The Rule of Three is a writing principle that says things are funnier in threes. Three Stooges are better than two. Jokes are stronger when they include a rabbi, a priest, and an imam. And this third example, which isn’t an example at all, but rather an empty sentence that serves to reinforce how good threes are.
The exception to this rule is in vitro fertilizations.
Most people who delve into the world of fertility treatments don’t go in thinking that they’ll have three IVFs. There’s the multiple daily injections, the ultrasounds and blood draws, and an anesthesia-induced procedure that retrieves a dozen eggs from engorged ovaries — all of which costs thousands of dollars and most often culminates in an “I’m sorry” phone call from a nurse.
No, three of those is a lot.
But for some reason, I was sure I’d have 3 IVFs, which is why it was strange that I was shocked when that first “I’m sorry” call came. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have gone to a friend’s baby shower that day, but conveniently there were mimosas.
The rest of that afternoon went as you might imagine: I downed 3 flutes of bubbly, left the shower, bought 4 bottles of wine, restrained myself from punching a pregnant lady at the register, and drank myself to sleep.
The second failed cycle ended about the same, except instead of a shower and champagne, it was vodka and a bath.
The third IVF test result, however, was positive. It was my first positive, and with that the first set of happy tears since the baby quest started three years earlier. I even told two friends. “I’m pregnant,” I said for the first time in my life. It felt like a lie, but I figured that was because I was in shock. It didn’t occur to me that it was because it wouldn’t keep.
Two days later, I had my second pregnancy test. The numbers weren’t doubling like they should have been. After the third test, the doctor confirmed a chemical pregnancy. I was advised to stop my injections and let the fetus miscarry.
If I were to philosophize about the rule of three, I would guess that what makes the principle true is that the first two examples make you anticipate a logically sequential third outcome, and it’s the unexpected turn that makes the third thing funny.
The exception to this rule is a false sense of relief.
I shouldn’t have let myself be happy. I shouldn’t have placed my hand on my belly and thought about my baby. I should never have exhaled because at the end of that exhalation, I was punched in the gut, and then there was no air left to get to my brain to tell me that it would be OK.
And it would be OK, but not for a while.