By Michael Frank – Time
To wait: there was a period in my life when I considered the verb just about the most heinous in the English language.
My wife and I coupled late, on this (she) and that (me) side of 40. Seven years passed between our initial flirtation, which we later came to call “Phase One” of our relationship, and “Phase Two,” when we started dating again and recognized that we had found the right person after all. One evening at the beginning of Phase Two we had a conversation in which we agreed that we both wanted to have a family. Why not start trying right away — like that night?
Six months went by, and nothing happened. We got married, tried for another six months, and my wife became pregnant. She lost the pregnancy after six weeks. We tried again, and once again we became pregnant. Once again she lost the baby.
Two weeks later, realizing that we might be among the 12% of all couples across America who need help conceiving, we went for a consultation at a leading New York City infertility clinic. My sperm quality checked out. She had no cysts, fibroids or other obvious physical impediments, and her FSH level, an indication of ovarian reserves, was average for a woman of her age. Cause of the repeated miscarriages? Unknown. Or, rather, likely diagnosis: age (hers). Not for the first time in the journey we were about to embark on, we were turned into a statistic: a woman’s ovarian reserves drop off precipitously after age 40, a line that seems arbitrary, except when, as we would soon learn, it isn’t.
Nevertheless we delayed diving into fertility treatment. We were stubborn; we were stupid (or afraid); in the story we told ourselves about how our lives would unfold, we hadn’t left room for the possibility that we would need this kind of assistance.
We gave ourselves six more months — and yet again she became pregnant. Third time’s the charm? Not for us. This pregnancy also ended in miscarriage.
The next time my wife and I walked through the door of that fertility clinic, we might as well have been moving to a new country, one where we ended up living for almost four years. It was a country with its own language, its own calendar, its own leadership, its own climate (well, emotional climate) and its own sense of time. People often send reports from the land of infertility, but I wasn’t prepared for the agony of living through these cycles of treatment, where waiting is consistently broken down to slow, painful, fractal-like interludes of sub-waiting. It’s not just your body you hand over to complete strangers but your mind too.