There are a great number of things I do not understand. One being which direction is west and which is east when on a loop. Which also happens to be the question running through my head as I attempt Saturday night to get back to the freeway, after a long and wonderful day visiting an old friend.
I have always believed in the infallible reasoning that to get home from any location, one need only reverse the directions. Sometimes when heading to a new place, MJ will ask if I printed out directions to get home. I will look at him with heavy skepticism, and say nothing, my brow furrowed and eyebrows raised unnaturally high, which is a family trait I inherited from my father. Why would I possibly print out directions home? You just turn around and go back. And yet this plan is currently failing me, for while I came from the East and intend to go back, this road only goes east so far, and I have hit that end.
What I like lately are the days where I can forget about the infertility, but what I like even more are the days where I can talk about it without crying. To me, that feels like progress. I am buoyed up, despite driving in circles, by having talked to my friend M about infertility throughout the whole day, and without once breaking into tears or even choking up. Our conversations were saturated more with laughter, recognition of shared experiences, and general sarcasm and wit. I feel lighter, and more at ease, as I have always felt around her.
It is probably this euphoria that is keeping me from screaming at the road, which just went from a freeway into a regular street with stoplights and shopping malls without any warning. I turn my car around and try the ramp I see that says “East,” only to figure out after several minutes that this was no ramp, but rather a very long winding access road which is turning into the parking lot of a sports equipment store.
I had two times before bailed on this trip west to see M: once felled by a snowstorm, the other by a return trip to the ER. Friday night it almost happened again. MJ and I had gotten home from dinner at our favorite local diner, and were settling into choosing something to watch off Netflix when I made the mistake of using the restroom.
There in our regretfully small bathroom, my period waved back at me, brand new bright red blood staining the toilet paper. You can’t be serious, I thought, my heart sinking low enough to flow out as well. It was eleven days early. I had not even had the chance to fully contemplate the two week wait, to build up hope that this was going to be it, or to instead convince myself this was not going to be the month things worked. I walked back to the couch in shock and shame, and even the two episodes of 30 Rock (which we have recently been devouring) we end up watching did not cheer me up.
“The worst part,” I said to MJ through snuffles and tears, “is that the more messed up my cycle gets the more it feels this will never happen.”
This has been going on for some time. The fertility tracker App I use told me months ago that my luteal phase was “unusually irregular.” Their words. In a little box that popped up when I updated my calendar. I had thought irregular said it all, but apparently there is regular irregular and then there is me. Either way, it’s true. The longer we try, the stranger my cycle becomes. I used to be able to know exactly when my period would start and my two week wait was legitimately two weeks. Now I go into three, three and a half weeks, or, like this month, something barely approaching one.
If you talk to your doctor, or just google things like I do because it is way cheaper and less time intensive, you’ll learn that a short luteal phase is a sign of Luteal Phase Defect or LPD, which happens typically when you don’t have enough progesterone in your system. Checkmark on that one; I was even on progesterone pills for awhile. But here’s the thing, you’ll also learn that a long luteal phase is a kind of LPD, or even a sign of perimenopause. Either way, you are going to have fertility problems. My problem manifests itself in a monthly game of hide and seek with my period. When will it show up this time? Is it soon? Is it late? I live in a Where’s Waldo book of menstruation.
By the time I have finally found my way to get back on the loop in continued efforts to make it home, I am faced with a rather perplexing reality. Though I cannot really wrap my head around it, though it appears to me like blurry books in a dream, the kind you know have words but which you cannot, despite your best effort actually read, I come nonetheless to this conclusion. That in order to head east to get home, I must first go west.
Accepting fate, I turn the car around one last time, and catching sight of the actual entrance ramp between two large mounds of dirty snow, I drive onward. The bright green sign for the freeway I was looking for shows up within minutes. Smartass. From there it is nearly a straight shot home, which I take to in abandon, speeding with anxious anticipation of being out of the car, being home, being with MJ.
When we talk on the phone as I cross mile markers he knows, he notes that my voice sounds happy. “I’m glad you had a good time,” he says and I can almost hear the relief in his voice that I am not coming home with tear-streaked cheeks, having worked myself into a frenzy of depression and despair. Our good days seem to be less and less lately, and I can hear his contentment to learn that today was one of them. Today I had managed to live with early onset menstruation, had felt no sadness visiting with M’s child, and no despair from talking about infertility. Today was a good day, even if my travels defied all directional logic.
I am a car traveling into heartache with the hope that I will eventually get to success and fulfillment. It is a long trip with mile markers and rest stops, and some of them are nice and worth visiting, and some of them are upsetting and discouraging. I drive and drive. Sometimes I make progress, sometimes I am only backtracking. But mostly I am stuck on a loop. Mostly I am turning around and around with infertility, trying to figure out which direction to go. I know where I want to be, if I could only get the right directions. The only thing is, no one’s printed them out.