The things they carried
- Jeans (low-rise, boot-cut; Long and Lean)
- Pants (drawstring, loose, voluminous enough to smuggle a ham within their many folds)
- T-shirts (many black, one gray, one white, two pink)
- Underpants (cotton, modest, capacious, black and dark heather gray)
- Bras (heavily engineered, elaborately cantilevered, and cunningly flying-buttressed, in black and beige)
- Nightgowns (two, cotton knit, floral, for lounging I shall not sleep in them because the hot flashes would only cause me to tear them from my body in a 3 a.m. panic)
- Polka-dotted satin flip-flops
- Red Chinese brocade sneakers
- Windex-blue brocade mules featuring many a wee pagoda
- Battered Tevas, lest I be otherwise mistaken for a chic and cosmopolitan New Yorker
- Pillow (goosedown and feathers, semi-firm, sheathed in ivory pillowcase, 400-count Egyptian cotton)
- Framed photo of Paul and the kitten
- Polarfleece socks
Crack pipe and rocks appertaining thereto
- Almost-empty bottle of off-brand prenatal vitamins
- A dozen homemade rolls baked today by Paul
- A dozen homemade brownies baked today by me
- Thin Mints, courtesy of Mom
- Single airline-sized bottle of vodka, for emergencies...well, for one emergency. And only a tiny one.
- Laptop, laptop power supply
- Cell phone, charger, cradle for synching with laptop
- Digital camera, card reader for transferring photos
- MP3 player, charger, headphones
- Rechargeable batteries, charger for, uh, recharging
Toaster to knock nonchalantly into the bathtub when I need a bit of homestyle electroshock therapy
- Half a dozen books
- Two-inch-thick file of medical records and instructional materials
- Tylenol, with and without codeine
- Medication, syringes, half-full sharps container
- Too many anxieties to fit into the overhead compartment or beneath the seat in front of me
We've all been there
Yesterday at the airport I was singled out for security screening, probably because I bought a one-way ticket the day before I traveled. (Gee, Julie, you think?) Now, on the one hand, it was stupid of me to pack my meds and needles in my checked baggage; theoretically they could have been lost. On the other hand, I am not sorry I didn't try to carry them on. The full-body patdown was bad enough without having someone paw through my personal stash.
Not only did I get patted down with gloved hands and wanded with a metal detector that made exciting theremin noises, I had to take off my belt, my shoes, and my jewelry. So compliant am I by this point that I also attempted to take off my pants, eagerly reassuring the TSA agent, "No, it's okay. The wand you're using will fit."
The hotel where I'm staying is frequented by IVF patients because the clinic is in the same building. My room is being cleaned right now by a petite, young-looking Latina.
P, Y-L L: Oh. The paper say you checking out today.
Julie: Nope! I'm here for about two weeks.
P, Y-L L: Ohhhhhhh! You come for baby?
Julie: I hope so!
P, Y-L L: [laughs] I got four. Too much!
Yesterday at the airport while I waited for my flight to board, I sat next to a woman with two small children. She was doing a beautiful job of keeping the older kid, a boy of about three, occupied with conversation and snacks, but the baby she carried was fretful and started to cry. She looked around apologetically at the other passengers as the baby's cries escalated into screams. A grandmotherly type smiled reassuringly and told her, "Don't worry. We've all been there."
And I guess we all have, on one end of that relationship or the other.
Sweets for the suite
Perhaps you will enjoy a short tour of my home away from home. I'm staying in what's called a junior suite a large room with a queen-sized bed, a fold-out sofa, and a full kitchen. There's a table with three chairs where I can enjoy a tasty snack, and a bathroom with all the amenities where I can enjoy, well, all the amenities (or could, if the drugs didn't carry the unfortunate side effect of epic constipation).
This is my desk, equipped with laptop, beverage, medical records (for those spur-of-the-moment urges to rifle frantically through the highs and lows of the last year, which arise more frequently than I care to admit), picture of Paul, and a large bag of chocolates.
The chocolates come courtesy of Brenda, who is starting stims herself, and therefore knows what a girl needs. In her staggering generosity, Brenda sent not only the chocolates, which are emitting an aroma so seductive I'm getting a little high just sitting near them, but some leftover medication. A heartfelt and public thank you.
