Monday 30th August 2010
One year ago.
We sit down in the waiting room, our bums hitting the cushions on the plush Ikea couches. Sitting opposite, three women look Suse up and down in unison.
“They check you out,” Suse said one day, apropos of nothing.
“The other women.”
“What other women?”
“At IVF. They size you up. All of them.”
“Not in a bad way. If anything, it’s a good thing. We all sit there, comparing ourselves to each other. We’re all in this shit predicament together. And so it’s kind of comforting to look at someone else and think, ‘Okay, I wouldn’t have picked her as having problems. She looks normal. Maybe I’m not so weird after all.’ ”
I watch as Suse pretends not to notice, as the three women peer over the top of their magazines, giving a first, a second and a third look over. Having convinced themselves they’re not so weird, they return to their articles on overly-famous twenty-somethings who have fallen pregnant more readily than they sneeze.
* * * * *
I glance around this buzzing hive. Nurses, radiographers and reception staff weave in and out of past each other, like they’re doing the Dosey Doe. There are about fifteen women in this morning, all at various stages of ultrasound, blood test, and management plans. It takes about the same number of staff to ensure that it all goes smoothly.
It’s a living, breathing organism.
The couches are arranged in two semicircles; the ones we’re in, just outside radiology, and ones closer to the curved desk in front of the logo. I look down the corridor to Andrology, the arse-end of this living being. As I do, I see a man emerge, beenie on his head, a blank expression on his face. He probably just flicked through ‘MILFs in Heat’. He doesn’t seem to be holding a pot, but fiddles nervously in his pocket all the same. He disappears back up the arse of Andrology, only to emerge a few seconds later, looking even more confused.
We both jump up, causing all three women to again look over the top of their magazines. ‘Ah, yes, Susan,’ they think in unison, ‘if someone called Susan can have troubles, then I must be okay.’
We walk into radiology, eyes boring into our backs, and past the impossibly tall, pencil-thin radiographer who called us in.
“Do I need to go to the toilet again?” Suse asks, like a little girl on her first day of school.
Suse scurries back out past the women, while I enter the room and sit down in another Ikea seat, facing towards the wall. I crane my head back over my neck, and smile like an idiot.
“You can look straight ahead,” says the Pencil lady. Obediently, I do. As I do, I realise there is a 32 inch-plasma screen, lit up with the ultrasound view.
“Do you know Susan’s birthday?
She taps away at her keyboard. “Very good.”
“Most men don’t know their partner’s birthday.”
“No, that’s Suse’s job,” I say, looking straight ahead, not sure if I’m allowed to turn. “She can’t remember my birthday, and she can’t remember our home phone either.”
“I’ll be back in a second,” Pencil lady says, slightly bored.
I sit there for a moment, in this darkened room. There’s the screen, a hospital bed to my right, and the white ultrasound machine on the other side of that. It is connected to a big probe which sits, unceremoniously, in a clear jug of liquid.
It looks like a flight-deck controlled dildo made by Apple.
Suse hurries back in, with Pencil woman right behind.
“Just remove your bottom half, sit up on the bed, and cover yourself with the sheet. I’ll be back in a second.” Pencil woman leaves once more.
“She reckons most partners don’t know their wives birthdays,” I say. “What’s mine?”
She hesitates. “29th May?”
Pencil woman comes back in for the third time, and sits at her computer. Suse lets out a little whoop, like she’s been winded, and from the views on the screen, I see that there’s no time for foreplay here; the Mac computer is already in use.
We both stare at the screen, watching Suse’s uterus as it comes into view. A cursor runs across the screen and then it marks it out, like some weird medical version of Space Invaders. Pencil woman moves quickly across to the left ovary. There we see a multi-loculated thing, a balck bunch of grapes, coated in white. She shoots at it with her cursor.
“They look big,” I say.
“They are,” says Pencil. The image is frozen still, like she’s pausing. The cursor draws cross hairs on the screen, and then we’re back to moving images. She repeats this six times in about a minute; like she’s going for the world record. Numbers leap onto the screen, as if to score:
‘R 16, 16, 12, 10, 6’.
“Sixteen millimetres?” I ask.
“Yep,” Pencil woman says without breaking stride.
“We’ve only had four injections,” Suse says, a hint of urgency in her voice.
“Well, they’ve come up pretty quickly then, haven’t they?”
“We only want them to be eighteen, don’t we?” I say, equally anxious.
“If you read the textbooks, eggs ovulate anywhere between seventeen and twenty-seven millimetres.”
With that, Pencil woman goes silent, again attempting for a personal best. We watch in awe as she does. I expect to see ‘Triple High Score’ come up, but instead, as she taps, more numbers appear: ‘L 13, 9, Total 7’
“There’s actually more on this side,” Pencil says, “but they’re smaller. Five on the right, and seven on the left.”
“Twelve in total?”
“Yep. The trick is now to get them all to be about eighteen millimetres without some bursting.”
The probe comes out, and is dunked in the jug with a splash. I feel like I should click a stopwatch somewhere.
“That thing did have a sheath on it, didn’t it?”
“It did. It’s already off. I’m pretty quick.”
I know. I’m an idiot. I laughed when this was included in the manual.
And yet I still had to check.
Clearly I’m not the only one.
* * * * *
Within moments we’re out the door, just seconds after Suse gets her undies back on. We’re ushered to the couches; this time to the next set along. Within another two minutes we’ve been called back in, directly beyond the slogan desk and into the pathology room. A woman distracts us with questions about the weather, while sticking a sharp object into Suse’s arm. She draws the blood, stands us again, turns us around, and frog marches us back out the door before we even learn her name.
And we’re back in Ikea land.
Five more minutes pass, just long enough to piece the events together.
And with that, there is another call.
“Susan?” We both jump like it’s an Army drill. “I’m Amy,” says another woman, would you like to come through?”
Holding hands, we run through the door of Room Number Three.
“Have you started the Orgalutran yet?” she says before we even sit.
“No, I’ve only just started the Puregon,” Suse says.
“Well, we’re going to give you the Orgalutran right now. Are you okay with that?”
“I…I guess so.”
“Is sixteen millimetres too big this early in the treatment?” I ask.
“No, that’s fine,” Amy says, “we just need to get onto it. Everyone is different. Can you lift up your shirt, Susan?”
Again, the needle is out of its packet in microseconds; this lady would be an asset at Christmas. Again I hear Suse let out a whoop, as the needle goes into her belly, plunger pressed. It’s out and in the bin before I even see it.
“You might get a bit of redness and itching with this one.”
“Really? Are there any other side effects?”
“Oh, if you usually notice things before your period, then you might get a few things like that.”
“Okay,” I say.
“So, Shelley will have your blood results this afternoon, and then she’ll give you a call you to let you know what’s happening.”
“So at this rate…”
“…Egg collection will be on Friday or Saturday.”
“Yeah right,” Suse says. Her eyes go wide.
And with that we’re out.
Ultrasound, blood test, injection and consultation in an hour.
You don’t get that in the public system.
* * * * *
A few hours later, I’m at work when the phone rings.
“I just spoke to Shelley,” Suse says.
“Was she in a whirlwind mood too?”
“No, she was happy to answer questions. But she said that they’ve upped the ante. I’m going to get both. Orgalutran in the morning, and Puregon in the evening.
“Two injections per day?”
“An antagonist and a hormone at the same time?”
This is going to be fun.
* * * * *