LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office yesterday with my stepdaughter Gabrielle and was, literally, surrounded by babies. There was the one in blue that was nearly the size, certainly the shape, of a swaddled peanut. There was the one that, after being pulled out of his car seat to be fed a bottle, lifted his arms and bawled with such vigor I was almost proud of him. And there was the 2-year-old girl, not a baby I guess, but sitting on her mom’s lap, giggling loudly as she leaned back repeatedly, her back as flexible as a switch, until her mom pulled her up against her chest.
As Gabrielle looked around — cooing over every one, asking me to notice, gaining smiles from proud parents — I wondered if our storyline would ever involve one of these little crying, laughing beings. When you’re a couple considered “fertility challenged,” you wonder this. You wonder this, whether you’re at the pediatrician, grocery, library or school Christmas concert, a lot.
I haven’t talked about this for a while, but we made a big decision this week that probably merits discussion. The process started about a month ago when my gynecologist informed me, after four failed attempts at artificial insemination, that if we were still keen on having our own baby, our options had narrowed to just one: a procedure called in vitro fertilization. He made me an appointment with a specialist in Lexington and wished me luck.
I arrived at the office admittedly skeptical. When we first figured out we were having trouble conceiving, I had told myself “what was meant to be was meant to be” and fiddling with the Big Plan the Fates had spun for us probably wasn’t a wise thing to do. But when my doctor proposed artificial insemination, describing it as just a little boost to improve our chances, he sold me. I told myself we’d try it four times and if that didn’t work our baby-making efforts would be over and I, at least, could be free of the unrelenting biological clock pressure that hits a 35-year-old woman like a punch almost every day.
But when that didn’t work, I had to wonder. My husband, who isn’t hampered by superstition regarding the Fates, encouraged me to go to the appointment.
“Just see what he has to say,” he said. “It can’t hurt.”
So I showed up a few weeks ago, a chip on my shoulder as big as a baby, and talked to the specialist about my options. He also said the thing for us to do is pursue in vitro fertilization, a very expensive process in which an embryo is grown in, sadly, a Petri dish. It first involves me taking a lot of hormones so my ovaries grow a lot of eggs. Then he goes in, harvests them, inseminates them with my husband’s stuff and then they wait to see what turns into what. The two best embryos they implant back into me and then we let nature laughingly take her course.
As I sat there and he explained the process to me using words like “harvest,” “incubator” and “hatching,” I grew increasingly angry. This wasn’t baby making, this was “Brave New World.” Then he tried to put things in terms I could understand.
“It’s not impossible for you to get pregnant,” he said. “But if this were the 1800s before birth control, you and your husband would be the couple that had one or two kids, while everyone else had 15.”
One thing I can say not to do after you hear this news is head to the Fayette Mall mid-morning on a Wednesday. Every stay-at-home mom, infant, toddler and preschooler are there at that time and I once again felt like everyone in the world had babies except us.
I got home and informed my husband we were done. I wasn’t doing it. I nearly stamped my foot to punctuate my point.
But over the weeks, my resolve dissipated. It started with my best friend Kristin telling me, “If you don’t do this, you’ll always wonder if it would have worked.” My husband is all for it and isn’t intimidated at all by the futuristic jargon associated with the process. The specialist has a good reputation. And my mom offered to come down and drive me to Lexington again and again while I get ultrasounds, shots, procedures and whatever else that lies in store for me.
So in February, we’re going for it.
As I sat in the pediatrician’s office yesterday pretending I wasn’t watching the babies, I didn’t feel optimistic or a gush of excitement. But I didn’t feel angry anymore — only eager. And that felt pretty good.