when i didn’t turn up pregnant after taking clomid and gonal-f in the spring of 2005, dr h upped the ante: i went straight to gonal-f. do not pass go. (definitely do not collect $200.) i was on a fairly aggressive regimen (the logistics of which i have blocked) but it did what it was supposed to: it produced a nice lining with a few good-looking eggs, which opened the door for those timely “relations” to seal the deal.

the hardest thing about this sequence was that dr h, who had been in my city in 2004, had moved in december 2004. out of state. not super far out of state, and both his new practice and my home were each fairly close to our respective state borders. i could get to his office, barring bad traffic, in about 40 minutes.

but since i was being examined every 48 hours the drive was starting to feel like a little much. and because the drive was starting to feel like a burden, so was the whole protocol. so somehow i was not surprised when it didn’t work.

it seemed time to revisit the whole scenario. we had failed to conceive twice, even though the medical medicated odds were in our favor. this was pretty new for us. while we had certainly gone months before without conceiving, that usually only happened when s was in the hospital or otherwise recuperating from his nasty cycling accident that had punctured his lung and fractured his elbow. if we both were feeling good and bothering to have sex, we generally wound up pregnant, if only for a few weeks or months.

i was beginning to feel like a science experiment gone bad. how much crap was i supposed to fill my body with in order to make it do something it normally did quite well on its own? how long was i supposed to let my body refuse to cooperate before acknowledging failure? s and i had one answer to these questions: quit the meds and go back to “normal.” our new version of normal was hard enough; we didn’t need this extra stress and uncertainty and disappointment. but dr h had another answer: up the ante again. get serious. force the body to work.

yikes. i’m darwinian enough that this made me really nervous. s too. so we took a much-needed vacation (to alaska! alaska in july is the place to be, i tell you) and as we hiked ourselves into a blistery exhaustion we decided to let dr h proceed. we’d follow his lead for a little bit longer. but we knew that we didn’t have much more in us.

so we returned home to those nasty fertility meds, round 3.

i found this essay browsing NPR’s “This I Believe” and had one of those moments when i thought “man, why didn’t I think of that?” family as a verb. to family.

we familied over the turn to the new year with friends (a, j1, j2) who now live nearby. before we moved to our new home/city/state in may, these friends were an 8-10 hour drive away through some dull country. now they’re 90 minutes up a major highway. we drove up on new year’s eve for a wintry dinner of risotto and wine, watched tv through the obligatory midnight hour (and oh, how my heart sank for poor dick clark), ate 12 grapes each, one to signify each month of 2008 (i wanted to be like the italians and shove as many grapes in my mouth as possible, but the family (a noun) opted for the more delicate spanish mode and i’m not one to make waves) and stayed through the new year’s celebratory meal of hoppin’ john, when we were joined by our other dear friend p and p’s new friend c.

given this wealth of food and friendship, we familied well. in fact, we familied better, and more happily, and with more verve and style and with less exhaustion and tension than i could ever dream of doing with any of my blood relatives. j1 laid a beautiful table featuring a crushed orange velvet tablecloth from denmark. a fed us with absolutely brilliant food, and put up with us while we all drank. we took a brisk walk in the bitter cold just as snow was starting to fall, and came home to warm with up french-press coffees. we stuffed our gullets with lovely homemade chocolates, a holiday gift to j1 from an old college friend. i learned that i really like c and now can genuinely hope that c and p will be happy together. i told p some things i wasn’t sure i could, i listened to j1 tell me about some problems she’s facing this coming term (that’s school, not pregnancy), i admired j2’s new thomas the tank jammies, i watched m toddle around and befriend befamily absolutely everyone with equal enthusiasm, and i listened to a & s talk about music and smoking and “taboo food” in northern england.

the group of us celebrating together is a subset of a larger group that vacations together usually once–sometimes twice–a year, and has done so for eleven years. we have long described ourselves as a family of choice, since many of us (especially the women) have major issues with our families of origin. but to family: to family by choice. i like that.