Chapter 7: And All My Dreams Torn Asunder

The chance was 1/3 from each try. We had three tries. I threw a dice three times to see if I got the right number. I got it on my third try. I figured it would go down that route. How we would be succesfull at last. It couldn’t possibly not work. Things like this simply didn’t happen the wrong way. At one point or another she would be pregnant. In all fairness to the Universe, we would be great parents. It clearly had to see this.

She actually got pregnant while she was “reseting” her body in February 2015. Not from IVF either. It came as a surprise. If she had not been so “aware” of everything, I doubt she would have noticed anyway. She was just a couple of days late. It meant she had to abort her medicine and start all over. It was a chemical pregnancy.  After a couple of more days, everything went back to normal. It cost us another six months. She came to me with her stick that said “pregnant” and her voice was shaking of joy and surprise. I will never forget it.

We went in to Oslo for our fourth attempt in the fall of 2015. Maybe it was our fifth, I can’t remember. I was looking for signs by then. A caravan down the street had the name of what we had planned to name our child if she was a girl. Adria. I took it as a sign. A positive one. The sky that morning before we left for our last attempt was crispy clear, and an a Airbus A340 from SAS streaked across the sky coming in to land at Oslo Airport from New York. I took that as a sign too. I still couldn’t really believe that all of this could be for nothing, so I expected the last attempt to work. But it didn’t. It simply didn’t.

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If it was a girl, we would call her Adria. From Stargate SG-1. We figured a girl might look like her.

We decided to not give up, and went to a private clinc quickly. We bought an IVF package worth 60 000 NOK (excluding medication). The total sum would be about 100 000 NOK. Her mom paid half, I paid half. We tried once. The eggs were developing, but not good enough. They inserted the one which looked semi-promising. It didn’t work. It was perhaps the worst disappointment of them all. She also had a terrible physical reaction to it. The private clinic did things differently, different medication. She got sick. Very sick. We barely managed to get home. At one point I had to take taxis around Oslo to find a specific drug as many of the pharmacies were sold out. I went out of my way. At least I thought so. She was upset because I didn’t tell her “it would be alright”. How could I? It felt like lying. To her, I wasn’t doing my part. I wasn’t saying the right things, and I wasn’t suffering. She was. She was suffering. All I had to to was deliver a cup. Mentally I dealt just as much as her. She just didn’t see it.

My MasterCard bill was growing rapidly, but we still had another two tries left. That was the package deal. If it worked on the first try, we would still have to pay for three. We had gone for three. The clinic was very serious about their work. We liked them more than the state run hospital. They had a different approach to things.

Our next attempt would be in February 2016. I had a trip to England coming up, so she went to the clinic by herself for the usual talks before the attempt started – what kind of dose of medication would work, when she would start and so on. By then we didn’t really work as a couple any longer. The IVF process was consuming us. We talked of little else than IVF and our dogs. It was all eyes on it. All our energy. I read articles online saying it was normal. I took care of the house for the most part. Inside and out. I was doing everything I could.

When I got back from England I found her at home in tears. She had aborted the IVF treatment. For good. She had had some kind of breakdown at the clinic and had decided to not do it anymore. From being “all in” a month ago to completely abort it was a shock to me. It dawned on me she had ideas and issues/problems/thoughts she had not shared with me. About us. She wanted to address our issues. I understood, but replied I always thought it was natural considering how hard the IVF was to deal with. I guess she disagreed. So, that evening – after just being back from England an hour beforehand, everything was off. IVF, children, relationship, marriage. It was all off. From what I could gather she had pushed her body through these tries without actually “being there” any longer. She just went along with it even thought she didn’t want to any longer. How many guys can say they had to deal with a broken up marriage and aborted IVF on the same day?

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I didn’t know what to think. A weight lifted off my shoulders the same night, but I didn’t know what to make of everything. I had been worrying about her for years. That weight disappeared. I didn’t have to worry that much now, she had pushed me away. What now?

