A month before our third-time’s-a-charm embryo transfer, I get horribly sick. One of those horrible, everlasting winter illnesses that started with a scratchy throat and then BOOM I’m like dying. It goes on for about a month, morphing from a sore throat to a chest cold to, like, whooping cough or something, to a sinus apocalypse that results in pinkeye.
On the phone with a friend, my eye, which had been a little itchy, just starts weeping. I get off the phone and go into the bathroom -– yeah, it’s weeping yellow. Oh god, oh gross, this cannot be good. I’ve had pinkeye as a child and know immediately the horror that has afflicted me. I call my doctor, who I can never get an appointment with, assure her that I have properly diagnosed myself and beg her for an antibiotic. I get it!
That night I am squeezing a medicinal gel into my eyes and stumbling blindly around my home, compulsively washing my hands. This is Dashiell’s worst nightmare. She trails behind me with a fistful of Lysol wipes. If she could stash me in a plastic bubble for a week, I think she’d do it.
I got the flu shot, for the very first time in my life, back when I was pregnant, so I know this ever-changing, epic illness is not the flu. The only bright side of it plaguing me from Xmas day all the way up to our frozen embryo transfer on January 28th is that your body is actually more susceptible to getting pregz when your immune system is busted. The clinic even gives me a five day course of that pill, Medrol, to repress the guards and let the parasitical little egg hook in and start sucking my nutrients.
My sister tells me that she was so sick when she got pregnant with her daughter, she and her husband almost didn’t try that night. So I decide my lingering malaise is a good thing. That, plus the transfer date being the New Moon and the date that Susan Miller predicted I would plant the seed for something I’ve been wanting for a long time -- !!! -– has me feeling pretty great about this transfer. Even though they are transferring not one but two embryos, meaning we could wind up with twins, which is simultaneously terrifying and delightful.
On the drive to the transfer, I tell Dashiell about the family sicknesses that occur when you have kids -– how the entire family, Mama, Baba, and whatever children are scurrying around, all get whacked with the same illness at the same time. It sounds so miserable, and Dashiell’s face is drawn in fright.
“What are we even doing?” she cries, suddenly desperate. “Should we just be traveling instead?”
“It’s kind of too late for that,” I say, popping my single prescribed Valium.
Soon we’re back in our scrubs, being led into the dimly, lit room where I climb onto a table and a kind gentleman inserts a couple of thawed embryos into my cervix. I have such sweet feelings about this room and this procedure. Maybe it’s because I’m always pleasantly high on the first waves of Valium when I’m there, but they really know how to light the place, and everyone is so sweet and kind and full of well-wishes, and then when I leave I have -– at least for the moment –- a living embryo in my uterus. What’s not to love?
On our way home we make our customary stop at Bi-Rite Market and Dashiell goes in to fetch me an ice cream cone while I wait in the car. I just love to eat ice cream when I’m on a pill. Why do downers make ice cream taste so magnificent? When I finish the cone I feel a wave of melancholia that it’s gone. But, then I’m home and I get to lie on the couch and watch "Broad City" while Dashiell fixes us dinner. I find myself wishing Dashiell would take a pill, too, so we could both lounge around on pills and cuddle.
“We’ll never lie around on pills having sex,” I say mournfully to Dashiell as she brings me a bowl of soup.
“I think that’s probably OK,” she consoles me.
If we are to find ourselves legitimately knocked up from this transfer, Dashiell wants us to wait before we tell anyone. Like, wait til the second trimester, like so many ladies opt to. I have really mixed feelings about this, but I’m high and was only just moping about not being able to have sex whilst stoned -– something I truly don’t want to do -– so I don’t trust my reactions and just let the suggestion marinate.
I certainly understand why she feels that way. After our miscarriage, it was a bummer to have to go back and tell everyone the baby we’d gotten all excited about isn’t actually happening. It makes you feel so vulnerable to be the object of people’s sadness and pity. In many ways it would be a lot easier, less complicated, to keep it to ourselves until we got the all-clear.
Except, you never get the all-clear. I mean, you do, and you don’t. Something can always happen, and I am at this point the repository of enough worst-case-scenario pregnancy stories to know that we’re not really out of the woods until I’m holding a healthy newborn baby to my teat. And then you’re just signing up for a whole new pack of worries.
