I had fallen of the tennis wagon (again). I was enjoying my Thursday evening sessions, but between some cold and rainy nights and post transfer induced rest periods, my racquets have been dormant several weeks. I went to the courts to sign up for another session. "Do you fancy hitting a few balls?" I asked the guy behind the counter, hoping to coax him onto the court. "Sure, but only for 5-10 minutes." he replied. It's always good for the ego when you feel you can wield your feminine charms on a gay man. Anyway, after a brief warm-up, the muscle memory returned. I can generate a lot of pace and I like to return pace. Bryce was giving me just what I needed, and we engaged in a long rally of steady hard strokes. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a pair of double players paused to watch us during their change over. Someone started to approach the clubhouse and a distracted Bryce delivered a lazy down the line forehand. I knew it would be unsportsmanlike, but I couldn't resist the temptation. I planted my feet and whipped a blazing backhand winner, which earned some polite applause from the doubles players. Oh, it felt good! I may not be fertile, but I can whack the hell out of a tennis ball. "Jane, you have such beautiful strokes!" Bryce gushed.
I held my hand up to recognise his compliment in the same way one acknowledges a cheeky point won on a net cord. I know my shots are technically proficient, as I was often cited as an example for the class by many former instructors . I also know this has been more of a hinderance rather than an asset to my game. My strategy was merely to try to out-hit my opponents. Speed, power and precision must prevail. I never paid enough attention to understand when I should employ certain shots and tactics and I would become easily frustrated if my beautiful strokes weren't tipping the score in my favour. Even worse, I could completely lose confidence in myself if I fell behind to an opponent with weaker shots, although she probably determined that her game strategy would be to feed me crap and watch me implode.
"Jane, you don't win points for prettiness." my coaches often exclaimed, although this concept was lost on me. Multiple mentors tried to work on the mental aspects of my game and to develop me into a more tactically sound player. One even gave me his tattered copy of Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert, which I would later get autographed by BG himself. I studied that book carefully and even made notecards to keep in my bag. It helped a bit, and rescued me when I was on the brink of quitting tennis. Yet, I still couldn't escape that notion that I just needed to hit the ball harder and go for steeper angles.
One of my first priorities when I moved to California was to find a place to play tennis. After looking up my USTA rating and hitting a few balls with me, the director of a local club placed me in his advanced intermediate player group. The rather friendly coach greeted me, "Okay Jane, Let's see what you've got." As if I needed any more of an invitation. I exchanged a few rallies with a fellow player as we warmed up. She delivered a shot right to the sweet spot of my racquet and I cracked a perfect forehand winner. I looked over to the coach, anticipating some words of praise.
"Jane." he responded, sounding surprisingly somewhat angry "Are you playing Sereena Williams?"
I giggled nervously, unaware that he was asking a serious question and was demanding an answer.
"Jane! I'll ask you again. Are you playing against Sereena Williams?"
"No." I replied defiantly as I placed my hand on my hip and felt embarrassed for the other player.
"Then why are you trying to play a shot that could beat Sereena Williams? Just hit a shot that can beat your opponent."
It was now my turn to feel embarrassed, but at the same time, I felt enlightened. All the lessons my instructors in Connecticut tried to instill in me suddenly made sense at that moment. It was as if that one sentence was the final piece to complete a puzzle. Just hit a shot that can beat your opponent.
"1913" announced my RE as he entered the room for my SD9 monitoring.
"Pardon?" I asked feeling slightly confused
"Your estradiol level. It was nineteen-thirteen."
I didn't pay too much attention to the number or size of the follicles as he was measuring. Last cycle I felt encouraged when I had 12-14 follies at this time, but little did I know that as my estradiol level plateaued at 1500, it translated into much fewer mature oocytes. This was the first marker indicating that this stimulation could surpass my prior one. Two days later, Husband joined me for my appointment. He counted 9 follicles on my left and 5 on my right. They were waiting for the final report on my estradiol level, but it was probably above 3,000. Wow. I made it into the big girl leagues. Dr Somebody that I Used to Know was planning to reduce the dose of my HCG trigger in order to avoid OHSS and noted that he would most likely recommend doing a freeze-all, even if we didn't end up doing PGD testing. He wouldn't speculate on a possible tally, except to comment that he anticipated there would be more this time around. He patted my thigh, which felt more reassuring and less patronising.
A total of 20 oocytes were recovered, 14 of which were mature. I must still be under the propofol and dreaming, as my RE reported that all fertilised with ICSI. It's time to give some credit where it's due. Si and Am, you're still a pain in the ass, but you came through for us. Big time. To my RE, for coming up with a successful strategy and to Misery and New Girl for their support. Finally, to Husband, who ran my blood to the office each morning and allowed me to make it to work on time. It truly takes a village, and my next appreciation goes to the staff at the embryology lab. We just need one shot good enough to beat our opponent. I know we're far, far away from the finish line, but for the moment we're savouring this as a victory. One with a flourish.