We never expected to be here. Sitting in the waiting room, accompanied by those magazines with covers like “Kim K wardrobe malfunction, get the exclusive details here,” surrounded by other couples, all of our faces looking down.
Growing up the message I got, whether at home or elsewhere was, “Don’t get pregnant!” I didn’t need high school health class. All I had to do was turn on the TV to see the “Not Me, Not Now” ads plastered everywhere. It just takes one time, right?
But there is something everyone forgot to tell me when it came time to talk about the birds and bees. Of course, talking about this now makes me think of that old song, “Let me tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees…”
I F–KING HATE that song!
As it turned out, I had no birds and bees. My nest and hive were empty. My husband and I tried for years, but nothing. It didn’t help that at the time swarms of bees were buzzing loudly around me from other fertile hives. One year in my office there were 5 pregnant women, including all of Accounts Receivable. We used to joke that something was in the proverbial water but clearly my desk had a separate supply.
We never expected to be here, at the fertility clinic. Let me give you a brief tour. After enduring 3 IUI cycles, 4 IVFs and 1 frozen transfer cycle I may not have the letters MD or RN after my name, but I am certainly qualified to be your tour guide.
Let’s start with the blood draw room. Pretty self explanatory.
Next stop: ultrasound room. I have one word: stirrups.
I also have another word. What do you think of when you hear the word fluffy? Maybe billowy clouds on a warm summer day, or a pile of cotton balls soft to the touch. At the clinic, fluffy has another meaning. I never thought I would ever have someone use the word fluffy to describe my uterus. This refers to the uterine lining measurement so at the clinic, a fluffy uterus is a good uterus.
There is the surgical suite where your doctor retrieves your eggs. I couldn’t tell you what this room looks like since I was always under sedation.
The eggs are then taken next door to the lab. This is where the magic happens, where eggs are fertilized and grow, where embryos are frozen and thawed. It’s so magical I was never allowed inside.
Then there is the last room. If you’re really lucky and have fertilized embryos, this is where they are transferred back into said fluffy uterus.
After the transfer, you go home and you wait, you wait and you wait some more. Two weeks to be exact. Anyone who has endured the two week wait can tell you it feels more like two years.
Hope and heartbreak are roommates at the clinic and I got to know them quite well during my residency. I personally heard words like, “I’m sorry, but your insurance won’t cover one more cycle,” and “One of the eggs we retrieved was immature, but we were able to mature it in the lab,” or “Your bloodwork is back and I’m sorry, your IVF didn’t work, again,” and “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!”
But you see, I learned something else at the clinic, something other than what hope, heartbreak and a fluffy uterus all mean. During my first cycle, the nurse told me how IVF works. She said the clinic controls every aspect of the cycle. The clinic, not you, controls your meds, tells your body when to make eggs, how fast they grow, and when they should stop growing. If you don’t follow the clinic’s directions, the cycle is lost. If you want to be a mom, check in any control you thought you had in the waiting room.
And this control, you cede it to total strangers. I often wondered, “Who are these people and what are they doing to me?”
These people, these strangers, made me a mother. They gave me my little boy and my little girl. But the clinic prepared me to be a mother not just because they created birds and bees.
While it’s been four years since I was discharged, as a mother I find myself being admitted to new clinics every day, greeting new strangers because I rely on them to cultivate and sustain the life the first clinic gave to me. The clinic taught me it was okay to relinquish that control because these beautiful strangers really know what they are doing.
There is my son’s school. I don’t know the name of my son’s bus driver but I pray each morning that he can navigate the roads with a bus full of screaming elementary school children. How about the lunch ladies? I know what can happen if those hamburgers aren’t cooked all the way through. And his teacher. Yes, I need her patience to teach him how to add fractions but I also trust that for 7 hours each day she will keep my IVF baby safe from harm in an uncertain world.
Same story with my daughter’s speech therapist. I don’t know her at all, but I need her to help my language-delayed daughter find the words to tell me what she thinks, needs and feels. Even the word “mommy”.
I need all the clinics to help me be a mom.
I am so grateful to the clinic, not only for giving me my son and daughter, but also for giving me the 6 o’clock news early on motherhood. The clinic, including all those nurses, doctors, phlebotomists, and embryologists gave me a head start on what it takes to be a mother long before they made me pregnant. We often say it takes a village to raise a child. In my case, it took a village to create one.
April 24-30 is National Infertility Awareness Week, sponsored by Resolve and this year’s theme is #StartAsking. Start asking what happens inside the fertility clinic. You can find out more about how you can help here.
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