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IVF Roulette

March 4, 2010

Step right up to the table folks and blow on the dice.  It’s time to play IVF Roulette!

I sit down on the patio overlooking the sailboats on the water to enjoy the warm summer sun and call the new clinic.

Ring, ring:  Ghostbusters, what’s your gripe?

Me:  Oh, sorry. I was looking for Venerable Ivy-league Fertility Clinic…

Them:  Yeah, that’s us.  We’re a casino now.  You want to gamble here you have to be in the frequent players club.

Me:  I think we qualify.  6 clinics, 19 IVFs, 5 miscarriages, 3 egg donors and 2 surrogates over the past 8 years…

Them:  Hmmm….you have to have already gambled over $250k on IVF Roulette to qualify.

Me:  I’m sure we do then.  Also, our insurance gave us $5,000 in chips for this Casino because my husband works at the med school of your venerable Ivy League Institution.   We can only use them if we spend it there though.

Them:  Fine, come on in.

We drive right over.

Doorman: There’s a $25,000 cover charge.

Us:  Um, ok.  Here you go.

Double doors with leaded pane glass swing open before us.  The lights are bright, the colors welcoming.

We step inside and look around. It smells slightly stale inside.  Musty even.

Us:  Helllllooooo (ello ello ello)!

I notice the edges of the carpet are frayed.

Me (slightly shrill):  This place is really empty, honey.  Are we sure we want to play here?

Better Half:  It’s the only game in town, my dulcet darling.  Besides we’ve come all this way…

A waitress rushes by balancing a tray full of drinks.

BH:  Let’s follow her!

Up the grand sweeping stairway and through another set of double doors.  One roulette table stands in the middle of the room.  It is closed.

We continue on to another room where a dozen couples surround a craps table.  The women, all in designer clothing and sparkling jewelry, perch like parrots on their husbands’ tuxedoed shoulders.  They all direct their slightly dead eyes toward us for a brief moment, then turn back to the table.

BH tosses down our $5,000 in chips.  Someone snickers. BH pulls out his wallet and buys another $100k in chips.  The men warm up a bit and let us squeeze in beside them.

Dealer:  This table is very busy.  We aren’t making any promises you’ll get to play soon.

Us: What’s another 30 days after 8 years?

Player 1 pauses mid-roll:  That’s some bad luck right there.

The other players collectively take a few steps away from us as if bad luck is catchy.  Some of the women whip out their mirrors, perhaps wondering what they would look like 8 years from now if they were still here.

The waitress delivers a round of drinks to the men.  All the women demurely decline save one, who accepts a glass of amber liquid over ice. I watch her with interest.  She’s about my age and might be a future ally.

A nurse in scrubs appears wearing a gunslinger belt criss-crossed over her chest and buckled around her waist.  Instead of bullets or the more urbane shot glasses, needles and prescription pill bottles fill the slots.

The women step away from the table and surround the nurse, gulping down pills or hiking their gowns to shove 2 inch long needles into their backsides, some helping others who whine about the pain and indignity of it all.  The men play blithely on.

Waitress to BH:  You want a drink? They’re “free.”

BH:  Make it a double please.

Nurse to me:  Estrogen? Progesterone? Folic Acid?

I shake my head and look at my toes in embarrassment.

Nurse: This isn’t the place to be shy, Toots.  You need something stronger? What? Clomid? Gonal-F?

Me [mumbling]: We have to use donor eggs.

The womens’ collective heads whip back to focus their attention on us.  I hear the whispered names of J.Lo, Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Courtney Cox.  I can almost feel their pity wafting towards me.

Nurse: You’ll still need the E2 and Progesterone.  [shoves a suppository my way]  Here, take it.

Me:  Uh, no thanks.

Nurse [giving me the squinty eyes]:  What’s the matter with you?  You using a surrogate or something?

One woman gasps:  Like SJP!  Or Annie Leibovicz.  She must be really old.  The other women stop whispering and take their shots with no more whining, suddenly feeling like they’re the lucky ones.

The woman with the drink stirs the ice in her glass with an elegant finger. She catches my eye and offers her glass up in a silent toast.

Me:  You, too?  I ask with my eyes

She nods once.   No smile.  Her plastic surgeon arrives and administers her botox.  The other women look on enviously.

Me to nurse:  On second thought, do you have any Valium, please?

The other women rush to open their tiny purses and pull out their meds – each offering me something new.  I select a small yellow one I haven’t tried before and toss it down with a gulp of my husband’s scotch.

Player 2 tosses the dice:  Mama needs a baby to fill the shoes!

4 months later, we’re still standing at the table waiting for our turn.  No one’s spoken to us again or communicated in any way.  The other players take turns rolling the dice; the truly lucky ones have immediate success.    Others who crap out walk away, temporarily defeated but always fluttering nearby watching, waiting.  Like moths to a flame, when the table heats up they step back in wanting to play again.

