It was around this time of year in 2009 when Chance and Apollo left their lives behind, made the long, long journey south, and made Georgia their home for six months. Their surrogacy journey was quite literally exactly that – they sold their house they’d been renovating and left Canada without a place to call home or even jobs to answer to.
They arrived here with just the love between them and the painful memories of four infant girls, each lost between 22-26 weeks of pregnancy, resting in their hearts. They knew they would either return as parents, or they would return emptier than they were when they left. There were no other options, no Plan B. I was Plan B.
Chance and Apollo defined living on a wing and a prayer. Not many people will throw all caution to the wind and go to such extremes to try to have a baby, but they did. I was their chance, and their arrival here signaled the start of what we hoped would be the tides turning for them.
In late January, we had our first transfer of two 3-day embryos. 10 days later we celebrated my positive pregnancy tests. The very next day, our hopes crashed when my beta came back much too low; it was the start of being in a long, drawn out beta hell to see if it would end up being a viable pregnancy.
I had one of my betas on the day after my birthday. Chance and Apollo met me at the lab, as was the routine. The tension of the day was palpable. Would the results of the blood work seal the end, or would we be offered another tenuous step forward towards a healthy pregnancy?
Before we parted ways, they gave presents to me. One was the cherished jar of hearts that Chance made for me. Another was a book of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, given to me from Apollo.
On the night of our transfer three weeks prior, Apollo and I stayed up until 3 in the morning talking about music and literature. Apollo, whose favorite author is Hemingway, was surprised that I, an English teacher, hadn’t really read too much of Hemingway’s work. I was touched that Apollo had thought back to our conversation and gifted me with the book. Inside, he’d placed a handmade book mark on which he’d written a note:
the collection of stories I was talking about, “In Our Time,” begins with “On the Quai at Smyrna” and ends with “The Big Two-Hearted River Part II.” The rest is icing. Enjoy, and happy birthday.
P.S. Maybe read “The End of Something” for the first taste.
When I finished reading the bookmark, Apollo said, “Y’know, I wasn’t hinting at anything with that postscript…it doesn’t have anything to do with this.” He motioned a circle among the three of us and nodded down at my belly, where the essence of him was fighting to stay alive.
“I know,” I replied with a smile. “I’ll start with that one, like you suggested. I’m sure it’s a good story.”
I haven’t heard from Chance and Apollo in almost two years.
Emails, which I stopped sending long ago, after a while went unanswered.
And so it goes with all of Chance’s friends, who bonded to her with their own stories of loss and grief.
I’m not angry or hurt. None of us are.
I expected that this might happen. I knew when we said our goodbyes at the end of our second chemical pregnancy, that rebuilding their lives with their empty hands would mean first boxing up the shattered remnants of their broken dreams. Sometimes in the interest of self-preservation, that which is good and whole and true gets swept up and closed away with what is damaged and used.
I miss them. I miss her.
We could feel the tears pricking the corners of our eyes, but somehow we found the strength to keep them at bay.
We hugged each other tightly, not saying, but somehow knowing that we’d probably never see each other again. She whispered into my ear, “This is ‘See you later.’ Let’s not say goodbye.”
I blinked hard and whispered back, “But just in case…I will always understand, and I will always be here if you want to say hello again.”
Rikki, don’t lose that number.