On Sunday, October 4th at 7:30am, Maya and I drove to Columbia Fertility Associates. We entered Suite 101. Most lights were off. The secretary/nurses hadn’t yet arrived. Another patient was waiting around the corner. We both walked over to the receptionist desk to wait for someone. While we waited, we noticed a sign that said patients would not be permitted to bring in a guest with them. The guest/partner would have to wait outside. Maya and I looked at one another. I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded and my heart palpitated quickly. I signed to Maya, “I want to go in with you. I want to be a part of this process as much as possible. I can’t wait outside. What do you think about me telling them that I need to be there to interpret for you and that I can help you understand everything?” She nodded enthusiastically as the nurse walked in.
Once we checked in, I shared with the nurse of our situation. She hesitated as she looked at both of us. No one knew but my right hand had its fingers crossed! I won’t say the elves gave me luck, but the nurse eventually said “Sure” in a rather doubtful manner. We excitedly sat down to wait for the on-call doctor to arrive. A tall man in his blue scrubs sauntered in, waved at the nurse, and went into the hallway where the patient rooms lined up. About ten minutes later, the same doctor propped open the door with his foot and voiced slowly, “Are you Maya?” I pointed to Maya and said, “Yes, she’s here” as she also lifted up her hand saying hello. He beckoned both of us into the hallway. I was giddy all over; the moment had arrived. The moment that makes this journey, was turning a major corner. All the research, the brainstorming, the difficult conversations, the doctors visits, the selection of the sperm donor, and now finally, our first intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedure*. Upon walking into the room present with us was the nurse and the doctor. The doctor explained slowly and carefully how he would be doing the procedure, showing us the metal clamps and the long syringe. He told us that the sperm count was “19 million which will be good enough”. Maya and I looked at one another, just amazed at how that syringe contained a potential seed of a human being. Our human being. Our family.
After giving Maya a private moment to take off her bottoms, propping herself up on the patient table, and covering herself with a disposable baby blue cloth, the medical team came back in and got right to work. I sat to Maya’s left and immediately went for her hand, holding it on her chest, rubbing her skin. She closed her eyes as the doctor wheeled toward her legs with a lamp shining toward Maya. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the procedure being done so I watched Maya’s face intently, ready to respond or console Maya in any way she communicated. As the doctor inserted the clamps, I noticed Maya flinch. I rubbed her hand with my thumb. The nurse brought out the syringe and handed it to the doctor. With my eyes wide, I held my breath and squeezed Maya’s hand. Then it was all over. The doctor stood up and held up five fingers, instructing Maya to stay in position for five minutes and then she was good to go home. I thanked the medical team as they left. Maya looked at me and asked me if I could share with her how it looked. I told her, “Let me share with you when we leave. For now, let’s rest and close our eyes.” So she did, but I didn’t. I just stared at her eyelashes and the overhead light shimmering on her olive skin. I soaked in the tender moment. I thought to myself, “Maya is doing something incredibly special for us. Whether it works this cycle or not, she’s changing. She’s not going to be the Maya I met. The Maya I fell in love with. She’s going to be the carrier of our baby. She’s going to sacrifice a big part of herself so to bring us home a family. For this, I stand by her side how ever long it takes for her to successfully carry. If we find out that Maya cannot carry for whatever reason, she is sacrificing herself to the attempts we undergo. With this and for any individual who goes through such an experience and attempt, I take my cap off to you. This IUI procedure has taught me the courage that lies in these individuals, including my wife.”
*Artificial Insemination Options:
IUI (intrauterine insemination): The most common form of artificial insemination. Your doctor (or licensed health care provider) will insert thawed sperm directly into the uterus using a speculum and catheter. Inseminations may be timed based on a person’s natural cycle, or in conjunction with medications intended to induce ovulation.
ICI (intracervical insemination): Most commonly performed at home, but can also be performed by a licensed care provider. Sperm is inserted into the vagina using a small, needleless syringe or a cervical cap. It is often recommended that a person lie down for 15-30 minutes after the insemination to encourage the sperm to swim up into to uterus.
IVI (intravaginal insemination): More commonly referred to as ICI (above), IVI is another term to identify insemination that happens in the vagina, as is generally performed the same way as an ICI procedure.
IVF (in vitro fertilization): In vitro fertilization is a process by which fertilization occurs outside of the body, or in vitro. IVF may involve any combination of your own eggs and sperm, or donor eggs and sperm. After egg and sperm cells have been harvested or obtained, they are brought together in a laboratory environment to allow the sperm to fertilize the eggs. About 2 to 5 days after fertilization, one or more of the best fertilized eggs are inserted into the uterus using a catheter. The remaining fertilized eggs may be cryopreserved for future use.
RIVF (reciprocal in vitro fertilization): In reciprocal IVF, one partner goes through the process of stimulation, and their eggs are retrieved and fertilized with donor sperm. Then, the embryo is transferred into the uterus of the other partner. Medically speaking, it’s the same process used when a person works with an egg donor, or when a couple works with a gestational carrier.
ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection): Like IVF, ICSI is a procedure in which an individual sperm cell is introduced into an egg cell in a laboratory environment.