Chapter One: Foreplay
The first thing I notice is the scrubs. We walk into the lobby of the fertility clinic and are greeted by a smiling receptionist clad in bright green scrubs. As I look around I notice all the workers I can see are decked out the same way – bright green scrubs with a little coordinated candy striping at the bottom of the v-neck collar. I’m thinking they look like nurses for the lollipop guild when I notice one of the employees with an actual lollipop in her mouth. In fact, sitting on the counter in front of us is a dish loaded with the suckers. Somewhere not-too-deep inside, a Pavlovian chord strikes and my primal child calls out for one, but I let my slightly-more-measured adult prevail. I wonder if we have just entered some strange cult, where they engineer designer babies for their bright-green-wearing, candy-striped, lollipop-wielding religion.
My wife, Lyena, catches my expression in the corner of her eye and I can tell she knows what I'm thinking. We are simpatico that way. Even if she doesn't know specifically what I'm thinking, she has a pretty good idea that it's something ridiculous and somewhat sarcastic, because, well, she's met me. And we are simpatico that way.
After Lyena signs us in, we are directed to a nicely appointed waiting area. I nestle my butt onto a cushion and check out the stack of magazines on the coffee table: Cosmo, Vogue, Travel, Better Homes and Gardens. I move on to the two oversized books sitting beside them: Castles of Europe and an Anne Geddes photo collection. I look up at the TV on the wall: Whoopi is arguing silently with that Hasselbeck chick on The View. Clearly this not a waiting room designed for men. I see my wife has picked up the Castle book, and figure it's safe. I pull out my iPhone and start playing video Blackjack.
A few minutes later a woman comes up and introduces herself as the “patient concierge” (not kidding) and invites us to talk in her office. She's not wearing the traditional green scrubs, so I'm not convinced she actually works there, but she seems to know my wife's name, so I go with it.
Her office is small, but nice, with various dried plants mounted in frames on the wall. At first I think this is odd for a fertility clinic – having dried-up things on the wall – but they are kind of cool looking, so I figure any symbolism is probably unintended. The concierge-lady asks us a few basic questions and gives us some general information about what to expect from our visit today.
My wife asks about how much all of this is going to cost. Lyena and I are near the bottom of the middle-class, and an expensive or extended course of treatment could be difficult-to-impossible for us to afford. Having seen a bit of the clinic's operation so far I silently wonder if we can even afford this visit (someone has to pay for those fancy green scrubs). The lady pulls out a menu of services (she actually calls it that - a "menu") and runs through the various options. The cost, of course, depends on what treatments are needed and for how long, etc. We explain our financial situation and ask if there is any chance of financial aid. She smiles empathetically and says she'll look into it. I don’t start holding my breath.
Back to the waiting room. Lyena and I talk briefly about the costs. I don't know if she's freaking out over the money issue, but I am, and she manages to calm me down a little bit. She convinces me that we don't know enough about what we’ll need, so it’s too soon to freak out. Yet, I think. I’ll save my freak-out energy for later.
Another woman comes up and introduces herself, saying she's going to take us back to get basic health information. She is also not wearing green scrubs and I begin to realize that those are for the reception area employees only. Shame ... I was just getting used to the lollipop cult.
Back in the little examination room, we are asked a series of questions about our health history, including “Have you ever been pregnant before?” “No,” I reply (I’m so clever). Blah, blah, blah. Cleared for take-off.
On a side note, I'm not going to go into the specifics of why we’re going to a fertility clinic in the first place, except to say that, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not because of my wife's paralysis. And to say that if I knew it was going to be this hard to get someone pregnant, I would have had a lot more sex as a kid.
With the health history questions asked and answered, she tells us that we're about to meet our doctor. “He's a really nice guy,” she says. “All the women love him,” she says. Does she not see me in the room, I wonder?
We're led to the doctor's office and take a seat. A few minutes later the doctor arrives. Great. He's the unseen gynecologist from Grey's Anatomy – Dr. VaJayjay. He's Richard-freakin'-Gere with a stethoscope (or a speculum). I want to sleep with him.
Fortunately, I have something he doesn't - I am the lord of the ring. She married me (people saw it and everything). That's enough, right? I hope it's enough. She catches my expression again and shoots me a look that she has mastered over our years together – a perfect combination of "you're an idiot" and "God help me, I love you." We are simpatico that way. My inner Gollum dances with joy.
Dr. VaJayjay talks us through the basic fertility options a little more thoroughly, answering my stupid questions calmly and clearly as if he hasn't heard them 900 times before. He leans back in his chair a lot when he talks, as if this whole business is no big deal – the easiest thing in the world. His voice is so smooth and relaxing I find myself wondering if he's managed to make one of us pregnant just by talking.
He says he's ordered an ultrasound to see how things look. We are taken to another small examination room, this one with an ultrasound machine. We get Lyena settled on the table and I become aware that this is a different type of ultrasound than I've seen on TV. This isn't the kind where they rub her belly and show the happenings inside. This is something altogether different. This realization comes at me in a slow, rising flood, starting when I see the technician rip open the Trojan-MAXXX condom. Then my eyes drift to the ultrasound device itself – a giant, sleek, white plastic phallus. It looks like it was designed by Apple. The full realization hits just as the device is put, not on top of the belly, but ... OKAY! Time to look somewhere else.
Thankfully, there is a screen showing whatever it is the ultrasound iPhallus sees. I don't understand any of it, but at least it's not going to give me nightmares or hurt my masculinity. The technician is making little notes and saying things like "looks good" and "there it is, see?" I don't see, but Lyena seems to, so I trust that whatever it is that “looks good” is, in fact, “there” to be seen. Finally, the trauma is over (though no one else seems to realize it was traumatic at all) and we return to the doctor's office.
"Everything looks good," he says in his single-malt voice. "You look like you're about to ovulate in a few days." How he got that from the shadowy mess I saw on the screen, I don't know, but he's Dr. VaJayjay, so I assume he has some expertise in these things. He runs us through what he saw, what it means and says we should come back in two days for a shot that will help kick the ovulation into high gear. Then we go home and have sex. Finally, something I understand.
We say our goodbyes and head back to the lollipop guild to make the next appointment. Step one complete with limited trauma and zero casualties. Two days and we're on to step two.
Up Next: Money Shot