If the waiting room at the doctor’s office is purgatory, then the process of diagnosis and—eventually, hopefully—recovery is hell.
In a frank and darkly funny essay, The Morning News’ Paul Ford chronicles the three years of reproductive therapy he and his wife endured on a the path to conception. Many of their experiences were downright absurd, as if they had been lifted directly from a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Ford recounts when nurses complimented his wife’s lucky socks, brightly adorned with monkeys or ninjas, while she was splayed out in stirrups. The awkward professionalism of his clinic’s sperm-collection rooms is epitomized by a bit of legalese: “If you read the paperwork,” Ford deadpans as he is about to hand-off his sperm sample to the nurse, “there is a request that you don’t make any jokes during this moment.” In a last ironic twist, on the morning his wife is supposed to get a minor surgery for in-vitro fertilization, Brooklyn is buried under two feet of snow.
The essay deftly captures the physical, psychological, and social frustrations of trying and waiting (and waiting and waiting) to conceive. “Three years of waiting,” Ford writes,
Everywhere around us there are waves of bouncing sons, bounties of daughters, stroller wheels creaking under the cheerful load. Facebook updates, email messages, and Christmas cards arrive with pictures of tots, their faces smeared with avocado or cake frosting. Babies on rugs, babies in hats. Invitations to baby showers with cursive script and cartoon storks. Over a beer an expectant father—another expectant father—gives me the news, tells me that his wife will soon have her second or third. Am I happy for him? What else can I be? Once again I put out my hand, close my eyes, and wish them joy.
(Also: For its vivid detail, sardonic tone, and sense of personal violation, this essay reminded me of Thomas E. Kennedy’s 2007 award-winning essay, “I am Joe’s Prostate”, which was featured in New Letters [PDF excerpt only available online].)