Now on to the bathroom. The imperial Chinese had their Forest of Pencils; I have my Thicket of Needles. (Why do I do this, these little asides? You'd almost think I wanted unsuspecting searchers to stumble across this page in their quest for information about Confucian attitudes toward learning. Won't they be just tickled?)
Here are the contents of my refrigerator. Caffeine-free Diet Pepsi, mousse truffée, a couple of raw milk cheeses (take that, immune system!), a container of lobster salad (one of the many culinary delights I miss on a daily basis), and lots and lots of drugs.
I am equipped to put on one hell of a cocktail party I am showing promise as a budding mixologist, as long as your drink of choice is Diet Pepsi with a Follistim chaser.
You must be at least this tall to enter the waiting room
It's timely that Karen should write about this, because all weekend I've been thinking about the kids I saw in the waiting room on Saturday.
Wait, that's inaccurate. Actually I've been thinking about the women who were in the waiting room with me then.
On Saturday I sat near a couple who were not from around here. By that I mean that they were not speaking English and not wearing sneakers obviously not American. They were accompanied by a boy of about three, I'd say, immaculately dressed, lively but impeccably behaved, and some luggage, also well dressed and reasonably docile.
The woman looked strained and harried. She was kept busy coming and going in pursuit of bloodwork and paperwork, so her companion, a patient and pleasant-looking man, took charge of the boy. Although the toddler spent most of his time quietly paging through board books (in French and Italian), occasionally he got fractious; the moment he opened his mouth to squawk, his father picked him up and whisked him out into the hallway.
What I am trying to convey is the fact that the boy was beautifully behaved; when he needed attention, his father acted swiftly to keep him from inconveniencing anyone.
And yet I didn't see one single woman in the waiting room willing to make eye contact with the child or his parents. It's not so much that they were sending infrared hate rays at the heads of the parents, hoping their sheer malice would cause a cranial explosion, although a few of them were. It was the determination to seem indifferent that struck me.
Now, please don't think I'm criticizing anyone who would prefer not to see children in the waiting room of an infertility clinic. I mean, my God, what could possibly be unreasonable about that? What appalled me, given the setting, was my own reaction, my almost irresistible impulse to engage the toddler, to make funny faces, to play peek-a-boo, to make him laugh. I remembered in time where I was, but I almost made a gigantic ass of myself more gigantic even than usual.
Not, of course, as gigantic an ass as the man who later came in, who wore a fuzzy-headed, pink-cheeked baby strapped to his chest, gamboling boisterously around the room as if the kid were a sandwich board reading, "ASK ME ABOUT MY FERTILITY, WHICH BORDERS ON VULGARITY, AND MY TACT, WHICH VERGES ON NONEXISTENT."
But, no, that's not accurate, either, because there's no way you could fit so many big words on such a tiny, adorable baby.
As usual, there was a sheet on the exam table this morning. The idea is to drape it modestly over your lower half while you're being examined so that you don't see your doctor's face through the frame of your own upraised legs. ("I'd always wondered what he'd look like with a beard...")
I picked up the sheet and prepared to swaddle it around my hips like a stylish sarong. (Everyone's wearing turquoise this spring we call this particular shade Listerine.) But when I unfolded the sheet I saw that it had a gigantic head-sized hole right in the middle.
It seems that on the weekends there's no laundry service, so the clinic quickly runs through its supply of sheets. By Monday morning, they have to resort to giving patients gowns to cover up with instead, the kind that function as a scratchy cotton poncho, entirely open at the sides, with no ties or snaps to close the garment.
I believe this is a most excellent innovation, if an accidental one. If you have your feet up in the stirrups and spread the gown across your upraised knees, you can avail yourself of the protection of the sheet while still watching your doctor's face as he performs the examination without the unsightly goatee!
After the tour, please consider a visit to the gift shop.
In my zeal to document my experience here, I've taken some photos of where I'm spending a fair amount of time these days. I realize that taking a camera into the clinic is, ah, iffy, but I've taken no photos of the waiting room, for obvious reasons even I have more sense than that and no photos of anyone other than myself. I promise!
