I suppose they always have been, early on, just after implantation.
The doctors feed Older Daughter with hope and inject her with drugs and she pees on sticks looking for faint lines and hoping they get darker.
This was Older Daughter's third try at in vitro fertilization this year and this time the doctors weren't criticizing her eggs ("you have old eggs," they told her after the second failure -- old eggs? -- she's only 28!) but when the crop was harvested there weren't as many eggs as Older Daughter and her husband had been led to believe. (Why can't these doctors count? my wife and I would ask each other. How does 15 turn into 8 overnight? And, if their counting is so approximate, then why do they express it so definitely?)
Still, these eggs, if fewer than predicted, were Grade A Choice, and four of the eight fertilized began to increase and multiply. For the first time in her three efforts, my daughter was given the option to freeze two fertilized eggs for possible implantation later.
Siblings! my wife and I thought. We began to hope.
Hope. Such a nice word. Except in this case when it really describes us opening up our feelings to a savage emotional roller coaster ride. In a carnival roller coaster, the car is pulled up a hill by a cable attached to the chassis; the cable releases when the car gets to the top of the first hill and everyone rolls down -- and up the next one. In this case, however, we are grabbed by the heart and pulled along, then thrown down, left to stuff our innards back into our heaving chests when things go badly.
Now I know I've mentioned that Older Daughter is very impatient. She couldn't wait 48 hours for the results of her nursing boards, for example. She had to know immediately. And she figured out a way.
Hank, her husband, is no better.
They were coming to our house for Thanksgiving and they wanted to know what to tell us. The doctors wanted her to come in on Thanksgiving morning for a blood test. She wanted the test Tuesday. If it was bad news, she wanted some time to recover. The doctors said Tuesday was too soon. Eventually, though, there was a compromise: They would have tests both days.
The test is done in the morning; Older Daughter gets the results by phone later on that same day. That meant Older Daughter would be getting the results of her Thursday test en route from Indianapolis to Chicago.
Long Suffering Spouse and I added a layer of dread to our layer of hope. And Older Daughter would be standing up for her new niece on Saturday at the baptism of our granddaughter. Under the circumstances, we desperately wanted good news. We always have wanted good news, of course, but our desire was particularly urgent here.
Well, the test on Tuesday was OK. The test on Thursday was better. On Thursday the doctors told Older Daughter, "You are pregnant."
It was a happy weekend. Sure, we were all still walking on eggshells. Sure, we weren't assuming a happy ending. But a happy ending was in the realm of the possible now. We thought.
I didn't hear my wife's phone ring Sunday. She was in the living room with Younger Daughter; I was in the family room watching the Bears game.
I heard nothing until my wife called out. "It's over!"
I wasn't certain I'd heard correctly. But the tone was unmistakable. I went immediately into the living room. I sat down, bracing for the blow.
"It's over," Long Suffering Spouse repeated. "She had another blood test this morning. There was almost no change. Everything has stopped."
I had a plate in my hand; it was one from breakfast that I'd picked it up by reflex when I got up from my recliner. I didn't throw it, though I wanted to. I didn't curse (I don't think I did, not then). I suppose I didn't do much of anything. Maybe it was because Younger Daughter and my granddaughter were also in the room, and I'm still conscious about trying to set a good example. But maybe it was because, except for gathering up my scattered innards and stuffing them back into my chest, there was nothing else to do.
There's apparently no mistake. Older Daughter's doctors can't do anything right, but they're apparently never wrong about bad news.
Curmudgeons aren't supposed to cry. Besides, Long Suffering Spouse has done enough crying for both of us. But my allergies are particularly bad today.