Some of the players crap out so many times, they go broke.  The rest of us watch sadly as they beg the pit boss to let them try for a second mortgage so they can get more chips.  Most of the women at the table have long since traded their jewels for another chance to play.

The other woman using a surrogate rolls snakeyes and leaves with twins.

I step away from the table and use my cell to call the Casino manager, yet again.

Me:  Uh, hi. Yes, we are still waiting to begin the egg donor selection process.

Manager:  A packet should have been mailed to you within the first 30 days.

Me: We never received it.

Manager:  Wow, that’s just bad luck.  I’ll send you another one in the mail.

Me:  Can we just look at the donors on line? We’re not that picky any more.  We just want someone tall (we’re both nearly 6 ft) with blue eyes (like ours).

Them:  We don’t do it that way.  But since you’re in such an allfire hurry, I’ll email you small, grainy photos of the 3 donors who meet your criteria.

Me: Um, okaay?

Within hours of getting the photos, we request the full packet of info for the only donor over 5’2”.  A month later it still has not arrived.

After leaving 6 or 7 polite voice mails with several of the Casino’s third party reproduction team members, I finally set myself on fire in front of the manager’s door.

She steps out waving the stench of my burnt flesh away:  Do you want to finally meet your doctor now?

Me:  Are you sure? It’s only been 6 months…I’d hate to rush things.

Manager:  Well if you’re going to be sarcastic…

Me:  No, no!  Sorry.  We’d very much like to meet the doctor.

BH and I rush to his office.

Doctor:  Welcome to the Casino clinic.  You’re very lucky to be here!  As you know we are the gold standard of IVF.  Why, we pioneered the program years ago.  The premier clinic in the Northeast.

Me:  Great. Perhaps you can explain to me why not one team member can ever provide any answer to a single question I’ve ever asked.  And why it’s taken more than 6 months to get egg donor info and finally meet you.

Doctor:  Well, sourpuss, “you’re just going to have to develop a much more positive attitude if we were going to continue to work together.”

Me [rolling up my sleeves]:  Did you just talk to me as if were a child?

BH [restraining me]:  Can we just remind you that we are customers who paid over $120k for the “opportunity” to work together?

Doctor:  Whatever.  You want to do this thing or continue to whine about our poor customer service?

Me [hissing and spitting]:  I’ll show you whining you sanctimonious fucktard!

Doctor:  Calm down peon or I just might make a “mistake” with your cycle.

BH [dragging me out the door]:  At least there was progress.

A month later my phone rings.

Pharmacy:  Hideeho!  We need you to pay us $4,200 for your Egg Donor meds and another $2,800 for your surrogate’s.

Me:  rattles off credit card number by heart.

A month later phone rings:

Casino:  Great news!  Your transfer is scheduled to happen between 2/11 and 2/17.  Be there or be square.

Us [giddy with excitement]:  Great!  We will cancel our travel plans for Valentine’s Day (and the first anniversary trip we’ve ever planned) because this is the most important thing in our lives right now.

We head back to the Casino where Player 12 has just rolled a three.  They’re both in their late 40s and I see the panic on their faces immediately.

Dealer:  Triplets!  So now what?  Are you going to deselect one so the other two have a better chance to live or will you stick with the very risky triplet pregnancy at your age?

The couple walks out slowly.

We finally get the dice.  BH shakes them vigorously and brings his hand to my mouth.  I kiss his hand and blow on it for luck.

We roll a 7.

Dealer:  Oh, sorry!  You CRAPPED OUT!

Me:  I don’t understand…?

Dealer:  Didn’t they tell you?  The doctor made a critical mathematical error somewhere in the cycle and it has to be CANCELED and put off to March 17th.

BH gives me an accusing glare for my behavior in the doctor’s office and we step away from the table to “discuss” it.

A ridiculously beautiful gay couple and their entourage has joined the table by now.  They each take turns rolling the dice. With a sparkle of youthful optimism, their egg donor bets six the hard way and rolls.

It comes up 4 and 2.

Dealer:   It’s a soft 6 so only half of them fertilized.

Thankfully the surrogate had bet a soft 6.

Dealer:  Are you going to roll again?

After a brief conference, they gather their remaining chips and leave smiling –  not knowing the next 14 days will be some of the hardest in their lives.

Suddenly the pit boss comes and whispers something to the dealer:

Dealer [grabs all our chips]:  Time for you to leave now.

Us:  ?  *blink*  ?

Dealer: We’ve made yet another error and it turns out your donor is here and ready to pop!  The retrieval is tomorrow!

Pitt boss grabs husband under the arms and drags him away.

I call the clinic.

Me:  Seriously?  What the fuck?

