I hate the thought of Dashiell being in pain, which is why I am relieved to hear Dr. Waller say that she’ll be put in a twilight state for the egg retrieval. This does not mean she will feel suddenly torn between a werewolf and a vampire. It means she’ll get these beautiful, wonderful, luxurious drugs that will slip her into a lovely "twilight" state and make it seem like nothing at all happened -- but if something did happen, it only happened for about half a second. And then you get to float around all day on the residuals.
I’m actually jealous that Dashiell is going to get to take twilight drugs. I’m a drug addict, and I’m sober, and, boy, did I enjoy the freelapse of taking a couple Halcyons to assist with the yanking of a tooth from my head a couple of summers ago.
I felt positively gorgeous on the first one, taken an hour before my appointment. When I got there they gave me a second one, and then I lay around with my mouth jammed open feeling marvelous for what felt like 3 minutes but was probably more like a couple hours.
Then Tali and Bernadine came to take me home. They ran to get my meds from the pharmacy which was right next door to an ice cream shop, and ice cream sounded sooooo good, even though I couldn’t feel half my face. We went into the shop, and me and the teenage boy with the longish greasy hair who worked there had the immediate connection of two people who are very, very, very high, and we just stared at each other and laughed a bunch and I thought he was very pretty and also I thought that I was very pretty, and then I ate my ice cream, which was totally delicious and then I was brought home and put to bed.
It was one of the best days of my life and I’m really excited for Dashiell.
Dr. Waller moves on to discuss the ups and downs of frozen sperm. When I bring up the possibility of using Quentin’s sperm, he shoots it down. He says what a lot of people say –- that it’s a really big deal, the life we are bringing into existence, and even though people seem really cool with it at the start, things can change, people have feelings, things get very complicated, there are grandparents involved for god’s sake -- and if we are just trying to start a family together, we’re better off using an anonymous donor from a sperm bank.
I get what he’s saying, and maybe I’m naïve –- I do know that, for better or worse I have a really hard time imagining bad things happening. You know people who are worried all the time about shit going wrong? I’m like the opposite. I really don’t think things are going to go wrong.
Maybe it’s a blessing, maybe I’m a simpleton, whatever. But I really in my heart believe that Quentin would never pose a problem with our kid. I also know that I’d be really into Quentin having a relationship with the kid -– something I believe he’s not even that interested in –- and as far as an extended family, I don’t know. My family is pretty small and so is Dashiell’s. I think the more love and support a kid gets in their lives, the better.
But then again, I don’t know any of these people. And as naïve as I may be, I know better than to think family = love and support.
It doesn’t matter, because the amount of money and logistical nightmares it would take to use Quentin’s sperm means that a bank is the best route for us anyway.
“There are two ways to get frozen sperm to fertilize the egg,” Dr. Waller begins, “And there’s a little bit of controversy.” If the sperm thaws well, you can just lay it on top of the egg and let it do its thing. The second procedure is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, though it sounds like ixsy, which is how I spelled it in my notes and how it’s spelled on a lot of TTC sites. With ixsy, they manually inject the sperm into the egg.
“There is a very, very small chance of chromosomal abnormalities,” Dr. Waller says. “The rate is .2% in the general population, and it’s about .6% in forced sperm procedures.”
“What kind of abnormalities?” Dashiell asks.
“Fertility issues and various syndromes,” Dr. Waller says vaguely.
The abnormalities in question include malformed penises on boys and Turner’s Syndrome in girls, wherein you’re missing one of your sex chromosomes. All sorts of things can happen with that, including infertility and a webbed neck, as well as assorted intersex conditions.
The thing is, the fertility racket is (confoundlingly) heterosexual. ICSI was developed to aid men with fertility issues, and these syndromes are carried by the father. There aren’t any studies that separate the likelihood of chromosomal situations between ICSI sperm with mobility issues and ICSI sperm that was taken from a bank to help LESBIANS.
Also, they are generally used to inseminate eggs that are elderly, not the eggs of a 33-year-old. So I think that small percentage just got smaller for us. Thank the Goddess for the Internet!
Dr. Waller ends on an optimistic note. “We do ICSI 70% of the time here and we’ve never seen anything.”