It took another six months until I moved out. Simply because we had to untangle our lives and make the best choices. She had to be able to finance the house on her own and I had to get my own place. It was a mess. I bought a car in May with automatic gear change. Not because I wanted one, but because she couldn’t drive a stick, and because my father helped finding the car. He didn’t know anything. No one knew anything, and I had a horrible time telling my parents. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, but it wasn’t up to me. I was simply put in a situation where I had to make some choices. I distansed myself from her quickly. I was angry, upset. But one thing kept me going; she couldn’t have kids. This put me in a situation where still might be able to – if I met someone else. That first night after I came back from England I suddenly remembered something she told me once before the third try at the hospital; “if this doesn’t work you can make someone else pregnant if you’d like.” I thought she was joking around. She had actually been trying to tell me something.

I can never name my child Adria. If I am lucky enough to find someone and have a child that is. The name Adria is a symbol to all those six tries which did not go the right way. They were just five or six cells, but in my mind I can picture what the child would have looked like. And that is Adria. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s like missing someone you’ve never met. I can imagine her in my head. She actually feels real, although disappearing more and more now that I have some distance. I’ve met people who simply do not understand the despair and grief of something like that can give you (it’s another story). It is very real. Just by writing this I can feel my face tightening up. Having children is a unfair game. It is simply unfair. Nothing to do with education, being smart or anything. It’s just about luck.

It’s at these moments I am usually putting on Butch Walker’s melancholic album “Afraid of Ghosts” and I think I will now. I could have written this more personal or with more feelings, but I simply can’t. It is simply too hard.

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Chapter 5: No Surrender, No Retreat

I can only speak for myself, but I was always of the impression that pregnancies could happen at any time – anywhere as long as your penis circulated a vagina area. Fine, I exaggerate a tad, but it was to prove a point. Babies happened. It was all over the TV. Soaps showing unexpected pregnancies in all ages, and shows on MTV about teen pregnancies. A friend of mine got pregnant when she was 16. To me, this should have been one of the easier tasks in life. What would come later would be hard part – the upbringing. I expected babies to happen as soon as we went for it.

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Most people have one or two things they struggle with. Physically or mentally. Perhaps you were raped as a teenager. Maybe your mother was an alcoholic, or you lost your significant other in a car crash. Maybe your father died when you were young and always longed for a father figure. Maybe you have no self confidence, maybe you are under-performing in life and know it. Humans always seem to have one or two “soft” spots. I often wondered what mine was – now that I had broken free from a shaky start of adult life to excel in what I was doing, I almost expected something to pop up.

Turns out it was lack of pregnancies. She simply did not become pregnant. We tried for a couple of years, nothing happened. Perhaps it something physically wrong. Maybe it was her mental state of stress. She was always stressed out. Perhaps it was hormonal. More than likely a mix of all. We just didn’t know. All we knew was that it wasn’t me that had a problem.

We were referred to IVF treatment. First three times are free in this country. I didn’t know much about it, but figured this would be a safe bet. Considering it was a 30% chance on each try, the math was good. A 90% chance. In theory it would work. We talked about children names and prepared like any other couple. First try didn’t work out, and I started to calculate the chances in different ways.  By each step in the process, 50% of the eggs would disappear. The Norwegian approach is also to be very conservative and not insert many eggs – compared to Israel where it was more of a “go flat out” approach with many eggs and considerable amount of twins being born. I read articles online saying it was mentally demanding. Physically as well – for the female.

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First try was a failure even before got to the insemination part. She made a mistake with her drug injections prior to the date we had at the hospital. It didn’t cost us a try.

Second one went alright. Six eggs was taken out. Three  didn’t evolve. Three was alright, but two of them did not develop properly. We had one left, which was inserted. The nurse talked about “the golden egg” which I found odd. Why bet on a “golden egg” when chances would increase if you bet on several of them at one try? Their response was that they didn’t know her body well enough to know how things would go. They were simply being cautious, but in my world that cost us two tries before they found the right dosage of drugs and what not. It was like putting your hand out in a dark closet and hoping to find that shirt you want to wear on that particular day. Among so many others. The more I calculated based on how they were doing things, the less positive I got. And it took months and months between each try. It was all a process. And a painful one at that.
Second try was aborted while we were halfway to the hospital by train. It was a two hour ride. None of the eggs had developed. We jumped off the train and went back home with our hopes shattered for a second time. I realized at some point that this may as well not work. I could end up not being able to form a family at all.

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I thought it to be very ironic. Of everyone I knew when I was growing up, I always considered myself as very capable with children. I adored children. My confidence in fatherhood had not even gone down when my self-confidence was low and I was insecure. If it was one thing I was good at, it was professional and personal care for others.

