Little Scorpy and the Sex Criminals

I don’t think either one of us actually believed Lisa was going to have a baby. Lisa was supposed to eat lots of green vegetables, but she just ate a lot of ramen and hot dogs instead. She hadn’t graduated yet, and she didn’t have a job lined up.  Even if she was going to have a baby, we’d have to raise it in a box on the street because that’s where we’d all be living. And it would be an incredibly tight fight what with the baby and my entire record collection. So the timing was just awful. Also, this just seemed like a cruel joke the universe was playing on us. We had just convinced ourselves that parenthood was not for us. Why give us the chance to prove it?

We went in for the first ultrasound, and they told us that yes, Lisa was pregnant. The nurse pointed to something on the screen she assured us was a baby. After looking at it for a while, we decided it looked like a scorpion. We started calling it “Little Scorpy”, and I guess we were a little excited at this point. I still spent much of my time looking at articles about unicornuate uteruses and assuming that disaster would strike at any moment. My grandmother always said that nothing good ever lasts, which I’ve taken to heart. She also sad that thin girls get fat, and fat girls get fatter. My grandmother was a real font of wisdom.

The second ultrasound was a lot more impressive. It had stopped looking like something like a back-up dancer for Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band and started looking like a little person. It flipped around and threw some punches against the ultrasound machine, and I completely and utterly bonded with it. I think I could have watched it for hours. I was still scared as hell, but for the first time I was excited.

I think this is the point at which people change their Facebook profile to a blurry ultrasound picture, and do things like have gender reveal parties, which I don’t really understand the point of. Unless the point is to eat cake, in which case I completely understand the point of gender reveal parties. We told our families, but we decided to not tell anyone else just yet. If we could have made it nine months without telling anyone, we probably would have. We wanted to just have the pregnancy over and done with.

Lisa wanted to be surprised about the gender of the baby. I had wanted to find out, but I didn’t feel strongly enough that I wanted to argue about it. After a few months, I was pretty convinced that we were having a girl. I was really excited about this. I’d heard boys were difficult. I was never a sports fans, so I wouldn’t have to worry about disappointing a kid when I wasn’t any good at playing catch. I learned about American Girl dolls, and I looked forward to teaching my daughter about American history, albeit with an emphasis on important battles of World War 2. I figured I’d get her a few issues of Wonder Woman, and everything would be all set.

I started reading parenting books, and while I learned a lot, it gave me a whole host of things to worry about.  I worried that if I had a daughter, then she would be raped. I worried that if I had a son, he would be a rapist. I was worried our child would be a delinquent and end up going to prison. I was worried it would have Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (It seemed plausible at the time).  I considered approaching women with well-behaved kids and offering to trade them for the kid forming in my wife’s uterus, just so I could be assured that I wouldn’t have to deal with behavioral issues.

We started telling our friends that Lisa was pregnant.  We starting telling everyone. We used to lie in bed at night, and I would read science fiction stories to the baby. I admit it’s a bit unorthodox to read “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” to your child in utero, but Lisa always said that the baby would move around a lot while I was reading, so I thought it was a nice bonding experience. Also, it’s never too early to expose your child to the work of Harlan Ellison.

Everything was going about as well as could be expected until the night Lisa came home practically in tears because she hadn’t felt the baby move all day.

“I’m sure everything’s fine,” I said, pretty sure that nothing would be fine ever again.

I watched her roll around on the bed and jump up and down in an attempt to get the baby to move. I tried to think of something, anything to say to make it better. I couldn’t think of anything.

The baby started moving again. Lisa cried. I felt like I’d aged about 20 years in five minutes, but at least everything was OK. I’m not sure I would have ever truly recovered if it hadn’t been.

The baby shower came and went. The baby’s room was painted, and the crib was set up. I had read all the parenting books I could stand at that point, and there was pretty much nothing else to do but wait. Lisa was 38 weeks pregnant at this point. I couldn’t think of anything else to do, so I watched Frozen, as I knew little girls are into that movie, and I wanted to make sure I was prepared to deal with that nonsense.

