Disappointment tastes like one of those old two-cent coins: small, cold, hard, and you have to be careful you don’t swallow in case it makes you choke. The first time I tasted it was during a phone call to my local hospital, to make my initial appointment at the fertility unit. It took three days and several hours to get through.
“Thank you for holding,” the voice finally said. “We can get you in for mid October.”
It was early February at the time, but hey, when you’re broke you take what you can get. From a financial perspective I am actually lucky I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, because it means I get my fertility treatments subsidised by Medicare. (Thank fuck Medicare still exists!) However the public health system also means waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. At my first appointment the doctor was an hour and a half late—apparently she got held up with an ’emergency’ at the private fertility unit where she also works. Seeing as this was a recurring theme over the next three years I can only assume that the emergency was that rich people simply need babies more urgently than students and migrants.
I sucked on that two-cent coin numerous times over the next sixteen months—every time my follow-up appointment was pushed back by another couple of months, the time the hospital counsellor went away for six weeks and couldn’t do my compulsory counselling session (more about that in another blog coming soon), the time the doctor told me I needed an ovary ultrasound immediately but the clinic said they were fully booked til after Christmas, and the time I cancelled a big trip so I could do an insemination, and waited and waited and then never ovulated. And each time they stuck my legs in stirrups and squirted defrosted spunk inside me, I waited two excruciating weeks to find out if I was pregnant. And then one day the doctor wasn’t late, and she sat me down and told me I’d have to ditch the insemination plan and switch to IVF. This was almost three years after that first phone call. I got really really drunk and cried my way around Newtown for about twelve hours—from the pub to my friend’s house to a restaurant to the bus (where a lesbian couple gave me a little lace hanky to blow my nose on), and then finally home, to cry alone. Then I mentally packed all my eggs into a safe little egg carton and handed them over for someone else to deal with. I knew IVF was hard, I knew it was exhausting, I knew it was an emotional marathon, but I also knew it had a much higher success rate than inseminations or even ‘natural’ sex, and I guess I kinda thought that I’d sign the forms and then all I’d have to do was just lie back and think of England, or that hot butch from the Addison Rd markets or something. No one told me I’d just been selected for a twisted game of Who Wants to be a
Millionaire Mummy, where if you don’t get the next question right you either sit out your turn and play The Waiting Game instead, or lose the lot and have to start again from scratch.
First of all, the nurse said, I had to wait for my next period. Which typically arrived in the middle of a trip to India, so that set me back a month. I waited for the next one. It was two weeks late. When it finally came I called the clinic and they told me to bring in my latest blood test results. I walked all the way in to the hospital and then realised I’d forgotten them. The next day I tried to fax them from work and the fax machine broke. When I got home I emailed it through and the email bounced back. Then they decided they didn’t need the information after all and told me to wait another two and a half weeks. By the time I took my first dose of hormones I was already emotionally exhausted. That was four weeks ago, and the bitter taste of disappointment just keeps on getting stronger. It’s there when they tell me my oestrogen is too high and they’re going to wait another few days before progressing me to the next stage of hormone injections. It’s there when they tell me they want one more, no, two more, ovarian scans before booking me in for my egg collection. It’s there when I have to wait an hour and a half for a 7am blood test, and it’s there when they say they’ll call with my results at 12 and they don’t call til 12:47. Those 47 minutes of waiting I did today, at the end of three years of waiting, was 47 minutes too many. But I’ve swallowed today’s bitterness along with my Chinese herbs, and I’m going to break all the rules and have a glass of red tonight. I figure at least half the babies born in Australia have been conceived on wine, beer, or Coolabah Fruity Leg-spreader, so perhaps it will help my chances.