My opinion of Clinic One prior to today’s visit was already covered in Not he. To summarize: Clinic One was the clinic I knew the most about prior to these adventures in assisted reproduction. To be honest, it was pretty much the only clinic I knew anything about. Clinic One seems to be the gathering place for queer folks trying to make babies around here: every queer or trans person I know who has used a fertility clinic has used Clinic One. My sample size here is small, granted, but I assumed that Clinic One must have something going for it. Basically my reason for wanting to visit Clinic One was the same reason I tried deep fried pickles: everybody else was doing it. Then Clinic One Receptionist called and asked about my husband, and the rosy glow surrounding Clinic One faded. Clinic One is still the clinic fifteen minutes away from where I work and still the clinic where all of the queer and trans people I know have gone, but it’s also the clinic with the heterosexist receptionist. Clinic One is the final stop on this whirlwind tour of fertility clinics, and I’m anxious. If only I had my husband with me.
There were no vases of decoratively placed twigs at Clinic One. There was no soothing orchestral music, either. In fact, Clinic One seemed to laugh in the face of the spa-like environment that Clinics Two and Three had worked so hard to cultivate. Sure, the furniture in the waiting area was the same light pine and turquoise vinyl used by the other clinics— the same light pine and turquoise vinyl used by medical facilities of all varieties—but it seemed more like a nod to convention than anything else. Clinic One’s waiting area more closely resembled a downtown shopping centre than a spa. Under the bright fluorescent lights a couple of small children wandered around the waiting area, a row of bored looking women sat waiting for cycle monitoring, a pile of newspapers lay stacked on the desk at reception, and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” played in the background. The receptionist who would be ‘our’ receptionist, the one who had asked me about my husband, was off on the Monday morning of our appointment. Instead a frazzled replacement greeted us, hurriedly asking if I had drank the required amount of water for my ultrasound.
I explained that this was a consultation appointment; anything wanting to go near my vagina would have to wait for another day. I didn’t say the second part aloud. Frazzled receptionist seemed surprised but didn’t argue, handing me a form with only slight pause.
Oh that form, that beautiful form. No male and female medical histories; no endless, irrelevant questions about hot tubs, heated waterbeds and the cause of my infertility. Only a single page with two sections, titled Partner 1 and Partner 2. The two sections were identical, each with checkboxes to indicate whether the partner referenced was male or female. The only other sections were contact information, medications and allergies. The entire form took about five minutes to fill in. Which was a pity, because we then sat waiting for an hour and a half. Yes, that’s right, our appointment with Clinic One was an hour and a half late. Ninety minutes of my life that I will never get back were spent sitting in a clinic waiting room with nary a vase of decoratively arranged twigs to keep me visually engaged. We were seated in a nook off to one side of the reception area, where bulletin boards featured dozens of pictures of babies (again, so many twins!) and cards thanking the clinic. I could probably recite every card and describe every baby, we spent so long staring at those boards. Having looked at every corner and every board we sat, still waiting.
Partner: So, tell me about yourself.
Me: I like long waits in clinics…
An hour in to this long wait we asked the frazzled receptionist just how much longer it was going to be. Partner had to be back at her office at a certain time, and that time was getting close. The frazzled receptionist explained that we should have been told to take three hours off work for the appointment. As a three hour consultation is over two hours longer than the consultation at either Clinic Two or Three and we hadn’t been told to book this time off, this came as a surprise. We explained that we really didn’t have another two hours to sit, and that if the good doctor didn’t appear soon we would have to reschedule. The frazzled receptionist promised to find him, explaining that sometimes he was difficult to track down.
Apparently so, because we then heard several receptionists and nurses talking. “Has anybody seen Doctor -?” “No, maybe he left?” “He isn’t answering calls.” The frazzled receptionist went off to find him, and we kept up with the sitting. We joked that some people had probably managed to go from conception to birth all while waiting for their appointment. We joked that the youngish woman who wandered by was probably here with her mother, still waiting for her first trimester appointment twenty years later. And then we stopped joking, because nothing is really funny after ninety minutes in a clinic waiting room. The frazzled receptionist, back behind her desk, froze when she saw us waiting still waiting: “Oh, fuck.” Yes, that was aloud. She disappeared again and a few minutes later a small man walked in to the reception area, head down, texting. I told Partner that if texting man was our doctor, I was leaving. He ushered us into his office. We followed.
From here the appointment seemed to move in fast forward. Doctor Text sat us down and immediately began flipping through papers and asking questions. Honestly, this part is a bit of a blur. He was speaking very quickly, clearly trying to catch up after his long delay. Was one of us planning on getting pregnant or both? Just me? Oh, then Partner was “just here for support”. This annoyed me. No, Partner is not just there for support. She’s there as the other future parent of our hypothetical child, the child who could have made it to college in the time we had spent waiting for Doctor Text. I didn’t have time to correct him though, because he had already shuffled on to some new papers. What was my medical history? Family history? Sexual history? The questions came quickly and I struggled to keep up, trying to process what was being asked and how to answer. When was my birthday? Did I have siblings? Did I have unusual facial hair growth? The only pauses in this strange interrogation came in the form of his brief jokes—mostly about Partner and I having not had any luck trying for a baby on our own—and the interruptions. Every few minutes the phone would ring or there would be a knock on the door and Doctor Text would answer. It felt like a sitcom, you know the ones, with that annoying neighbour or bucktoothed kid wandering in at inopportune moments. In those interruptions, when Doctor Text stepped around us and out of the office, Partner and I looked around the office. Behind the desk a frame held photos of children—not a collage of babies, but the same three children in repeat, perhaps his own—and a collection of shirts hung from the back of the door. Then he was back, moving on from questions to suggestions of how we should go about making a baby. This part of the conversation I appreciated. He gave more details than the doctors at either of the other clinics, talking in numbers—success rates, cycle days and dollar signs. He compared us to the hypothetical straight twenty-five year old straight couple down the street, trying to have a kid by having sex twice a day every day (I haven’t met these neighbours, but perhaps it’s because they’re otherwise occupied). He seemed to think that our success rate would be comparable, given the fact that my reproductive system appears to be in good working order. He recommended the same saline ultrasound as everybody else and natural cycle monitoring. All of this was conveyed in some fairly incomprehensible drawings and charts, which he sketched, mostly upside down, from across the desk:
I left his office clutching photocopies of these drawings and a list of sperm banks used by the clinic. Neither Partner or I spoke much as we stepped back out into the sunshine. Had Clinic One been better or worse than Clinics Two and Three? Were the long wait, shuffled papers, and disorganized Doctor Text a fair price to pay for the better forms, queer recommendations, friendlier atmosphere and slightly lower monthly cost? And, after all of these visits, how much did the decision between Clinics One, Two and Three really matter? Choosing between three clinics with comparable technology and raw materials, were we overthinking what was really just a means to an end? My head spun as I wandered back towards work, Doctor Text’s business card in my pocket and the photocopied drawings clutched in my hand.
Yesterday evening, somewhat recovered, we made our decision. Any guesses? Winner gets our first child.