Well, as you know I was glad to see the back of last week, and this week has already shown itself to be superior: yesterday we passed the latest in an on-going series of significant pregnancy milestones: the 7-week scan. Everything’s dated rather strangely, so even though we only had the positive test result a mere three weeks ago, the pregnancy is somehow in the seventh week of development. Strange but true. So it was back to IVF Australia yesterday to check for signs of life – nerve-shattering to say the least.
I went downtown early in the hope of meeting Llew for lunch first. I’m not having “cravings” as such, but I am getting very fixed ideas about indulging my every foodie whim. I think this is called “working it,” and apparently I have no shame. So as it happened, I’d already fixed on my pre-scan lunch destination with War Room intent quite some time ago: the Olive in the Strand Arcade. A note about this outlet: we’ve been worshipfully falling on the Olive’s chicken schnitzel, zucchini, cress and satay rolls since, oh, 1997, when a friend of ours from The Australian first led an expedition of hungry pilgrims from the News Ltd headquarters in Surry Hills to the Strand. Oh, happy day. Llew and I have faithfully returned to the Olive on a semi-regular basis ever since – I even worked it and its signature satay roll into my MS, for god’s sake, although it’s true those pages eventually hit the cutting room floor – and yesterday, I had a hankering. I was smacking my chops in anticipation all the way from the ferry to the arcade, right up until I danced along the ground floor and disaster struck. The Olive wasn’t there.
It wasn’t there.
Dumbstruck, beginning to panic, I paced up and back, scanning all the signs and shopfronts for that familiar and beloved sign. You have to understand that this place is enormously popular – the queue for one of their special combos is out the door without fail every single lunchtime, and everything is sold out by the time they close their doors, usually at about 3 pm because they simply don’t need to stay open a moment longer. I just couldn’t comprehend the evidence before me, especially not since I’d seen it in its usual spot not more than 10 days ago. WTF??? Dazed, I turned and stared the length of the arcade, and there was Llew walking toward me. His smile faltered as he too registered this strange new schnitzel-less landscape. We paced a little while longer just to satisfy ourselves that this nightmare was indeed real, and then I summonsed the necessary courage to step inside this foreign, transformed shopfront and enquire as to the cruel fate of the #5 blackboard special and indeed the entire operation (hoping, of course, that a simple relocation was the answer). The woman standing behind her gleaming new counter – untroubled by a single customer, I might add, which is absolutely awful, but I can only imagine that for regulars the shock is deep and the wounds will take a while to heal – rolled her eyes, gritted her teeth, and, in the thin voice of someone who’s been asked this tedious question far too many times already for a week in the goddamn job, said, “As far as I can figure, the lady who owned the business retired.”
And just like that, the Olive is over, and my dream sandwich is gone. After shaking our fists at the heavens, we exited the Strand with heavy hearts and growling stomachs. Where to now? Oh, how bleak the lunch options did appear! Then Llew brightened, and guided me across the street and down a dodgy little laneway that both smelt bad and appeared entirely without promise.
“What… where… is that wee?”
Temperance Lane, my friends, and therein our salvation lay. Recommended to Llew by one of our friends and invisible from George Street, right up the lane and around the bend, sits Grasshopper, a new restaurant and bar space that’s only been open a few weeks. I hasten to recommend it because this Monday lunchtime, we were the only people dining, and that is a crying shame, as our food was fantastic. It wasn’t a stand-up-to-eat takeaway sandwich, but it more than soothed the pain of the Olive’s untimely disappearance. Highly recommended, and the atmosphere would be really fantastic at night. I had a rather glam and zesty take on a prawn cocktail, Llew had a sensational lamb salad, the sour dough bread was excellent and the truffle butter perfectly spreadable. We went for entrée size because mains would have made for an expensive lunch, but they were ample portions, and for a sit down meal of this standard, the value was good. It was an excellent discovery, and we will certainly be back.
Then it was on to IVF Australia. In no time at all it was action stations, and Llew and I were in the ultrasound room with Nurse E. Llew said later he hadn’t felt he’d had sufficient time to prepare, so when Nurse E said, “There’s someone in there…” he just went into a state of acute shock. We both did.
“Where?” Llew demanded.
Nurse E explained what we could see on the screen, and sure enough, though we couldn’t hear anything, there was an unmistakable pulsing spot on the screen. A heartbeat. A rapid heartbeat.
Dr P joined us. We were still too stunned to speak.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” he said, peering closely at the image on the monitor. “It looks like we’ve hit the jackpot this time.”
“Congratulations,” said Nurse E, beaming from ear to ear.
Then after Dr P took the measurements and did whatever else he needed to do, it was all over, very quickly. I dressed and we rejoined Dr P in his office next door. Next step, he said, would be the 12-week scan. That’s when they’ll do all the testing for the likelihood of Down’s Syndrome and much else. It’s definitely no picnic, this pregnancy stuff. It’s more like an endurance test, lurching from one checkpoint to the next with the anxious hope that everything is all right but always with the sobering fear that it might not be. I think after yesterday I’ve decided that’s just a ghastly way to exist. I want to just feel glad and hopeful and let the careful management of expectations go hang. Shouldn’t this be a time of outright optimism, no holds barred happiness at the possibility that all will be well? I think so. I’m tired of tamping down my positivity and sounding a note of caution every step of the way. It’s not right, at least for me, it’s not the right attitude, not the attitude I care to embrace.
Everything was FINE until I got back out to the Reception area and the nurses who’ve looked after us at various points started coming out one by one to congratulate us. Then I started bawling (gawd, just thinking about it is making me well up again now too). Nurse K – who has been there since the beginning and is still looking after me – had to fetch me a box of tissues, and then she started looking like she was about to start crying too. They’re so kind and good – their interest and sincere excitement was almost as overwhelming as the little ultrasound image Dr P fitted into a little card for us to take home. It’s just a form card, congratulating us and wishing us good luck with our pregnancy from everyone at IVF Australia, but boy, I really think they mean it.
As for that pulsing dot on the screen, it was completely mind-blowing to see a heart beating inside me that is not mine. There is someone else in there. And that is one of the most profound realisations of my entire 37 and a half years of living my own life.