Wednesday 30th June 2010
Gestation: 39 weeks, 5 days
One year ago.
“Hello, Candace speaking.”
“Hi there, I was wondering if I could speak to someone regarding a couple of questions.”
“Certainly, I’ll put you through to Jessica.”
“Thank you.” I wait for a moment, listening to another woman – I’ll call her Lizzie – tell me all about her centre’s marvellous attributes in a luxuriously silky voice, sounding more like an ad for a men’s club than an IVF centre. She gets to the bit about her recent developments, when she is cut short.
“Hello, Jessica speaking,”
“Hi, Jessica, my name’s Mark…”
“…An absolute pleasure to talk to you Mark,” she butts in, gushing. Kind of like Lizzie if she grew up on a farm.
“Yes, you too. Ummm, I was just wondering about whether I could talk to you about the Child Protection Order check?”
“Oh you probably want to talk to Sarina about that one.”
“Okay, can I ask you about the counselling then?”
“Yeah, look Michelle’s the person for that, or maybe Janette.” Candace, Jessica, Sarina and now Michelle and Janette. Not to mention Lizzie. My head spins.
“You’ve got a lot of people working there.”
“Thank you,” she says, gushing some more. I can actually hear her blush over the phone.
“You’re really into your job, aren’t you?”
“I just love it so much, all these people I can help…”
“What’s your surname, Jessica?”
“Dove. As in the bird.” I grab a Post it pad and write her name in texta, underlining it twice. I peel it off, and slap it on the inch-thick pile of paperwork.
“Excellent. I don’t need Michelle, Sarina or Janette. You’re my go-to man, Jessica. My go-to woman, I should say.”
“But I’m just the receptionist,” she pleads.
“Rubbish,” I say, “you’re Susan and Mark Nethercote’s go-to woman.”
She giggles so hard that she nearly drops the phone.
* * * * *
Within thirty-minutes, Jessica has organised and emailed me my Police Record Checks, the Child Protection Order Check, the IVF Registration Form, and the Activation Form. She has wriggled us into see the Finance Manager and the Counsellor as a back-to-back appointment. Today. The wait time is usually in weeks. Jessica got us an appointment in ninety minutes time.
“Thank you so much for all of this, Jessica.”
“Look, they were a little bit flustered that I was pushing to get you in so soon, but you’re a busy man, being a doctor and all, and I know how hard it is to get in here, and you weren’t free tomorrow, and then next Wednesday you start full time work again, and it was going to be really hard for you to make it in, and you’ve got your semen analysis on Friday, and I really want for you to be activated, so that everything can get up and running, with the police checks and all – even though you’ve already had a million of them – what, each time you work in a new hospital? That must get really tiring. And Suse has been good enough to manage to squeeze us in today as well, and…”
Half of this is true. The rest Jessica made up, filling in the blanks in her own mind as she went. It was fascinating, seeing her verbalise her every thought, leaving nothing to the imagination. Left to her own devices, she dramatised my predicament better than I could have on my best day. I just let her run with it.
“…And… Well you know. It’s a lot you’ve got on your plate.”
“It is. And you’ve been an absolute trooper, Jessica. You really are a lifesaver. You are our go-to woman.”
“I know,” she says, gushing all over the phone. “And you’ve been so wonderful to me. I can’t wait to meet you two.”
I consider asking her to be our baby sitter.
But first things first.
* * * * *
Suse and I enter the building, and head up the lifts. We rush through the doors of the centre, all purple and squared off and modern, and… Corporate. ‘Reproductive Services’ isn’t like other parts of Medicine. It’s so… swanky. It’s something about the demographic, the age group, the vitality of the service as well as the fact that it’s all done in the test tube. All that adds up to it being just that bit-more sanitised than other parts of medicine. It’s Pre-Obstetrics - Obstetrics without the swollen feet, sore backs and stretch marks. It’s all so… fresh.
So fresh, in fact, that I suddenly realise that I’ve left my tax return at home, before remembering that I’m not at the Accountant. The front desk is curved, but the woman behind it is not. She sits upright, a ruler up her spine. The desk has a logo, two intersecting semi-lunar shapes, just like my Accountant. Below is the motto: “Life Starts Here”.