The sonogram station has been fixed and it’s time for the doctor to play Asteroids with Dashiell’s junk. We’re escorted into the tiny room where I once lay with my own feet in stirrups, and are left alone for Dashiell to strip below the waist and climb onto the exam table. She places a paper blanket over her hips and sets her feet in the stirrups. She looks at me and smiles.
“I know this makes a beautiful picture,” she says, “but you can’t take it.”
I left my freaking cell phone in Dr. Waller’s office, so I actually can’t capture the moment. God damn it! It really is a great picture.
“Are you okay?” I ask her, and she nods, smiling.
“Yeah, baby, I’m good.” Then she sees the wand. “Oh jeez, is that what’s going in me?!”
See –- again with the language! No: "Holy shit! Fuck! That motherfucking giant bitch of a wand is going in my vajayjay?!" Dashiell sees the creepily curving phallus and is impelled to spit, “Jeez!”
“'Oh, hey, Mister,'” I start imitating her talking to Dr. Waller. “'Golly but that thing sure is big, I mean, jeepers, that’s gonna smart!'”
Dashiell swats at me from her place on the table, laughing. Looking at the wand, I am suddenly reminded of the David Shrigley show we just saw at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The artist is obsessed with eerily long fingers, and both draws them and sculpts them.
“Doesn’t that look like one of David Shrigley’s fingers?” I asked.
“I was wondering why it looked sort of familiar!”
I get up close to it, and notice a bag of giant condoms.
“Look,” I say.
“We aren’t normal,” Dashiell says. “We do things in special ways.”
Dr. Waller knocks and enters with the failing med student. “OK, you got your feety in the feety holders,” he quips. I cringe on Dashiell’s behalf as he inserts a condom-covered Shrigley finger into my beloved’s junk and begins to play Space Invaders.
What I had promised Dashiell is true –- Dr. Waller is not looking at her bits at all. He’s intensely focused on the sonogram scan, wiggling the wand around to get the best view of her insides.
“Now, that is a really good-looking ovary,” he says cheerfully. Dashiell beams with pride. “Go on, take a look,” the doctor offers.
I lean over Dashiell and peer at the tiny, wet-looking circles glistening in black and white on the screen. It’s Dashiell’s eggs! One of those could be our kid, I almost tear up thinking, and then remember that one of those innocent-looking microscopic donuts is going to rise up and murder the others.
Dashiell, who had previously appeared to have vacated her body, just staring up at the ceiling with wide blue eyes, turns and looks at the screen, too.
“OK, we’re done,” says the doctor; we’re all satisfied with the pronouncement of Dashiell’s ovaries as "good-looking." The med duo leave and Dashiell hops off the table.
“That was kind of fun!” she exclaims before I can even ask her how she’s doing.
“You like an adventure,” I laugh. “And you like science. It’s like your own scientific experiment on yourself.”
Back in the doctor’s office, he continues with the endless details of how all of this will go down. “So, you have about 18 eggs in there,” he tells Dashiell. “If you weren’t on birth control, one would come out and the others would die.”
Oh, wait –- birth control keeps the eggs all tucked away in there? So, maybe we did just see our microscopic egg-baby!
“With ovary stimulation, we should get about 16 eggs,” he says. “And I could be underestimating you.” Dashiell beams again. Her ovaries RULE!
“Let’s just say we’re gonna get 16 eggs. Thirteen of them will be mature. 8 will fertilize. We’ll grow those embryos for 5 days.”
“Like, in a test tube?” Dashiell asks.
“Yes,” he nods. “Maybe 4 will make it. We’ll transfer the best-looking one, and we’ll freeze the other 3. If it doesn’t work, we’ll transfer another.”
“So, if the best one doesn’t work you use one of the lousy ones?” Dashiell says, half-joking.
“You might have 2 equal ones,” he says.
“With your eggs, we have an incredibly high success rate,” the doctor tells us. “My conservative guess would be a 60-80% likelihood of success.”
Those odds are SO MUCH BETTER than the odds of my scraggly eggs! And the whole tone of this meeting is so much better –- more optimistic, with talk of good-looking eggs and high success rates, not the funeral drum that played at my meeting with the doctor. I feel excited! I feel like it’ssafe to get excited. Nothing makes it easier to imagine spending basically your entire savings like the phrase "incredibly high success rate."