A couple days later, Lisa went in for an exam, and they told her the baby needed to come out. I don’t remember all the details, but we had to get the baby out before her uterus collapsed in on itself and turned into a wormhole and shot the baby into another dimension. Or something like that. I’m not a doctor. All I really remember was that I was reading this article in the waiting room, which is not the best article to read when you’re about to become a parent. Time was up. In a couple days, the doctors would induce labor and we’d be parents.

We walked into the hospital at 7 o’clock on a Thursday morning reading to stat this whole parenting thing. I didn’t know how long it was going to take, but I assumed that once that hooked my wife to whatever contraption they were going to use to induce labor, things would happen pretty quickly. I’d seen the movie Inseminoid, so I wasn’t completely clueless about how this whole childbirth thing worked.

They hooked Lisa up to a Pitocin drip, and we waited. And we waited some more. And then we spent even more time waiting. Fortunately, there was a TV in the room, so Lisa could watch reruns of How I Met Your Mother while I read the first collection of the comic book Sex Criminals. (Pro Tip: never leave the house for the birth of your child without a copy of Sex Criminals)

By the time evening rolled around, nothing whatsoever had happened. They took Lisa off the Pitocin so she could eat something besides crushed ice. I don’t think either one of us thoughts this experience would be boring, but it was pretty boring. The nurse said it was highly likely that something would start happening overnight, so we went to sleep, ready to leap into childbirth at a moment’s notice.

By the next morning, there was still nothing going on. I thought about just calling off this whole baby thing and going to see a movie, but apparently the doctors have a way of breaking a pregnant lady’s water, so that’s what they decided to do. Then she started having contractions. After a few hours of contractions, Lisa got the epidural, and everything slowed down again.  She didn’t really get it in gear until 5 o’clock in the afternoon, when she was finally ready to start pushing.

I know some people say childbirth is beautiful, but those people are morons. Childbirth is horrible. Lisa told me afterwards that she’s been through things more painful than childbirth, but it all looked pretty awful to me. She pushed for three hours, and I felt like I wanted to vomit the whole time. I tried to take my mind off of things by trying to remember the names of all the companions on Doctor Who in order as well as all the names of as many aliens from Star Wars as I could remember. If someone had handed me a copy of the second volume of Sex Criminals, I would have read it.

There’s really nothing worse than seeing your wife in pain and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I started thinking both Lisa and the baby were going to die. I just wanted to the whole thing to be over and for us to all to go home, but it just seemed to be endless and everything was awful…

And then my son was born, and my whole life changed forever.

Childfree and Loving It

You may be wondering at this point why we didn’t try for adoption, and the answer is that I don’t know. We had discussed adoption early on in our relationship, and neither one of us was opposed to it. However, after everything that had happened, it sort of felt like having a baby was like winning the 25,000 Dollar Pyramid and adopting one was like getting the year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni. I think we might have come around the idea of adopting eventually, but after the IVF didn’t work, we just weren’t ready to think about it.

W we probably should have had some sort of counseling, but instead we opted to just ignore everything and just hope that our lives would get better. They did not. Lisa concentrated on school and drinking too much at parties, and I concentrated on watching a lot of horror movies, but what we should have concentrated on was our relationship. And instead, we just sort of ignored it. I felt like our marriage was crumbling, but I was just too tired to care anymore.

We coasted along like that for about a year, until one night Lisa drank so much at a party that she nearly got alcohol poisoning. I spent a few hours cleaning vomit out of the car and making sure she didn’t die. After that scare, we started growing closer again, but even though it seemed like our relationship was slowly getting better, I wasn’t getting any happier.

I never really believed I would be any good as a dad, and when the IVF didn’t work, part of me figured it was just as well that there wasn’t going to be a kid around for me to screw up. What I wasn’t prepared for was how painful it was going to be not to have a child.

I started feeling like I had lost at life, and now I was just counting down the days until I died. Everything I owned would just get tossed out in the garbage when I was gone. I would die alone and unmourned. I knew that my friends with children were happier than I was, and I knew that I could never have that kind of happiness. I don’t know if what I had could be categorized as depression, but I can’t think of a time when I felt more lost and alone.

