Sometimes the enormity of it all startles you. But it's silly to go around thinking about how you're "making a life", even if it's true. And there's so much busywork that the process doesn't easily incline itself to a ton of reflection -- there are steps to take and you take them. If it occasionally feels like emotional mountain-moving, it more often feels like a basic construction job with a punch list, that's gone over-budget, and has fallen predictably behind schedule.
But the day of the egg retrieval was different. Something big was happening, and the air was abuzz with a sense of occasion. Sara arrived at the Waltham center with her boyfriend, Zack, and her mom Patti, my step-mother. This was the first time we'd met Zack, and we liked him right away. It didn't hurt that he'd been amazingly supportive of Sara throughout the process, and even helped combine and administer the various hormone medications she'd been prescribed. He was a mensch, it was clear. And it was great that Patti was there too; the process of "growing our family" had become a real family project by this point.
When they arrived Lin had already been ushered into the inner sanctum of the facility to "produce his sample." Considering how important his contribution was to the general success of the junior project, it got relatively short shrift. It was only a few days before that we'd even gotten around to asking the nurse coordinator about the timing of the whole thing, and for how long he was to remain "master of his domain" ahead of the big event. If it had been less than three days before the appointment, we were told, he was good to go. If it had been longer, he was to "release and refrain", which sounded very much to me like the name of a mid-90s rom-com starring Bridget Fonda. At any rate, when Lin arrived in the room -- which, owing to the usual space being occupied was a routine exam room with a hard collapsible bed-table, complete with crinkly paper covering -- he was welcomed by a single, well-worn copy of the Men's magazine, Playboy. The "alternative materials" folder had come up bare. Still, he managed.
Sara was looking relaxed and happy, which was great to see. She'd been a real trooper, uncomplaining through weeks of daily injections and the resulting hormone-fed mood swings. You see, normally each month a fallopian tube will transport one egg follicle into position, to either be fertilized or shed when the uterine lining is sloughed off at the next menstrual period. During an egg donation cycle, pharmaceutical intervention encourages the ovaries to release a slew of eggs all at once, with varying degrees of success. In Sara's case, 34 useable egg follicles were retrieved; a veritable ova-fest. The level of her attainment was clear when Sara shared with us later that the doctor had not-so-subtly invited her to be a for-pay anonymous donor. She would make $8,000 for three weeks of work, he said, and she could start a few weeks hence. Now if this were me, at 22, and I was being offered $8,000, I likely would have handed over a kidney or half of my liver. Sara, being as poised and responsible as I wasn't at that age, demurred. Good girl.
While she underwent the procedure we had about an hour to kill, and noticed a Costco across the street. What better, what more appropriate, what more goddamned perfect thing could we do at that point, on the precipice of parenthood, than pony up the $45 annual fee and join that shit? Bring on the 80-pack of Bounty, lasso that pallet of Charmin, you're coming with us. The thrill was somewhat less for Lin, who spent a great many weekends there throughout his childhood. My prior experience amounted to once accompanying a friend to the San Francisco location to buy a hillock of party supplies. It was novel, and even though the rabid consumerism of it all makes me sad when I'm being reflective, I wasn't feeling at all like that at this point. I was feeling like I wanted a gallon-and-a-half of mayonnaise. So get out of my way, please.
After the procedure the four of us drove down to South Dartmouth, stopping on the way for a festive lunch. Sara may have been under anesthesia a few hours prior, but she was feeling great and so were we all. The air was one of celebration and love, which felt both fitting and like something I should be very grateful for. We both were. After, we went to the family house down the road, where Patti still lives. We hadn't been there since our wedding just over two years before, and it was comforting to hang out for those couple of hours and sit and talk and be a family, a very modern family.
Somewhere, cells were dividing.