, the ultrasound machine, or whatever you call those Easy-Bake Ovens used by the embryologist. And introducing Charlie to a staffer, who turned to the doctor and asked, "Oh! Is he one of yours?" (Ha ha ha no.) And having myself introduced with a laugh as "our most spectacular failure." And making this crisp correction: "It's pronounced favorite patient."
I don't know, it sort of feels like coming full circle at last. Or not as simple as a circle: It's more like I've come full scribble.
It's not like you forget it, the grind of infertility, once you've had children and distance. The best way I can describe it is that it's no longer who I am, but it's still who I have been. (It will never be who I was. I wonder if that's true for anyone.)
These concrete reminders surface every now and then. I cleaned out an old suitcase this summer, destined for a yard sale. In its outside zipper pocket I found an airline boarding pass. May 2004, the trip I took to the clinic where Charlie was conceived.
In the chilly basement closet where we store our wine, I found a package of old-school glass ampules, fertility drugs bought cheap from a pharmacy in Gibraltar. Why I didn't use them, I no longer remember — it was more than ten years ago. Why I didn't pass them along — well, I wonder that myself. Why I'd stashed them with the wine, I do not wonder at all.
This, I still had on my desk, unused in that last cancelled cycle.
I wrapped it in a pretty box to give to my former doctors as a clinic-warming present. The note I put inside the box: "Sprinkle liberally to ward off evil."
Eight cycles. Two kids. I wear them all around on the spot where the blood was drawn.