Forgetting, and remembering

September 20th, 2011

All things considered, our IVF experience was easy. I mean, compared to people who start their families unassisted it was a complete drag, but taking “IVF is your only chance for biological children” as a baseline, we had an easy time of it. I completed one fresh IVF cycle which netted 18 mature eggs, 13 of which fertilized. From these thirteen, we transferred two at our first transfer, only one of which implanted to become the Small Boy. The remaining embryos were stored for future transfers (a frozen embryo transfer, or FET). When we decided to try again, we decided only to transfer a single embryo on any given attempt – twins was no longer an outcome we were comfortable with.* Our first FET failed, our second FET failed, and our third FET became the Boychen. Four attempts, two healthy singletons pregnancies resulting in two live births. Compared to some people’s experience, it was almost laughably easy.

I forget, if forgetting is the right word, what we did to get these boys, to be this family. Forget, in the way I forget that my father is dead: it blends into my psychic background, an event I no longer dwell on every day because of the passage of time, because of the demands of the present, because if we are lucky we learn to wear our past lightly like the comfortable shirt you slip into at the end of the workday.

It’s there, though, as my father’s death is there, ready to be woken like a sleeping cat who notices the light has shifted and it is no longer dozing in a patch of sunlight. Today I revised some poems during the Small Boy’s hockey practice, and the poem I worked on the most was about that first, that only, fresh cycle. And I remembered it all: the drugs and the injections and the bruised thighs, the swollen ovaries swinging like a bunch of grapes with every step I took, egg retrieval, the transfer, the long long two week wait before we could do a blood test, the knowledge that it might not, might never, work; and I looked up from my notebook and there he was, that four-celled embryo, skating crossovers around the faceoff circle.

He is six and a half. He is in the first grade. He has a math test tomorrow. He plays hockey. He is bilingual. He is tall, and skinny, and blond, and asleep in his room. There he is.

My god, the wonder of it.

* Yes, identical twins could still have been possible and yes, I’ve seen some numbers that suggest that identical twins are marginally more likely to occur in an IVF using ICSI – which we did – than in unassisted pregnancies, and had that been the case, then so be it. But we didn’t want to risk fraternal twins. Given the crippling postpartum anxiety I suffered after the Boychen was born, it was a good thing twins weren’t in the picture.

Touchy subjects, touchy poems

May 19th, 2010

I spent the morning putting together a few submission packages (finally – I’ve been slothful on that front), and one of them has me a bit more fraught than usual. It’s got some infertility/IVF poems in it, and the few times I’ve done that I’ve thought it was kind of dicey; it’s a topic people can react to pretty viscerally. The IVF poems in particular strike me as pieces that can provoke a reaction about what is being said before anybody gets around to considering how well it’s being said. They’re strong poems, I’d never send them out if I didn’t think they were strong, but they could easily accidentally rub an editor the wrong way for any number of reasons: the editor might have objections to assisted reproduction, the editor might be experiencing infertility, the editor might have just gotten back a negative beta, the editor might think “trans-vaginal ultrasound” just doesn’t scan no matter how hard you try.*

I’m probably making this more fraught than it needs to be. Really any given piece could rub any given editor the wrong way on any given day; I recently read an interview with Tony Hoagland in which he said it’s gotten to the point he’d rather read about the history of corduroy than about somebody’s brother dying of cancer, so you never know what’s going to make an editor sigh and think, Please not this topic. There are a whole host of reasons an editor might pass on a particular piece that have nothing to do with the technical merits of the work (for a refreshingly honest list of some of those reasons see this post by poet Kelli Russell Agodon who is also an editor at Crab Creek Review) and the best we can do on our end is write good work, follow the submission guidelines, and do enough market research to know we’re not sending IVF poems to a Catholic journal.

It’s not, by the way. The journal I’m submitting to. It’s a feminist journal doing a special issue on poems concerning loss and things that can’t be said. So I’ve chosen the prospective home of my poems as well as I could, but you just never know who’s going to get all worked up by those three little letters: I.V.F. In my experience it can surprise you sometimes, the way people get all worked up about how my beautiful boys came to be.

* I’m just kidding about that last one, although it is my goal in life to successfully incorporate that phrase into a poem.