Every woman Delilah saw was pregnant. She’d given her seat up on the train to a very pregnant woman — about to burst. The waitress at her local deli was slightly pregnant — second babies show early. And the lady at the gym could dribble and take a shot from the paint with her basketball-uterus — small from behind, but a surprise in front. Her friends were all knocked up, having seconds, thirds, multiples. As the population soared past 8 billion, babies were everywhere.
Now, she and her husband sat in the waiting room of a fertility clinic. A place where doctors drew diagrams of the female anatomy, reminding women where sperm meets egg (not in you) and emphasizing just how dysfunctional their cervix, vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and brain could be. Delilah stared at the big block letters above the receptionist’s head, The Institute for Ovarian Stimulation. This time, 16 years after her first pregnancy, she’d need a whole institute to get pregnant.
She watched an old-for-this-place woman put $20,000 on her credit card and flipped through a pamphlet. Make your wait for Mr. Right worry-free and freeze your eggs now. Enjoy a special discount with this coupon: 1 year of Cryopreservation free! She thought about her friend Amelia and slipped the brochure in her purse — she could never resist a deal.
Soon, they were escorted into an office full of baby photos. She supposed this was a risk for the doctor. Do you show the people you’ve helped or do you keep your office bare and sullen? Barren? In the years since IVF was conceived, live births had gone up. Now, more than half the women successfully birthed their proverbial bundles of joy. The other half left with lighter pockets. Delilah gave her husband a fake smile and continued to look at photos. Happy babies in animal or chic, sporty outfits dressed up by their already overinvested parents.
Their Reproductive Expert (RE for short) slammed the door behind them, causing both Delilah and Gabe to jump. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just that if I don’t shut it, they’ll chase me. They all have questions. And,” he paused, smiling reassuringly, “I want to focus on you.”
She didn’t know how to feel about this. She’d read online that he’d paid for medical school by selling cars. He still carried that intense competitive need for a sale. He wouldn’t be outdone; he’d match any price so your feet were in his stirrups with his staff harvesting your eggs. But he was their answer. For the past two years Delilah and Gabe had tried to get pregnant, first using every position imaginable, then christening every room in the house, until finally becoming so depleted they slept in separate rooms. Two years of constant sex and regular periods were wearing on them.
They stood up and shook hands before sitting back down. The RE scooted his chair in and took off his glasses to chew on them. “What I’m worried about with you is your hormones,” he paused, looked through some papers, “and your egg reserves.”
Gabe spoke. “Her tubes are just blocked right? You know, hardware issues?”
The RE laughed. “Hardware and software, if you get my drift.” He scratched his head and put on his glasses. “She’s got low AMH and high FSH. Really low AMH. Not many eggs left.” He looked at her. “Do you feel hot?” His pen was poised, ready to jot down her answer.
“She’s only 35.” Gabe put his hand on her forehead and shook his head. “Not hot to me.”
“52.5,” he winked at her. “That’s the average age for menopause, but some women go early. Nothing’s guaranteed.” He pointed to Delilah again. “Her biological clock is about to call it quits.”
The RE began to draw a clock. “It’s like this.” He drew the clock so the hands were pointing straight in the air at midnight. Delilah noticed he only drew one. “She’s at 11:59 and thirty seconds. Not too much time left at all.”
“You’re lucky you’re still getting your periods. That’ll end soon. Does your pee smell?”
She shook her head. She hadn’t smelled anything this morning.
“Good. Early menopause sucks. It looks like your kidneys and liver are good. Your thyroid’s working now, but I can see you with hypothyroidism, walking with a cane, weight gain — I mean a lot.” He blew up his cheeks and put his arms out like the stay-puff marshmallow man. “You’ll become seriously fat.”
Delilah’s face turned red, she felt hot. She started to twist a strand of hair. The RE shook his head. What? Hair loss, too?
“Yup, and elastic skin, you know, like rubber.”
Gabe interrupted him. “But they have medication for that, right?”
“Oh yeah, both my mom and sister have thyroid problems. They take meds.”
Gabe shrugged and tapped her knee. “See, meds.”
The RE kept going, “Definitely hair loss. You could die, really.” He nodded. “Death happens.”
Isn’t that true for everyone? Delilah wondered if it was more true for her.
Gabe’s red curls jumped around his forehead. He looked young, like when they first had Ely. “So, what should we do?”
“Go straight to IVF, do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars.” Their RE laughed at his monopoly humor. “Do it soon. Do it now.”
He stared at them. “You know I always hoped that I didn’t get the trifecta — short, bald, fat.” He smiled. “So far, I’ve got my hair, and I’m not fat.” He looked at Gabe. “You’ve got great hair and a beautiful physique. You’ll be fine.”
He pointed to Delilah. “You,” he wagged his index finger. “Well, we’ve got some work to do on you.”
Shanna Yetman’s fiction has appeared online in Connotation Press and the Writing Disorder. Her story, The Miracle Is to Walk this Earth, is the winner for the New Millennium Writings 39th Competition for flash fiction. This same piece also received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train for their Family Matters Flash Fiction Contest. In print, her short stories have appeared in Chicago’s very own food literature magazine: Graze and the Bear River Review, which publishes work from the Bear River Writers’ Conference. Shanna is a 2014 recipient of Chicago’s Individual Artist Grant Program sponsored by DCASE (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events).
Shanna has a B.A. in English from Wellesley College and an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Maryland, College Park. She currently works at Loyola University Chicago as the Communications Coordinator for the Institute of Environmental Sustainability.
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