On my daughter’s first birthday, this time last year, we had some photos taken by a studio that operates near where we live in Kamakura. They did such a good job for such a reasonable price that we decided to use them again this year. They are pretty popular, so weekends get booked up almost immediately and as our daughter’s birthday is on a Saturday this year (tomorrow!) we opted instead for my husband to take the day off work on Friday and have photos taken then instead. They provide the data for over 70 photos following an hour-long photo session instantly via AirDrop (or whatever the Android equivalent is), and a USB drive with all the photos as well, for just over ¥35,000 – a million times cheaper than ripoff places like Studio Alice! The people who run it are so good with small kids, they’re honestly miracle-workers. I know this reads like a promotion post but literally nobody who reads this blog will end up using them so I don’t feel guilty about it!
The weather this week has been so rubbish, with rain almost every day, and falling when it wasn’t even forecast. I trusted the studio to do a lovely job even if it was raining, but I still felt a bit sad about having poor weather. And yet! The morning of the photoshoot dawned slightly overcast, but by the time we got in the taxi at 8am the sun was already out, and by 10am it was positively hot – Yosshi the cameraman was sweating and said he regretted putting his hoodie on this morning! It turned into a truly glorious day, going up to 26 or 27C in the afternoon.
Once we were done with the photos, we went to a nearby restaurant that does really good everything but especially good spare ribs and then on the way home again my husband was lucky enough to spot a taxi as we were walking along the road, so the journey home was quick and painless. A remarkably fortuitous morning.
Once my daughter was down for her afternoon nap, I got on my bicycle and went off to the clinic.
Upon arrival, I had yet another blood test. The half-hour wait between that and the results felt excessively long.
Finally, my patient number was called, and I entered the consultation room.
Dr. O was holding a green A4 piece of paper, and I knew immediately what she was going to say. I sat down in front of her desk.
“I’m really sorry,” she said, her eyebrows crinkled in what looked like genuine regret. “It didn’t work out this time.”
She turned the paper round to show me. “Here are your hCG and progesterone results,” she said. “If implantation occurs, we would expect a number of at least 100 by this point.”
She circled my blood test result: 1. “This means that it didn’t even stick; implantation didn’t happen. But look here, your progesterone levels are great! So it means you took all the medicine correctly and managed your hormone levels perfectly.
“This means it was not your fault.” She was deliberately making that very clear. “The egg we implanted this time just wasn’t the same quality as the one that is now your daughter. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
Apart from make a pitiful number of crap eggs, sure, I guess.
“So now I guess you need to decide with your husband what to do next. If you want to continue with IVF, will you use insurance, or choose the option where you pay upfront, and so on.”
“How different are the two options in terms of treatment?” I asked.
“The amount of medicine we’re authorised to use is much less,” she said. “So the follicle stimulation protocol is weaker, and you’d likely get fewer eggs.” Fewer than one doesn’t sound great. “And we also can’t check on your condition as often, so there is a small possibility that you could ovulate before we manage to retrieve anything.” Well, that would suck if I ever actually flaming ovulated. It doesn’t surprise me that the government only covers the crap version of IVF and has also withdrawn the partial reimbursement policy that previously existed. So much for actually doing much to help couples conceive.
“Thank you,” I said, getting my bag and getting ready to leave. “I’ll think about it.”
“I’m really sorry,” she said. “I hope to hear from you again once you’ve had time to talk with your husband.” She handed me back my patient card. “Today’s appointment costs you nothing, so you can go straight out without talking to anyone, if that’s what you want.”
“Thank you,” I said again. “Until next time, then.”
As I headed for the exit, one of my favourite nurses followed me out and stopped me at the door. “Are you… okay?” she said.
“It’s my daughter’s birthday tomorrow,” I said. “She’s going to be two! I’m glad that this news came today, and not actually on her birthday.”
“Two already! Time really flies,” she said. She was part of my team the first time round, when I was eventually able to get pregnant with my daughter. “You will call us if there’s anything we can help with, right?”
I nodded. “I will. But now I have to go and buy fruit to decorate tomorrow’s birthday cake.”
I feel like I won’t be able to get pregnant again. Other people may have greater luck, but I’m too old, my eggs are far too few and far too shoddy. I feel like a potato that’s been forgotten in the back of the vegetable drawer for too many weeks, all weirdly-shaped and shrivelled. I feel like a failure of a human all over again. I feel like there’s no point in trying more because the results are only going to get worse from now on and it’s just a waste of money. But I want another baby so badly… I really want another baby…