Here is the bathroom, site of many an eager bladder-emptying. Today I am wearing clingy pants without pockets; there was therefore no covert acquisition of sanitary supplies. Put in your requests and tomorrow I will wear cargo pants and a trenchcoat.
This is the exam room where I open wide and say, "Ahh." Please note that the stirrup covers have been turned inside out, thanks to my efforts on Saturday; may I also direct your attention to the long probe on the right of the ultrasound machine, crowned with a glob of gel and a condom (Trojan, plain, per the red wrappers just below)?
Now if you'll just step to your left, the tour continues to the hotel room, where we'll see a collection of used needles dating back to the Bronze Age, and a display of intriguing chocolate-related artifacts whose exact purpose remains as yet unknown.
Kids. Whaddya gonna do?
The waiting room discussion continues over at Chez Miscarriage today. (And if you don't think I am tormented by the furious shade of my high school French teacher every time I commit the grammatical sin of inflicting an extraneous preposition on "chez..." you are very much mistaken.)
Although I'm not normally fazed by the presence of children in the waiting room at the infertility clinic, something unusual happened today as I sat and waited, nervous as...well, something really nervous. Nervous as a cat? No, even assuming the rocking chairs. Nervous as a bride on her wedding night? Chyeah. Nervous as a jacked-up woman in an infertility clinic waiting room who expects her cycle to get cancelled and finds herself surrounded by women who have somehow managed to procreate?
Yeah. That'll do.
Anyway, this morning I was minding my own business in the waiting room when I suddenly found myself at a day care center. Three (3) mothers with children at the crawling age had taken their kids out of their strollers right at my feet and set them down on the floor to play with each other.
Indulgent voices, delighted baby laughter, "Jordan, be gentle!" "Madison, I'm coming after you!" (This last in a kids-whadddya-gonna-do tone from a man chasing a toddler across the room in a showy slow-motion jog.) Big smiles from the clinic employee who stopped to look in on the totfest jamboree.
They were awfully cute, those crawling babies at my feet, I'll give you that. But the little bastards tried to root around in my purse, and that I cannot forgive.
Look, I don't glare at mothers with children in the waiting room (at least not on a good day). I don't resent their presence. But isn't it asking an awful lot that I also participate in a playdate? Why should that ever happen?
I ♥ NY
Six feet away, Paul sleeps while I type.
We'd agreed that he'd stay at home until the trigger shot. I'd said I didn't need him to be here for the injection itself, that I'd find a friend to do it if necessary. But by Thursday night, I finally admitted I simply wanted him here.
Though we spend most of our time together, I travel frequently without him. When I'm away from home for pleasure, I miss him, but in a comfortable way, where occasional phone calls and e-mail keep me sufficiently close to him. This week I've found that when I'm away under such demanding circumstances, I miss him more acutely. It is more accurate, in fact, to say that I pine.
I haven't been bored, and I haven't been lonely. But I've missed Paul terribly. Much of that has to do with the conditions of our separation: I'm preparing for a significant undertaking on my own, without the immediate encouragement and extravagant patting that I'm not sure I regarded as essential.
A lot of it, however, has to do with New York.
When I met Paul I was living in another city. He'd lived here for almost 15 years; although I'd been to New York before as a visitor, he was really my introduction to the day-to-day city. The weekend we met, we got out of bed long enough only for a trip to Chinatown, where we shared dim sum, a first for me.
All these years later, he admits it was a test. Would I appreciate the same things he cared about? Would I feel at home in the city? Would I keep up among the crowds without needing him to look after me? Would I try new things? Would I like new things? Would I be at ease sitting at a large round table with six Chinese people eating feet?
I ate that meal with my right hand gamely manipulating slippery rice noodles with slippery plastic chopsticks and my left hand on his knee. I fell in love over siu mai and pork buns.
For the record, I ate no feet, as far as I am aware.
I am going to say something quintessentially New York: I immediately loved Paul for his apartment.
Wait. Before you judge, I will explain.
When I met him, Paul was living in a loft in Tribeca, on its southern border against the Financial District, a couple of blocks east from the Hudson. The loft was a fifth-floor walkup in a building that used to house a soap factory. The exterior, the vestibule, and the stairwell did not bode well, I thought, foreshadowing a certain level of dilapidation and grime, but when he showed me in I realized I couldn't have been more mistaken. After years of extensive renovation, his apartment had become a showplace.
