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The Baby Dilemma: Hope in a Tank

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Three days after the start of my next period, I began giving myself the injections. I grabbed some belly fat, wiped it with alcohol, clenched my teeth, and jabbed. The needle sank in smoothly, as if entering a hunk of cheddar. It hurt a little, but it was bearable.

But there was still another hurdle. I had to wait three days to see if the drugs were activating follicles that would produce eggs. I bit my lip as Mukherjee inserted the ultrasound probe. Show me some eggs! I thought. I studied the monitor and saw that the chocolate chips had grown into dark cherry orbs. “I see six on this side and six on that one,” he said, satisfied. “See you in a couple days.”

“That’s it?” I blurted. I felt relieved and crushed at the same time. I had wanted to stash away a couple dozen — enough for lots of chances, and maybe even a family of four. “That’s normal for your age,” he said. “I was expecting anywhere from eight to 12.”

I walked home stone-faced. “Normal for my age” sounds good, unless you’re almost 37 and talking about babies. It didn’t matter that I exercised, wore sunscreen, and ate lots of squash. The hard truth was that my egg supply was dwindling. I was hurtling toward 40, which, in egg years, is not the new 30.

By the fifth day, the hormones were starting to take their toll: I was sluggish, had a headache, and could feel my ovaries pulsating. And I was sick to death of talking. It seemed like every female over 30 I met wanted to know “all about it.” Or they had a friend who did and would be contacting me shortly. My mother had been cheering me on — but now she asked how long it would take to get her grandbabies “out of the freezer.”

All I cared about was my egg count. By the 10th day, I was down to nine. My arms were bruised from all the blood draws, and I was so bloated I actually looked pregnant.

As I left the clinic that morning, I started to tear up in the elevator. (Yes, the hormones were working.) “Why are my eggs dying?” I sniffed. Then I wiped my eyes and braved the streets of the Upper East Side until I saw a toddler coming toward me. I noticed her yellow dress and matching hair bow, then thought about what I wanted for lunch. A block later, I stopped. This was big! For the past few years, I had felt pangs of regret whenever I encountered a cute child, as if I were watching my own chance at motherhood fading away. But now I was thinking of salad.

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