I woke up to the sound of our alarm clock, early enough on a fall morning that our room was still completely in the dark. I squinted as I rooted through the laundry basket of clean, unfolded clothes: hoping desperately that the clothes I grabbed would both fit and vaguely match. Then I stepped out into the cold and headed downtown to Clinic One.
Yes, this was this morning.
Heading back to the fertility clinic was just about the last thing I expected to be doing at eight months pregnant, but there I was. Sitting in the familiar beige waiting room listening to numbers being called. As the ultrasound technician called “44… 44…” on repeat to a room of tired looking patients, I felt weirdly like I had never left. Like this was October, 2012, and I was waiting for cycle monitoring days before my first IUI. But a year has passed since then and, instead of waiting for cycle monitoring, I was sitting awkwardly with my bag in front of my belly waiting for a nurse to call my name.
I felt impossibly conspicuous and unintentionally smug, very pregnant in a room full of people who desperately want to be. It was bad enough that two of the ultrasound technicians had rushed up to me, oohing and ahhing loudly, as soon as I entered the clinic. I had stood there uncomfortably as they touched my belly (an act that felt oddly intimate considering the fact that they had, at one point, vaginally probed me on a nearly daily basis) and had escaped to a chair near the back of the waiting room as soon as possible. I was there for one purpose only: to buy sperm.
When our first attempt with donor #2, Lefty, had worked, Sea and I had discussed whether or not to buy more vials. Financially recovering from the significant investment in sperm and IUIs, while also preparing for the costs of an infant, we had decided against an immediate purchase. Though we had talked vaguely about the possibility of a second child one day, the conversation felt premature and full of hazy logistics in the face of a very new first pregnancy. Many donors were available for years, we reassured ourselves. We could buy more sperm later. And if Lefty well, left, we could make a last minute purchase from a regional supplier.
Then, on a whim, Sea went to look at the sperm bank’s website early this week. Lefty was gone. Not even a trace of his profile remained and nothing came up when she searched his donor number. I don’t know if Sea panicked in the moment, but she was remarkably calm as she told me when I came home that evening. I did an internet search for his donor number and found the generic message, now deleted from the website:
“This donor is no longer active in the donor program and is currently sold out of units. Additional units are not expected to become available in the future. Please take this into consideration when considering purchasing this donor.”
We still don’t have concrete plans for child(ren) beyond Bingo. And even if we do have children beyond Bingo, it’s not like I put a lot of stock in the importance of genetics in building a family. At the same time, I don’t want our future children arguing over who has a better donor. Besides, I had grown fond of Lefty. So while joking with Sea about which of the 200 nineteen year old athletes remaining on the website would make a good choice for baby number two, I worried.
Yesterday I called one of the two regional suppliers who work with this bank. Given that we had no idea how long Lefty had been gone– it could have been months– the call was a shot in the dark. I sat in my office, listening for footsteps in the hallway, as the woman on the other end of the line typed in his donor number. As she cleared her throat, I was certain that she was going to tell me that they had no record of that donor– that he was no longer in her system. Instead, she told me they had three vials. I immediately placed the vials on hold and called Sea, no longer listening for footsteps outside my office and certainly not caring that I was calling Sea at work to talk about sperm. From our respective offices we celebrated and decided to buy all three vials.
So this morning I stepped back into Clinic One, eight months pregnant and awkward in my big body. I accepted the congratulations of ultrasound technicians, awkwardly ran into an acquaintance, listened to numbers being called, and followed an unfamiliar nurse down a familiar hallway. In the same room where I had last ordered sperm, the nurse opened my file and filled in the order form. Sea and I are now the proud parents of one fetus and four* vials of sperm. We will pay several hundred dollars a year to store this sperm until we decide what to do with it. In addition to the $2392.80 we just paid for the sperm itself (a $7.20 discount from the returned trigger shot… I forgot we had credit at our fertility clinic!) It’s a high cost for babysitting, but it feels worth it to leave that door open**.
*We had bought two vials of Lefty last February. One was used to create Bingo, the other has been sitting at Clinic One since then. That means we have four vials with the ones purchased today. Four vials is how many it took to make Bingo. Let’s hope that any future fetus also takes four or less.
**Another door has closed, however. As I was leaving, I asked one of the ultrasound technicians if I could see Dr. Text. I thought he might want to admire his work, and I would have liked to have seen him. He’s left the clinic and moved back to his home country– a very long way away from where we live. Dr. Text was there from our first visit to Clinic One. He performed all four of the IUIs. We joked about conception stories with him. He was the only person in the room with us when Bingo was conceived. When we “graduated” from Clinic One at twelve weeks, he hugged us goodbye. Though I’m sure any future doctor(s) will be just as competent, I’m going to miss that frantic little man.