Too many of our friends know we were going in for this embryo transfer. Too many strangers know we are trying to get pregnant. The IVF hormones have me blown up like a lady in her second trimester before it’s even time to pee on a stick. I just don’t know how we’re going to keep it to ourselves.
As sort of ambivalent as I was about this transfer in the weeks leading up to it –- sort of going through the motions, the miscarriage having sucked away a lot of the giddy excitement I’d felt in the past -– once the embryos were up in there, I got really excited about it again. I started calling them "The Twins," and texting double emojis to friends who knew we’d gone in for another round. Dashiell asked me to stop. So I did.
Then I started calling them my "Embabiez," having picked up that one trolling on some TTC message board and tricking it out with my own "z" at the end. Dashiell asked me to stop. Like her request to keep the happenings in my uterus under our collective hat, I understood why she didn’t like me talking about the little nubs that may or may not be attaching to my inner lining like they were sure things, little personalities jam-packed with cute, hanging onto my uterine wall like a couple of San Rio characters. But that’s how I felt about them!
I felt so happy that they were in me, and though I knew in my mind that nothing might ever come of them, I just couldn’t help but feel like they were sweetly nesting inside me. But I didn’t want to make any potential harsh tokes any harsher for Dashiell -– who had seemed to go full steam ahead with a self-protection regiment -– so I stopped calling them Twinz or Embabiez. Except in texts to all my friends and in my head all the time.
Not long after the transfer, I’m due to fly to the east coast for a couple nights to visit an art school in New Hampshire, then fly to San Jose and have a car service drive me to Santa Cruz for a conference on maternity I’d been asked to participate in. I had the OK to fly from the fertility clinic, but who would give me my shot? The one I get in my ass, every single night, with a big freaking intramuscular needle. Not only do I have to find someone to shoot me up in New Hampshire and Santa Cruz, but Dashiell is leaving for a family get-together the night before I fly out, so I’ll need someone to give me a shot right here in San Francisco.
Right away this is overwhelming. Both friends who gave me my shots last time Dashiell left town are out of town themselves. I turn to Sandwich, knowing that she is way too squeamish to want to deal with something like a needle into a friend’s ass, but also knowing she is such a loyal friend that she’ll possibly do it.
Initially she says no, because she has plans that night, but then relents and offers to come over after, with her girlfriend. In New Hampshire the head of the English Department, who is bringing me out to speak to her classes, assures me vaguely we’ll figure something out. In Santa Cruz, I hit up Quentin, as if he hasn’t already done enough to try to get me pregnant. His schedule is nutty but he thinks he can do it.
At the end of it all I feel somewhat exhausted, and like I am foisting something a tad too intimate on friends and strangers. The thought of dropping trou and bending over for a student or professor in New Hampshire and praying they do an OK job with the injection, stresses me out. I cancel with everyone, even Sandwich. I’m going to have to learn to give myself my own goddamn injections.
I call my ex, a trans man who learned to give himself his own injections when the doctor at the trans youth clinic got sick of seeing his ass every other week.
“You want to be a man, you’ve got to take responsibility for this,” she chided him.
He learned to do it by bullying himself in the mirror: “You want to be a man, you little bitch? Do it. Do it.” This sort of tough self-love worked on him, but I didn’t think insulting myself in the mirror would make it any easier, personally.
I took solace in knowing that my ex, who could be a really big baby about things, had mastered it. I tried it on my own the night before Dashiell left town, so she could coach me. She drew the circles on my butt with a pen and I stepped up to the mirror.
I tried to do this once before, on our last IVF cycle. With the needle in hand, twisting my body, I burst into tears. I just couldn’t do it. But this IVF cycle I was on Zoloft! I didn’t just burst into tears. I handled it. Viva la meds!
I stretched the skin on my ass and I sunk the needle right into it. It was awkward, a bit crooked, and my ass bled when I pulled the needle out, but I had done it! I was grateful I wouldn’t have to do it by myself all the time, like many women did; I knew I wasn’t doing the best job of it, and feared the lasting damage I could do to my ass. But for less than I week me and my ass would manage. And, as often is the case when you step up to a fear and kick it in the face, I felt sort of awesome for having done it.
I kissed Dashiell goodbye, knowing that I had everything under control. Then I took myself out for a plate of ravioli down the street.