Photo courtesy of Jackie Noblett

What It's Like To Inject Sperm Into Your Uterus, While Debating Whether Hope Is Futile

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Romper's Trying project follows five women with very different stories through a year of trying to conceive. Where discussions about fertility often focus on the end goal, they'll document what it's like emotionally, physically, and spiritually before you get there — the anxiety, the hope, the ovulation kits, the tests. How do you function when getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term isn't a given? Read on for one woman's answer to that question.

Jackie and her husband have been trying since late 2016. She suffers from hypothalamic amenorrhea, and this is the ninth installment of her Trying diary. You can read the previous entry here.

I was up before the cock crows like any other morning, but my body and mind were racing because it wasn’t any other morning. It was turkey baster day. The day my husband would help inject sperm into my uterus, assisted by a fertility doctor. You know, a fun Tuesday.

Before we headed to the clinic, I did the only thing I knew would soothe my soul. I put on my sneakers and went out for some fresh air. I jogged a little – not too much out of fear of jostling my swollen lady parts – and walked a lot, listened to a podcast and tried to forget about what was to come when I returned home.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel, or even if whatever feelings I do experience are my own or creations of the estrogen my no-longer-dormant ovaries are producing and the HCG (aka the pregnancy hormone) I injected in my body 36 hours prior to induce ovulation.

On the one hand, the day is full of hope and promise. It could be the day we conceive our first-born child. No, there is no romance in the process but certainly there is a deep sanctity and gravity to the medical “ritual” which I will undergo.

But the realist in me hits the brakes hard. Statistics say it is more likely this round of IUI will end in failure than success. Any cramping or tenderness or other bodily sensation I subsequently feel could just as easily be PMS as it is early pregnancy. And not to mention the precariousness of early pregnancy, and the higher than normal risk of miscarriage – which already is the sad fate of one in five conceptions.

I fail often and quite spectacularly in so many other aspects of my life. Why should this be different?

It’s a painful callus I try and build up to avoid disappointment. But looking in JP’s moon eyes, all I want to do is dream big like he can and still place it into confidence.

I know JP gets a little bit of satisfaction in 'doing the deed,' however intermediated it is.

We drop off the sperm sample collected at home for “washing,” culling the weak swimmers and the excess fluids in order to create a concentrated substrate to inject into my uterus. The process takes about an hour, and we live 10 minutes away from the clinic, so we went home and had breakfast. I don’t think either of us say much.

At 9:15 a.m. we go back.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Noblett

The procedure itself is pretty straightforward. The doctor comes in, shows us the test tube so we can verify they are inserting little JPs and not little Joe Schmos. He inserts his “favorite” catheter through my cervix into my uterus. There’s a twinge of pain and I squeeze JP’s hand. The doctor beckons JP over and lets him push the plunger down to send out the sperm.

I know JP gets a little bit of satisfaction in “doing the deed,” however intermediated it is.

Then I am asked to lie down for 10 minutes before they take out the catheter and send me on my merry way. I ask Amazon’s Alexa to play some new age mix and try and relax.

The rest of the day is a mental and emotional blur. I’m fairly certain it is the ovulation hormones that I haven’t felt in God-knows-how-long, but I just feel absolutely disassociated from the slurry of elation and hope and fear and vulnerability that is cursing through my body. I want to know what is going on: How many eggs were released? Are the sperm meeting them? Where are they in my system? When will they implant? Will they implant? What can I do to help things? How can I screw this up? Have I already screwed this up? Is this all just a dog and pony show and I’m just going to be disappointed in the end?

The doctor encourages us to “top things off” tonight or tomorrow morning. Two days later, I start taking progesterone suppositories to ensure I keep a solid uterine lining until the fetus – if there is one – starts producing signals to pump out the progesterone.

Sixteen days after the IUI — December 5 — I can take a pregnancy test. The trigger shot for ovulation is the same thing they test for, so they make you wait a while to be sure it is out of your system. JP’s going to be out of town that day. Of course.

Until then, we — like any other trying couple — will wait.