Nurse Olga emails me my checklist. I have a LOT of stuff to do.
The injection class is coming up. I have to print out me and Dashiell’s consent forms and bring them to a meeting with Olga after the class, and I will tell you right now I never print them out. There are lab requisites for Dashiell to get her blood drawn. I have to start taking Prenatal Vitamins, and Dashiell and I both have to sign consent forms giving the doctors permission to tell us everything about each other.
I’ve got to come off the birth control pills and report to the nurses on the first day of my "full-flow menses." My menses haven’t been flowing so fully lately, so I’m worried about that. What if I keep waiting for the dribble to turn into a stream and miss the day and screw up the intensely scheduled schedule?
We got to get our drugs. I start emailing with the pharmacy in Encino, and they ask for my insurance to see what if any of this stuff might be covered. My hopes are low, but a few things are covered –- my Medrol, Progesterone and Valium.
Medrol creeps me out harder than any of the other drugs I’m going to be taking. It "quiets" the immune system. Euphemisms are generally creepy, and the way the clinic uses the word "quiet" whenever they are trying to chemically dismantle a healthy, vital physical system leaves a bad taste in my mouth. My guess is that some tech writer agonized over a word that would leave women not feeling totally freaked out at the thought of shutting down your defense against illness. Sssssh, hush now, you noisy Immune System! Fail.
I’m not exactly sure why I take the Progesterone, beyond that they are manipulating my natural hormones to support unnatural babymaking. The Valium will be taken before the embryo transfer, and by then I believe I will have earned a freelapse.
Insurance covers one single box of Vivelle every 28 days, but I will be consuming four boxes of the estrogen patches in as many days. Four times as much estrogen as what it is normally used for, to replace the lost hormone in a woman’s body. Should I be worried about cancer or what? I try not to Google. It’s not like I’m going to stop this procedure if I learn something spooky. It’s just going to give me more shit to freak out about.
Generally speaking I have accepted that I live in the modern world. Not only can I stop any of it, I am deeply a part of it. We’re all going to Hell together, and I bought my ticket early. Yee-haw!
When I learn how much my meds cost, my heart actually lifts. $582.57. Why, that’s barely more than the Helmet Lang dress I bought on sale to wear to my book party!
Then the pharmacist gives me Dashiell’s total. None of Dashiell’s meds are covered by insurance, not a one. $3,492.90. I leave my body long enough to lose the thread of the conversation I’m having with the pharmacist and make it awkward. She’s asking me for payment. OH! Of course.
Doing fast, anxious math in my head, I give her my debit card. I have a late payment to the IRS due right now, and I’m about to go to New York City for a couple of weeks. I always spend more in New York than I think I’m going to, and in fact on this trip I will buy not one but two pieces of mermaid-centric jewelry from Vera Meat to celebrate the release of my new mermaid-centric Young Adult book.
I have money coming to me from a book I sold, it’s just not here yet. In AA we call these sorts of dilemmas LUXURY PROBLEMS. As the pharmacy woman reads the numbers on my card back to me, I repeat the little money-mantra I got from my time in recovery. I HAVE A TRUST FUND FROM GOD.
This always calms me down. It totally shifts the way I think about my bank account. It doesn’t matter if I think there’s not enough in there, or if I’m happy with the amount but then scared to spend any and watch it go down. It’s actually NOT my money. It’s god’s money. She’s letting me have it to do all the things on this earth she wants me to do. She’ll make sure I have enough. And if it turns out I DON’T have enough? It means my god didn’t actually want me to do that thing anyway.
In a moment, the pharmacy calls me back to tell me my card isn’t going through. I call my hippie eco-bank and they inform me that I can’t put transactions more than $1,500 on my debit card. Goddamn it. I remember I recently paid off a credit card. I grab the card and call the pharmacy, asking if they would put that $1,500 max on my debit and do the rest on the credit card. No problem, but I have to print out the credit card authorization paperwork and then send it in.
OK, cool. Except I totally forget to print it out before I leave for the East Coast, and wind up forwarding the email to the manager of the feminist bookstore I’m reading at in Amherst (what up, Food for Thought?!), asking if she could print it out for me. And she does, because she is a feminist. Then I fill it out and wind up faxing it from my hotel in New York City (what up, Hotel 17?!) right in the nick of time.
I’m so happy to be in New York. There’s a giant book expo, that’s why I’m there, and I hustle bags and bags of free books and spend most of my nights back at my hotel reading in my humble twin bed, leaving every so often to walk in the night air down to Union Square where there is almost always an Italian Ice truck parked at the curb.
Do you know about Italian Ice? Growing up outside Boston, it was everywhere in the summer. It’s my favorite treat in the world. And it does not exist in San Francisco AT ALL, anywhere. A couple high-end restaurants like Zuni or Bar Tartine or French Laundry sometimes have granite, which I also love but it’s not just the same. So when I’m on the East Coast I eat as many Italian Ices –- slush is what I call them –- a day as I possibly can without feeling gross. I can do about three.
I meet up with my friend Sheena at a reading I’m doing in the East Village (what up, Bluestockings?!) and am I glad to see her! Sheena is an amazing comic artist and writer who makes her money selling her eggs and hosting late-night live karaoke events. Guess which one actually pays the bills. Dashiell is about to have an experience that Sheena has on the regs.
“Dashiell is going to feel so, so bad by the end of it,” Sheena says with a cringe. “But then she’ll be fine after. It’ll take a few days, but she’ll be back to normal.”
I am cheered by the fact that this is something Sheena does, like, all the time. But then, Sheena is a punk rocker. She’s very hardy. And she’s girl-gendered. It’s not going to be the same for Dashiell. But however it is, it’s not forever. Once they get in there and snag Dashiell’s eggs, she’s done for good. Unless I run through her bounty without any taking a liking to my uterine walls. Then it’s her turn.
I meet a writer friend for some borscht at my favorite place to eat in New York (what up, Veselka! Three meals a day!). I am literally shocked to see her arms, which are covered in bruises. Like, serious bruises running livid from the straps of her tank top down to her wrists.
“I’m OK,” she says with a wry smile, before I can even ask. I must have looked horrified, or she must be used to her friends having similar responses.
“Are they –- happy bruises?” I ask weakly. I enjoy getting romantically smacked around, and never want to yuck anyone’s yum, but these bruises are a LOT. I didn’t know my friend was so hardcore!
Well, she’s not. She is part of a demographic of menopause-aged women who, rather than peter out with the estrogen, actually get MORE estrogen. She also recently had a blood clot, and the hospital sent her home with some kind of medicine that gave her a terrifyingly heavy period.
When she returned from the hospital, they sent her home with another drug, to stop her from menstruating. That drug had the side effect of seizing all the muscles in her arms. She couldn’t move them, and suffered from intense muscle cramps. The bruises are from the extreme massaging and physical therapy she was enduring to get motion back.
“Oh my god!” I cried, aghast at her terrible story, sort of speechless. “What is the drug they gave you?”
“It’s called Lupron,” she said.
“Lupron?” I repeated dumbly.
Not to make my friend’s trauma all about me, but I just spent 500 bucks on my own personal supply of Lupron.
“I’m supposed to be starting that drug next week,” I told my friend. “For IVF.”
“Oh,” she nodded. “They must be trying to simulate menopause in you?”
“They’re ‘quieting my ovaries,’” I told her. “So I don’t get my period while they’re manipulating my cycle for the embryo transfer.”
“I bet they didn’t tell you about the side effects,” my friend laughed ruefully. Eh gads, no. But I suppose when the meds arrive, they will arrive with unreadable scrolls of warnings that I will promptly throw in the trash.