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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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From The Greatest Heights (Part V)

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The doctor had warned us that even if we did everything right and followed the protocol after the follicle was of the right size, there was no guarantee of success. Fertilization still had to occur, and just like couples do not necessarily become pregnant every month, we had no way to know if we were actually expecting for two full weeks.

I am, by nature, a very skeptical person, and I had to wonder, aloud, how it was possible that follicle size could be measured and determined to be viable but there was no way to determine if that follicle was fertilized. Be that as it may, we had no real choice. We could come in for blood work two weeks later; there was nothing we could do until then.

I’m a huge sports fan. Most sports fans have no problem watching a taped game if they do not know the outcome. I have never been able to do that. To me, the best part of sports, the tension and drama, occurs while the events are unfolding, and even if I have no idea what happened, I do not experience any sense of drama when the results have already been determined.

While some people may see that two weeks of waiting as a time of great hope and possibility, it was torturous for me. Even the most passionate sports fans realize that their life isn’t linked to the outcome, but the overwhelming sense for me was that my future and my life were on hold until we knew for sure. Tension may be great for sports fans, but it is very difficult to handle in real life. To say it another way, I can deal (or find a way to deal) with reality, even if it is a painful reality, but not knowing drives me absolutely crazy.

I don’t remember much about those two weeks. My wife and I agreed not to talk about it, even if it was at the forefront of both of our minds, and I can’t recall specific events as much as the feeling that those two weeks dragged on forever.

After what felt like an eternity, those two weeks came to an end, and we went in for the all important blood test. For reasons I will never understand, the pregnancy blood test was not ordered as a “STAT” test that would produce results in less than an hour (subsequent blood tests to track the health of the early pregnancy were all designated as “STAT”). We took the blood test, left and had to wait a day or two for them to call with the results.

Caller-ID was still a rarity and we had no way of knowing what news may lay behind every ring of the phone. There was this moment of intense anticipation each time my wife answered the phone. Each time I was home when the phone rang, I stared at her for some hint if that was the call that contained that most vital information.

At the time, I didn’t work most Fridays, so I was home when the phone rang. After the ubiquitous “hello” I will never forget the short, emotion laden, “yes?” my wife then said. I was staring intently at her as she gave me the one-second motion. Fifteen seconds that felt like an eternity passed until my wife exclaimed, first in disbelief and then in excitement, “I am? I am!”

I ran up to her and gave her a big hug. We were so excited that we were literally jumping up and down (I assume she thanked the nurse and hung up the phone, but I have no memory of that). At long last, the moment we dared not dream was finally here. We had done it. We were expecting at last.

We had both read about miscarriages and we knew that pregnancies, especially those induced through fertility treatments, were somewhat tenuous at best through the first trimester, but we were on top of it. My wife would be going in for regular blood tests and ultrasounds to chart the progress and make sure things were progressing nicely.

My in-laws lived down the block from us. They hosted us for Shabbos meals each week and they knew all about our treatments. My wife and I quickly agreed that while we were not going to tell anyone else, it would be impossible to withhold that information from them when we were eating together a few hours later.

People seem to instinctively understand a mother’s attachment to a child growing within her, but a father’s connection is not that obvious. Over the years since our tragic experience, I have often been asked about my attachment to my twins. People wonder how a father can become so attached to unborn children he never met. A large part of the answer to that question began that first night as my wife and I were going to bed. It was a spontaneous moment, and completely unplanned, but after saying goodnight to my wife, I said “goodnight sweetie” to my unborn child as well.

I slept well that night (and likely a lot over that Shabbos as well). While I had spontaneously said goodnight to my unborn child that first night, it made sense to continue to make the same wish on every subsequent night.

Internet resources are great, and we quickly filled out an online pregnancy calendar so we could determine the due date (at first when my wife broached the idea, I had no idea what a pregnancy calendar was). We saw the results, October 21, as even more evidence that this pregnancy was bashert because October 21 was the anniversary of the day my wife and I first met.

Our follow-up appointments through the first trimester were all held at the fertility clinic. As I mentioned before, I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility in my work schedule to accompany my wife to her appointments. Thankfully, things were going well. The numbers from her blood test continued to progress in the right way. Aside from a prescription for progesterone pills, there was nothing to indicate that this was anything but a healthy pregnancy. It looked like things were all falling into place.

We eagerly anticipated our first major ultrasound at around 10 weeks gestation. We knew that would be the first real opportunity to see our baby and chart its growth and progress. We were nervous as we waited for the fertility nurse to begin.

For people without ultrasound training, there is no way to understand what we were seeing on that screen. We watched, completely clueless, as the nurse moved the ultrasound around. Our hearts sank as she said, “I don’t know how to tell you this….” only to be replaced with absolute joy when she continued, “you are expecting twins.”

My wife and I were ecstatic. I hugged her as we celebrated with the same kind of joy we expressed to the initial news that we were expecting. This was always in the back of our minds, but it was simply too good to be true. Twins represented an instant family, and much less of a need to go through the fertility process again any time in the near future.

The nurse’s reaction shocked me. After our brief celebration, she told us that most parents in the clinic reacted quite negatively to the news of multiples and that she was a bit shocked by the joy and excitement we expressed. The nurse was worried that her words, which represented the biggest bracha imaginable to us, would be seen as a negative. I didn’t understand how the news of multiples in a fertility clinic could ever be seen as anything except great news, but none of that made a difference to us.

We left the office with the strong feeling that Hashem was finally smiling down on us and that all of our wishes were starting to come true. That night, and on each subsequent night, I added a second “good night sweetie,” one for each of our two babies.

My wife and I discussed whether we would like to know the gender of the babies, as that could already be determined at the next scheduled ultrasound at around 13 or 14 weeks. All indications were that we were finally moving to our destiny and to a renewed and expanded celebration on October 21, but soon those hopes would be replaced by fears as things started to go terribly wrong.

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About the Author: Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at chaimshapiro@aol.com or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/


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