Expectations: The Transfer

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Read previous posts from Expectations here.

[Redacted: 7,000 words about two back-to-back Sleater-Kinney concerts and how this band continues to be the greatest in the world, which can basically be summed up by a gif of Troy Barnes sobbing “My emotions! MY EMOTIONS!”]

On Tuesday morning we got up at 3am to drive to the airport. There’s something surreal and freeing about going to the airport with nothing but the clothes on your back and the book in your purse, not worrying at all about whether your shampoo will explode all over your favorite jeans. I should do one-day trips by airplane more often. (No, I shouldn’t.)

I did not realize that today was Mardi Gras until I see the flight attendant coming down the aisle in a shiny green paper top hat, handing out beads. Can we agree for future reference that Mardi Gras starts no earlier than 9am? I can’t deal with beads before the sun is up.

By the time we get to Phoenix and are in our rental car, it’s 10 in the morning, we’ve been awake for seven hours, and we haven’t had breakfast yet. We find a diner near the airport and sit in near-silence shoveling pancakes and eggs into our mouths. We’re excited, obviously, but it’s more sort of intellectual excitement than actual vigor.

In the car on the way to Tucson, we listen to the audiobook we started on our Omaha road trip. I’m not going to tell you what it was because I prefer you to think of me as highbrow. Normally I love the scenery of southern Arizona, but today I feel anxious to get through it. We have miles to go before we sleep.

We hit Tucson with time to kill before the transfer appointment, so we go to Bentley’s for a mocha ashtray shake (it has espresso grounds in it and is hands down the best thing when you’re tired), then sit in a park in the spring sunlight. We didn’t tell any of our friends we were coming to town, because it’s a weekday, and we don’t want anyone to feel obligated to rearrange their schedules in order to see us for a few minutes. Now we’re glad we didn’t make any social plans–we don’t have the energy. I barely have the energy to lie in the mostly-dead grass with my head in Charlie’s lap, reading a book. The espresso grounds in the shake have already worn off.

Half an hour before the transfer, Charlie pops the Valium he was prescribed to prevent cramps during the procedure and downs a bottle of water. A full bladder makes the transfer easier because it increases the visibility of the uterus or something, I don’t really know.

At the IVF clinic, we snap a selfie for our hypothetical future baby album. They make Charlie drink even more water and don’t let him pee. We’re led into the back where Charlie changes into the same T-shirt-hospital-gown-thing he wore for the retrieval, and they show us a photograph of the blastocyst being transferred today, a little clump of cells with a smaller, denser clump of cells toward the bottom. I immediately nickname it Blasto.

The doctor threads a catheter through Charlie’s cervix and uses it to deposit Blasto in Charlie’s uterus. Then an embryologist examines the catheter under a microscope to make sure Blasto did, in fact, end up in utero, and not hanging back in the tube being shy. This takes only a few minutes. The doctor reminds Charlie to act as though he is pregnant from this point forward: no alcohol, avoid radiation, eat organic, yadda yadda yadda. Also, we should refrain from sex for a few days.

They send us into the recovery room so Charlie can relax with his feet up and hopefully give Blasto some time to settle into its new home. I was supposed to prepare some jokes for this occasion, because supposedly laughter helps the blastocyst implant, but now I can’t think of any jokes so I make up some really dumb ones on the spot. What’s made of undead body parts and writes modernist poetry? Gertrude Frankenstein.

After 20 minutes or so, Charlie is given permission to get dressed and leave. We are nearly delirious with exhaustion and still craving sugar, so we go to a Baskin Robbins and get a sundae, then sit outside eating ice cream and making each other giggle, losing our goddamn minds because we’ve been running on so little sleep for so long. Then we go to meet Charlie’s mom for dinner at 4pm. What is linear time?

I don’t remember much of our conversation at dinner because I am coming down with a cold and have to run to the bathroom 48 times to blow my nose. Dinner is brief, because we have to get back to Phoenix in time to return our rental car and fly back to Denver. The drive passes in near-silence; once again, we’re listening to the audiobook, though I’m more letting the words wash over me than actually engaging with the plot.

At the airport, I have “Cherrybomb” by The Runaways stuck in my head and I’m trying not to sing it out loud in the security line, because I suspect that’s a good way to be randomly selected for additional screening. Charlie says he doesn’t want the body scanner, he would prefer to opt for the pat-down instead. The agent at the head of the line is super shitty about it. “Why don’t you want to go through the scanner?” he asks brusquely. Let’s note that the TSA’s official policy is not “you can choose a pat-down if you can convince an agent that you have a good enough reason,” so this is intrusive and inappropriate to begin with.

“I’m pregnant,” says Charlie, “and my doctor said the radiation might be dangerous.”

“Better safe,” I say with my cheerful we’re-not-trying-to-cause-any-trouble smile, which hurts my face after 18 hours of wakefulness.

The agent scowls. “It’s just radiation. Everything has radiation.”

“Our doctor said he shouldn’t go through it,” I insist, putting the emphasis on doctor. The agent calls another agent over, this one a woman. He explains the situation to her and she is equally scornful. I should mention here that the airport is not at all crowded, the security line not at all backed up. We are not taking these people away from anything more important.

“It’s totally safe,” she says, sounding indignant.

“I would really rather have the pat-down,” says Charlie. I recognize this tone; this is the I’m About To Stop Being Nice tone. Apparently the TSA agent realizes it too, because she rolls her eyes and complies.

I fall asleep a little on the plane, one headphone in my ear, listening to our audiobook. I wake up to the lights of Denver spinning below me. We finally get to go home and sleep. All three of us, I think–a silent, desperately hopeful little prayer.

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