Like I said. Swanky.
I mean, the place has a friggin’ slogan.
“May I help you?” says the woman behind the desk, without looking up. She has a phallic alien-looking device attached to her jaw.
“Yes, we’re here to…” Suse slaps me on the arm. The woman shoots me a stare, before tapping at the Bluetooth-penis stuck on her face and continues talking.
“Sorry,” I say. I feel dumb, totally out of my field. This isn’t a hospital. It’s a space ship.
“Is that Mark?” I nod instinctively, before spotting the chubby woman appearing from around a corner. She waves, and lets out a little squeal, before jogging over. Her breasts bounce along as she bounds, and then as she pumps her fists in the air. I don’t know where to look.
“Jessica, I’m guessing?”
She stops herself just short of us, kind of hugging the air between us.
“I’m so glad to meet you both.”
“Sorry we’re late,” says Suse, “we really had to push it to get here by now.”
“No, thank you for coming at such short notice. It was really great of you to do that for us.”
“Only because of the strings you pulled,” I say. “You’re our go-to woman after all!”
She whoops, so loudly that the Matrix-clone almost falls of her chair. She presses another button on the face-penis device, holding it carefully against her cheek. With that, Jessica does actually hug us, both at the same time, her breasts pouring over us. It’s awkward and weird, and kind of comforting, all at once.
“Come on through and meet Michelle. We’ve got a lot to get through.”
* * * * *
Ninety minutes later, we’ve covered a lot. We’ve discussed the blood tests and semen analysis. We’ve completed the Child Protection Order Check, the Police Record Check, and the Registration Form. We’ve been to finance and sorted out our Payment Plan. We’ve been to the Counsellor, and discussed The Process. We’ve met Sarina, Michelle and Janette, but haven’t yet met Lizzie. We’ve contemplated what to do in the case of Suse’s death, my death, our divorce, our separation, if there’s a fire, a plague of locusts, a tsunami, a nuclear winter, a cataclysm, an Apocalypse or Armageddon. In all but Armageddon, we get to keep the embryos.
We’ve sorted through or our inch of paper, and been given two more. My frustration at the multiple, discriminatory police and character checks has all just melted away in the face of Jessica’s giddy positivity. In amongst our pile of red tape are two, laminated, spiral bound books, one entitled “Guide to Getting Started Handbook”, and the other “The Treatment Cycle Handbook”. They’re just like my tax returns. I can tell you, if you get diabetes or renal failure, no one gives you spiral binding.
Other medical conditions just aren’t slick enough.
We walk out of our final appointment, and back towards the front desk, juggling our paperwork as we go. As we arrive, Jessica scurries out from behind the front desk, sidling up close. She takes Suse’s hand between hers like she’s about to read her palm.
“How did you go?” she asks, her eyebrows rising, her mouth slightly open.
“I think we’ve done it all.”
Jessica lets out a little yelp, before doing a little jig. “I’m just so happy that we got it all done today.”
“So are we,” we say in unison.
She gives us a little hug.
“Thanks go-to woman,” I whisper, and she positively shrieks with delight.
God help us when we actually get pregnant.
“Thanks once again, Jess,” I say as we walk away.
“You just called me Jess,” she says, gasping. “My friends call me Jess.” She looks like she’s going to cry. We keep walking. “Good luck on Friday,” she yells. “With your specimen.”
I give her the thumbs up, trying not to shake my head. She stands there waving, just like my Mum does at the front gate after we’ve come to visit. That’s who Jessica is. She’s my Mum, in a twenty-five year old’s body. With ridiculous breasts. On speed.
As we walk, I take one last look back at the clone. She sits at the desk with a plug up her arse, pushing the metal penis hard against her cheek, just wishing that we would all die. Had the clone answered the phone, and not Jessica, I don’t think we would have got our first cycle in this year.
Maybe not this decade.
Instead with Jessica, we’re ready to go whenever we want.
Sometimes you just get lucky.
* * * * *