I am in the shower, and I'm letting the tears fall. Because in the shower, my son won't see my sadness. Because in the shower, I can sob without seeing the heartbreak on my husband's face. Because in the shower, I can collect my thoughts.
The stats were on our side. The embryo was normal. I had carried one healthy, beautiful baby to term not even two years ago. There was no reason to think that another embryo transfer wouldn't work. There was no reason to believe that it would fail.
And yet, here we are, grappling with another failure.
The water hits my feet, and I notice my chipped pedicure. The polish was Barbie-inspired pink. I got it done when it was still flip-flip season, and the sun was shining at six o'clock in the evening — but I never took it off.
The water hits my skin and does all it can to soothe my nerves — and yet, all I can focus on is the chipped pink pedicure.
The thoughts come quickly as the water sprays down upon my back. Maybe I shouldn't have gotten a pedicure. Maybe the chemicals from the nail polish screwed this up for us. Maybe I screwed this up for us by getting a pedicure. Maybe I need to eat cleaner. Maybe the soap that we use to mop the floor is too toxic. Maybe there's something wrong with our laundry detergent.
Maybe there's mold in the basement lingering in the air.
Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
Maybe it's my fault.
Maybe God's mad at me.
Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
I think back to a few months prior when a dear friend of ours talked about how she was giving up fish to prepare her body for trying to have a baby. Fish. Not sugar, tequila, or the good bread with the extra gluten, but fish.
Another friend of mine is listening to the conversation. She, too, is an IVF mama. She, too, worried about things like nail polish. And dairy. And inflammatory everything.
We share a knowing glance and a smile. It's an easy hole to fall down — the one that makes you throw out everything in your house, become hyper-aware of everything you put in and on your body, and hold onto the notion that you have more control than you do in times like these.
I replay this conversation as I sit in the shower. As the water soothes my back. As the pedicure mocks me.
There's a special kind of hell you must sit with when you lose an embryo that's been genetically tested and proven to be "normal." It makes you question everything you have learned and everything you know to be right, fair, and true.
At that moment, statistics do not matter; numbers do not matter; nothing really matters other than the echoing thought that thunders through your brain — I failed. I couldn't do this. I am broken.
The water starts to get cold, which means I have been in the shower for far too long. I stare at the Barbie pink pedicure for a little longer. I remember my friend and her fish.
I remember everything I had done to prepare myself to give this embryo the best possible shot. The tears stop, and the anger starts to flood. I am mad, and I am annoyed, and I am angry, and I want to scream at God and the universe and at all the people who will never have to walk this round. I want to grab them by the shoulders, look at them in the face, and remind them how lucky they are.
My phone buzzes. A missed call. A voicemail.
I get out of the shower and towel off.
It is a message from my doctor. She reminds me that my levels looked perfect. That I did everything that I was supposed to do - and that this is not my fault. She talks to me about numbers. She educates me more on statistics.
And then she gives me hope and tells me I will be ok.
That this is not the end.
I remind myself of the words I have repeated to others and myself more times than I can count over the past few years. IVF treatments are not for the faint of heart. They are hard. They will crush your soul, and somehow, you will find a way through this valley. You will reach the peak you seek - at your own pace. At your own time. In your own way — whichever, and however that looks life for you.
I hear my husband reading a bedtime story to our son. And I join them, soaking in the giggles of our son, our miracle.
Megan Minutillo is a writer, theatre producer, and educator. She lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and son. You can find more of Megan's writing on Medium, Collective World, and Thought Catalog. Connect with her on Instagram @MeganMinutillo.