Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: Dashiell And I Are Embryo Nerds!

I’m having one of those happy, delusional moments where I love science so much I wonder if I should finally go to college and study to be a neurophysicist.
Publish date:
January 18, 2013
pregnancy, getting pregnant with michelle tea, ivf

Dr. Murakami clicks off his neon green laser pointer and drops it into the pocket of his lab coat. It’s time for Dr. Waller to take the stage. Me and Dashiell are ridiculously excited about this.

Maybe we are warming up for our future, when our actual BABY, not our baby-doctor, takes the stage in some sort of school play or piano concert or Full Glitz beauty pageant, and we sit there in the audience punching each other in the thigh and grinning proudly. Maybe that’s why we are so jazzed and feel so special that OUR doctor is not only on the stage but, to use the worst phrase to come out of the 00s, is a total ROCK STAR.

Dr. Waller tells us that he went to some fertility clinician conference in Vegas, and learned that our clinic is the only one in the whole country where the lab techs and the medical staff get together and swap stories and share the ups and downs of life in the frozen embryo biz. It does the trick of making us feel like theirs (ours?) is the most together, highly-functioning fertility lab out there, so that’s cool.

He then goes on to brag about how rad their lab is -– five layers of air filtration (so no lint gets in your embryo, right?). He shows us a picture of the IVF chamber with its mounted microscope and incubator for the "gammys."

The IVF chamber is on wheels, so for Dashiell they will roll it over to the procedure suite, which is located almost inside the actual lab. They’ll rescue all her damsel surfers in distress, pop it into the chamber and wheel back into the lab. Dashiell won’t know anything that’s even happening because she will be in a twilight state and I am fully jealous of her because I once was put into twilight for a tooth extraction and I have already detailed in this here blog how it was the happiest day of my life.

Watch, I bet Dashiell becomes a total egg-donor after this, just so she can get some more twilight time. If my ovaries weren’t a veritable watery grave filled with dead surfer eggs, I’d do it, too.

When Dr. Waller talks about the sperm -- getting the sperm to the eggs and all that, letting it swim to it, that one hardy sperm who breaks through and fertilizes -- he uses army metaphors.

People always use army metaphors for sperm and it bums me out. I don’t want to feel like my egg is sitting there waiting to be colonized. I don’t want something traumatic and terrible like colonialism to be associated with the birth of our darling offspring who may grow up and cure war!

But, also, being out of my element makes me defensive and I take refuge in radicalism. Dashiell, who mostly had a boy’s childhood, playing army with his siblings, thinks it’s sort of cute. He is clearly thinking of toys and playtime and perhaps hard work and ambition, while I am thinking of genocide.

Anyway –- do you know how much actual sperm is in a battalion of ejaculate? Like 180 to 400 MILLION sperms! I guess I can see how "invading army" metaphors became popular. Back when I was having sex with people who could get me pregnant, I did regard their dangerous ejaculate as akin to a fleet of destroyers out to ruin my life. But I’m trying to form a new, loving relationship with the stuff.

We’ve been sitting in this theater listening to this lecture for two hours when Dr. Waller tries to show us a three-minute video of a biopsy of a blastomere. You would think that a two-hour medical lecture would have us drooling onto our shoulders by now, having long ago vacated our body. Maybe we’re sneaking onto Facebook on our phones and peeking at photos of what people we don’t really like have eaten for dinner.

But, no –- it’s all really fascinating! Both doctors are excellent teachers, and the subject matter would be engrossing even if I wasn’t so involved. I’m having one of those happy, delusional moments where I love science so much I wonder if I should finally go to college and study to be a neurophysicist. Dashiell beside me is all leaned forward in his chair, the posture of a man watching a football game at a crucial moment.

“Bummer,” Dr. Waller says when he has a hard time cuing up the video.

Eventually we are treated to a quick image of a needle sliding in and sucking away a piece of a blastocyst, which is basically an egg that’s been fertilized for like four days. I guess they’ll do a biopsy before implantation if they think the embryo could be at risk for things like Huntington disease, Sickle cell, hemophilia and situations concerning sex hormones. Or if the IVF hasn’t been working.

Me and Dashiell gasp watching the video –- it’s just so weird and cool.

“We’re embryo nerds!” I whisper. And so is Dr. Waller. What an embryo nerd!

The doctor explains that, being a research hospital there are lots of opportunities to be part of research studies, but we totally don’t have to be. My interest in science does make me curious, and I see Dashiell looking at me slyly.

“Maybe we’d get a discount?” she suggests.

I clutch her arm emphatically. “I was just thinking that!!”

Dashiell laughs. “I knew that was what you were thinking!

“This is like being in med school!” I whisper. “I’m so into it!”

“Me, too!” Dashiell smiles.

“Don’t you want to go home and watch episodes of ‘Nova’ and eat Oreos?” I beg.


The final slide in the PowerPoint presentation is titled "A Healthy Singleton," the ideal end result for all of us, except the baby is freaking ugly.

“That’s an ugly baby,” Dashiell whispers. Are we always on the same page OR WHAT?

“Ugs,” I confirm.

Dr. Waller talks a bit about the magical uterus. “The uterus is an amazing organ that stays the same age,” he says. “Twenty or fifty, it’s the same.” He does bring up fibroids and polyps and how those can get in the way.

“It’s not uncommon, though it is the minority,” he says. “Twenty to twenty-five percent.” I always knew I was special.

Dr. Waller opens the floor for questions, and a lady raises her hand to ask if she can please be implanted with two embryos, because she would like to have two kids and it would be easier to do it all at once. Easier -– and cheaper! I see through this crazy hustler’s scheme!

Dr. Waller shakes his head emphatically. The clinic will most certainly not be giving anyone twins, at least not on purpose. “Humans in general were not meant to carry twins,” he says. “Plus, you try for twins and you get triplets. Can’t do it.”

The orientation is over. Everyone makes their way down from the risers, directly to mob the doctors. We want to say hello to Dr. Waller –- am I crazy or do I think he spotted us out of the corner of his eye and is now politely trying to wrap it up with some guy so he can spend a minute with us, his favorite patients?

We’ll never know. After lingering awkwardly for a moment we join the flow of people leaving the lecture hall. We grab sushi nearby and excitedly recount it all while eavesdropping on a very loud businessman at the table behind us who sounds like a total D-bag.

Then, because it is an unseasonably warm night in San Francisco, we walk all the way home, holding hands and feeling dreamy about life.