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Dr. Waller pauses briefly before moving to let us enter his office.
“Bummer,” he says. He says it soulfully.
I appreciate both the brevity and the genuineness of his faux-casual remark. It is indeed a bummer that our embryo stopped developing, when it had been looking so good. It is indeed a bummer that we’re back at his office putting together Plan B. Or rather, Plan C.
“We were so close,” he shook his head regretfully while pulling stuff up on his computer. “Was there any diagnostic testing done?” he asks. He means, did we send the stuff dug out of me during the D+C to a lab to try to figure out what went awry. We did not. Per the advice of my OB, Dr. Betsy, we declined, because she had told us that such testing was expensive, and our insurance was unlikely to cover it, and it if our plan was to go ahead with the next eggs in line anyway it didn’t really matter.
Dr. Waller wants to take another in-depth look at my innards, via a saline sonogram, aka the worst pain of life, because I haven’t had one in like a year, from him, but I think I had one more recently, from my dashing gynecologist Dr. Wendy, and if it’s true, I beg Dr. Waller, can I please not? I feel strongly that my uterus is fine, that the embryo stopped developing because of some chromosomal glitch that we’ll never really understand. My body has been through so much, and if I can spare it one last round of torture I’m determined to. Dr. Waller reluctantly agrees.
“I’m a control freak,” he admits. “I can look at Dr. Wendy’s sonogram. I’d rather make my own, but we can use hers, if it exists.” And it does exist! And thus I am spared having a balloon jammed through my cervix and inflated with saline. Small victory!
Dr. Waller tells us we have four eggs left in the freezer. He suggests transferring two to my uterus this time, and we are all in. If it means we wind up with a creepy set of twins who talk to each other in a secret twin language and prank us, their parents, and love one another more than they will ever love us, then so be it. At least they’ll always have each other.
The more I think about it, the more I feel sort of excited at the thought of twins. It’s surely the only shot we have at a larger family –- I am sure as hell never going through this again, and Dashiell does not want to ever be pregnant. Maybe we’d adopt a sibling down the road, but it’s more likely that we’ll have one spoiled rotten only child who thinks the world revolves around them. So, twins could be good.
But then I think about breast feeding two squabbling babies, and having to maneuver them out of the house every day to walk the dog, and having to send them both to college -– not to mention the gnarlyness of having two babies growing in my body and all the risks that go along with that. And then I feel nervous about not one but two embryos being catapulted up my vag. I remind myself that Dr. Waller isn’t transferring two to give us twins, he’s implanting two because odds are, one alone won’t result in a baby for us. It’s all out of my hands, anyway.
After the meeting with Dr. Waller I call the Encino pharmacy and order my next round of drugs. It’s the same protocol as last time –- birth control pills, Lupron shots, Estrogen patches, progesterone shots, Viagra suppositories, Medrol, aspirin and, hopefully, once pregnant, transitioning from the progesterone shots to progesterone suppositories. It comes to $1,000, and I know I’ll need refills.
Starting the meds this time around feels different after the miscarriage. The novelty has worn off, whatever weird thrill came from shooting myself in the stomach with a little needle. The trusting, giddy optimism that once accompanied it all is gone. We know from experience that I can go through all of this and not get pregnant; we know from experience that I can get pregnant and have it just stop. This time I’m just going through the motions, as if I have some sort of medical condition that requires me to give myself all these shots and pop these pills. It feels totally disconnected from our hopes of having a baby. It’s, like, just what we do. We pinch the fat on my belly and stick a needle into it. Every single night.
Something super weird and disturbing happens right around then, and it has nothing to do with the hoped-for baby. Dashiell discovers our New York Times wedding announcement posted on a hate site on the internet. The site is almost surely no more than a solitary loser living in his mother’s basement somewhere in Virginia, along with some of his equally creepy buddies living equally pathetic lifestyles in sad places, but it’s still really upsetting.
"Dead people" one person commented above our smiling faces; others likened us to an incestuous race of ghouls from an H.P. Lovecraft story, noted with hostility the lack of fathers mentioned in the announcement, and posted ominous, war-like phrases in Latin and obscure, occultish symbols. Geez! All over the site the creeps attacked Black people and Jewish people, so we were in good company, but still. This was different than the internet trolling I was accustomed to, when people say mean, anonymous things about something I’ve written. This was death-threaty and dark.
Dashiell was seriously disturbed by it and began sleeping poorly, having nightmares and waking up with a start at every noise our noise old house creaked out. I went back and forth between thinking these were hateful idiots who posed us no actual threat because they lived on the other side of the country -– the site was based in Virginia -- and never left the internet; and worrying that I was being too blasé about it and that my flippant attitude would lead to us being dismembered in the middle of the night by a stealthy band of Nazis.
