Our culture loves to talk about ticking biological clocks while pressuring women to reproduce before they “run out of time.” Somehow, I avoided the ticking. I was 28 when we married. I didn’t hear the ticking. I was 32 when we started trying. Still no ticking. Intellectually I knew I was aging, but I also knew many, many women who were having children into their mid- and even late-thirties. We wanted children, but I wasn’t driven by a biological urge armed with a detonator.
Tick: When we really started trying to conceive, time gained significance. Each month, we timed our attempts at conception, tracking what should have been my most fertile days. I charted and monitored, and when the time was right, we tried. And tried. And tried. Then, time would inevitably reveal that our efforts were fruitless, so for a year we timed again and again. A year of daily testing at the same pre-dawn time. A year of counting days. A year of trying on schedule. Getting pregnant was taking too long.
Tick: Then we saw a doctor. I took the first of the timed medications, taken on specific cycle days at exact times, followed by scheduled bloodwork, and we tried. Two rounds later, we timed the minutes to the doctor’s office to make sure we arrived on time for the first of the tests.
Tick: Months later, we began juggling schedules, trying to anticipate the days we should (and could) visit the clinic for extensive testing. When we checked in, we were given our day’s schedule, each minute of the day documented. We rushed from one appointment to the next, one invasive test to another, and at the end of the day, we were given instructions for yet more tests on another time table.
Tick: A few weeks, later, we got the news that our time was running out. My ovarian reserves were low and egg quality was compromised. I was on the clock.
Tick: This spring, we decided to try IVF with my eggs, and we entered a whole new world of timing. Calendars were calculated and modified when they didn’t match the timing of biology. I made phone call after phone call, trying to find clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices that would accommodate my ultrasound and bloodwork schedules. Then the calendar shifted again. The phones calls began again, trying to work out the logistics of testing on weekends and holidays (without having to drive to Denver). The timing was constantly in flux, so contingency plans upon contingency plans were required.
Tick: When we were given the go ahead, the stimulation meds began. For the next ten days or so, timing became crucial. I still took a thyroid medication at 5:30 a.m. At 6:45 a.m. I administered an injection. At noon, I took a prenatal vitamin. At 6:45 p.m., another shot and two pills. At 8:45, another pill.
Tick: Seven days later, we traveled to Denver, and I added another evening injection. For the next three days, we woke and arrived at the clinic for 8:30 a.m. testing. They called every afternoon with specific timing and dosing instructions for the next twenty-four hours. We live by the clock.
Tick: On day ten, the schedule changed; the next day would be retrieval. This timing was critical. I took my thyroid medication at 5:30 a.m., two injections at 6:45 a.m., noon vitamins, one injection at 6:45 p.m. and one pill at 8:45 p.m. Then my husband and I woke at 11:30 p.m. for a new intramuscular injection. I woke again at 12:30 a.m. for one final injection.
Tick: The next morning, I reported to the surgery center at 9:30 a.m. for a 10:30 retrieval. Repeatedly I recounted the timing of the last twenty-four hours to my nurse, doctor, and anesthesiologist.
Boom: When we learned that the cycle wasn’t successful and we wouldn’t be doing the other two, time stopped.
Later, the doctor explained that the uterus doesn’t age like the ovaries, so with an egg donor, we had plenty of time. Now, the daily rituals are fewer. I’m not counting days and setting multiple alarms and making appointments and keeping schedules.
Instead, I’m waiting for Thursdays at 4:45. I’m refreshing my browser screen every minute in anticipation of 5 p.m. when the new donors show up. This week, (week two of the database search), I learned a hard less about just how important time still is.
Thursday, when the new donors appeared, I skimmed the list and started reading about one. When I exited her profile and refreshed the screen, a bright pink bar appeared, indicating a donor had been reserved and was no longer available. It was only then I realized I’d missed her. She was physical match for me. As I read her profile, I was sickened to see that she was a good personality and education match as well. We would have chosen her in a second, but in less than ten minutes, barely time to skim her profile, she had been reserved. Time moved too fast.
Two years ago, I thought I had all the time in the world to start a family. However, it was only once I learned that my clock had stopped that I began to realize how much time infertility steals.
The years spent trying unsuccessfully to conceive,
the months spent not knowing,
the days spent in doctor’s offices and waiting rooms,
the hours spent making phone calls and managing schedules,
the minutes carved out of the day for medication routines,
the time spent worrying,