The apartment took up the entire floor, with pristine golden oak underfoot and large windows at the front and back. There were no interior walls, so the entire expanse was open and airy. It was also dazzlingly bright, thanks to the high pitched roof composed entirely of glass. And it had in its center a mezzanine, a full-height second floor reached by an open staircase, where he slept directly under the skylight, looking up at clouds, stars, and the twin towers a few blocks downtown.
But I don't mean that I loved the space and coveted it for my own. I mean I loved the space and coveted its creator for my own. When Paul first saw the apartment, it was, like any other unconverted loft space, a long, narrow rectangle, an undistinguished box with only its size and high ceilings to recommend it. This unit in particular had a flat roof, a strange interior room in the middle, several layers of battleship linoleum on the floor, and a giant industrial hoist in the front corner that had been used to move the soap that was produced in the building.
Somehow, even with its initial limitations, Paul saw potential. He imagined what the place could become and made it magnificent. What I loved was his imagination, his vision, his courage and determination to see such a monumental project through (no small achievement given the dangerously booby-trapped world of New York construction and permitting) — and the fact that he kept the hoist exactly where it stood, an object of simultaneous beauty and usefuless.
I loved what he'd done with the place, and what he just might do with our lives, and with me.
From our bed, I could see the Woolworth Building. Around 11:45 each night, the exterior lights went out; we liked to imagine that the switch was thrown by a human hand, since they were never turned off at exactly the same time. But the lights on the World Trade Center never went out. When I lay on my side, I could see the twin towers. In fact, it was impossible not to — they loomed over our glass ceiling the way they loomed over all of Manhattan, only more so, closer and omnipresent. When I woke up in the morning, if it was foggy, the towers would vanish into the sky less than halfway up. Some gray days they were almost invisible. "They must be at the cleaners," we'd tell each other to explain their apparent absence.
Many people — most? — in Manhattan hated the World Trade Center. It unbalanced the island, making the skyline bottom-heavy. My attachment was never aesthetic but sentimental. Our second weekend together, Paul took me to the mall in the basement there to get what he called "girl soap," because the harsh deodorant soap he preferred stripped the patina off my skin so violently that the anguished moan of the Keno twins still echoes down the canyons of Wall Street. There were nicer places in Manhattan to shop for toiletries, of course, but none so close to bed.
We walked all the time down the path along the river, always pausing at the marina outside 2 World Fi to stare at the yachts berthed there. One day we watched Tibetan monks build a giant mandala in the atrium, grain by single grain of colored sand. Another day there were mosaicists assembling a magnificent tile tableau, chunks of which still adorn the walls of the Chambers Street A/C/E station. On our last day in Manhattan, while movers loaded our belongings onto a truck, Paul and I walked to the towers and sat in the giant glass greenhouse that was the Palm Court, stealing a scant few minutes of peace.
I have dozens of memories like that, entirely quotidian, mostly meaningless in themselves but still illustrations of a life we no longer have. It would be fatuous to claim that our lives were affected by the destruction of the towers; we were long gone by then, and in the light of what so many other people lost I feel foolish even mentioning my attachment. We are fortunate: our lives were untouched. But my memories aren't.
One of the reasons we moved out of New York is that we felt it would be difficult to raise a family in the city. I didn't even like carrying groceries up to our fifth-floor apartment, and couldn't imagine negotiating the stairs with a stroller or a toddler. Our apartment was unsuitable for children. We wanted grass and trees and perhaps even a swingset.
Had we stayed here as we tried to conceive, not only would I have gone straight to a top clinic, my insurance would have covered treatment. The thought makes me a little bit dizzy and a little bit sick.
It's the everyday New York I miss, the long walks, the "guess who I ran into today," the cone of pommes frites eaten while strolling, the serendipitous discoveries. I miss those early days of knowing Paul, days which were so tied up with my first real experience of Manhattan that I can't separate them even now. This week I wanted him here with me, not solely because I need the reassurance of his presence during a time I'm finding scary, but also because it felt so wrong to be in the city without him.