I took the C train to the fertility clinic near Columbus Square for my first IUI. IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is colloquially known as "the turkey-baster method" for getting pregnant. I remember being proud of myself for not taking a taxi. I was going to be a pragmatic and financially responsible mother, and my transportation choice that day was my personal validation that I could have a baby on my own.
I decided to become a single mother because I was about to turn 35, which is the age when everyone tells you that your fertility starts to wane. And even though I didn't have a partner, I'd always known I wanted to be a mother.
As I sat alone in the fertility-clinic waiting room, I looked around. The stakes are high — everyone is deeply invested in having a baby, and some have been trying, and failing, to get pregnant for years — the fear and disappointment are palpable. This was not the picture of motherhood I knew from cereal commercials and prime-time sitcoms.
When my name was called, I was greeted by a nurse who handed me a folder of forms to sign. She then pointed to the section that was to be completed by my husband. The word husband had never sounded as offensive as it did in that moment. I wanted to tell her that my husband would be happy to take those tests ... if I had one, and she might want to actually read my chart before drawing my blood.
That first IUI did not work. I hadn't expected this. I thought my decision would put things into motion, and this felt like failure.
Even more unfortunately, I was asked about my husband again on my next visit.
The best advice that was ever shared with me in the early days of my attempts to have a child was, "You'll need to learn to advocate for yourself." The lack of personal attention to detail at the first clinic repeatedly left me feeling frustrated, angry, and defeated. I took this advice to heart and decided to find a new doctor, one who supported my decision to have a child on my own, or at the very least did not openly offend me. I found one who was entirely familiar with assisting single women to achieve their goals, and he remembered my name and my marital status each time I saw him.
After my fourth IUI, I found out I was pregnant. I know now that this is fairly typical, and that IUIs rarely take on the first try, but at the time, each month felt like a lifetime. I heard the heartbeat at six weeks. At ten weeks, I went into my appointment thinking I was going to have blood drawn that would quickly reveal the sex of my first child. During the routine sonogram, I watched the doctor's face fall. It was not dramatic, it was slight: a reaction that I am sure took years and years of practice to achieve. He informed me the heartbeat was no longer. We then made arrangements to schedule a D&C.
I walked out of the building in total shock. I could not see straight or register sounds around me. I had never felt such heartbreak, and I carried that feeling and the unlucky pregnancy onto a flight to France only a few hours later. I had to publicly smile through Paris Fashion Week, only to retreat to my hotel room and collapse in tears anytime I could steal time. I cried myself to sleep every night as I mourned alone.