Friday, February 26, 2010

Better angels

Dear Rowan,
Using my last post as a jumping off point, I will now tell you something else that happened on that trip to Sorrento last year.
I wish that I had written about it when it happened but a couple of days after our trip, I took our dear dog Lola to the vet for a teeth cleaning and she never came home. Such incredible sadness and grief took over and I never got around to telling this part of the story.
We had spent the entire day exploring the ruins of Pompeii and by the time we got back to Villa Oriana, we were tired and hungry. So we consulted our trusty Rick Steves book, which as it turns out, is not so trusty if it was published in 2005 and you're living in 2009.
Rick guided us to a restaurant he promised was laid back, inexpensive and yummy. We walked down from our B&B on the hill and into town, following Rick's map and anticipating a nice meal.
But when we reached the restaurant, it was shuttered and had been for some time. What to do? We backtracked to the center of town and began to bicker a little over what to do. You'll learn, Rowan, if you're ever in a serious relationship that many arguments start with "What do you want to (insert appropriate word here -- do, eat, see)?" and on this night, after a long tiresome day, it seemed we couldn't agree.
Finally, I remembered a restaurant we had passed earlier in the week and after we found it, we stood outside reading the menu and debating whether we should actually go in. Was it a tourist trap or the more authentic place we were seeking? Hard to say, but Greg was ravenous at this point and his stomach prodded him to say "We're going to eat here," and he opened the door.
The entire front dining room was empty, and we were a little worried but the host led us to a back room that was full. Only two open tables remained -- one in the center of the room and one along the back wall. Greg chose the table along the back wall for us, as we'd only be seated near one other table, as opposed to being surrounded by them.
As with most intimate Italian restaurants, the tables in this place were incredibly close together. We could hear the entire dinner conversation of our neighbors. They were an older couple, speaking English, but with an accent I couldn't quite make out. The man had crazy hair and wild eyes and a look that made me think of Grandpa Munster. The woman was petite and pretty and quiet, acquiescing to her husband's big personality.
Before long, we'd struck up a conversation. The man said they were vacationing in Sorrento for a few days before going further south to visit a friend who operated an Olive plantation. They were visiting from Dallas, TX. He told an off color story about an encounter he'd had with the Pope many years ago when visiting Rome. I inferred from this story that the man was a doctor. We told them that Greg is in the Air Force, that we were living in Northern Italy but would soon be moving to Shreveport, La. Well, isn't that something? We'll practically be neighbors!
Our conversation ended and a few minutes later, the man's cell phone rang and I couldn't help but hear his side of this long-distance conversation. "What were her E2 levels today?... I see... How many on the right?... The left? Ah. Well, I think we should proceed with the trigger as planned."
This man was speaking my language -- the language of IVF.
I couldn't help myself. When he hung up the phone, I said "Excuse me, I don't mean to pry, but I couldn't help but overhear your phone call. Are you a fertility doctor?"
"Guilty as charged," he said.
And, so we told him our story. And as I described the protocol used during our two failed cycles of IVF, he put his hand on Greg's shoulder and said, "your wife is breaking my heart."
It's a long story, I know, but it ends with him giving me his card, patting Greg on the back and saying "send me your records and let me worry about this thing from now on. We're going to figure this out."
And, as he shook Greg's hand, he passed him a 50 Euro bill to pay for our dinner. Of course, Greg tried to give it back, but the doctor insisted. "It's to thank you for your service," he said.
I can't tell you what this chance encounter meant to me at that time. It was as if the Lord above had sent me a clear message. I felt like I was on an episode of LOST, where all the characters lives are intertwined by something called "destiny."
How amazing that we would choose the restaurant where this doctor and his wife were having dinner. How odd that we'd choose the table next to theirs or that his phone would ring during dinner so that I could figure out he was an RE.
I had been searching my soul concerning our situation. Our previous RE had recommended donor eggs for any future cycles. I wasn't willing to go there. A second opinion was certainly in order, but was I willing to go through another round of IVF? Could we afford it? I was looking for answers -- for the right path to take -- and all of a sudden it seemed I'd found a map.
For the first time in many many months, I felt excited and optimistic about the potential of future cycles. Was this meeting chance? Or was it fate? Well, I leave that to you to decide. Personally, I believe it was directed by the divine, even though it didn't turn out the way I'd imagined.
I sent this doctor our records, I even scheduled an initial appointment. But, then I hit a wall -- our insurance wouldn't cover any costs associated with seeing this doctor because there is an RE here in Shreveport. Not that Tricare pays a lot regarding infertility -- it doesn't. But it does pay for blood work and ultrasounds and some of the meds (not the stims, of course). So, I gave up on my idea that fate had caused our paths to cross and I went to see Dr. V, who is a wonderful doctor and who used a protocol that gave us our best chance to date -- two blastocysts. The outcome, however, remained the same and here we are.
Maybe our chance meeting with the doctor wasn't a road map, after all. I now think it was meant to encourage us to press on, to have faith and to keep putting one foot in front of the other on this long and winding road.
I tend to think that God winked at us that night in Sorrento. His message, well it's a matter of interpretation I suppose. I think he said, "chin up, you two. Have faith that it's all in my hands. I know your struggles. I know your heartache. I have a plan for you and I'm here with you every step of the way."
And, I suppose this meeting is the best evidence I have that sometimes humans stand in the gap for the divine. On that night, the doctor was an angel, a messenger, if you will, even if he didn't know it.
I'll close with this, a quote from the doctor that night after we shared our infertilty story with him, "well, if this doesn't make you believe in divine intervention, nothing will."


  1. I am so sorry to hear about your dog Lola too, I know you had mentioned that on my blog. What a heart break. That is a really interesting story and definitely sounds like an intervention of some kind!

  2. Thanks for sharing your divine appointment! I loved the story!