My wife is a Gryffindor. For those of you not familiar with Harry Potter vernacular, Gryffindor is the house where Harry was assigned within the Hogwart’s school. It’s reserved for the brave of heart. Take it from Harry Potter or some wise family member, friend, mentor, or stranger: “Bravery is not the absence of fear but action in the face of fear.” This is my wife. (At left, with pre-retrieval bloat.)
Today she underwent her first, and hopefully last, egg retrieval as part of our first IVF procedure. She was not scared; she was petrified. She had never been under the influence of general anesthesia and feared losing control. With her permission, I pause to point out that she’s self-described “Type A,” hates forfeiting control. (General anesthesia is rough, since I don’t think you can be more out of control than when you’re put under. “Dead,” she reminds me. “You could be dead.”) So after roughly two weeks worth of painful injectables which made her uncomfortable in mind and body, and despite the shear terror, she awoke this morning resolved. She “greeted the day.” She and her 22 (yep, 22) mature follicles, got up, did not shower, did not put on make-up, ate nothing, drank nothing, wore no jewelry, got dressed in something comfortable and easy to change in and out of, and we danced.
We slow-danced to Van Morrison’s “There’ll be Days Like This,” and “Tupelo Honey,” and I changed the words to tell the story of our lead follicle’s destiny as an embryo in a petri dish. (We’ve got a thing for Van Morrison – our first dance was “Into the Mystic” – and she likes spontaneous lyrical outbursts.) She laughed like crazy.
“I just have to think it’s like a plane,” she said.
Like a plane. Over the next several hours we repeated it like a mantra. You see, my beautiful wife hates flying. Hates it. She had not one, but two awful in-flight experiences. The first: Witnessing a stranger expire to pulmonary embolism at her feet some 37,000 feet above Greenland. His lifeless body was covered over and dragged to the center of the plane where, for the next few hours, she could still see it. The second, later that same year: Flying on a plane that lost altitude over the English Channel. Orange oxygen masks fell from the ceiling and everyone started screaming and puking. The plane recovered, but she insists she’ll never get over the way planes make people sick and/or dead.) That said, hating to miss out on experiences like get-togethers and vacations to faraway places – Jamaica, Argentina, the Netherlands, the Hawaiian Islands – she still flies. She’s scared, and she still flies.
It went like this. A nurse started an IV, which, in retrospect, Wife acknowledges was the worst part. (It hurt like crazy and bled more than it should, but after all the injections she experienced lately at her own hand, she was a trooper.) We spoke to the anesthesiologist to confirm what my lover learned from a National Geographic special called “The Moment of Death.” (She’d, in fact, be given a similar drug to that used for lethal injection, except less of it and without the dose of potassium chloride to stop the heart. She’d live through this, he reassured us.) Our team of doctors and nurses were nice and attentive, despite which my spouse took pains to indicate to the anesthesiologist, who dosed her with happy med before she knew it happened, “You’re a cheater! You have a cheater’s way!” She pointed at him, smiled mischievously, laid down, lost control and woke up.
Leaving the clinic today, we learned our docs aspirated 22 follicles and harvested 22 oocytes. Now we wait for news of how many, if any, embryos we have alive and kickin’ for transfer. Bravery turned patience: Let go and let Hashem.
For my part, I sit and wait in awe of my wife and her Gryffindorian spirit. My biggest role model is in the bedroom we share, drinking lots of Gatorade and watching The Golden Girls with our cat.