At an impossibly early hour on Thursday morning I was sitting in Clinic One, half-asleep but hopeful that the day might bring some plot developments to the incredibly drawn out saga of this cycle. Before I had left for Clinic One, Sea and I had spent some time wondering about what the day would bring. Based on the unpredictability of my daily monitoring this cycle, we had determined that Dr. Text could just as easily announce that I didn’t have ovaries at all, or that I was pregnant with immaculately conceived quadruplets as anything else.
Thursday morning seems like a very long time ago, and the more mundane details of the appointment are already slipping from memory. I can’t remember who drew my blood, though the bruise on my hand assures me that it was drawn. The ultrasound took place in the room that I would visit twice that morning, with the woman who had performed my first Clinic One ultrasound two months ago. Ultrasound technicians at Clinic One aren’t supposed to share results– there are signs posted all over the place reminding inquisitive patients of this fact– but sometimes they do. Yesterday the technician looked over at me from between my raised knees and said, “It looks like you’ve ovulated recently. Your IUI will probably be today”. This might have been the clearest piece of information that I had been given all cycle.
Back in the waiting room I texted Sea to tell her that IUI #2 would probably be that day. And also that I hadn’t yet laid eyes on any of the doctors at Clinic One– mildly concerning as I definitely do not consider self-administering IUIs to be a skill I either have or am interested in cultivating. Soon after Dr. Text did appear, beckoning for me to chase him down the long hallway to an empty office, only to tell me that it looked like I had ovulated fairly recently but that we would have to wait for my bloodwork to confirm anything… including the day’s plan. That’s fine, Dr. Text: I’m getting used to suspense.
My longer than usual cycle had put me on the same cycle as several of the people who I had met on that HSG day in early October. Three of us sat together and talked, as they waited for their IUIs and I just waited to find out more. Finally I interrupted our talk of internal ultrasounds and the quirks of reproductive medicine to chase down Dr. Text. For a doctor who always rushes, he spent a long time staring down at my chart. He was concerned about my wacky cycle and small follicle at ovulation (18mm when last measured) but finally decided that today was the day and it would not, in fact, be a waste of $800 of sperm to toss some into my uterus.
I went to visit Sperm Thawer and the window that looks like a takeout window but isn’t, and found a much more efficient person sitting at the window than was there for IUI #1. He barely looked up from his desk as he handed me a small stack of papers and asked me to sign on the line. He paid so little attention to me, in fact, that the bobblehead baseball player on his desk was doing a better job of maintaining eye contact.
With the sperm recovering from cryogenic preservation, I texted Sea and confirmed that today was the day. Dr. Text had told me that it would take 40 minutes to resuscitate the sperm, which would have placed IUI at 10:30. IUI #1, however, had run about an hour late, so Sea and I decided that 10:45 would be just fine. At 10:29 two things happened: Sea texted me to say that she was still waiting for a bus, and Dr. Text told me– from across the waiting room– that he and the sperm were both ready for IUI. I told Dr. Text that the sperm would have to wait for Sea’s fashionably late arrival, and somehow avoided sending frantic texts to Sea. When Sea arrived ten minutes later, Dr. Text was nowhere to be seen. He had told me to flag him down when Sea arrived, but this was made difficult by the fact that he had seemed to evaporate in the ten minutes between our last conversation and Sea’s arrival. After Sea and I had looked and realized that he wasn’t behind any open door, we sat waiting for him to reemerge. In this time we saw all five of the other doctors, calling lucky patients in for their procedures. Both of my HSG friends were long gone.
We decided that Dr. Text was probably on his phone somewhere, playing Angry Birds.
At some much later point, a nurse called a name that sounded much like mine. It wasn’t my name, but I took the opportunity to ask if she knew where Dr. Text was. “Uhhhh, he’s around?” Fantastic. Finally Heterosexist Receptionist told us to follow her down the hall, because Dr. Text was ready. We still hadn’t seen him, but we took her word and went down the hallway… only to find a series of closed doors. Heterosexist Receptionist told us to wait, letting us know that Dr. Text would be there for my “insalmonation” soon. Santa Baby was playing on the speakers overhead.
Dr. Text finally showed up, and was surprised to find the doors to all of the insemination rooms still closed. Honestly, I would have had the IUI in the hallway at that point, but Dr. Text didn’t seem to think that was an option. He handed my chart, and told me that as soon as there was a room… “Charge!” This declaration was accompanied by an emphatic fist thrust, which made me slightly worried for the procedure ahead. At 11:30 all of the doors were still firmly shut, and I had read my entire medical file. Though most of it was totally incomprehensible to me, I noticed that the referral from my GP included my income level, housing status, job, reading ability in English and sexual orientation. I was a little bit horrified that this amount of information was considered relevant to our babymaking endeavours. My sexual orientation, it should be noted, was listed simply as “women”.
The door to Insemination Room #1 opened, and the ultrasound technician and patient left. Before we had had a doctor and sperm, but no room; we now had a room and sperm, but no doctor. It was like a bad game of slots. Finally, Dr. Text returned and ushered us into the room. Insemination Room #1 was fancier than the last one we had visited, featuring a sound system turned to a light rock station and a dimmer switch on the lights. There weren’t, unfortunately, oven mitts on the stirrups. As Dr. Text prepared, we chatted about the ultrasound machine next to the exam table. Made by General Electric, I noted, imagining refrigerators and ultrasound machines next to each other in some bizzare factory setting. Dr. Text took the machine much more seriously, and quickly informed me that this was the Rolls Royce of ultrasound machines– worth $50000. I edged slightly away from it. Then, so quickly, I was in those oven mittless stirrups and Dr. Text was announcing that there were 26.8 million sperm in the sample. I’m hoping the bonus 7 million sperm (compared to October’s count) made the difference! As Baby It’s Cold Outside switched over to a mock version of The Twelve Days of Christmas and a slightly off-key voice sang about “two turtlenecks”, Dr. Text did the insemination. Or, should I say, the insalmonation.
Dr. Text left the room, instructing me to come back in two weeks minus a day. As I lay on the table, Sea fiddled with the dimmer switch bringing the lights down to a glow then took pictures on my phone. Then, four and a half hours after I had arrived at Clinic One, we were done. My total lifetime encounters with sperm were up to two. Or 46.6 million, depending on how you look at it.
Total Ultrasound Count: 18