Hello, brew-tea-ful! Start your weekend off right with a good book and a cup of tea (either hot or cold, we won't judge)! Get this par-tea (ba dum tss) started with Chai Tea Sunday by Heather A. Clark. It follows the story of thirty-three-year-old Nicky Fowler who thought her whole life was mapped out — a rewarding career as a third grade teacher, an adoring husband, and the perfect house in the suburbs — but complicated fertility issues lead to a devastating tragedy. Nicky’s marriage crumbles and she’s left unable to cope with her now-changed life.
Snag a copy for 35% off using the discount code "CHAITEA" from Friday, June 10 to Sunday, June 12. To add to this sweet deal, here's an excerpt from the novel.
The bright red kettle on our Viking stovetop whistled angrily, practically begging to be turned off. Yet, somehow, despite its obnoxious shrill, I was oblivious to its cries. Lost in thought, I could hear only what our doctors had told us earlier that afternoon.
“You okay, Nic?” My husband came up behind me, wrapping his familiar arms around my waist and giving me a big squeeze. He turned off the stove, silencing the room, and then sighed into my hair.
I turned to force a semi-smile at him, grateful to have such a consistently supportive husband. After thirteen years of being together, seven of them married, Eric and I were in full marital sync, many times anticipating the other’s thoughts and words before they even happened.
“I’ll be okay. Eventually, anyway. I just thought it would
be different this time, you know?” I grabbed two mugs from
our white cabinet and poured our tea — herbal for me, Earl Grey for him.
As I filled our mugs, boiling water sputtered out of the kettle, spilling on the counter and splashing my index finger. “Damn it!” I cried, instantly putting my finger in my mouth to try to stop the burn.
“Here, Nic. Put it under cold water.” Eric guided me to the sink and turned on the tap. The lukewarm water streaming from the faucet soon turned icy, numbing the pain.
“Feel better?” Eric asked me when I could no longer take the cold. He took a clean tea towel from the drawer to wrap my hand. “Why don’t you go and sit down on the couch? I’ll bring you your tea. And then I’ll order us a pizza for dinner. I know neither of us feels like cooking. Pepperoni and green olives sound good to you?”
“Mmm-hmm . . . my favourite. Thanks. I’m suddenly really exhausted.” I rubbed my eyes, knowing I was smudging my mascara over my lids but too tired to care.
“And I’ll pick up some mint chip ice cream on my way to get the pizza.” Eric searched my mascara-smudged eyes. I knew he was trying to find some way — any way — to make me feel better.
“Sure. Whatever you’d like.”
Eric picked up my hand to inspect the burn. “I’m no doctor, but I think you’ll live.” He gave my hand a little kiss and gently pushed me towards the couch.
I sank into the cushions, relieved to find comfort after so many hours sitting on the hard waiting room chairs. Eric joined me. He handed me my tea, and took my feet in his lap to try to massage away the anxiety he knew I was feeling.
I closed my eyes, inhaling deeply, and murmured the words I had said so many times throughout our marriage. “Seriously . . . what would I do without you?”
“I really don’t know,” Eric teased. “But you sure are lucky.”
And lucky was right; I had married into pure stability. A gentle giant, Eric was as kind as he was strong. Anyone who knew him instantly recognized his patience and trustworthiness. And as my sister Maggie always pointed out, the icing on top of our perfectly made wedding cake was how madly in love he was with me. I knew how lucky I was to have the husband I did. Everyone who knew us knew it.
Eric and I had met during our summer break between second- and third-year university, when we were both hired to be lifeguards at a local water park. I was a rookie and he was one of the king veterans who constantly picked on newbie guards interviewing for the coveted position of waterslide babysitter. As my final interview pool drill, I had been required to rescue Eric, my unconscious, non-breathing victim from the dead centre of the pool. Although Eric was six-foot-two with 220 pounds of solid muscle as distracting as it was heavy, I somehow managed to get him to the side of the pool and properly rescued. He lived. And our relationship was born.
Six years later I became Mrs. Eric Sedgwick. Except that I was technically still Nicole Fowler, or Nicky Fowler, to those who knew me best. We were married on a cliff at Keoneloa Bay in Kauai, above the Grand Hyatt Resort in Poipu, overlooking the rugged Hawaiian coastline. Alongside a gawky island teenager plucking out emotionally stirring native songs on his tiny ukulele, and the Hawaiian minister wearing a maile leaf lei, we were surrounded by only our immediate family and best friends as we said our I Do’s.
Our clifftop wedding far behind us, I blinked back tears and turned to bury my head in Eric’s chest. Although slightly less defined than it had been years before when we first met in the middle of a pool, his chest was still as strong. And it felt like home.
“You sure you’re okay?” Eric asked me.
“I will be. I’m just frustrated. And sad. I really thought they would have good news for us. It’s our turn.” I inhaled quickly and my breath caught in my throat.
After years of trying to get pregnant, our fertility doctor had confirmed that I wasn’t. Again. It was my fifth negative pregnancy test at the clinic, only this time the devastating news came with an even bigger blow — Dr. Sansi, the fertility specialist who had gained our trust, respect and life savings throughout our need-a-baby expedition, felt that we should take a few months off. She thought the stress might be playing a critical factor in all of our monthly failures, and we only had one more shot at successfully becoming pregnant.
