Of the four fertility clinics on offer, only one made Minnie, as a single patient, feel welcomed. Even then, attending appointments by herself in a waiting room with hand-holding couples, could be miserable. Sometimes she drove home to her sofa and needy, psychotic dog, bawling at the wheel.
After screenings and a waiting period, Minnie started a six month programme. This involved at the optimal times of the month, an early morning, pre-work, blood test. She learned which phlebotomists were gentle and which to avoid. She wore long sleeves to hide the bruises. The ovulation results, known by early afternoon, indicated if Minnie was ovulating. On these days, Minnie left work early with increasingly unimaginative excuses, driving faster than the speed limit, to be inseminated with sperm. No chat-up lines and cocktails here; just a nurse with a strange syringe.
On the insemination days, Minnie was instructed to reach the clinic no later than 4pm. She was always directed to be as relaxed as possible for the sperm “to take”. One afternoon, whilst in the waiting room, sitting opposite another lone woman, shattering glass was heard. Minnie met the stranger’s eye and both laughed simultaneously. “Hope that wasn’t mine!” the woman said. Lying with her legs up, trying yoga breaths, thinking happy, welcoming thoughts after the sperm had been inserted, Minnie imagined the future with her child. She bought unisex toys and books to stimulate her baby; she joined a single mothers’ group and networked. She drove to different suburbs each month buying pregnancy tests. All proved negative. No matter how many she purchased none gave her the result she craved. She spent many hours at night walking her dog and crying in the street, not caring who saw.
After five months of failing, Minnie’s reproductive parts were investigated for clues. Apart from some endometrial scar tissue which was “tidied up” (she imagined a little dustpan and brush with daisies painted on it), there were no medical explanations. The emotional roller coaster of trying to unsuccessfully conceive when the rest of the world seemed only to look at a penis and “fall” pregnant, was too much. She decided to have a break.