Yesterday, we went out to London for the day. The plan was:
1: Meet university friend and her husband for lunch
2: Theatre to see the Book of Mormon
3: Dinner with sister at my club.
What could possibly go wrong? We met up with a mutual university friend and her husband (Let’s call them Mr and Mrs Librarian, shall we?) in a café in Jermyn Street, before wandering off to find a handy pizzeria. I’ve known Mrs Librarian since we were at university together; she is absolutely, 100% genuinely lovely. Probably the most well-read person I know, possibly tied equal with her husband, they have even more books in their house than we do (and reacted with predictable horror when we informed them of our plan to not buy a single book all year). She’s quite pretty, wonderfully lovely and we’ve always got on; I fancied her at university but nothing ever came of it. I’ve not known Mr Librarian anywhere near as long, but he’s a lovely bloke with a football fixation, and genuinely interesting to talk to about whichever random subject he’s currently reading about (Most recent interests: Old maps and North Korea). Mr and Mrs Librarian studied for their masters degrees together with my wife; in short, we all go way back. After briefly discussing my new job, working as a civil servant (note for Americans reading this: Civil Servant, noun: /ˈsɪv(ə)l ˈsəːv(ə)nt/, Lit: Government Employee), we were talking about a TV show she recommended to me a while back – Hunted, where members of the public are chased by an ex-police intelligence team with all the powers of the state; they have to avoid detection for a month and stay on the run in the UK for a hefty cash prize. One of the contestants in the first series found out that she was pregnant half way through, and decided she had to drop out. How could you not notice, we wondered, before doing something as arduous as that? Suddenly, Mrs Librarian, with a wry smile, spake thus:
“Well… talking of being pregnant…”
Oh, shit. Shit shit shit fucking balls shit. I maintain a fixed smile, not daring to look at my wife. They don’t know that we’re undergoing IVF, but by God, why tell us this month? Of all months? Suddenly, I realise she’s still talking. “…So, yeah, expecting it around mid-July sort of time”. I smile, broadly, mind still playing catch up. Oh shit balls bugger. I know that they’ve been having difficulty, so this is genuinely good news for them, so play the game. My wife is putting on a big smile, but inside I know that the bottom just fell out of her world. I grin, broadly.
“That’s fantastic! Ah, brilliant, so happy for you. How long have you known?”
The conversation moves on, talking about future plans, house moves, etc. The thing is, is that even though I am pleased for them (they’ll make wonderful parents), envy is an utter bitch. It twists inside of you and makes what should be a happy moment into one tinged with sadness, and the worst part is that they have no idea about what’s going on or how we feel. If IVF doesn’t work this time round (which, statistically, it won’t), my wife will have to deal with the sight of her friend with a massive baby bump at the same time she’s dealing with the emotional fallout of a failed attempt. Not good. Whilst we talk, Mrs Astronomer is still putting on a game face, but I know what she’s going through inside. All four of us go for a walk through Chinatown, wrapped up warm against the frosty January air, killing time before our show starts, talking, laughing and joking, but I can tell my wife is not her normal happy self. I do my best to make up for it, drawing Mrs Librarian’s attention away from her as much as possible, and as far as I can tell it works – she doesn’t notice how down my wife must be. We say goodbye, make plans to see each other in a few months (“oh, by then I’ll be huge!” – Yeah, not helpful!) and as soon as we walk around the corner, Mrs Astronomer bursts into the tears that she’d been holding back for the past two hours, streaming down her cheeks, coming out in great gulping sobs.
We queue for the theatre with my arm round her, doing my best to cheer her up and failing dismally. Thing is, she’s not the sort of girl who goes green with envy every time she sees a pregnant girl on the bus, or the sort that gets jealous at other people’s families. She doesn’t avoid her friends with small children, and she dotes on her cousin’s firstborn. She’s perfectly happy to spend time with pregnant women. Just not right now. Not this close to the IVF treatment. Not today.
The show starts, and I immediately realise I’ve made a massive mistake. The Book of Mormon, for the uninitiated, is not your standard musical; it pokes fun at religion with wanton abandon, is lewd, crude, brash: I think it’s funny as hell. My sides were hurting barely three minutes in; meanwhile, sat to my right, my wife had tears streaming down her face, but they weren’t from laughter. This is not her sort of show, and even if it was, she is not in the mood. She’s not devoutly religious, but she still goes to chapel on a semi regular basis, and some parts of the show – in certain light – could be considered to be a touch on the blasphemous side.
Such as the bit where they have an entire musical number singing “Fuck you, God”.
Fortunately, she didn’t walk out, but phew! It was close. It’s difficult to watch a musical whilst dabbing away your wife’s tears, trying to figure out whether they’re caused by infertility or religious outrage. Luckily, she’s a resilient type, and once she’d vented a bit in the interval she enjoyed the second half a lot more (“The music was brilliant, but oh! The swearing!”), but she remained in a gloomy mood after the show when we went to meet my sister (Not the Lost Nurse, the other one – let’s call her The Lost Artist) at my club in Piccadilly. We had dinner there, and she slowly began to cheer up. Artist sister knows that we’re undergoing IVF, so she managed to slowly cheer her up in a way that I’d not been able to in the hours before hand; chatting about everything which was going on in her life and having a normal dinner; we were able to finally forget a bit and have a normal evening. We finally caught the train home, tired and dejected.
It’s amazing how one tiny piece of news can knock you for six.