The Call

“So when are you going to have a baby????.....” the question is asked by some well-intended aunt or office co-worker.  The question always ends upwards with a slight trill, the pitch on the word “baby”.  The change in pitch makes the question seem innocuous, as though they were commenting on the weather or the latest win by a Boston sports team.

 

This question no doubt brings my wife to tears.  I feel a stiffness in my neck and lower back.  It’s so personal, so private.  I don’t want to answer.  I don’t like to answer because I will have to lie.

 

“Oh, we’d like to have kids; we’re trying….” I respond with a deliberately casual retort.  “we’re confident”

 

But we’re not confident.  We’ve been trying for two years.   We have sought fertility counseling.  We’ve been intimate on an every-other day basis.  My wife has leaned her legs up against the walk, hoping gravity will assist us.  We’ve undergone several IUIs, which are essentially an exaggerated form of artificial insemination.  I recall seeing on TV how they artificially inseminate cows.  A big turkey baster is inserted into the mother cow.  It looks so medieval.  We’ve also had two miscarriages, including a devastating one at 9 weeks.  We don’t owe anyone these explanations.  It’s our private pain.

 

Our last hope is IVF: a common, expensive, and deceptively complex procedure.  Although many couples have done it with success, I was surprised how ignorant I was about the process.  Smiling Hollywood couples lauded it in People Magazine - their happy endings and Instagram posts ignoring how emotionally draining the process was.  And though it has high rates of success, it has also has higher rates of non-success.  As our fertility doctor described it, “it’s really more of an art than a science….”

 

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The phone rings.  I answer it before the 2nd ring.

 

“Hello?”  I answer, hearing the expectancy in my own voice.  My wife is on the couch, her eyes looking directly into mine.

 

“Mr. Carroll?  This is Dr. Wheeler from Women & Infants Hospital”

 

“Yes?”

 

“We have the results of your procedure.  Although we retrieved three eggs from your wife, none of the eggs have fertilized.  However, we’ve learned some things that we can do differently next time.  I hope you understand, this is more of an art than a science……”

 

“Yes………..yes, I understand……….”

 

“Please feel free to call our office.  It’s not uncommon to do several rounds of IVF before it’s successful.

 

“Yes…….yes, I understand…”

I hang up the phone and look at my wife.  There’s no need to explain.  She has heard everything.    She looks at me and then looks at the floor.

 

“They said they’ve learned some things that they could do differently next time”

 

“I heard that” my wife says.

As I walk over to the couch to sit beside my wife, I think to myself “there won’t be a next time”.  $8,000.  $8,000 wasted with nothing to show other than “we’ve learned some things”.  I reflect on how I can bring up the conversation of adoption to Jen without sounding like I’m reacting in a knee-jerk fashion.  Let’s revisit adopting a girl from China, from Ethiopia.  We had discussed it at length before IVF.  How noble, how globally conscious it would be.  What could be more benevolent than adopting?

 

My wife, sensing my discouragement, cheers me up by suggesting we go to a local restaurant.  Good idea – I think to myself – if I stay home, it will just give me the freedom to decline into deeper self-pity, to feel even more resentful. 

 

At the restaurant, Jen’s idea - though well-intended -  doesn’t work, I don’t even make eye contact with the ebullient waitress, as she outlines all the specials of the evening.  Neither am I much a conversationalist for my wife. I respond to any her conversational quips with brief monotone responses.  She is dong a much better job of supporting me than I of her

 

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The next morning is uneventful.  As Jen and I get up and prepare for work in the usual fashion, we are struck by the latest weather reports – snow…….and lots of it.  It is February, certainly to be expected.  With the news from the ob-gyn, we are caught off guard by the forecast, and begin making the necessary arrangements to work from home.

 

The phone rings at 7 am.  Jen and I look at each other with a puzzled glance, the look that allows married couples to communicate with using words.  Who would be calling us so early?  It’s either an unexpected emergency at work, or a family issue.  Neither of which I want to deal with.  I answer the phone.

 

“Mr, Carroll?”

 

“Yes?” I answer with slight irritation in my voice.

 

“This is Women & Infants Hospital…..

 

“Yes?….”

 

“Something unusual has happened.  One of your embryos has fertilized into a 2 cell on Day 2.  It’s highly unusual.

 

“Oh, I see”

“Whatever you are doing, we need you to come to the hospital now.  We want to do the implantation immediately….”

 

“Oh…” my voice trailing off….. “but there’s a winter storm warning.  In fact, I heard the Governor may declare a state of emergency.  I don’t know if we can make it to the hospital in this weather.”

 

“Oh Mr. Carroll……..” the nurse’s voice trailing wistfully, “a woman’s anatomy doesn’t keep track of the weather. We need you to come in today.”

 

“Yes, I see”.  As I hang up the phone, I suddenly realize my wife is standing only two feet away.  Her eyes meet mine with expectancy.

 

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The drive to Women & Infants Hospital is daunting.  There are very few cars on the road, as the governor did in fact call a state of emergency.  The snow plow drivers do their best, but the snow is heavy and wet. They simply can’t keep up.  My wife and I treacherously navigate the S curves on 95 North.  The back end of my Nissan Sentra fishtailing in the wet snow.  For the drive, my wife’s left hand occasionally clasps my right hand for support, until the car fishtails again and I re-grip the steering wheel in panic.

 

We enter Women & Infants and they immediately admit my wife.  She is soon dressed in a hospital gown and a patient shower cap.  They wheel her into the medical room with our fertility doctor at the side of the stretcher.  I hardly recognize her in her medical scrubs.  As they enter the treatment room, the doctor is at her side, a man I have never met before, who introduces himself without shaking my hand. 

 

“Hi.  Mr. and Mrs. Carroll, I have to caution you.  We are implanting one 2-cell embryo as a part of your IVF.  Statistically, your chances of getting pregnant are very low….”

 

“But it’s better than nothing, right?” my wife responds with noticeable optimism. Her tone is surprising confident, as they push her stretcher through the double doors.

 

Miracles do indeed happen……

© 2019 by Paul Carroll