The alarm went off at 6:03am on Monday morning. The three minutes past the hour were intentional: I had included them as I set the alarm the night before, in a futile attempt to make the time seem more reasonable. The futility of this attempt was increasingly clear as I stumbled through my morning routine and then out the door towards Clinic One.
This was my first day back to the real world after two weeks of vacation time, and it was a jarring re-entry. Not only did I have a non-negotiable 8:30am meeting to attend, I somehow had to make it to Clinic One for cycle monitoring beforehand. I imagined calling in to the meeting: “I’m sorry, I’m going to be late this morning. My period started yesterday, which means that I’ll be spending the morning with an ultrasound wand up my vagina. I’ll be in as soon as possible”, but anticipated this wouldn’t be well received. Instead, I woke up with the 6:03am alarm and was at Clinic One only two minutes after its 7:30am opening time—my Converse already soaked through by the dirty slush on the sidewalks below.
I hadn’t been to Clinic One since the second unsuccessful IUI in late November. Returning for a pregnancy test had been unnecessary: as it had in October, my period had provided the answer before a blood test had the chance. Clinic One hadn’t changed much: a spindly fake tree was shoved into one corner, and some silver and blue garland was pinned to one wall, but that was it. I looked at these half-hearted attempts at holiday cheer, suddenly grateful for the month away from Clinic One. Based on when I had bled, I had probably ovulated sometime around Christmas. While I fully support the irony of a gay pseudo-immaculate conception around Christmas, it would have been profoundly depressing to have spent Christmas morning waiting for Dr. Text to put down his iPhone and perform IUI #3.
The month off had been positive for reasons beyond timing: it had been nice to spend the holidays thinking about last minute shopping and family dynamics instead of breast tenderness and cervical mucus, and I had enjoyed the time away from internal ultrasounds and the taupe colour scheme of Clinic One’s waiting room. I was also ready to be back.
My blood was drawn by the only technician who has been able to find a vein in my arm. Though her success rate hovers around 50/50, she treats this task as something between an art and a science, telling me to squeeze the small stress ball she keeps by her chair, tightening the rubber band around my upper arm twice, making me raise and lower my forearm as if lifting an imaginary weight as she feels for veins that I can’t see at all. As she told me to inhale, I was relieved to see blood flow into the small vial in her hand. I watched until she was done, also relieved to discover that the relative tolerance for blood draws I had developed over the past several months hadn’t waned in December.
Blood drawn and ultrasound number called, I waited at the end of a long hallway for the door to the ultrasound room to open. The sounds of quiet voices, crinkling paper and the beeping ultrasound machine travelled through the door, whose sign read “Insemination Room #1”. It was the same room in which November’s IUI had taken place. The wait was longer than I can imagine any ultrasound taking, and I nervously counted down the minutes until my 8:30am meeting. Finally the door opened, and the ultrasound technician who had told me both about Princess Diana’s death and unlucky numbers ushered me in. Today she was quieter, talking only about the cost of plane tickets and the fact that she hadn’t taken a vacation as a result.
Pants back on, I realized there was no chance that I would have time to talk to Dr. Text before my meeting. Apologetically backing out the door, I asked his receptionist to let him know that I was leaving. I paused only to note the two smooth stone figures sitting on her desk, one adorned with pink ribbon, one with blue: “Are those sperm paperweights?”
Hours later I arrived home to a voicemail from Clinic One: my next visit is on Tuesday.
ETA: Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that I forgot the total ultrasound count!
Total Ultrasound Count: 19