Every Fluid Imaginable

The small gray-haired woman steps out from behind a heavy door and calls out my name, “Earl Clark!” I rise, smile at my wife, and follow the older woman into the bowels of the infertility clinic at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The woman brings me to a long, narrow room with a television and brown leather recliner. Knowing why I am here, I am already about to laugh. The woman explains the procedure. I will make my deposit into the small plastic cup. I will then open the small metal door in the wall, place the cup on the shelf there, close the door, and press a button to alert the technician on the other side that the specimen is ready. The woman opens a drawer in the small counter that takes up the back corner of the room. She says, “Here is some adult reading material, if you need it.”

This woman was someone’s grandmother, and here she was telling me where to find the porn. This moment was priceless. It wasn’t particularly funny then, as I was so nervous about producing a good sample but, looking back on it, I can honestly say it was the most humorous moment of a rather long day.

It was a day in which we tried to do everything. First thing in the morning, we dropped off my Jetta at Manchester Volkswagen to be looked at. It’s been idling awfully high when it first starts and the low coolant dummy-light has been coming on a lot. So, we did that.

After the car, we drove to the post office to send of my thesis manuscript. In the car ride, to calm myself down, I read Stef the first line of every chapter. She seemed to enjoy it. When it came time to send the manuscript, I kissed the thing, right there in the post office lobby, to show it that I didn’t hate it as much as I say I do.

At home, after those two things, I did the taxes. We have never waited this long to get them done. And actually, I had done the federal taxes a month ago. It was only the Massachusetts state taxes, which we still have to do because we work in Massachusetts, that had taken forever. And the forms you have to fill out as non-residents and/or part-year residents—they were obnoxious.

Finally, it came time to go to the hospital. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is in Lebanon, NH, an hour and a half north of our home in Merrimack. The specialist we were going to see normally comes down to our area once a month, but we had the day to do this, so we opted to drive up and see him now, rather than wait.

He was a nice enough man, a round Indian man with a slight British accent, and he explained quite a bit to us both while he was examining me and before and after. He discovered that what I initially thought was a varicocele, and what he initially thought was a varicocele, was really just a bit of fat. He double and triple checked, the longest a man has fondled my balls in my life. But it was just fat.

This was both good and bad news. It was good in that it meant I would not require surgery. There was nothing physically wrong with me. Chemically, though, it could be another matter. It could be that my hormone levels are skewed. It could even be that I am part of a worldwide trend in which the Y chomosome is shrinking steadily. There’s a lot of things it could be. There are a lot of treatments that might help in some small way.

The most important thing is that I’m healthy. I am not going to die of infertility. I just may not be able to have children naturally.

The answer then becomes In vitro fertilization or, rather, Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, a particular subset of IVF referred to by the acronym ICSI. They take some of my sperm and inject it directly into one or more of Stephanie’s eggs, allow it to grow for a couple of days in a petri dish, or something similar, and then insert it back into her. It’s not glamorous, and it’s certainly not as much fun as doing it naturally, but the end-result is the same.

IVF is prohibitively expensive for some couples. But Stef’s insurance, which we are still carrying thanks to COBRA, covers IVF in full. We alerted the doctor to this and he made every promise to help us get started right away, while we wouldn’t have to pay hardly as much for it.

After the visit with the doctor, I had to go to produce my second semen sample and then I had to have blood drawn. Combine those two ordeals with the fact that I had to produce a urine sample upon arrival, and you can imagine my grumpiness by the end of the afternoon. I was an insufferable bastard for the first part of the ride home. But, my wife loves me, and we made it through.

We meet with our fertility specialist on Saturday morning to discuss our options. They typically start IVF cycles on the third day of a woman’s cycle. So, if we really got started right away, the whole process would begin next week. We’ll see. The important thing is that we are starting to get some answers.