On my twenty-ninth birthday, my mother-in-law baked a flourless chocolate cake covered with slivered almonds and powdered sugar. She put in twenty-nine candles, and lit them, which made the whole thing bright and hot. I put on sunglasses in mock awe of my advanced age.
I made a wish. Then I blew so hard that the powdered sugar erupted off the cake in a cloud, coating the sunglasses and my nose and upper lip, and the slivered almonds took flight in what I’m sure would be a great model of some sort of catastrophic geological event, and landed in about a two-foot arc on the far side of the cake. We have photographs of this: the almonds in flight, me blushing.
One candle stayed lit. My wish was to get pregnant and have a baby.
And that was before we knew for sure it would be hard to do. We suspected it might not be a breeze. I figured I ovulated irregularly on my own, if at all, but had heard magical things about anovulatory women coming off the pill and conceiving immediately. When I stopped taking the pill about two months after the cake incident,my husband and I both felt like we were getting on a train without knowing which direction it was moving, or how fast.
Now we know. Well, we know more. It’s been sixteen months since we pulled the goalie. I’ve taken my waking temperature approximately four hundred times; become more acquainted than I’d ever hoped to be with my cervical fluid; swallowed metformin, provera, and clomid (not to mention profuse quantities of green tea and grapefruit juice and the occasional robitussin chaser); and popped a grand total of three eggs out of my sluggish ovaries. None of which found its way to a happy union with any of my husband’s many eager little soldiers of love.