It’s that time of the month–the time when I launch into fight or flight mode, send wacky nonsensical text messages about needing snacks, and use excessive punctuation. This hallmark moment is brought to you by the LH surge,* as indicated by that digital smiley face on the OPK. I’m starting to think of that little smiley as a sick little clown that is taunting me, betting on me going bat-shit crazy for the 24 hours following his arrival. Here’s a summary of the 24 hours post smiley.
Step 1. Calling the doctor’s office to set up an IUI appointment. On Monday, it went something like this:
Hi, I’m calling to make an appointment for IUI.
What time is your appointment?
Um, I’m calling to make the appointment, so I don’t know what time it is yet.
When do you need to be here?
You tell me.
Who is your doctor?
Well, let me see if he’s in tomorrow…no, he isn’t. But you can see the nurse practitioner. They do these procedures sometimes. You need to bring $200.
(Inside voice: um, sometimes?) Okay, that’s fine.
What time is your appointment with the clinic?
Um, you are the clinic right? I’m calling to make the appointment.
Yes. But you usually need an appointment before this one.
I’ve been there before.
No, I mean an appointment to pick up your sample. You need to arrive here with the sample and $200.
Okay, I am pretty sure I can pick up my specimen (inside voice: man in a can. giggle.) any time, so how about I just reserve the earliest spot you have?
Okay, that’s a good idea because these slots are going like hot cakes and we will be all booked up in an hour. Okay, you need to arrive tomorrow at 8:20 with your specimen and $200.
Alright, see you tomorrow at 8:20.
Thank you. (inside voice: How much should I bring again?)
Step 2. Conning the pharmacist out of syringes for the AI
This involves profuse sweating and tachycardia. I am a bad liar and dread explaining to the pharmacist that yes, I really do need 2 more syringes for my cat’s medication even though I haven’t filled the script for about 4 months.
Step 3. Searching for dry ice
Usually this is a quick stop to the local grocery’s seafood counter, where the friendly manager has my package wrapped up and ready to go when I arrive. However, the manager was apparently on vacation this week. When I called, his underling was quick to tell me they had plenty of dry ice on hand and buying 5 pounds would be “no problem!” He was also conveniently on his lunch break when I arrived and his coworker apologetically showed me the completely empty dry ice container. After calling five other stores, I found enough dry ice to pack our little Coconut Dream lunch bag and stuff it in the soccer mom water cooler.
Step 4. Picking up ‘man in a can’ for AI #1
The ‘man in a can’ is stored at a local fertility clinic, which saves money on shipping costs. However, the trade off is having to step out of an elevator to the blaring sound of smooth jazz, frosted glass, and cheery andrologists. Thirty minutes of this is mind numbing enough to make the $150 shipping cost seem reasonable.
Step 5. The office visit, AI #2
I really should have R tell you about this section of the routine, but I’ll give it a go. We stop at the fertility clinic to pick up the ‘man in a can,’ which is perhaps more accurately described as ‘man in a glass vial nestled in a white styrofoam coffee cup.’ We carry the gas station coffee cup upstairs to the OB/GYN office and pay our $200. We look around the waiting room and take note that no one else is holding a gas station coffee cup. We are instructed to wait in an interior waiting room, which is a sort of purgatory for old magazines and 1980’s office furniture. Ten long minutes later, we are escorted back to a small room with giant stirrups that are covered some sort of yellow spongy material. We gulp.
R gets ‘dressed’ in a paper gown and the NP arrives and greets us cheerily. She puzzles over R’s chart and the extensive notes Dr. L made about the last IUI. Apparently it is uncommon for Dr. L to write notes. The NP loads a syringe with man in a can, and attaches a long catheter to it, which will be threaded through the cervix and into the uterus. The NP says this will be really “quick and easy,” and she will really regret uttering those words about 45 minutes later. She struggles to insert the catheter and must use a variety of tools that seem invented for torture. After multiple attempts, she calls for back up. A second doctor arrives, and he too is impressed that Dr. L made notes about the previous IUI procedure. He and the NP discuss which instruments of torture she’s used and discuss the possible reasons for the difficulty inserting the catheter. He then turns to us and says he’s never used these instruments before. We are not terribly impressed by this fact. R is red faced and clammy. I wipe her down with wet paper towels and grit my teeth. The doctor asks “How many vials of this donor do you have?” I tell him there are more vials downstairs and ask if I should go get some more. He says “No,” offering no further explanation. R and I try to remain calm. The doctor struggles with the catheter and the instruments of torture. He finally succeeds. R says “I feel like I need to shake your hand to congratulate you.” He is glad to oblige. The NP is very apologetic, and pleased we want to shake her hand too. We are are left alone in the room for 20 minutes while R rests after the procedure.
Step 6. Waiting
Now we enter the TWW. Luckily we have a lot of distractions.
*Secret decoder ring:
LH surge: the rise in luteinizing hormone that signals ovulation is pending
OPK: ovulation predictor kit
IUI: intrauterine insemination
AI: artificial insemination
NP: nurse practitioner
TWW: two week wait