You better shop around
I've been reading a lot of discussions about egg donation and how women go about choosing a donor. Some agencies provide pictures; others offer only a general physical description. Sometimes you're given test scores and grade point averages as proof of intelligence. If the donor has children of her own or has donated in the past, you'll be told about that, too.
But they don't seem to give the kind of information I'll really want if I end up using donor eggs. I would like to know:
- Can she do math? I can't. Those story problems are a bitch. It would be nice if her eggs had some math in them. And then when the kid comes to me for help with homework, I can call her on the sly and whisper, "Quick! What's 9 times 13?"
- The length of her second toe. Mine is longer than my big toe, giving my feet an unsettling resemblance to the antlers of one Bullwinkle J. Moose. We all want to give our kids a great start in life why not begin with making sure they look decent in sandals?
- Her literary tastes. Anyone who has enjoyed writings by more than one of these authors...
- Stephen King
- Maeve Binchy
- Tom Clancy and his terrifying cadre of tireless henchwriters
- Those Left Behind freaks
- Drs. Atkins, Phil, or Laura
...is off the list. No discussion.
- Can she turn the world on with her smile? Can she take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? The ability to toss her beanie with palpable joy would be a definite plus.
Realistically speaking, though, the only thing I'd truly care about is her age. The younger the better, as far as reproductive potential goes, so I'd be keeping a keen eye out for someone who can sign the papers no more than thirty seconds after her eighteenth birthday. Barely legal, baby.
I don't know whether the donors get any input into who their matches might be. If so, I'm in a heap of trouble, unless some forward-thinking young woman out there likes formerly promiscuous irresponsible atheist drinkers who can't stop swearing.
Just a little off the top
I have learned something new. I have learned that some women get pretty for their doctors. Not only a good wash and maybe some hasty leg-shaving which is as much as I ever do but pedicures and bikini waxes to boot.
But I can't figure out why. Do we think our doctors are looking?
I can see how you might feel the urge to spruce up the place if you thought the person rooting around down there was actually interested. But I just can't imagine my doctor is. In his long career he's faced down vulva after vulva after vulva so many that he doesn't even need to cast a downward glance while introducing the ultrasound probe. In fact, I'm pretty sure he could do it blindfolded, backwards, with one arm tied behind his back. Hell of a parlor trick. Life of the goddamn party.
Or maybe we're talking curb appeal. If I put out a nicer welcome mat and a couple of pots of geraniums, are my embryos more likely to decide that my uterus is a nice place to raise a family? One chipped toenail and there goes the neighborhood.
Or maybe it's part of some obscure pagan ritual. Maybe a neat pelt pleases the gods, but an unruly thicket calls down their mighty wrath, guaranteeing everlasting barrenness. Weren't human sacrifices washed, shaved, and oiled so that the gods might find them tasty? Maybe it's like that.
Look, if I thought my doctor actually noticed, I might be more invested in presenting a pleasing pubic picture. (I doubt it, but I suppose it's possible.) But he couldn't pick my pudendum out of a police lineup even if he had a crooked cop whispering in his ear. He doesn't even pronounce my name correctly, for God's sake. Why should I imagine he cares about my lovely, lovely crotch?
Jim Henson's whirling in his grave
I think it would have been a better idea for my doctor to hold this afternoon's post-cycle consultation in a conference room instead of an examination room.
Paul and I perched uncomfortably on plastic chairs, the chairs that have held up my empty jeans and crumpled underpants on dozens of occasions. The doctor wobbled precariously atop a wheeled stool, not unlike the one from which he presided over my in-office D&C. And before us loomed the table, stripped for the occasion of its paper sheathing, but still bearing those jaunty cloth covers on the stirrups.
You know the ones I mean. Sometimes they're fuzzy socks. Sometimes they're hand-knitted booties. In my doctor's office, they're sticky purple vinyl, kindly supplied by our friends at Ortho. I suppose they're intended to make pelvic intrusion a little more cozy.
I admit it: the presence of the examination table threw me. It made me uncomfortable. I mean, I couldn't really listen to a single thing my doctor had to say, because the whole time the poor man talked, all I could think of was how much I wanted to snatch up the stirrup covers and put on a rollicking puppet show.
For unto us a child is born. Oh. Wait.
In an inexorable torrent, this year's Christmas letters have begun to come in. You know the ones I mean:
Jane loves her full-time job as a SAHM to Madison, Taylor, Montana, and Dakota. She doesn't get much vacation time, but the fringe benefits are worth it! This year we spent our days in a course of exhilarating child-directed study of the environment Taylor especially enjoyed catching tadpoles in the pond!
I've been working on my own holiday letter. Want to take a look?
Now that I look at it, I guess it could probably use a quick edit.
Things which were good now suck
I am outraged, outraged to learn that baby aspirin, prescribed to many women to assist in embryo implantation, is now compounded with artificial sweeteners!
I hadn't tasted baby aspirin since the olden days of my youth. Any childhood fever brought with it the thrill of Russian roulette: would we get the St. Joseph's for Children (sharp, orangey, and delicious), or would we get a spoonful of sugar mixed with grown-up aspirin and water (bitter, gritty, and so vinegary it felt like your tongue was shriveling under the onslaught)?
Okay, low-stakes Russian roulette.
On the assumption that, hey, it couldn't hurt, I bought a bottle today and popped one while I was driving home. Imagine my indignation when I recognized the cloying sweetness of aspartame. Why did they do this? Are they afraid baby aspirin will give me cavities? Do they know that too much sugar makes me a little bit hyper? Do they think I'm concerned about the calorie count? Or are they now angling for the low-carb toddler market?
