ART forced me to face an intense childhood fear of needles. My mother, for example, loves to tell the story of my tetanus booster in 7th grade, when I literally wrestled the pediatrician’s hands away because he tried to quick-stick me in the arm before I worked through my hysterical ritual of breathing, bracing, and internal pep talks. As you might imagine, this compounded the flutters of anxiety that dominated that initial decision to seek treatment, but (perhaps as some paltry silver lining) the needle phobia was incrementally allayed by the pin-cushion trials of IUI monitoring. Despite all the wincing and clenching over the poke for that first round of testing, I barely felt it, and I think I freaked out the poor phlebotomist with all my insane smiling and hiccuping giggles of relief. Wild, how fundamentally perception of things can shape reality until experience asserts itself anew.
Regardless of the orientation of the chair, I now insist that they use my right arm most of the time because I have developed a pellet-size patch of scar tissue in the crook of that left elbow, concave and cratered from years of overuse. Now it really does hurt, a bright sting sinking in, a snaking ache sliding out. For now, the right arm is still pliable and relatively painless.
It’s all an apt enough metaphor for approaching embryo transfer after many failures and losses. Even when the actual data is on my side (PGS, ERA, scar tissue clean-up, etc.) there’s a thick layer of post-traumatic stress that remains stubbornly unresponsive to rational arguments, including crossing that bridge when we come to it. It’s powerful enough that I was prepared to forego my own frozen blasts in favor of an egg donor to avoid this exact situation. If only I had a spare brain, soul, self to offer up to the experience instead of all this wincing and bracing, but, soldier on, as they say.