I think I hit rock bottom when I read the book All Joy and No Fun. The first part of the book made it seem like parenthood was such an enormous burden, and I was starting feel a little better about not being a parent. But by the end of the book, I was sobbing. There was a passage in the book about how parenthood is a pathway back to childhood, and perhaps it was just because I knew I would be turning 40 in a couple of years, but I wanted more than anything to play hide and seek or have a snowball fight just one more time. Knowing that would never happen was one of the most painful things I’ve ever felt. After I finished the book, I felt numb.

Lisa had seen me reading the book, and she asked me about it. And with that, we finally started talking about what we’d been through We cried a lot.  Once we were done, we finally admitted out loud that we would never be parents, and we had talked ourselves into the idea that would have been OK.

We were getting older, and only crazy people would try to have a baby at our age, especially with the risks of miscarriage and premature birth we would have been facing. Besides, our house was kind of small, and there was no room in the back yard for a swing set, and let’s face it, we probably weren’t cut out to be parents anyway.

Lisa was going to be done with graduate school in a few months. We’d just travel and enjoy our lives, and everything would be just fine. I wouldn’t say were happy, but it was really good to have finally cleared the air. We would never have kids, but at least we’d have each other.  This wasn’t what we wanted, but we didn’t have much choice but to try to make the best of what we had.

Soon after, we were going to visit one of Lisa’s childhood friends, who was just about to give birth to a little boy. We got the onesie Lisa had bought so many years ago and took it with us to give to her. And with that, we closed the door on parenthood forever.

A few weeks later we found out Lisa was pregnant.

The Needle and the Damage Done

When I was very little, one of my favorite things to do was watch the evening news on CBS. I know a lot of people these days don’t let their kids keep up with current events, but back then I don’t think people cared about shielding their children that much because we were all going to die in a nuclear war with the Soviets anyway.

I also recall being incredibly confused one night by a story I saw about “test tube babies”. I was not clear on where babies came from, but I thought something seemed weird about the idea of a baby that lived in a test tube. How did that work? Was the baby smooshed inside a small test tube, or was it a really large test tube the baby could rest comfortably in? Was Doctor Bunsen Honeydew somehow involved? My copy of Slim Goodbody’s album The Inside Story failed to provide with me answers. I eventually moved on to worrying about other things, like The Incredible Hulk.

A few decades later, I was on a mission to create a test tube baby of my own.  Contrary to popular belief, fertility clinics are not run Vincent Price-type figures, cackling about tampering in God’s domain and running a laboratory filled with theremins, Erlenmeyer flasks filled with bubbling potions, and hulking assistants created from the bodies of dead babies and raccoons. Actually, I might be the only person who believes that. Instead they’re just like a normal doctor’s office, except with an unusually large number of pamphlets featuring stock photography of smiling parents holding smiling babies.

Lisa had been though a lot of tests already, and we were reasonably sure her one kidney could handle a pregnancy, and while there was a risk of a premature birth, we started doing IUI. I checked the fine print on one of the pamphlets, and the chance of success wasn’t great even for women with a fully intact uterus. But the doctors seemed pretty enthusiastic about our chances, so I wasn’t sure what to think.

First try, no baby. No problem; we would try again. It would just mean another month of strange looking drugs in our refrigerator and my wife sticking more needles in herself than G.G. Allin and Sid Vicious combined. I’m sure Mr. Wizard didn’t do all of his experiments in one take, so there was no need to panic.

Second try, no luck. By now, I was pretty much convinced this wasn’t going to work.  However, we were on this crazy carousel ride, and I didn’t know how to stop it.  I was scared we were going to keep doing this, it would never work, and then we’d have to deal with the failure for the rest of our lives.

It was around about this time we started discussing IVF. I don’t remember if it had a better success rate than IUI for women with unicornuate uteruses, but insurance was going to pay for it, so we decided to go for it. Around this time, Lisa found out she’d been accepted to grad school, so we came up with a new plan.  Lisa was going to have the IVF, get pregnant, have the baby, and then a couple of months later, start graduate school.

You know how it is when you hear that Nicholas Cage has bought a castle and filled it with dinosaur bones and vintage gumball machines? That’s kind of how I feel now when I look at this cunning plan. Also, at the time, the company I was working at was going through some rough times, and there was a possibility I would be losing my job, but why would that stop us?  I’m not sure why we thought this was a good idea, but I guess I knew that if it worked, we could all live in Nicholas Cage’s castle.

