Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: How Babies Are Made When They're Made in Clinics

In Dr. Waller’s office, we learn how IVF works.

Nov 1, 2012 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

“Now, we’re using your eggs,” Dr. Waller points his pen at Dashiell. “Am I right?”

Dashiell nods. I feel that Dashiell is probably biting back a “Yes, sir.” Dashiell talks like someone from another era. He’s so polite, it’s like he’s fucking with you, but he’s not. Once a car almost hit us, and he yelped, “Criminy!”

“’Criminy?’” I repeated for blocks. It was more of a surprise than almost getting run down. “When your life flashes before your eyes, that is the word that just comes out? ‘Criminy?’” Dashiell could say nothing in her defense, just blush a charming shade of pink and smile.

“Well, that should not be a problem, then,” Dr. Waller smiles at Dashiell. “You should have a lot of eggs.” Incidentally, no one is calling Dashiell Dashiell here. She is going by the name on her insurance and all her IDs: Anne. I never thought I’d have any feelings about Dashiell’s old name, as it just seemed very ill suited for her, but now when I have to use it -- in a situation like this, or around her mom -- I find myself completely smitten with it. Now that she’s Dashiell, the name Anne seems especially tender. I get melty knowing she’s Dashiell but has this other secret name. Or maybe Dashiell is the secret name? 

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I can spin out on this dreamy philosophizing about my beloved’s enigmatic gender, but we’re not here for that. We’re here to learn how babies are made. When they’re made in clinics.

The longhaired, 15-year-old, non-les resident breaks it down for us, drawing it out on paper while she speaks. She’s a little tentative. She tells us that Dashiell will be given medication to stimulate the ovaries.

“Why?” Dr. Waller interrupts her. “Why do we want to stimulate the ovaries?”

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The resident stammers, and Dr. Waller takes over. “What we’ll see on your ultrasound today isn’t the eggs, because the eggs are too small, right? You can’t see them. What we see is the fluid the eggs are living inside. You’ll have a bunch of them in there, but then each month one outgrows the rest, and that’s the egg that gets ovulated. And that one egg suppresses the rest of them. They just die.”

Wait a second! This is big information! The whole narrative around conception is always about that one sperm: the mighty, hardy, fastest, luckiest sperm that outraces all the other sperm and grabs onto the long blond weave of the Rapunzel egg just sitting passively in her castle and, BAM, it totally bores into her and knocks her up! All the activity is on the man-side. This half-assed factoid has laid the foundation of a millennia of misogyny, casting men as active go-getters and women as passive and fragile.

How is it that I am forty-one years old and I am just now learning that there is a race to the death happening inside my body every month? That some intense Alpha Egg is growing silently inside of me, indistinguishable from all the others until one day she just surges, stealing all the space and energy from the other nests, buffing up to make the trip down the fallopian highway?

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 I’m Number One!

I wonder what sort of psychic difference it would make on our culture, and on individual females, if that metaphor-rich bit of information were common knowledge? Think of the billions of competitive scenarios, the close calls, the moments when someone seemingly common suddenly bursts forth with a special talent and slays the competition! All can be likened to the egg, biding its time until it harnesses its strength and wipes out the playing field.

I actually love thinking that I wasn’t just some egg that tumbled down a tube, but that I was somehow different from the other eggs, that some primordial part of me was a little stronger or slipperier or closer to the nutrients or luckier -- who knows? But the egg that eventually became me did a bit of hustling and killed off the other eggs before tubing down to the uterus to small dance with a bunch of sperm.

I can’t wait to have a kid so I can teach them all about this shit!

The resident is continuing her hesitant explanation of the IVF process. “So, that one egg will dominate the others,” she says, “unless we stimulate the ovaries with Clomid --“

Dr. Waller interrupts. “Clomid?” He looks at her and she looks at him, her big eyes bigger. “How do you do IVF?”

“You don’t ever use Clomid?” she asks.

Dr. Waller shakes his head. “In this case, we’ll have to use injectables.“

Dr. Waller takes over smooth and quick. “Your brain sends out FSH, follicle-stimulating hormone, and this causes the eggs to start to grow. But something stops that procedure once that one egg begins to dominate. The meds we give you will override that, and many eggs will grow towards ovulation.”

Dashiell will have to have the meds injected every day for two weeks.

“You’ll take a class to learn how,” Dr. Waller, and Dashiell looks at me quickly with a pleading face.

“I’ll give you the injections,” I say. We’ll both be taking that class.

The resident tries to pick it up where Dr. Waller left off, but she stumbles, halts and then freezes. She chokes. Not only are we getting intense information about our physical future, we’re smack in the middle of someone possibly failing med school. It’s all very exciting.

“Dr. Waller,” The resident practically whines, and I feel embarrassed for her. She’s totally being a GIRL! Oh, no! If you have to CRY, go OUTSIDE! I just don’t understand females who don’t feel pressured to overcompensate and out-perform everyone in order to make up for the deep deficit of their girl-ness. But maybe that’s because I have poor and gay deficits as well, so I’m always trying way too hard.

“You haven’t been listening,” Dr. Waller scolds. “Or remembering.” He takes a breath and grabs a pen and starts sketching wildly. “So, that one egg suddenly grows and sends estrogen to the pituitary gland to stop secreting the FSH. The injectable overrides it.” I don’t know if he keeps repeating this for our sake or hers, but I like it. I feel like I’m in school, too.

During the weeks that Dashiell is getting shot up with her eggs-ellent medications, she’ll also be coming in four or five times for ultrasounds and blood draws. I’m scribbling everything into my notebook as fast as the doctor says it, but my pen stops in its tracks when he spits the term Gonadotropin.

These fertility drugs are called Gonadotropins, because guess what? They stimulate the gonads, which in my body and maybe yours are known as ovaries. Yeah bitches, bitches got gonads, too!

Again, I feel deeply emasculated by the spin science as put on my bod. All these years thinking that only men had nads, thereby having “The Nads” to do all sorts of brave and foolish things.

I flash on my twenties, when I enjoyed such foolhardy and alcoholic adventures as climbing along the narrow, decorative molding outside my second-story window, just for kicks -- or the time I scaled a billboard on the top of a 10-story building, wet and naked (I’d been swimming) and drunk (duh), to spray paint something feminist on the advert.

If I was a man, I’d have been given a "Jackass"-type television show. Being a girl, I was simply a self-destructive crazy bitch who needed to go to therapy and talk to someone about it. But what if I lived in a culture that understood women also had nads? That my behavior was only natural, a macrocosm of the microcosmic battle for dominance occurring inside my own body? Of course I wanted to DOMINATE THE WORD AROUND ME, I am a WOMAN and my NADS are ROILING WITH POWER!

Anyway. Dr. Waller continues detailing how modern medicine will override Dashiell’s natural system, and no one knows I am having a life-altering paradigm shift.

On Day Fourteen of Dashiell’s synthesized cycle she will get a dose of LH -- Luteinizing hormone, the hormone that makes the Queen Bee Egg set out for the fallopian tubes, but this time the whole gang will be going. Thirty-six hours later, the doctor will snag all of them via a vaginal probe.

Oh, by the way, while I am having my paradigm shift, I want to mention that men’s bodies produce follicle-stimulating hormones and Luteinizing hormones, too. Because our bodies aren’t all that different.