Back from the IVF clinic. Wife J asleep on the couch as Mystery Science Theater’s Rock N’ Roll Nightmare plays on the television, a ridiculous 1985 movie starring actors nobody has heard of playing zombies and teenagers. There is plenty of murder but no discernible plot. J likes terrible things.
Our baby is in her. Injected via catheter this morning. I watched the process on a flatscreen television next to her bed, black and white images displayed by a computer fed data from an ultrasound device pressed against J’s lower stomach. J took a Valium before because she was too nervous. She said she didn’t get anything out of it. Drugs don’t really affect me too much, she told me, lying supine on an adjustable hospital bed angled slightly up. I sat next to her with my hand on her head, fingertips on scalp, moving my fingers against skin, the same motion I use to lightly mix ingredients together in a bowl.
Dr. A, situated between J’s legs, worked to get a good angle on the catheter to get it up through the cervix into the uterus, where the embryo would be implanted. The catheter hit resistance. You have an atypical cervix shape, A said, her tone more interested than worried. Our embryo sat somewhere in the delivery system that was the catheter. I watched Dr. A work. She looked at the ultrasound screen, pointed out that the cervix’s canal was at the bottom, noted where the cath was halted. It reminded me of trying to snake a hard electrical wire down a conduit sleeve. If the conduit isn’t perfectly straight, you aren’t going to make it, you’ll hit resistance, and when you do, no amount of pushing will get the wire through — you have to pull the wire out and make an adjustment. At this point it becomes easier to fish the wire from the other side than it is to push it through. But in this case, the case of my wife, there is no alternate side to fish from — the alternate side is womb, the alternate side is fallopian tubes and egg reservoirs, the alternate side is a wall of flesh and guts and blood. She swaps the catheter to a smaller width and a longer length. The embryo is moved from the old catheter to the new one. We don’t love to do this, it exposes the embryo to air for a few seconds, which isn’t the end of the world, but it’s best to keep that exposure to an absolute minimum. Cells like to be warm, and wet. I look at Jennie’s face while this is happening and she isn’t paying any attention to what the doctor is saying. Her eyes are closed and I am kneading her scalp and she looks like she’s trying to sleep. Valium didn’t do anything, yeah right, I think.
I am glad she is not listening. Listening to these words is scary. What I hear is: This is a complication. What I hear is: Your chances for a successful transfer and the baby to take and be healthy just got lower.
A minute passes and the doctor is back at it, catheter up the hoo-ha, then the cervix, then that resistance spot again. This time the doctor is able to twist and poke and coax it through and we see the tip of the foreign vessel poke into the womb on the viewscreen. Do you see that? We’re implanting it now. The tube on the screen moves into the uterine void, a mess of swirling gray colors that reminds me of the permanent eye of storms on Jupiter. A gray blip comes out of it — our baby, my mind dimly registers.
Ridiculously, I think of Superman’s space pod, coming from the Planet Krypton, leaving him on Earth.
When J wakes up she asks how long she’s been out. just an hour, I tell her. put the movie back on, she says.
She’s still half stoned from the valium. I set the progress marker on the movie to 50% and a zombie appears on the TV, shambling around with a baseball bat. The quality of the recording doesn’t look all that much better than the ultrasound images we’d just been looking at, blurry and indistinct. I get next to her on the couch, ask how she’s feeling (fine) and if she’s nervous or anxious (yes, she wonders if the baby is in her, wonders if we will be successful, wonders if she’ll be a good mom, wonders a lot of the same things that I wonder about) and if she’s hungry (yes, a pineapple smoothie would be great.)
I tell her that there’s nothing to be done now other than take it easy. It is her job to a) go for a couple of short walks every day and b) other than a, do nothing. The pregnancy test will be next Wednesday, August 23 — that’s the next checkpoint. Either she will be pregnant or she won’t be. It is my job to a) take care of her and make sure stress levels are OK, and b) make a smoothie and c) work.
I would like to not work right now. I would rather write about this more — there are things still left to be said, I think. But, as my mom used to often say when I was a kid and I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, that’s life.
As a kid, I didn’t understand what my mom meant, exactly. But now I do. This was her phrase to describe the necessity of accepting what life gives you. Eat the fruit and drink the poison and hope it all doesn’t kill you too soon.