Recently, Danielle and I were on our annual lake vacation with my family. I will go ahead and warn you to dismiss any images that just appeared when you read the words "lake vacation". The place is nothing like that. My family has been visiting the same rural lake community for over 50 years. And the "cottage" we stay in looks as if it has not been renovated in nearly that long. Although pillows are provided as part of the amenities, visitors would be wise to bring their own- unless, of course, they have no issues with laying their heads on a ten-year accumulation of sweat stains. Likewise, flip-flops or sandals are a must for guests not wanting to turn the soles of their feet tar black. There is rust and mold in both bathrooms, and the dresser drawers open only intermittently. The entire "resort" smells of cigarette smoke and sunscreen. If you sit outside, you will hear country music blasting, calls reminding guests that Bingo will be starting in ten minutes, and the sound of children's laughter.
Given this setting, it is no wonder that Danielle and I found ourselves walking along the pier carrying both Dairy Queen cones and our winnings from Skee Ball. We were relaxed from vacationing but also nervous about being in the two week waiting period between our last insemination and the time when we would be able to take a pregnancy test. Our best efforts to distract ourselves with arcade games, jigsaw puzzles, board games, novels, and the Olympics had not kept our minds off the question that permeated our waking moments: were we pregnant this time?
Each time we try for a baby, our chances of getting pregnant are 15 percent or less. Since this comes out to about a one in six chance, many people going the IUI route conceive within roughly six months. What the doctors don't point out, however, is that a 15 percent chance of pregnancy has a converse side; there is an 85 percent chance nothing will happen. At $1,500 a pop, this is a helluva pricey lottery ticket. Were the potential outcome not so desirable (parenthood!), we would never have developed this gambling habit.
For her arcade prize, Danielle had selected a set of rubber dice she planned to use in her work with young children. As we sat on the splintery pier, she asked me to pick a number between one and six. I chose four. She proceeded to roll the dice eight times before landing on a four. She tried again for a four, this time reaching the magic number in only four rolls. As she repeated this experiment for a third time, it took twelve tries before dice displayed four dots. By this time, I understood her illustration: the six-sided dice provided a nice metaphor for our monthly chances of conceiving. It could take only a few or frustratingly many tries before the stars aligned and we got pregnant. Even when the conditions are right, we have no control over the outcome. The dice will fall where it will.
When we got home from the lake we found that, for the eighth time, our number did not come up. An hour after we found out that our try did not work, I got a phone call from my baby brother telling me that he and his wife were expecting their first child. This was never how I expected to find out that I was going to be an aunt. A moment I'd looked forward to for so long left me numb instead of excited. While I am truly happy for my brother and sis-in-law and know that they will make fantastic parents, I never thought that they would be having children before me. I felt like that pink plastic peg I used to stick in the cars on the Game of Life board. All the other cars were moving past me to bigger and better fortunes while I kept being sent back to Go, paying fines and penalties with each trip.
While Danielle's and my experience lends itself well to game comparisons, the problem is this: this is not a game. We are not doing this for sport or diversion. It is a vulnerable experience to feel like the pawn on some board, completely lacking control of the outcome. In truth, none of us are ever truly in control of our lives and circumstances. We have just had the harrowing experience of seeing the veil lifted from that illusion of control. This will probably make us wiser and stronger in the long run. For now, though, we've decided to suspend our pursuit for one month. We are going to spend more time talking with our doctor, examining our options, and discerning our next steps. We are not counting ourselves out, but we need a break from the wondering, worrying, and grieving. We are sad and tired. We need to recharge.
Before you know it, though, we'll be at the table again, kissing the dice, making the greatest wish of our lives, and letting it roll. Because one of these times, our number's bound to come up.