Imagine for a moment that you and your significant other went completely nuts. You wake up one day, and decide you’re going to start wearing blackface and pretend you’re George and Wheezy Jefferson. Then you open a day care center, dress the kids up like the 1985 Chicago Bears and teach them to sing “The Super Bowl Shuffle” in Esperanto. You get tattoos of Neil Diamond’s face on your faces, and then follow Neil Diamond around on tour, screaming “Play ‘Sweet Caroline’” over and over again during every song until you get thrown out. You buy a 1975 Trabant, outfit it with racing stripes, and turn it into the world’s biggest birdbath. You run for President on a platform of public nudity and free LSD for senior citizens. You buy a Sugar Ray album.
And then it all stops. You go right back to your regular old life and you never talk about anything you did. You pretend that you never once had small children fight each other to death in a cage match to determine who would play William “Refrigerator” Perry in your pint-sized version of The Shufflin’ Crew. You still have your Neil Diamond face tattoos, and the hubcap of a 1975 Trabant is hanging over your mantle, but you just act like it was all some kind of bad dream.
That’s kind of what it was like when the IVF didn’t work. I got the call from the doctor’s office, and then I had to tell Lisa she wasn’t pregnant. And of course she was inconsolable, and while I can usually think of something to comfort my wife, in this case nothing I said worked. “I’m so sorry,” just doesn’t do the trick, no matter how many times you say it.
Lisa spent a couple of days in bed. I baked a cake. I can’t remember why I thought I should bake a cake, but I needed something to do. Before long, we were just mumbling things to each other like, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” and “It is what it is.” Nothing meaningful, but what else could we really say? The doctors at the IVF clinic were sympathetic, but their only advice was to try IVF again. However, at this point, Lisa was going to graduate school in a few months, and we didn’t have the time or money to try again.
I put the onesie on a shelf in the guest room closet. I wasn’t really sure what to do with all the fertility clinic paperwork and the picture of our zygote. I didn’t want Lisa to have to look at it, but it didn’t really feel right to throw it out either. I ended up putting it in a box, and then I put the box in our crawlspace. And with that, we just tried to go back to the way things were.
Of the two of us, Lisa is far less likely to want to talk about feelings. However, I imagined that one day we would have a tearful conversation about all this over Haagen-Daaz, we would hug, and then watch Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion to cheer ourselves up, because who doesn’t love Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion? That movie is a classic, and I will challenge anyone who says otherwise to fisticuffs. I tried to do some research on infertility to prepare.
I read some infertility forums, this article in the Wall Street Journal, and the book Barren in the Promised Land. It was all very sad, but I learned a lot. However, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate this information into my own life. Would we be throwing a lot of money at the problem, despite the fact that it was pretty obvious that couldn’t have a kid? Would my wife turn into the old lady from Gremlins, really nice to her pets and mean to everyone else? Would we ever be OK again? I didn’t know how to feel, what to say, or what to do, but it didn’t really matter, because we were acting like nothing really happened. And for a long time, that’s all we did.