My birthday is one of my favorite times of the year. I start planning the celebrations a month in advance and I have no qualms with multiple events: a party at work, dinner with Tommy and a get together with friends. The festivities begin on my birthday according to the Hebrew calendar and come to an official close with the arrival of a card from my parents – they tend to mail it on June 5th, so about a week later I receive a small final birthday shout-out. Some people just want to let their birthdays pass because they would rather not focus on the fact that they are getting older or they fear that the “best years” are behind them. This has never been my approach. Yes, I do get annoyed when Tommy, while towering over me, identifies a new grey hair on my head. At the same time, I see no reason to shy away from having my friends and family celebrate my existence.
I decided that brunch with a small group of friends would be part of this year’s festivities. The brunch was called for last Friday morning at 10:30 am – I readily admit that brunch is synonymous with Sunday, but in Israel we take what we can get. I should have slept in and enjoyed a relaxing morning, but instead a routine blood test and ultrasound came crashing down on my plans. Unfortunately, it is sometimes impossible to have more than a day’s notice in advance of these tests.
In Israel, IVF clinics are located in hospitals and many of the clinics are closed on Fridays or Saturdays – the hormones that women take leading up to procedures ensure that the timing does not become problematic. Our clinic happens to be open on Fridays for tests and certain procedures. The clinic’s busiest days are Sundays and Thursdays – right after and before the weekend – and I have easily spent 3 hours waiting for tests on either of those days. Fridays tend to be a bit lighter since the clinic closes by 1:00 pm and there are far fewer patients. Of course fewer patients means significantly less staff; though I am usually able to finish in an hour’s time on a Friday morning.
Reluctantly, I set my alarm for 6:00 am, the plan was to arrive when the clinic opens at 7:00 and be out there by 8:00. Apparently, great minds think alike and 30 other women had the exact same plan! I found myself staring at the clock and waiting for my number to be called. By 9:15 my blood tests were done and I was waiting for the ultrasound; there were only three women ahead of me and I figured I would be done in about 30 minutes. It only takes 15 minutes to get to the restaurant, so I was fine.
All of the sudden, ultrasound technician came out of the room, and headed to another part of the clinic. She was needed in the room where they were performing embryo transfers. Since there was only one technician working that day, those of us who were waiting for an ultrasound would have to be patient. I knew that there were at least three couples who had arrived for transfers that morning (it’s easy to identify them because they go to a separate part of the clinic). Having been through the process myself, I estimated that she would not return for about half an hour. On any other day I would have waited but I had a birthday to celebrate.
It could have been a real dilemma. Sure, I could have called a friend and explained the situation and everyone would have waited, but I knew that I had other options. Prior to a frozen embryo transfer doctors need an ultrasound to determine the best time to begin hormone treatments. However, through a friend, I learned that with a frozen embryo it is possible to have a natural cycle and not take any hormones leading up to the transfer. I went to speak to a nurse about delaying the ultrasound and she told me that if I left I would have to return on Sunday morning. She also warned me that by then it might be too late to start taking hormones - both options were still possible when I came back on Sunday.
If nothing else, fertility treatments will teach you to be flexible when it comes to plans. It is natural to perceive the appointments, tests, shots and procedures as trumping almost every other commitment. It is undoubtedly full of challenges but does not have to become an all encompassing ordeal. I could easily lose myself in this intricate and emotional process but I have discovered that I am best at navigating my way through by remaining conscious of my priorities. Last week my birthday brunch topped the list and I think that’s about right.