Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: Ovarian Reserve Is Not a 90s Girlpunk Band

People making rules to make a certain group of people feel falsely safe at the expense of another. I say falsely because -- hey, there are babies in the world! Leave this clinic and you’re likely to bump into, like, a hundred of them.
Publish date:
October 25, 2012

In the waiting room at the fertility clinic, I huddle into Dashiell on a small couch, talking shit while she shushes me.

“I mean, ‘No Children’?” I read the sign on the clinic wall skeptically. “Ladies need to toughen up. You can’t zone the world to protect you from getting triggered.”

I don’t know why this is one of my pet peeves, but it really is. People making rules to make a certain group of people feel falsely safe at the expense of another. I say falsely because -– hey, there are babies in the world! Leave this clinic and you’re likely to bump into, like, a hundred of them. Especially if you are having trouble getting pregs. Then the babies just come at you like cats to an asthmatic. Better figure out how to deal.

Like, what if there is some mom who can’t find afford child care because all her dough is going on buying a test tube sibling for her first test tube baby? Sure, this woman might be making life choices that much of the public would question, but who hasn’t baffled the mainstream with their lifestyle quirks? I’m not going to cast stones at this fictional woman. I would even bounce her baby on my knee while she went in to get her vag wanded.

“Sssssssh!” Dashiell hushes my rant.

“Are you ready for Dr. Waller to play pinball with your vagina?” I ask my girlfriend. She looks at me askance. “I mean Atari! Are you ready for him to play Atari with your vagina? I’m sorry, my mistake.” I crack up into her shoulder.

“No laughing!” Dashiell scolds me. Recently Dashiell confessed that even though she would NEVER have me do ANYTHING DIFFERENT because she wants me to be MYSELF, she does wish that I would put my dinner napkin on my lap, and wait until all the other diners’ food arrives before eating.

I am not as classy as Dashiell, and my fertility clinic guffaws, plus my dining habits, confirm this. I also had a bad habit of spitting out my gum on the street until Dashiell educated me to the error of my ways. Before becoming educated, I was just like – it’s not trash, it’s gum. It doesn’t blow into the gutter and get peed on by dogs and oppress sanitation workers who have to pick it up. It just, I don’t know, becomes part of the landscape.

Not true! Spitting gum on the sidewalk is littering! After becoming enlightened to my folly, I found that I just couldn’t spit my gum on the street anymore. Once you learn the Truth, you have to Change.

I called Dashiell on my cell from a block of South Van Ness that was already leopard-spotted with old gum and other urban stains.

“Guess what? I was totally going to spit my gum out on the street and I just couldn’t! I couldn’t do it!”

Instead of being proud of me, Dashiell was disturbed that any part of me would still think this was an okay thing to do, or that I would solicit praise for learning at 41 what many people learn as children. But, you know, it’s never too late to learn!

Back in the waiting room, Dashiell is judging all of the men who are conspicuously absent from the waiting room. Why aren’t they here with their Wimmin, supporting them and holding their hands? I reminded her that she hadn’t come with me when I got my vag wanded. I shrugged.

“It’s not that big of a deal. Plus, they’re probably watching their other Test Tube Baby since they’re not allowed to bring them in.”

I space out watching an older woman in the reception kiosk put on her morning makeup at her desk. Dashiell and I wonder if we’ll both have to be on meds at the same time and if we’ll lose our minds.

“I think we should write letters to each other, before we start the meds,” I say. “Like, ‘Dear Dashiell, Please remember how sweet and loving I am to you when not on Fertility Drugs. Please recall how mostly in control of my emotions I am. Pease do not break up with me.’ Things like that. Letters to ourselves might be helpful, too: ‘Dear Self. None of this is real. You are crazy. Go sit by yourself, or sob in the shower. Leave Dashiell alone.’”

The only time Dashiell and I ever have weirdness is around our periods, which are fairly synched up. I would never figure it out –- even though my mood crashes and I start crying at the thought of everyone I love dying AT THE SAME TIME EACH MONTH –- I just can’t put two and two together. Luckily, Dashiell is on birth control pills and can just look at her little pill packet and go, "Yep. I’m edgy and weird and you’re about to cry."

All this is to say I am worried about how we will support each other while we are both in some sort of prolonged, chemically induced hormonal bender.

A nurse/student resident calls us into Dr. Waller's office, and it's not the same lesbionic woman as last time, the one with the piercing jewelry and short hair and employment of the phrase "Queer Family." This woman has long, dark hair and could be a gay or lesbian -- I know WE ARE EVERYWHERE -- but I think she's probably not. Which isnot really a big deal. I wasn't expecting a lez in the first place. But then, when you're not expecting a lez and you surprisingly wind up with a lez, you sort of want to keep your lez.

“So, today we’re going to look at your Ovarian Reserve,” she says to Dashiell. Ovarian Reserve sounds like a 90s girlpunk band, but in fact it is just the amount of eggs Dashiell has hanging out in her ovaries.

The woman asks why Dashiell is on birth control -– to gain weight, which didn’t work, but she stayed on it for other benefits.

“You don’t spot during your placebos?” she investigates and Dashiell affirms that she doesn’t, but her GYN has assured her this is okay. The conversation begins to move slowly, hesitantly, into a discussion about Dashiell’s weight, and the trepidation makes me think she is trying to find out if Dashiell has an eating disorder.

You guys, Dashiell is really skinny. She’s been to the doctor about it, because people in her life were concerned, but everything checked out all right and the doctor’s final comment was, "Hey, you’re skinny."

Dashiell eats like a food monster. I mean, a very well groomed, polite food monster with a napkin on her lap. I mean, she eats a lot of food. I know skinny people say, "Oh, I eat all the time," when maybe they don’t –- I’ve been guilty of this, during a time when I couldn’t be bothered to eat more than a handful of almonds and a coconut water, but didn’t want to deal with having conversations with people about it. But I cook for Dashiell and eat with Dashiell and can confirm that she ends nearly every night with half a package of Oreos. That’s just how it goes for her.

I can tell the questioning is making her nervous and I pat her thigh. Medical questioning is nerve-wracking even when you’re not being sussed out for a disorder you don’t have.

The woman finishes her questions and goes off to fetch Dr. Waller. “She’s 15!” Dashiell exclaims the moment she leaves the office. “That woman is 15 years old!”

“She is very youthful,” I agree. “It’s a teaching hospital. She’s a student.”

Out in the hallway there is a commotion –- I can hear the woman we just spoke to telling Dr. Waller that the machine in the exam room is broken. “Get tech,” I hear his familiar voice. A bit later, Tech arrives.

“You can use the old machine in the other room,” he offers.

“An old machine?” Dr. Waller scoffs. “We don’t want an old machine. We want a new machine." He sounds annoyed. He sticks his annoyed head into his office and gives us a smile.

“They’re fixing up a new exam room for us, so why don’t we talk for a moment while they do that.” He comes in and sits behind his desk, offers his hand to Dashiell. They shake. I swear, I think it’s love at first sight. There’s something in Dr. Waller’s Jewish swagger that Dashiell just takes right to, and as for Dr. Waller, well, how often does he get a patient like Dashiell? A young, dapper man-woman who stepped out of the pages of an avant-garde men’s fashion magazine to bequeath his beloved with one of his own precious eggs?

“Okay,” Dr. Waller says with a glint in his wire-rimmed eyes. “Let’s talk about this.”