A Place At The Table

In vitro fertilization wasn’t for me. Until it was.

August 2012

The day finally arrived. On the drive to the clinic, we communicated by squeezing our interlaced fingers. It will work. It will work. It will work. The mantra was like a heartbeat.

There was blood work and then a wait that stretched forever. I attempted to read. A nurse came in and secured me to the bed. Before she left, she switched on a screen. There, illuminated by light and magnified by a microscope, was embryo number seven. We stared at it in reverence. We searched it for life. That unremarkable gray mass was the most extraordinary image we’d ever seen. It’s what we had been working toward. It might be our future child. Heath took a picture.

The transfer was short but difficult. I cried the whole time. The bed was tilted so violently backward that the blood gathered in my head. My ears filled with the thump of my heart. It took two tries before Dr. Surrey—Dr. Minjarez’s counterpart—sent Lucky Number Seven on its way. The doctor whispered “All aboard” before wishing us luck and leaving the room.

The 48-hour mandatory bed rest was nothing compared to the nine interminable days that had to pass before I went in for a pregnancy test. Then, when the nurse did call, it seemed to take her forever to deliver the news. Finally, she said: “Congratulations, you’re pregnant.” I shrieked and jumped off the couch.

For 11-and-a-half weeks, I was so nauseated I could only nibble plain, untoasted bagels. Peaches were my nemesis. I was light-headed, tired, miserable. But I was relieved to have the physical, tangible proof of the life growing inside. It took us a long time to lose our nervous edge. At eight weeks—a week longer than the previous three pregnancies lasted—we exhaled. At the all-important, three-month mark, our shoulders softened. By six months, Dr. Offerdahl gently encouraged us to put aside our lingering fears. We moved Ella to her new room. We set up the crib in the nursery. But even with the reassurance of ultrasounds, I knew our apprehension wouldn’t dissipate until we held this baby in our arms. Everyone thought it was a boy—everyone except Ella.

This time, we didn’t take any chances; I was scheduled for a 7 a.m. C-section on a Monday in mid-April. Dr. Offerdahl was waiting for us in the operating room. Her surgical mask couldn’t hide her smile. Those last moments as expecting parents were fraught with emotion. There was clarity and finality—something we had chased for years. I was looking up into Heath’s face when Dr. Offerdahl held our baby in the air. And then: the long-awaited newborn cry. We held her, named her, and soaked up her presence.