As I enter the reception area of the fertility clinic, I’m immediately struck by the sheer volume of 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds filling up dozens of chairs in a wide open space, all facing each other. There are people standing against the walls and even sitting on the floor. Spa music is playing to keep our ovaries relaxed. A fish tank blows bubbles, showcasing brightly colored, therapeutic looking fish. There are clementines and coffee cake at the ready—comfort food. After I’ve checked in and filled out enough paperwork to kill a dozen trees and answered questions about things my husband doesn’t even know about my body, the following thoughts run through my mind:
1. Does anyone here recognize me? My eyes instantly dart to the floor while waiting for my appointment, not wanting to make eye contact with any other patients. I fear I’ll know someone and as soon as we see each other, this person will know my secret—that my body has not been able to get pregnant on its own. While I’m laying low and wishing I had worn a hat and sunglasses, I’m curious as to whether I recognize anyone else. I do the subtle peripheral scan of the room and realize that everyone kind of looks like someone I know, but that they’re all complete strangers.
2. This kind of feels like a happy hour, but for a less happy purpose. If you lowered the lights, exchanged the spa music for jazz and had someone passing around appetizers and champagne, this would make a really kick ass happy hour. The age of the crowd is ripe for such a social event. Plus, every single person that’s sitting in this room could use a good drink or two after the hoops our bodies are jumping through to make another human.
3. Are there visiting hours for one’s embryo’s at a fertility clinic? If this clinic successfully fuses one of my eggs with one of my husband’s sperm and they store this embryo for a couple days or even weeks before they try to put it into my body, shouldn’t I come back to visit it? This is potentially one of my future children. Should I be worried about it / them? Is there science about reading a book to an embryo or playing it music? Can it identify the sound of my voice? If there’s a fire in the building, do they have an evacuation plan for all of the stored embryos?
4. How certain can I be that they’ll put the right embryo back in me? I’ve seen a lot of movies and news stories about kids being mixed up at birth. What about kids being mixed up before birth? There must be 100 people in this room right now —how are they keeping track of everyone’s parts to make sure that the right kid ends up with the right parents?
5. What kind of porn is there? Is it 80s porn? Do they update it and how often? Who decides which porn makes the cut and which is not allowed? Is that a full-time job (Selector of Male Masturbation Material, MD). Is it video, magazines, both? Do they account for fetishes? Have they had to go in and check on someone? Do they give the sperm sample collection a hard time limit? Is there a camera watching to make sure that nothing too outlandish is going on in these rooms?
6. How do you apply to be the person who collects the sperm samples after the porn room visit is done? What background checks do they do on these people? Has anyone ever misplaced or worse, dropped, a sample and had to send a patient back in for round two?
7. Why aren’t there any dirty jokes in the fertility literature explaining the hormone treatments and causes of infertility? Is there any patient in this clinic (or any clinic) who couldn’t use a dirty joke at this point?
8. The coffee cake here is AMAZING. Like, it will probably be the most memorable part of my visit. Is it wrong to get my third piece even if I have crumbs all over my shirt already? If people are already judging me for infertility, do I even care if they’re judge me for my sweet tooth, too?
9. Wait. I think I know someone here. She looks so familiar. Should I introduce myself? I don’t want to embarrass her. But I kind of want to hear about her experience and what she thinks about this whole thing. Will she not want to talk about it?
10. If my future child is conceived here, should we come back to visit one day when she’s older? Will she care? Will she recognize the place? Should I take pictures of the clinic now so I can show her? Am I already embarrassing my future unborn child?
11. How many people are masturbating on this floor right now?
12. Are the masturbation rooms sound proof? How thoroughly are these rooms cleaned before the next patient goes in? Do they go over everything with a black light to make sure they didn’t miss any spots?
13. Did I shave or wax? Do they care? Do the nurses or doctors have opinions about whether their female fertility patients should be shaved or waxed? Does it make their job easier or worse?
As these thoughts begin to swirl in my head, I pull out the safety of my phone and lose myself in Facebook posts, Instagram selfies, and Twitter updates. Is it too early to post a picture of my ovary about to ovulate with a “happy pre-ovulation / pre-birthday!” message? Nah. I’ll just get another piece of coffee cake and wait for the nurse to call me in.