What the hell is going on?
My period arrived this morning, a day early. Eager to let my, uh, creative juices flow, I have scheduled a day of crafts to celebrate. Just in case any of you lead a Brownie troop, I will share my plan here.
Fun and easy menstrual projects:
- Thumbprint hamster
Supplies: Blood, paper, thumb, Sharpie.
Procedure: Press thumb into blood. Press gore-soaked thumb onto paper, rocking thumb back and forth to assure even coverage. Wait for thumbprint to dry. With Sharpie, add a long tail, some tiny toesies, lovable-looking ears, cunning little snout, and three spiky whiskers on each side of face. (Evil slanted eyebrows optional.) With Sharpie, write, "Thumbody isn't pregnant!" Slip into doctor's mail slot.
Supplies: Blood, paper, scissors, salad spinner, bleach.
Procedure: Cut a pleasing shape out of the paper. A heart is nice, but you might also consider the silhouette of a uterus wracked with painful cramps. Place shape flat inside salad spinner. Dribble blood onto the paper. Replace lid of salad spinner. Send shape and blood for a short whirl. Remove shape and let dry. Sanitize salad spinner with copious amounts of bleach. Place heart under windshield wiper of doctor's car.
- Untitled installation piece
Supplies: Blood, bucket, expensive automobile, cover of darkness.
Procedure: Stealthily approach your reproductive endocrinologist's parking space. When coast is clear, decorate vehicle with attractive lashings of red and brown. (Some artists strive for a Pollock vibe, but I work more in the mode of Rauschenberg.) Watch carefully for approaching authorities. Scamper away as fast as your Pamprin-doped carcass will carry you.
It's a theory
I have a theory about why I'm infertile: I think my uterus may be situated on an ancient Indian burial ground.
Um, what birds and bees?
My friend T. just called to tell me her six-year-old daughter had asked her, "But, Mom, how does the sperm get to the egg?"
I told her she was lucky her daughter hadn't asked me.
"Well, Emily, the thing is, it doesn't."
"The daddy sits alone in a grubby little room and frantically performs the secret handshake, while the mommy lies on a gurney drugged to the gills. Then a mysterious masked man introduces a needle the size of a shish kebab skewer into her bathing suit area. What? Wait, where are you going? Hey, why are you crying?"
Or, more succinctly...
"When a reproductive endocrinologist and my Visa card love each other very, very much..."
Any of you with children are welcome to give old Aunt Julie a call when it's time to have that awkward conversation. Or I suppose you could just buy a record, if you think it'd be safer.
My feelings about my reproductive endocrinologist are occasionally quite negative. But I swear it isn't personal.
In fact, on a personal level, I'm crazy about him. He's a lovely man who's shown me great kindness on many occasions, the sort of kindness I needed when everything went haywire: laughing dutifully at my feeble attempts at humor when most people would have been horrified. He has never shied away from the questions, complaints, and occasional abuse with which I've ambushed him. Although some of the decisions that have been made about my treatment have turned out very badly, I can't doubt the purity of his motives or the goodness of his intentions.
Based on a careful study of my journal entries (and recollection of a very few bizarre and smoking-hot dreams), I've concluded that the spikes of annoyance I've experienced over the last few months are really nothing personal. I've found that the intensity of my feelings correlates directly with the success of a given phase of treatment.
Thanks to the magic of Microsoft, I have prepared a chart that proves this, including several important milestones over the last two years. I feel it's quite persuasive.
Yes! Please send me 12 jam-packed issues!
There are many reasons that sitting in the waiting room at an infertility clinic might be a bit depressing. My clinic shares a waiting room with an OB/GYN practice, so there is a constant parade of pregnant women, each more blooming and happy-looking than the last. There is also consequently a related parade of tiny, tiny babies swaddled in Polarfleece, in the arms of proud-looking new mothers appearing for their six week postpartum checkup.
But that's not all. There's bad art on the walls. Now, I know you think you know what I mean when I say bad art. But you don't. You can't. Imagine, if you will, a palsied, slavering, lobotomized Doberman with a paintbrush stuck up his ass. Got it? Okay. That dog looks like Caravaggio compared to the reprobate responsible for these crimes against art. The subjects run heavily to animals among vegetation. One is some sort of great spotted cat, or maybe a hyena, amid a thicket of what looks like nothing so much as dark green pubic hair. Another captures a deer, or perhaps a flounder, peering over its shoulder apprehensively almost a reproachful look back at its creator. "Why have you made me? I didn't ask to be born."
And of course there's the miasma of desperation that collects in the corners where the infertile patients huddle (well out of the pathway of the triumphant new mothers). If you were to draw a cartoon, you'd put in some thick, wavy hashmarks stink lines to depict the palpable sadness.
Those things are depressing enough, God knows, but today I discovered yet another reason to hate and fear this waiting room: the magazines.
Here is a list of the periodicals that were available for my perusal this morning as I waited:
- Pregnancy Today
- American Baby
- Car & Driver
- Business Week
Number of times I have ever seen a man paging through any of the first six: 0
Now sometimes I take in issues of The Economist or New Scientist and leave them prominently on the table as a low-key form of protest (having first carefully excised the address label). Today I didn't, and found myself without anything to read.
So instead I sat and wondered if there are any magazines out there for the infertile crowd.
You know. "Quick makeup tips to hide those nasty belly bruises." "Creepy global fertility rituals: What the Hell, give 'em a whirl." "10 good reasons to try very hard not to punch your sister-in-law's lights out."
I kind of doubt it.
But there should be. In fact, I'm considering launching one myself. Look for the inaugural issue in your mailbox in a couple of months.