Impact04/24/2017 06:00AM | 941 views
By Kim Perez
The impact was sudden and fierce. I didn’t see it coming, didn’t have the chance to brace myself. In an emergency room in another town, away from home, a nurse asks me a routine question: “Is there any chance you could be pregnant?” Her question is so casual, I instantly hate her. “I’d like to take an X-ray, to make sure there’s no damage. It’s good you came in. You never know with rear-end collisions.”
“Yes, there’s a chance. I could be pregnant.” Even as I say this, I don’t believe it. It feels like a lie to acknowledge any chance of success, after so many tries.
“Let’s make sure then,” she taunts, and proceeds to extract the blood, those few little drops, that will finally kill this dream once and for all.
“I checked on your friend. She’s gonna be just fine. The collision sent her into contractions, which isn’t good at seven months. But we’re giving her drugs to control them. She’ll be able to go full term.”
Phew, that’s good. The nurse leaves me alone while she delivers my blood for The Test. After two years and 24 failures in a row, I should have thicker skin by now. But despite myself I can feel the nausea. Maybe I am pregnant! Or maybe it’s just dread.
When we first started trying, we didn’t see it as trying. It was unprotected sex, of course we would get pregnant. Every month I was so sure I was pregnant, I practically gave myself the symptoms. Nausea, fatigue, sore breasts… this is what all my pregnant friends complained about, and I couldn’t wait to start complaining. By 5:05 p.m. every fourth Tuesday, Carlos and I had the same argument month after month.
“I’m late, I’m gonna take a pregnancy test!”
“You’re not late. This is the day you’re supposed to start.”
“But I start at 5, and it’s five minutes after five.”
“That’s not late.”
“Yes it is, I always start at 5.”
“You know how expensive those things are? We’re spending 50 bucks a month. Just wait a few days.”
“No way! That’s torture!”
“All right, fine.”
“Now, it might not show up yet, since it’s so early. So even if it’s negative, that doesn’t mean we’re not pregnant. It might just be too early to tell.”
“They why take the test today?”
“Maybe it will show up!”
What a brilliant marketing ploy on the part of the pregnancy test makers. Test yourself earlier! But don’t believe the negative results. Test yourself again the next day, and the next day, and the next day…
And as my phantom pregnancy symptoms returned each month, test after negative test ended up in the trash.
The doctors couldn’t figure it out. I was in the office or the lab practically every week for a year. Somehow, through it all, a stubborn glimmer of hope survived. That’s the blessing – and the curse – of each new treatment: possibility resurrected. But we finally reached the end of the line for us, as far as we agreed to take it. Our last chance – artificial insemination. Our insurance would pay for four tries.
We set out with renewed optimism the day of our first artificial insemination. We had long since given up on the idea that conception is the result of a loving, spontaneous connection between two people – especially after a few years of “Colonel Perez reporting for duty!”
We arrived at the fertility clinic where Carlos was to make his contribution to the cup – with a little help from scene-setting romantic classics like “Pump My Ass Hard.” All the while I pretended to read magazines in the waiting room while I nervously checked and re-checked my watch – we had only 30 minutes to transport the goods from here to the doctor’s office on the other side of Southern California, in rush hour traffic.
Carlos emerged, and the nurse followed and handed me a brown paper bag. I peeked inside and saw the syringe holding the supercharged sperm. “Be careful with this. Don’t drop it. And get to your doctor’s office in half an hour, or the sample won’t be any good.”
We rushed to the car. Carlos drove as fast as possible while trying to avoid sudden movements – and I cradled our precious cargo, what may be half of our future kid, tucked away in a brown paper bag.
“Don’t take the freeway, are you crazy, this time of day?”
“We have to! We’ll never make it on surface streets!”
“But there could be an accident. Rush hour traffic. It’s too risky! If we’re not there in 30 minutes we’ll have to wait another whole month before we can try again!”
“I know that. I was there. This is the best way, trust me.”
We arrived at the doctor’s office in 27 minutes flat. We rushed in. “The Perezes! We’re here, we’re ready! We’ve got our stuff!”
Ah, there’s nothing more beautiful than creating new life.
The nurse took us to the room and situated me in the stirrups. The doctor came in with what we referred to from that day on as the “turkey baster,” filled with about a million hopes. He inserted it, emptied it, and left us to let the miracle happen. For 20 minutes I lay on the table, Carlos sat next to me in a chair, and we imagined how we might one day tell our child about the magic of where babies come from.
Now, it’s nearly four months later. There have been three failed artificial insemination attempts. The last to be determined any moment now. I’m alone in an emergency room filled with people. Sitting at the edge of a table, separated by curtains from a wailing child on one side, and a man with a hacking cough on the other. I’m waiting for the nurse to return with words I’m not sure I’m ready to hear.
But she appears without warning, throwing open the curtain and flashing a toothy smile. “Okay, we’re all set. Let’s take those X-rays.” She says this with a level of enthusiasm meant to make my stay in her emergency room as pleasurable as possible, but in fact makes the dagger that much sharper.
“So… then… I’m not pregnant, right?”
“Right, not pregnant. Now, if you’ll just follow me, we’ll take those X-rays.”
The command seems easy enough, but I fail even at this. My eyes start to burn, my throat tightens. My legs feel as if there are cement blocks tied to them, dragging me down. I shake my legs to make sure they’re still there, then gingerly step down from the table. Breathe, I tell myself. Just breathe… now swallow… and, most important, control the lump forcing its way up from the pit of my stomach.
My eyes are open but I don’t see anything. Purse… where’s my purse? Okay, there it is. Coat… I think I had a coat. Did I have a coat? Here’s one that looks familiar. Nurse… where’s the nurse? She’s almost out of sight by the time I’m able to coerce my legs to move, one foot, then the other.
She’s completed the hand-off by the time I catch up. The X-ray technician is young and quiet. I’m relieved he doesn’t feel the need to make me feel welcome. He’s all business. It’s a strange thing, the X-ray. He’s looking into me, and I think he must be able to tell that my body doesn’t work. It’s like he’s the only person who can truly see me at this moment.
Afterward, I wander the halls looking for my friend Dawn. I find her in a private room, hooked up to monitors, with a nurse at her side and a faint, slow drum-beat sound in the room.
“Kim! Listen, it’s my baby’s heartbeat!”
“Wow, that’s,” …swallow… “beautiful.” I know I need to offer my friend some enthusiasm. The car accident caused quite a scare. “Really, Dawn. Wow.”
Then the nurse poses the question to me: “Isn’t it amazing? Do you have kids?”
I look at the nurse and can’t open my mouth for fear of what will come out. Dawn tries to come to my rescue. “Not yet, but they’re on their way. Right, Kim?”
I squeeze her hand. “Right.”