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Zygoat Zygotes
Zygoat Zygotes


The doctor gives us a picture of our mixture. The first thing we notice, is that 2 of the 4 petri dish globules are noticeably smaller.

We both point to the big ones and say, “Those are mine!” (ie. My DNA was responsible for the large (healthy) ones.) We have no idea that big/small mean anything. In fact, maybe the smaller ones are the more robust.

We still rationalize why the other of us must have produced the tinier bubbles.

“The big ones are Saslawskys”, PiR says. I tell him his are the little ones, because he’s like so old, he’s shorter than me, and because he’s not a pure French (*). Pierre tells me , “No, those are yours!”, because I am full of collywobbles, I’m shorter than he is, and I’m a pure American.

They aren’t even babies yet.
They certainly aren’t fetuses. Zygotes perhaps.
PiR calls them “fish bait”, but that’s not funny to me, so we look for other names.

We agree quickly on calling the 4 of them, Top, Strange, Charm and D’Artagnan.

The first three are names of particles found in Quarks, the little thingies inside the little thingies that form the atoms, but the fourth one?

Who’s D’Artagnan? “That’s the name of the 4th Musketeer”, says Pierre. Well, of course. So, we decide the weakest, baby zygote will be D’Artagnan.

(*) In Tunisia, a anti-Semitic man suspicious of Pierre’s features got in his face, yelling at him that he wasn’t a “pure French”.

 

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We did IVF. You know? In-Vitro Fertilization… The Test-tube Babies… The 5-Legged Sheep…

It was the only option. We’d both been tested extensively. Tests done for STDs, AIDS, low cell counts, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, herpes, Hermes, we had it all, and nothing herky-jerky showed up. “Unexplained Infertility”.

My explanation is my age (my body had never been pregnant, so it needed a kick start), my lack of being around anything kid inducing (pregnant mothers, baby environments, kids in general) that might stimulate instinct, and my lifestyle (a slew of stress, red wine every night, working 7 days a week). I think that’s a good guess.

After a year of trying, we went in to speak with Dr Ryan at the SF Fertility Clinic who told us that at our (my) age, 40, we have a 20-25% chance for a live birth with IVF. If we wait until I am 42, our chances drop to 4%.

Eeks. I’m 40. Where do I sign?

The odds were rotten but had no other viable option. So we agreed and Dr Ryan explained IVF to us. I was amazed and even tickled over the brilliance and potentiality of medicine and technology. I don’t understand people who claim that they wish they could have lived in another era. It’s certainly ground in nostalgia and projections. And in regards to freedoms, it’s especially brow raising when I hear women say it.

I am many times thankful to be living in this day and age most entirely based on what these two fields have given us.

So, IVF…

You want a test-tube baby? All you need is an empty credit card ($20,000), a proclivity for pain (lots of needles), and a healthy stallion/filly.

IVF is a technique in which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the woman’s womb, in vitro (they say “in vitro” ’cause it sounds cleaner than “in the glass”). The first test tube baby was Baby Brown, born in Britain in 1978 amid intense controversy. The second test-tube baby was made by an Indian doctor but because of the the Marxist West Bengal government at that time, he was ostracized and reprimanded, and eventually committed suicide in 1981. God and Government; a lethal cocktail. Now as many as 1% of all births in the US and 4% in Denmark are conceived in the glass.

Step 1) As for IVF in relationship to us, Pierre had 2 tasks. One was an HIV test, and the other….. was a bit laborious. Poor PiR had to go into that sparse room and think about something, anything, to contribute his 50% to the liquid baby. He later did a podcast with Ian about the anguish and the sweats. But he came through. The man’s job was complete.

2) I needed to compile a series of tests for the clinic that included STD, HIV, thyroid, progesterone, Hep B & C, blood tests for FSH,LH,PRL and TSH, rubella, and some other crazy, never heard of things.

Note on being poor: Had I possessed the cash, I could have done all my testing at the IVF offices in an hour for about $1000. I opted to fish out the free clinics in the city and found out what poor people spend all their time doing. Waiting. I went to 4 different clinics, and waited for hours in waiting rooms, for lost blood work, for call-backs, for doctor’s to research procedures, etc, etc. I don’t like when people stereotype the poor as lazy. They’re not lazy, they’re bloody exhausted from waiting in lines all day.

3) With all of our test results, we took a second meeting where we watch a video of the pre-IVF procedures and then practice giving injections to a fake skin sheath.

4) We order $4000 worth of injectable drugs and spend 14 days shooting Merritt in her ass, thighs and stomach. This is to help the female produce more eggs, like a chicken. Since only one egg is produced every cycle, the drugs ‘trick’ the body into producing as many as possible.

5) PiR did all the injections in the stomach and thighs - 2 shots everyday for 14 days. Insulin peoples, I feel for you. The crescendo was on the 14th day with a long-long needle in the ass, done again by brave-heart PiR.

6) Four days later, we arrive at the clinic at 7am for egg retrieval day! I receive anesthesia. The doctor takes a needle, and using a transvaginal technique involving an ultrasound-guided needle, pierces through the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries. All the eggs are sucked up into a syringe and put into a fluid medium. The entire procedure takes only 20 minutes.

7) Normally, the sperms and eggs are incubated together. (at a ratio of about 75,000:1), but to raise our chances, we did ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, pronounced “eeksee”) . For each egg, a single, healthy sperm is chosen out of thousands via a hollow needle and injected directly into the egg’s center. The antithesis of natural selection…

8) Women produce on average 4 to 15 eggs, and each egg is rated for it’s likely-hood of fertilization on a scale of 0-5. I produced 8 eggs, Baaak. But only 4 survived. Two were A/A+ quality (Grade AA at the grocer) and 2 were B-/C+ grade.

All four were placed back in the uterus through a thin, plastic catheter, which goes through the vagina and cervix. The eggs will now hopefully stay put for 9 months.

This implantation procedure takes 5 minutes. When it is over, I am told, “Don’t worry about peeing, you won’t pee them out”. I laugh, but she says a lot of women fear it. She also advises, “I notice you come up here each time with a motorcycle helmet. Perhaps now would be a good time to stop riding?” Translation for me?… Agony, curse and bane: ie. public transportation. She says most of all, “Take lots of rest, and don’t do anything for a few days.

9) Pierre and I go out and guiltily jump on his motorcycle, ride slowly home where I lay down and start to feel the equivalent of heart palpitations because I have no idea how to “do nothing”. I haven’t done ‘nothing’ in years, and the feelings arising in me have the hallmarks of addiction withdrawal.

10) So, as far as we know, there are 4 embryos alive and growing in origin-of-development land. If all four take, we know we will remove two. We want a family, not a brood. We’ll certainly be thrilled with 1 or 2. Keep your fingers crossed. We are!

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