“There are so many of them.” I stared at the lineup of bottles on my dresser. I couldn’t fathom how I was possibly supposed to take so many.
“Surely, it’s not so bad that you’re making that face! Let me see,” Willow commanded. We were in one of our now weekly Face Time calls. We started them up after she helped Spike and me out in Denver, and though we hadn’t talked much about the whole infertility thing since that time, I was making more of an effort to include my long ago best friend in my life.
I twisted my mouth to one side and regarded her with doubt. “I dunno. I think it might be a little much.”
“I can handle it, Buffy. Show.” Willow outmatched my twisty mouth with her Resolve face.
“I didn’t realize there were so many. The list didn’t seem this long before I went to GNC, but now that they’re all next to each other. . .”
“Show-sies!” Willow insisted emphatically.
“Okay. You asked for it.” I turned the phone slowly and dramatically toward the dresser.
Willow appropriately gasped. “Whoa!”
“Right?” I said with a small smile that Willow couldn’t see. I was pleased to have my overwhelmed-ness validated.
“Those are all vitamins?” There was a little awe in her voice.
“What are they all for?”
“Well, all of them supposedly help improve egg quality, which they don’t absolutely think I need, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. What I read made it sound like taking them for three months prior to retrieval could make the best difference.” I chewed my bottom lip. “And the one that’s not on the list is acai berry. They’re doing a study on whether it can help egg quality, but I didn’t qualify for the study since I haven’t had a failed IVF cycle. Still, I read about it, and I’m taking it anyway. So not on the list, but I’m adding it.” I picked up one of the bottles to show her.
“Look at you, research gal.” I turned the phone back around to catch Willow’s ironic grin.
My own smile broadened, and I shrugged. “Yeah. If we have one shot, I want to make it count.” Then, I remembered something. “And oh! Did you know that most people are deficient in vitamin D?”
Willow guessed, “Because we spend all day inside? Or in the case of you, outside patrolling cemeteries when there is no sun?”
“Yep. So adding that, too.” I opened my dresser drawer and pulled out another few things I wanted to show Willow. “Want to see what fabulous present Spike got for me?” So, there was a little sarcasm in that question.
Willow wrinkled her nose in confusion. “Sure?”
I held up three large plastic pill containers – the biggest I’d ever seen – with letters for the days of the week on each compartment lid. “I’m like a hundred years old.”
Willow emitted a small snort of amusement. “It’ll keep you organized, right?”
“I guess so. It’ll help me remember what to take when. There’s too many to keep track of.” The list sort of made my head spin: Co-enzyme Q10, Myo-Inositol, L-Arginine, DHA, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Melatonin, a prenatal, Vitamin D, acai berry, and if I wanted to, DHEA. Had to get my testosterone checked before I took that last one. And was it really smart to be ingesting things that I couldn’t even pronounce the names of and some of them multiple times a day?
Willow was thoughtful, “So, after you take the vitamins for three months, what then?”
“Well, I take them for two months. Then, I take estrogen for a month and an antibiotic in there somewhere along with the vitamins before I start stims.”
“Sounds complicated. What are stems? Like in a plant?”
I shook my head. “Nope. It’s s-t-i-m-s. Like stimulating your ovaries to produce as many follicles at once without ovulating. That’s when the shots start. You know, this whole IVF process is way more complicated than how it’s depicted in the movies.”
“I hear you. And is it depicted in movies?”
I tilted my head to one side to match Willow’s curious expression. She was right; if IVF was depicted, it was in a comedic or brief way. “Guess not.”
“Are you nervous about the shot part? ‘Cause that would wig me out.”
A shot seemed like small potatoes compared to stitching up my own wounds. Giving myself stitches without painkillers and without making a sound to alarm my mom when I was a teen was way harder. At least nowadays, Spike and I took care of each other’s injuries. Handily, said wounds were few and far between. So, the shots wigging me out? “A little?”
“Think Spike will help?”
“Unsure. I haven’t asked yet.” I really wasn’t sure how he’d feel about it.
