third time lucky?
I’m weighing it up. How do you know when to call time? I always said three rounds, never anticipating that it would come to that. And here we are, throwing ourselves at what should be our final fling.
In the past two weeks, I have been bystander:
waving off my deputy as he heads off on parental leave (I wonder at this valuable childcare revolution, even as I am unable to fulfil old traditions).
wise sage at the IVF open evening, making friends with the first timer, only to hear that she is naturally pregnant a week later (guard your feelings closer, eyes down next time).
showering congratulations on my colleague’s perfect fertility tests (but the booze? the fags? the fat?)
And with each one an internal war – sobs, self-hate, certain that the source of my failings is this bitter spring, my eggs soured because I can no longer celebrate others’ success.
This cycle, we are trialling a milder protocol: no down-regs, softer hormones, working with my body not against it. There are supplements: algebraic-sounding concoctions that all smell like cod-liver oil. Plates of soft pink fish, gaudy green avocados, tough chewy pineapple core, whole hearty milk. A kitchen purged of plastics and my dressing table stripped back to organic products, orange peels and argan oils. Overcoming (more?) fears to face that imminent first acupuncture appointment. I draw the line at natural deodorant and bare nails: we all have our limits. These adjustments, they protect me from later regrets.
The battle is beginning but even as I enter into it, I can’t say for certain that this will be the final assault. IVF feels like a written exam, one of those ‘what was the cause of the Second World War’ types, and you’ll fill it in diligently, toiling over your response, but no one will ever mark it; you’ll never be able to pinpoint the moments when you chose the right answers, or indeed where you went catastrophically wrong.
So I wonder: will three times be enough? Third time lucky, the onlookers chorus, neatly packaged niceties. Third time lucky, the consultant affirms, believing her science is better than the last doctor’s. Third time lucky, my husband pleads, because I’m not sure he’s strong enough for round four. But I have turned my back on unjust luck, I stretch my hands out to clutch onto the last handfuls of optimism as we forge forwards into this. I whisper to God, my fairweather friend, unsure if he hears me.
Here’s the challenge: at the heart of the fairy tale of IVF is this one myth - that you have to believe in the magic for it to work! I am told fleeting doubt is self-fulfilling. I meditate and write and mutter affirmations, I pray and walk and breathe in fresh air. And often, despite it all, I am a lighter person than I once was, ensconced in hope. But there she is, that little “what if…?” What if three is not so lucky after all? What if three isn’t enough? Or what if it is, but it might be time to accept what is not meant for me?
We embark on lucky(?) number three, with my inexplicable eggs and my half hope. But all the while, there’s a clearing up ahead – and when we reach it, we’ll know whether to press on or whether to turn. What we won’t know, what none of us know, is whether we’ll look back with longing.