We first suspected something was wrong after I went off the pill and we threw caution to the wind. Although we weren’t yet ready to officially “start trying,” we were close enough that we’d be okay if something happened. Yet nothing did — and it surprised us, given how energetic and frequent our love life was.
After eight months, panic started to set in, and our spontaneous love life turned into morning temperature checks and routine sex every other day. Afterwards, I would lie in our bed, my bum propped on pillows and my legs raised straight in the air, until I could no longer hold the pose. Yet we still only got minus signs every time I peed on one of those damn sticks.
The months turned into one year of no baby. Then eight more months while we waited on the baby factory list. Finally, we got in to see Dr. Sansi.
We were instantly thrown into testing. I was poked, jabbed and prodded by a funny-looking instrument wearing a condom (medically known as a transvaginal ultrasound, which I was conditioned not to say given Eric’s weirdness to the term) and had my cycle monitored by endless rounds of blood tests.
Eric’s role in the whole investigative process was much simpler. And as I can only imagine, a bit more fun. Yet his results gave us the devastating answer we didn’t want to hear: he had been diagnosed with the condition of azoospermia and, despite its cartoonlike name, there was nothing funny about it.
Eric had a zero sperm count. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Notta one sperm, healthy or even damaged, which meant there was nothing for me to get pregnant with.
If we wanted to have children, we needed to consider a sperm donor, which really wasn’t an option for us given my belief that only half-looped men would actually donate their sperm to the masses — and who would want a guy like that to be the father of your child?
Without going with a sperm donor, adoption was our only other option.
Needless to say, we were both emotionally destroyed. I cried for three days straight, and it was the first time Eric had actually joined me in my constantly recurring sob sessions.
On the third day, we got a call from Dr. Sansi’s office asking us to come in to speak with her. When we arrived, red-eyed and puffy-faced from so many days of crying, Dr. Sansi told us there was one last thing we could explore. “It comes with risks,” she said. “But it could be an option for you.”
Eric begged the doctor to continue. Dr. Sansi nodded and then explained that while it was probable Eric’s sperm was being counted at zero because there just wasn’t any there, there could be a microscopic chance of some being tucked far, far inside. If it was there, the numbers would be so teeny tiny, and the sperm so immature, that they couldn’t be passed through Eric’s passageway while making love to me.
The only way to know for sure was to do a microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration, which, as the name suggests, basically meant cutting into my poor husband’s family jewels to see if the doctor could find a microscopic pocket of sperm. Dr. Sansi again stressed there were surgery risks, but assured us that our findings didn’t need to be big; after all, we only needed a few.
Immediately we told Dr. Sansi that, yes, of course we wanted to proceed. We were desperate. We would try anything. Do anything. Dr. Sansi put us on yet another waiting list, and we watched the clock tick by for four months until we got in to see one of the few male fertility surgeons in the country who could perform the testicular micro-biopsy procedure.
The first surgery turned up nothing. So, for the second surgery, we decided to take a bigger piece of the pot, with even larger hopes of striking gold. And it was then that we hit the sperm jackpot.
Dr. Sansi personally called us at home as soon as she found out the results from the specialist, and was talking a mile a minute as she delivered the good news. The sperm guru, as Eric and I had nicknamed him, had successfully located the teeniest, tiniest amount of sperm, but it was enough to successfully fertilize some of my eggs in vitro. And that was all we needed.
I could practically hear Dr. Sansi grinning through the phone. After indirectly experiencing all of the pain we had gone through, she felt nearly as invested in our family-building success as we did.
With no more time to burn, Eric was soon giving me the injections required to arouse my ovaries into producing multiple eggs, and I was once again turned into a human pincushion with blood tests every day. But the cramping, hormonal mood swings and wicked headaches were all worth it when we learned that the doctors had been able to successfully remove twenty-four of my eggs. And it was even better news to find out that eleven of the twenty-four eggs had not only been fertilized, but seven had made it into the wonderful world of blastocysts (otherwise known to the non-medical players as the embryo stage that has been proven to increase a woman’s chance of getting knocked up).
We had seven chances at pregnancy.
Seven shots at creating a bambino all our own.
Needless to say, we were ecstatic — and so relieved to know our prayers had been answered.
At our fresh embryo transfer, Dr. Sansi felt that it would be best to insert the three strongest embryos. Although a typical transfer maxes out at two, knowing there wasn’t an abundant reserve of sperm that we could keep digging into, we agreed that it was best to increase our odds.
The seven embryos were rated, and we learned that four of them were Grade 1 (translation: the best). We thanked our lucky stars for having the top embryos you could get — secretly thinking this must mean a rocket scientist child was in our future — and I spread my legs in the treatment room next to the embryology laboratory, wishing I could ease the discomfort by keeping them crossed just like I was doing with my fingers and toes.
And then the waiting game continued — until Dr. Sansi phoned us two weeks later with more bad news. None of the three rocket scientist embryos had implanted.
I wasn’t pregnant.
With nothing else to do, we catapulted ourselves into the next round, a frozen embryo transfer. Two were thawed and thankfully both survived. Dr. Sansi transferred two embryos — a Grade 1 and a Grade 2. Once again I spread my legs and crossed every other body part that would oblige.
But our trip to the fertility centre earlier that afternoon proved our turn had, once again, passed us by. Which meant we only had one more shot. And our last kick at the can came with two embryos that had been graded like they were remedial school kids.
Yet those were our final — and only — hope.
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