Whatever happened, I was just ready for it to be over. I wasn’t sleeping well, work was awful, and I was drinking about eight cans of Coke Zero a day. I was tired of feeling like I was letting Lisa down by not being able to give her a baby. At least IVF seemed like a definitive answer as whether we would have a baby or not.

The doctors extracted 15 eggs from Lisa, and one by one they died. A few fertilized, and pretty soon they died too. At this point I was wondering if babies really were brought by storks, because it didn’t seem like conception was possible. We were left with one living fertilized egg. All the discussion about whether we’d be freezing the extra eggs were moot. It was this or nothing.

The implantation was in a different doctor’s office than where we’d been going. We were the youngest people in the waiting room by about ten years. Everyone else looked to be in their early 40s, and if you think the waiting room of a fertility clinic is filled with happy-go-lucky people with a spring in their steps and a song in their hearts, you would be completely wrong.

We went into a room, Lisa was strapped into an undignified position, and they inserted the egg. We got to watch the process on a video monitor. I remember looking at the look of joy on her face and thinking that if it didn’t work, we had just made the worst decision of our lives. They gave us a photograph of the fertilized egg being implanted, and sent us home to wait.

How This All Got Started

I guess before I start talking about my son, I should talk about the long path my Lisa and I had to travel to have him. There a lot of ground to cover, so to save some time on my part, I suggest going to Wikipedia and just read up on things until you get until where I come in with a story about trying to have a baby.

You back? Good. The pre-Cambrian explosion was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? And how about that Eli Whitney and the way he totally crushed inventing the cotton gin?  And because you just get sucked into things on the Internet, you probably clicked a link at some point and ended up on the article about Lobot on Wookieepedia. Kind of scary someone spent all that time writing down all that information about Lando Calrissian’s assistant, isn’t it? Don’t even think about clicking on the entry for the guy who said “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?” to Princess Leia on Hoth. That way lies madness.

Anyway, here’s how it usually goes when a couple tells me they’re going to try to have a baby.

Some couple: Guess what? We’re going to try to have a baby!

Me: That’s cool.

A couple of months later –

Some couple:  Guess what? We’re having a baby!

Me: What strange manner of witchcraft be this? Woman, how is your womb so bountiful? Tell me weary travelers, what news do you bring from the eastern lands? Does Hrothkali, the one-eyed king who waits in shadows, still rule the enchanted realms?

Or, I just say something like “Congratulations!” and get on with my day. But you get the point. I know it’s normal, but I’m still completely blown away by it. For most people, getting pregnant is not particularly difficult.

In our case, it didn’t work out like that at all. We started trying and nothing was happening. It was incredibly stressful, and to make matters worse Lisa and I were arguing a lot over a child who hadn’t even been conceived yet.  For example, Lisa was insistent that our child would only be allowed to watch TV shows from when were kids and nothing from the present day. I was insistent there was no way in hell I was going to go to the trouble of finding episodes of Square One  just to inflict them on our child.

Also, my wife went out and bought a onesie. Not for herself, as that would be weird, but for a baby. I’m not a superstitious person by nature, but I believe that having baby clothes in the house before it was entirely necessary was nothing but bad luck. As it turns out, my instincts were correct.

We tried for a year with nothing to show for it except a lot of hurt feelings and bruised egos. I’m glad we didn’t start on a baby blog like this, or else it would have been really embarrassing. I remember being really concerned at this point that my wife secretly hated me because I couldn’t give her a baby. She didn’t, of course, but that’s where my mind was at.

We went to the doctor to find out what was going on. It wasn’t long before my wife came home one day and announced that she had a unicorn uterus. I remember being completely confused by this, wondering how my wife had something that sounded like she had to roll a d20 to determine damage to her fertility.

After I asked for clarification, I learned that what she actually said was that she had a unicornuate uterus, which basically means that half her uterus is missing. She was born that way; it wasn’t stolen by the Dukes of Hazard or anything.  To further complicate matters, the doctors also found my wife only has one kidney and one ovary isn’t attached to anything.

This was obviously not good news, but we weren’t ready to give up hope yet. There’s a whole host of reproductive technologies available, so we were going to become parents with the help of science and technology.