We made a ritual out of it. My husband would do his sacred duty while I waited in the lobby and then we went to the hospital cafeteria. We joked and speculated about the other couples over burnt coffee and powdered eggs while the clinic prepared the semen sample and removed the least promising swimmers. The idea behind I.U.I. consists of introducing the powerful sperm directly into the uterus through a catheter so that the sperm and egg have practically no obstacles to their rendezvous. How could it not lead to pregnancy – it's science, right?
After each insemination I put on my uniform and went back to work as if nothing had happened. But my mind raced as I sat at my desk and wondered if we had just conceived our first child. What if I didn't lie on the table long enough, I would think. The fourth time Mike came into the room with me. It seemed like a good opportunity to see what a pelvic exam really looks like. His eyes widened at the sight of the tweezers. But I really wanted him there if it worked. Then we could say we were both in the room when we finally got pregnant.
We did this six times. Every month my periods were devastating. I had two other early miscarriages while it looked like everyone I knew would get pregnant and with the greatest of ease. Mike and I discussed whether to stop doing I.U.I. and opt for the more expensive I.V.F.
I was emotional and bloated the whole time, barely able to gain weight and maintain army fitness standards because some days I could not get up due to months of fertility medication. Whenever I came across an internet troll who suggested that women use pregnancy to get out of an assignment, I would go into a blind rage. I did my best to plan an active-duty pregnancy to get the benefits I deserved, but it never happened. I left the army in January.
Shortly afterwards, the first cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in the United States. The decision whether with I.V.F. was made for us. Walter Reed stopped most fertility treatments. My main focus was on how to keep me from getting sick and how the radio show I produced would continue if the station had to close. The pregnancy kept getting out of my head every day.
On the last day before our radio station was completely remote, I was rummaging in my medicine cabinet for a new tube of toothpaste when I noticed the light pink cover of my last pregnancy test. It was a reminder of our infertility so I wanted it to be gone. But I didn't mean to waste it either, so I peed in a cup, dipped it in, and hopped in the shower.
I hurried across the bathroom to get ready and took a look at the test. It was all capitalized "yes" and I gasped. That had to be a mistake, I thought. Throughout the bus ride to work, I desperately Googled articles about false positives and convinced myself that the results were not reliable.