I tossed the pill boxes next to the row of bottles and flopped on the bed I shared with Spike. He was hanging out at the bar, helping them with some sort of liquor inventory and team-bonding day. (The latter was something I’d been hearing him complain about all week.) Luckily, he’d be inside during the day and was working the night shift, so he wouldn’t burn to a crisp trying to get to his car to come home. “Did you know that there’s a whole vitamin cocktail for guys with sperm problems, too?”
“But Spike doesn’t have to take that because you’re not using his sperm.” Willow made a face. “I can’t believe I just said something in casual conversation about sperm and sperm quality. . . about Spike’s sperm and sperm quality. And lookie there, I said it twice.”
I laughed. “Trust me. I never thought I’d know anything about any of this either.”
“How is Spike feeling about using his cousin’s sperm?” Willow emitted a tired sigh. “Three times.”
“He’s okay with it, I think. Much better than using a donor. At least, he’s not freaking out right now about it. Having a genetic connection makes him feel better. And I can understand why. I think it’s complicated for him, but I think it’ll help him feel connected. Honestly, I’m glad for the connection, too. I love the idea that a potential child would really be Spike’s in a way. Speaking of connecting, Spike has reconnected some with his family. He and Shane have been talking a lot since our trip to Norfolk.”
Willow was quiet for a few seconds. “Guess Spike hasn’t had the best luck with his vampire family.” She fake-coughed. “Angel. Does that bring up stuff for you?”
My history with Angel felt so faded that I hardly thought about him unless someone else brought him up. “Not really. Other than to feel protective of Spike. Not to say that Spike didn’t do his fair share of bad stuff in his relationship with Angel. It’s just. . .”
“You love Spike. It’s different now.”
“Definitely.” I propped my pillow up and my arm behind my head. Then, I changed the subject, “Speaking of guys. How’s Oz?”
Willow blushed. She’d casually dated other women and a couple of men since Tara, but no one was special. Since she came back from that retreat with Oz, they’d been hanging out. . . a lot. “Good. It’s weird being around him so much. It’s like we picked up right back where we left off. . . with the good stuff, not the cheating/weird magic stuff. And it feels right. Is that how you felt when you got back together with Spike?”
Willow and I had never talked about how Spike and I had rekindled our relationship. We’d been in different parts of the world. . . literally. I smiled, remembering. “I dunno. Spike and I took it way slower than you and Oz. I mean, the physical was easy. But the communication was slower. You know me. Slow gal. Spike has the patience of Job.” I still marveled that he’d been so patient with me.
“Seems like taking it slow paid off though. And you had every right to want to go slow after Sunnydale. . . and him not telling you he was back for so long.”
I’d only found out that Spike was alive after the huge battle in Los Angeles and only because I’d gone to the city to check on the Slayers who’d been hurt in the fray. He’d even tried to hide from me in the large first aid tent. I still remembered the fear of rejection in his eyes when I’d found him and the feel of the solidness of his body in my arms. I loved him then but just couldn’t say it. I was still too broken. Turned out that we’d rather be with each other half-broken than not at all. What had Professor Walsh said all those years ago? You find the person whose brokenness balances out with your own. She had one thing right, I guess, but I preferred to think that now, Spike and I balanced each other in less dark ways, too.
Willow hesitated and then continued, “Oz and I are more with the fast at communicating and slow with the physical.”
I made an assumption, “But you want the physical?”
“I think so. Maybe. I mean, I love waking up with him, but it’s been so long since. . .” Willow trailed off. She meant sex with guys.
“Only way you’re gonna know is if you take the leap.” Pot, kettle, black, Buffy.
“I know. Maybe I should break out the Barry White?”
“No!” I said emphatically, remembering what she told me about senior year.
Willow giggled. “Okay. Barry White and lingerie?”
“That might do the trick,” I agreed, suddenly missing my friend. “Why can’t you live here? I could use a good cup of café au lait and beignets with my bestie.”
“I’ll come visit soon,” Willow promised. “But I need a mocha from your shop. Extra shots.” She waited a beat. “And not the hormonal-medical kind.”
I laughed again. “Deal.”