My Apple watch vibrated. I knew what the text said before I even looked down. "Leaving work, babe. Be there in 10 minutes."
The routine is ingrained in my mind; this is at least the 12th time I've received this same text from my husband. I've been ready for over an hour––my nervous bladder and stomach working overtime.
I know I can always count on an upset stomach before an appointment at the fertility clinic. Always.
I hear the garage door and I'm already outside before he even pulls into the driveway. I climb into his cherry red F150 and he's singing loudly to the song on the radio or he's ready to crack a joke or he tells me about something that happened at work that morning. Anything to lighten the mood. I give him a sideways smile, a quick kiss and an update on my tummy troubles.
"Hope we don't have to pull into a gas station on the way!"
The 20 minute drive to the clinic is somber. He grabs my hand and our fingers naturally intertwine. The radio is tuned to our favorite country or Christian station, but it's all white noise to me.
I'm thinking about the appointment. It's likely either a quick blood draw, a transvaginal ultrasound or an intrauterine insemination (IUI). At this point, I have designated outfit styles for each:
Bloodwork: Loose sweatshirt so I can roll the sleeve up easily
Transvaginal Ultrasound: Pants I can slip off quickly
IUI: A tank top and a cardigan with a pocket to keep my mom's owl stone accessible for me to hold during the procedure
Each time we pull into the parking lot, we make the same type of comment. "Busy place this morning," or "Weird, not many people here today," or, my favorite, "Someone took my parking spot!"
We've been to the fertility clinic so many times that we have an unspoken "designated" parking spot. Brian backs into our spot with a smooth turn of the wheel and grabs my hand. We say a prayer and he sends me off with a kiss and a humorous pep talk to make me smile.
"Hope the prick of the needle isn't as bad as those pricks you used to date!"
"Time to see if your eggs are ready to hatch!"
"Go get knocked up, babe!"
I take a deep breath––trying to calm the feeling in my stomach––climb out of the truck and head towards the entrance. I always read the COVID-19 sign on the door, just to make sure nothing has changed since I was last there.
Brian is still not allowed to come inside. I have to go alone–again.
I have to Do It Afraid.
The hot air from my breath behind my mask makes it hard to breathe. No other patients are at the front desk so I march forward and stand in front of the thermometer. "TEMPERATURE NORMAL" says the robotic female voice from the screen. She keeps repeating herself until I move out of her line of sight.
Teri Morgan, I say, to the receptionist. There is a thin piece of scratched plexi-glass that separates us. She couldn't hear me through my mask, so I say it louder. Then I wonder if the girls who work the front desk already know who I am since I've been there so many times.
I sit down in a chair that isn't turned backwards. The waiting room is desolate. The shelving that used to hold dozens of magazines is bare. I let my imagination run wild for a moment and pretend I'm starring in a dystopian movie.
I snap out of that rather quickly and my mind wanders to other patients who are experiencing appointment restrictions in the midst of this global pandemic. Other infertile couples. Cancer patients. People who need essential surgeries. COVID-19 patients.
A sadness overwhelms me. They likely don't have anyone sitting beside them either. They have to Do It Afraid, too.
How different would our infertility journey be if it wasn't taking place simultaneously with COVID-19? I imagine being able to do this WITH my husband. I imagine him sitting beside me in the waiting room, holding my hand and telling me it will all be ok. I imagine him actually being able to BE IN THE ROOM when our baby is conceived.
My thoughts are interrupted when I hear my name.
The kind lab nurse is calling me for my bloodwork
A nurse I've never seen before is waiting to do my ultrasound
My favorite nurse looks directly at me as she calls me back for my IUI
My stomach feels a little lighter when I see her. She's done all my IUIs so far and I asked her if I can request her in the future. When she says yes I am ecstatic. One less person who has to see my vagina. That's a win in my book.
I roll up my sleeve.
I disrobe from the waist down.
I add my initials to the paper that says that this vial of sperm is, in fact, ours.