And in the midst of this painfully slow and tough process, we were growing apart from each other.  Or maybe she had already disappeared from me, she just couldn’t find a way out.

It’s culture issue

No, it’s not actually. I often told a few trusted friends the situations I ran into during the first years with together her. They kept saying it must be a culture thing. It wasn’t really a culture thing. It was a personality thing. She just had some quirky personality traits I couldn’t wrap my head around.

However, her home country had some drastic differences to mine. Security issues, density in population, massive traffic, pollution, extreme heat. Perhaps the biggest difference of all; communites so vastly difference from each other to the point you wouldn’t really think you were living in the same country at all. The diversity was something alright, and it’s not all positive. But then again, she could pick friends totally to her liking because there were so many to choose from. She always said that in Norway, you just had to become friends with whatever because there would be no one like you around anyway. She had a point. Her friends were all highly educated people. Bordering on nerds, but not in an obvious way. I was a nerd as well, but not like that. I never excelled in school and never had a lifegoal of becoming a doctor. My nerd factor came from my hobbies, not academia. My friends came from all sorts of places. None of my friends had anythying in common except knowing me. Her friends seemed to have lots in common. She had hand-picked them. I was just pleased I could make friends at all.

Mass-immigration from Russia combined with a growing Arab community made for natural segregation as people tend to seek out their own kind. It’s definetely a warning signal to countries like Sweden who have basically kept an open border policy for cultures so different that they could be from another century. Her country had communites within communites, and none of them really spoke to each other. To me, it felt like 10 or 20% of her countrys population, (mainly the secular, highly educated part) pushed the country forward while the rest simply went along for the ride.

However, all of this didn’t really give us problems. I can point to one important factor why; religion. We were secular. I was more athiest than agnostic. She was perhaps more agnostic than athiest, but it worked. So, no, it was never either about religion or so much about culture. The difference between western countries are really not that huge. We surf the same web, watch the same TV shows and follow the same football teams.

The differences may be in each countrys wealthfare system or how doctors do their job. How you send in your tax report. How much or what type of groceries a small town supermarket got, or whether there are pubs around or not. Whether or not you can go out on a Saturday night depending on the cost of a fancy burger. Coming from me, this is one of the things I’m quite proud of. We never had issues about culture differences. Perhaps it was easier for me since she came to live here and not vice versa. I would definetely have had issues living there, but this also because I’m not keen on living in large cities. I’m not keen on steel bars on your windows either. Speaking of burglaries, she was scared of being alone in our apartment for some time so she even locked the bedroom door with a key at first. Is this culture or personality? I think it’s the latter.

While working at a school she was shocked that the school did not have a fence around it. Most countryside schools simply don’t around here. It’s just nature that surrounds it anyway. She was surprised children stayed out and played in almost all weather conditions while in her country the kids were rushed inside once a spot of rain appeared. Yes, this is culture. But, all these differences were easy to get used to once she knew the system of the community she lived in. The nature and level of trust people had between each other. In her country, it didn’t feel like anyone trusted anyone. But who does in large cities?

It wasn’t about culture.

 

Chapter 4: And the Sky Full of Stars

I made over ten return trips to Israel between 2006 and 2012. I often photographed a lot of it, videotaped some of my travels as well. While the destination was always what I was looking forward to, I often found the travel itself an added bonus. I loved flying. The photos on this specific blog post are all mine. Often taken with a low quality cell phone camera, standard of 2007-2008.

You can decide to hate airports and air travel, or you can decide to embrace it and make your journey a bit more fun. An airport is the modern day roadcross. From airports, people will travel to all destinations of the world. Being at an airport made me understand that I can travel to any of the destinations on the board. It is a feeling of freedom. It is at an airport I feel I am most in touch with the world.

My journeys to Israel took about 15 hours, give or take. That included all legs of my travel. It would often start with getting a lift to the bus stop by my parents. From the bus I would often send my girlfriend a notice I was on my way. I often seperated my journey into four parts; bus to airport, flight to Prague (I often used Prague as my transfer), flight to Tel Aviv and the train ride up north.

