Week 01 - Conceiving of You
This is your story, the story of how you came to be. And until you’re old enough to tell it yourself, I hope you won’t mind that I do it for you. I think it’s a valuable thing, knowing where you came from, knowing where you’ve been. And those years before we are able to write ourselves, before we are able to give our memories some permanence by committing them to paper, are the most easily lost. Perhaps you’ll someday view this as a trifle, but perhaps some other day, long after that, you will come to see the value in it. Whatever the case, you’ll simply have to accept that there are some things a parent does which will forever be incomprehensible to his child. Your dad’s incomprehensible ideas just almost always happen to have to do with writing things down.
Long before you were conceived in the physical sense, you were conceived of in the minds of your parents. Years before your mother and I began to actively try to bring you into the world, we had talks about you, about what we would name you if you were a boy or a girl, about how we might reconcile our differences on the issue of religion, about where we would raise you, how we would raise you, and what you might grow up to be. We traded notes on which features we hoped you’d end up with—your mother wished for you my eyes and I wished for you her smile—arguing, as modest individuals, about the validity of each other’s choices. And we’d smile, knowing that whatever you ended up looking like, whoever you turned out to be, we would love you like nothing else in our world.
The Long and Winding Road
Unfortunately for us, just thinking about a baby was not enough to get pregnant. There were women out there who jokingly lamented the fact that all they had to do to become pregnant was to see their husbands naked. But our path to you was not to be so smooth.
At first, we simply ceased our use of prophylactics and oral contraceptives and decided to let nature take its course. This was shortly before we were married in April 2001. Your mother, an optimist, and a believer in God, was of the opinion that it would happen when it was meant to happen. And in the beginning I didn’t entirely disagree.
Our first wedding anniversary came and went, then our second and our third. There was always an excuse for why it hadn’t happened yet. Your mother was working a job she didn’t like, or I was working a job I didn’t like. Or else it was the both of us at the same time. There were two years when she went back to school for her Master’s degree, and two years where I went back for mine, and those years overlapped to boot. And when we went back to school we continued to work as well. So there was the issue of time. But in the back of our minds there lingered the horrible question: What was wrong?
It was early in the year 2005 that we began to investigate our problem in earnest. Your mother was finished with her degree program and I was nearly finished with mine. By a happy accident, your mother was let go from her job—a job she loathed and had been wanting out of for years—at precisely the right time for us to begin testing for the source of our problem.
We determined, in consultation with a number of doctors, that the reason we could not become pregant naturally had to do with me. My sperm were defective. And there weren’t a lot of them. They tested me, looking for answers, but they found none. They couldn’t fix my problem, but that didn’t matter. They could still help us, and help us they did.
It was on our fourth wedding anniversary, April 28, 2005, that we finally set out on the path that would lead to you. We agreed to participate in a medical procedure that was just a smidge younger than we were: In-vitro fertilization (IVF).
The Only Thing He Ever Feared
I suppose the title of this section is a misnomer. The he to whom I am referring is me, and there is certainly more than one thing in this world that I fear. But I have always had a flair for the melodramatic and the sensational, and the title is a nod to a chapter title in a book I’ve just re-read, titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which may or may not still be a popular children’s book by the time you can read, depending on who you ask. So, even though there is, admittedly, more than one thing I fear, I am using this title because of it’s dramatic effect. And that, my child, is something you’ll just have to get used to.
Have you noticed how weird I am yet? I should hope so.
What is the one thing I feared above all else going into the IVF process? The needles! Having had one horrible experience after another with the blasted things—beginning with the nurse who couldn’t find my vein during a hospital visit in the second grade, all the way up through the time when I was strapped into a chair for the removal of my wisdom teeth, dosed with anesthetic, and woke up in a dark, cramped room thinking I had been buried alive—I was not at all happy to learn that I would be required, throughout the IVF process, to give your mother nightly injections. It would be a month from the time of our anniversary-morning appointment to the day on which we would begin injections, and that was plenty of time for me to completely psych myself out.
Your mother kept us busy that whole Saturday, so much so that I was just anxious to get the shot out of the way when we got home. And she would keep doing things like this for a good, long while, aware of how much it took for me to deal with the needles, of how much it hurt me to hurt her, even with so much as the prick of a tiny needle (for the ones we started off with really were tiny in comparison to what would come later). She was wonderful, and remains wonderful, and, I am sure, will always be wonderful. I hope that you see that, too.
For two weeks I administered a medication called Lupron, which, along with the birth control pills your mother was already taking, was designed to shut down your mother’s reproductive system so that the doctors could maintain control of it as we approached the heart of the process. On June 7, 2005, a Tuesday, your mother went in for what they called a “suppression check” and discovered that everything was progressing as planned. That Friday, June 10, we began a second injection, Follistim, the drug which would “supercharge” her ovaries, coaxing them into producing far more eggs than they normally would.
One of those eggs, it turns out, was half of the genetic equation whose sum, whose end-result, was you.