And then we got a phone call. On Dashiell’s phone, in the middle of the night. The dude left a message: I’m gonna get you . . . nigga. The number was blocked. We played the recording back again and again. It was a guy, he sounded young-ish, he sounded drunk. What the fuck? It was hard not to link it to the hate site, but maybe it was just a diabolical coincidence? He didn’t call us homos, or queers or anything, but I also understood that to a xenophobic cretin, the n-word might be a catch-all for everyone not straight, white and Christian.
Still, if the call wasn’t random, if they were specifically targeting Dashiell, wouldn’t they have said her name? It could be anything –- a wrong number, a crank call. That’s what I chose to believe. Dashiell was more of the opinion that it was the marauding band of Internet Nazis who were going to kill us in our sleep.
I called my friend Vito, a very public transman who has been the target of tons of internet hate, from the annoying to the disturbing. He went through the site, looking for clues as to who these clowns were, and then tried very hard to find Dashiell’s phone number. He wasn’t able to.
“I think it’s a really creepy coincidence,” he said, and I did too. But it would take a couple months for Dashiell’s tense jumpiness to melt away and to stop having conversations about whether or not we should be sleeping with a baseball bat or knife tucked beneath our bed. Being a Virgo, Dashiell’s immediate defense impulse is to lay low, and he asked me not to blog about it, or put it on the Internet or anything, as if lighting a flare would attract more lumbering Neanderthals to bully us.
But my defense impulse is the opposite -– tell everyone, so that more people know that you could be at risk, so that more people have your back, so that you’re more public and therefore less of a quiet target. Plus, if we do get hatched in our sleep I would want everyone to know where to start looking for who done it!
But, on to nicer things. Like, my uterus! After some weeks of ingesting the appropriate meds, sliding those crumbly bullets of Viagra up my snatch each night, the results came in: my uterine linings was measuring a whopping nine whatever-unit-of-measure-is-used-to-measure-uterine-lining. Last time it was 6.5; this time they were hoping for a seven. A nine was amazing! I imagined my uterus as a fluffy heaven of plush pillows and lush goosedown comforters, the sort of place you’d like to recline after indulging some opium, the sort of place any embryo would kill to implant itself in! Dr. Jennifer, Dr. Waller’s assistant, who I have come to adore, was super happy for us and sent us to meet with Nurse Luz, who would prep us for the next stage.
Nurse Luz spread out a bunch of paperwork on her desk, pointing to the row of dates it looked like the transfer would take place, at the end of January. The end of January! The three possible dates we clustered around the New Moon in Aquarius! How auspicious! My January horoscope had predicted something nice for me at the end of the month, not the thing itself but the first step towards a long longed-for something. A New Moon is always a great moment to initiate something, the start of a fresh cycle, so it was perfect for an embryo transfer.
And then there was the Aquarius bit. I’m an Aquarius, so anything happening in Aquarius is always nice for me, but I thought there was something especially helpful in regards to In-Vitro Fertilization. It’s long been my opinion that Aquariuses are not the most fertile signs in the zodiac. We’re air, which is dry, not moist. We’re up in the sky, in the vacuum of space, not down on planet earth where everything grows. We’re detached. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that Aquarians can’t get pregnant -– the surfeit of groovy Aquarian moms dashes that dumb idea. But, as I’ve struggled these past years to get knocked up I’ve always believed, in my gut, that my Aquarian nature had something to do with it.
But -– Aquarius rules technology! It rules all things futuristic and kind of weird. With Scorpio, who oversees all things medical, Aquarius would totally rule IVF! I believe that getting a frozen embryo transfer on the Aquarian New Moon is totally astrologically right on!
My astro-talk continues as I do some quick math and determine that the resulting baby would be a Scoroio, Or, Scorpio. Scorpio twins! Holy shit! (And astrologer friend will later tell me, with a dismissive flip of his hand, “Don’t worry, you’ll never have Scorpio twins. One would eat the other in the womb.”)
Dashiell and I are quite pleased at the possibility of a Scorpio child; both our moms and sisters are Scorpios, and some of my greatest friends (like Rhonda!) have been Scorpios. It’s probably our astrological destiny to continue the line of intense little power-mad creative geniuses. Bring it on! As it happens, Nurse Luz is herself a Scorpio, like many Scorpios beleaguered by an astrological reputation that pegs them all as psychopaths and nymphomaniacs. Which they very well might be. But they’re so capable, and passionate! The other signs are just jealous!
“Any sign can be messed up and crazy,” I assured Nurse Luz. “Scorpios are just extroverts and popular so they affect a lot more people when they’re damaged, like Leos. But Cancers and Tauruses can be crazy too, they just lock themselves in their houses and cut their arms and nobody knows what a mess they are.” Nurse Luz really liked this. She offered to draw the circles on my butt that delineate where the progesterone shots should go, and I said yes.