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Blurry photo of boarding a CSA flight in 2009

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Gate at Oslo Airport

From the bus going to Oslo Airport, I would often gaze at the outside surroundings of often melting snow, a foggy landscape slowly waking up to spring while knowing Israel was already in full summer mode (I rarely did the trip in summer or fall). At the airport I would check in my bag at a counter still manned by people. This has now for the most part a disappeared from most airports with all the self-service check-in counters popping up. I would often study people around me, I spotted Israeli-Norwegian couples, business travelers or holiday-makers simply off to Prague. The Oslo-Prague-Tel Aviv route with Czech Airlines was at the time (a decade ago) one of the cheaper and easier options of routing down to Israel. I could often identify people going all the way and seperate them from those only flying to Prague. Nowadays, the route is operated from both Arlanda and Kastrup by SAS and Norwegian, but theres still no direct flight from OSL. Other carriers I flew (with transit) were KLM, Austrian, Swizz, or a mix of carriers within Star Alliance. Other carriers with a connection somewhere would be Lufthansa, British Airways and Air Baltic which I never tried.

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CSA dirty 737 wing flying over Norway

Having good time at an airport is essential for me. I often settled down somewhere with a pizza slice or two and looked at 737s arriving and departing from gates. Perhaps going for a pint of beer if I had the time. My flight departed around 15:40 and arrived in Prague two hours later. From there, there was a good six hour wait for the midnight departure at 23:55 to Tel Aviv. I never thought of those hours as boring as most people would have. I used to sit down in a pub somewhere with my laptop, a Czech beer in hand and surfed the web while the aircraft were passing by outside. During the last years I often used www.flightradar24.com and track incoming traffic on my computer while keeping an eye out for the aircraft outside. On a budget, I often used the KFC restaurant in the departure area for a late dinner. Czech Airlines operated a check-in counter inside the departure area for connecting passengers to Tel Aviv. Here, to handed out boarding passes.

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Laptop and a Czech beer makes for a good time

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Prague Airport getting more and more quiet as night falls

All through the evening, the airport got a little less crowded as each flight left to its destinations. I noticed Prague often had obscure destinations for holiday goers. For example Bournemouth in Britain. It was obviously meant for Brits to come to Prague to party. By 23:55, the airport was usually entirely empty except for those people going to Tel Aviv and the security guards walking around.

The flight to Tel Aviv was usually never fully booked. I could often use all three seats to stretch my legs and sleep for most of the time. One time, I woke up after a short nap, and looked straight down at a major European city, shining in the night. I believe it was either Vienna or Budapest. I often used my MP3 player and tunes in to whatever FM signals it recieved – and by the language I could pinpoint where I was. However, Czech Airlines often used a rather new Airbus on this flight with small screens for each row with the complimentary live flight tracker.

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KFC to go at Prague Airport

After having done several flights, I knew how to ask for certain things to get the most out of their service onboard. Like two cans of Coke and extra water, or other gems they might offer but you need to ask specifically for. Later on, most of Czech Airlines trolly service went all “pay”. Too bad.

The most interesting part of the flight was the last 20 minutes or so approaching Tel Aviv. I could clearly see the lights from the shores of Israel from some distance away. If I was seated on the left side, I could almost see as far as Haifa. Coming in to land, the highways below were often empty, but for a few cars and trucks.

Already slightly jet-lagged, I had to stand at passport control in front of a young Israeli girl in uniform asking me questions she had done thousands of times before – totally uninterested in her line of work. “What is your purpose of your visit?” “Where do you live?” “What is your girlfriends name?” Regardless of these young girls unimpressive approach, I found Ben Gurion Airport very safe due to all the checks they did. Especially when departing.

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Czech beer for this first flight down to Prague, ca 2007

Sleep deprived, I found my way through the final checks, picked up my baggage, and met up with my girlfriend waiting in the terminal. The clock was often around four or five in the morning which meant she had been taking a train down to Tel Aviv in the middle of the night to meet me. Both lacking sleep, we often hurried to the train for the last part of the journey up north. Usually, we went to sleep at eight in the morning. A long travel, but I always enjoyed it. I was traveling the world, had a girlfriend from abroad and had stars in my eyes.

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One interesting incident in 2008; the captain of this CSA PRG-OSL flight forgot to add flaps before take-off, subsequently aborting take off halfway down the runway