original version posted on 365 Attempts [at life]
A few months ago, Tony and I were having brunch with this great couple, Ilona and Tom, who have 3 strapping young boys. Ilona, as a reader of this blog and therefore awesome human being, knows about everything that’s going on with us, fertility-wise.
“Can I make a suggestion?” she asked, as we waited for our eggs to arrive. “I promise it’s not to 'just relax and it’ll happen.'”
Ilona told me about a machine called the Clearblue Easy, which you use to track your ovulation every day. She attributed the Clearblue to the existence of 2 out of her 3 children.
“It shows you exactly where you are in your cycle,” she explained. “Because after a point, there’s only so much sex you can have.”
Ilona still had the machine, although she’d given it to a friend, who went on to have 2 boys of her own. So this month, I decide to give the Clearblue a go. Of course, I decide this at the last possible minute, 2 days before I have to start using the thing so it can track my cycle correctly.
But Ilona and her friend are a crack team, and after the exchange of a few emails, the machine appears in my mailbox. I also have to get the sticks, which you pee on daily and insert into the Clearblue to get a reading. (I know. Romantic.) Those mofos are expensive, so I hit Craigslist and find two boxes for cheap, being sold by a woman who now, thank you, has a young daughter. She comes by my work the next morning, and I run downstairs to meet her and shove some cash through the window of her SUV, in exchange for two large boxes that say CLEARBLUE OVULATION STICKS in very large letters. Thank god I’d thought to bring my purse, because that would have been one awkward walk back to my desk, not that most of my colleagues don’t know what’s going on. (As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, I write about it on a public blog. My boss even gave me a pep talk in the kitchen the other day, about how I should “just relax” and “have lots of sex.” Bless him, I know he had the best of intentions, but I’m pretty sure my face caught fire, and that the receptionist who overheard had kittens.)
The next morning, still suffering the effects of Clomid-induced insomnia, I try to reset the Clearblue Easy, which I have to do as a new user of the machine. Not surprisingly, the Clearblue company isn’t very forthcoming about this idea, since they’d rather you spend $200 on a new one, even though they look as expensive to manufacture as a Barbie cell phone. The reset instructions in the box, which someone has printed off the internet, explain how you have to remove the plastic cap from one end of a stick, insert it into the slot, press and hold a button, wait for a symbol, keep pressing the button for 20 more seconds until you see more symbols, remove the stick, release your finger, wait for a flash and then a baby comes out. Or something. Tony is hunched the machine, grumbling and swearing, and I’m getting more and more stressed at him for being stressed (always an effective strategy, I highly recommend it.) Finally, he explodes.
“It’s defective! The little stick symbol isn’t coming up! It’s supposed to come up when you turn on the machine! It’s broken. Buy a new one!”
Let me pause for a minute here and tell you about my husband’s brand of patience.
He will spend 30 seconds looking for his house keys before going into panic overdrive, throwing aside coats and couch cushions with steam pouring out of his ears and claiming his keys have disappeared and he must have left them at work or dropped them in the street or accidentally fed them to Ruble, until I point out to him that they’re on the key rack. This happens, on average, every single day.
In a foul mood, I head off to catch the bus. And that’s when they appear: the expecting couple.
At first, I'm not sure. Maybe she just had a big breakfast, I think, trying to avert my eyes. Maybe she only puts on weight in her stomach.
“So you had a rough sleep, eh?” he asks, looking down at her lovingly.
“It’s okay,” she says, rubbing her bump. “It’s only going to get worse from here.”
"Have you thought any more about boy names? I still really like Voltaire."
They kiss. He checks his Blackberry. She rubs her bump so more. I know I am being bitter and horrid, and that they can’t have any idea who’s squished up next to them on the #80 Parc Avenue bus, but it’s too late: I’m crying. And not little, delicate tears either: a sniffling face waterfall, which I try to hide by twisting around 180 degrees to look out the window in an extremely unnatural way. Eventually I squeeze my way to the door and get off a stop early, but no matter how hard I try or dab my eyes or breathe or blink, I can’t stop. I finally duck into an alley and bawl there for a few minutes, which, let me tell you, doesn’t attract attention at ALL. Then I go to work.
I arrive to find multiple emails from Ilona and her friend, full of suggestions. Did I hold the button down? Did I put in a sample stick? Do I need a ride to Costco to buy a new one? They are either being incredibly kind or are incredibly concerned for my mental health, not that I blame them. Ilona sends this fantastic video showing how to reset the Clearblue Easy (which I recommend you watch, no matter how many children you have or never want to have,) and that night, I go home and follow it. Lo and behold, the machine works.
Then I sit down to have dinner, and Mama Greek calls, supposedly looking for Tony.
“He’s at work,” I tell her, suspiciously. My mother-in-law has Tony’s "celery phone" number, and is not afraid to use it.
“Oh,” she says. “How you doing?”
“I see story on the news,” she begins, and I mime stabbing my fork into my eyes, even though there’s no one there to see me. “So many women, they try to adopt baby, then get pregnant.”
“Yes, you’ve told me that before,” I say, trying to sound patient, and failing.
“So try not to think about.”
I look at the Clearblue Easy box, packaging, instructions in English and French and two boxes of sticks strewn across the kitchen table.
“Because maybe you think about, make worse.”
“You know how happy I be to be grandmother,” she adds, quickly, in case there’s some confusion. "And I know how happy you be to be mother, but don’t think about.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Think about NOT having baby.”
She wishes me goodnight.
And I put the weird little machine on the bathroom shelf where I’ll see it tomorrow morning, and go to sleep.