Casino clinic:  Your husband must drop everything, rush out to get an FDA required blood test because we’re putting his bodily fluids into another person’s body.  We’ve known all along that he would need this test but didn’t bother to tell you about it because we’re extremely incompetent.  He must go!  NOW NOW NOW!!!

The women whisper amongst themselves:  They’re so lucky I hear as I stumble out the doors into the blustery March day.   I shuffle home and crawl into bed.   Just as I drift off, the phone rings.

Casino Clinic:  Guess what?

Me:  Honey, the clinic just called.  They need your, um, sample right now.

BH:  Seriously?  I’m in the middle of something at work.

Me:  Sorry.  This thing can’t happen without your, erm, thing.  Any-thing I can do to, uh, help?

BH:  Yes.  Go get me some “historical documents.”

Me [Stumbles out of bed, dons sunglasses and wig as disguise. Drives around next town over looking for porn.  End up with jugs and Penthouse.  Weep silently over the depths to which I have sunk in pursuit of motherhood.]

The next day I head off for a board of directors meeting that’s scheduled to last all day.  The phone rings.

Casino Clinic:  Heyeey!  Guess what?  We messed up your husband’s bloodwork and could YOU now drop everything and rush over to the Casino and pick up more paperwork, deliver it to your husband so he could leave work immediately and go get the blood tests re-done?

Me:  Am I being punked?

Casino:  Oh, and also – there are some consent forms, which by the way we forgot to ever ask you to sign.  You and your husband need to sign them AND have them notarized so rush, rush, rush – timesawasting!

Me:  Let me get right on that.

Casino:  And HEY! Did we mention that the egg donor is here NOW and wants to be paid so could you ALSO please bring certified checks for $8,000 for her and $400 for us since we had to, you know manage the whole thing professionally?

Me: Ungh…

Casino:  Oopsie!  We forgot one teensie little thing – we need another $24,785 from you NOW because we forgot to bill you for certain things leading up to this point.

Me:  Say what now?

Casino:  $24k.  We need it.  Now.

Me:  Wait, can I review this statement?

Casino:  [heavy sigh] Fine, let me get the pit boss if you’re going to be all difficult about things.  But we’re really short on time.

Me:  I’m sure you are.  I’ll just drive over there to meet pit boss in person.

Pit Boss:  You causing problems again?

Me:  Uh, yeah, that’s it.  I’m such a jokester.  See here?  These first 4 items?  We paid them already.  Here’s a copy of the receipts.

Pitt Boss:  Fine, I’ll do you a favor and credit you some of this cause I’m a great guy.

Me: Gee, thanks, but it’s not really a favor – we paid it.

Pitt Boss:  Whatever, just pay $12k and let’s move on already.

Today phone rings again.

BH:  So, I’m at the 3rd clinic today trying yet again to get bloodwork done.

Me:  Seriously?

BH:  Yep. Seems one of the tests needs to be in a vial with a RED cap and none of the clinics around here have one.

Me [sobbing]:  This just can’t be happening.

Another call rings through.

Casino:  Great news!  Of the only 16 follicles your 22 year old donor managed to produce, 12 have fertilized!

Me:  Really?

Casino:  Yep, bad news though. We had to use ICSI.  So we need you to drive over here NOW and get the ICSI forms from us and get you and your husband to sign them.  No need to notarize these – should be a piece of cake!

Me: …

Casino:  You and your husband must appear at the IVF Roulette wheel at the Casino Clinic on Monday where you will get one chance to bet.  Bring your surrogate and your checkbook for the $2,000 you now owe for the ICSI!  Good luck!

Me:  Uh, thanks?

  1. Wow. I realize that this is the “funnified” version of this, but I can’t even imagine. I read your archive, and love “skiddle and smom”. Now that my relationship is better with my husband’s girls, I just call them my daughters. I hate the whole step thing. It’s just doesn’t feel right.

    • Kelly, I know so many step-parents who don’t get along with their step-kids and wonder why… though I realize how lucky I am with Skiddle when I hear the stories. I’m looking forward to getting into your archives. I’m really trying to find my voice here while being careful to not endanger Skiddle in case her mom finds this blog. It’s a problem that has me paralyzed sometimes. Thanks for your support – it means a lot to me!

  2. Wow. You might want to submit to Stephen King this story of terror. WTF? Thank you for finally bitching about the infertility casino – it always felt like a big gamble to me too. I LOVE how you crafted this story – brilliant – just wish you hadn’t had to live it. Damn girl, you need a break!!

    • Thank you for this! I’m quite chuffed now. I recently submitted a short story to Writer’s Digest and won 3rd place. Two people I asked to review before I submitted it compared me to Stephen King. I just finished reading his book, On Writing, and realized that while I’ve always loved his stories – I’ve never really acknowledged his skill as a writer.

      Thanks for commenting here – I really appreciate your support!

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