Is it possible this is blank? Yes because despite my hip facade which in itself is questionable, I am terribly intimidated by cyber world still. But in honor of Oscar season, I am going to publish a piece here that ran in the LA Times fours years ago which they cleverly called
You don’t appreciate how easily sperm travels through a vagina until you try to drive it across town in Los Angeles the week before the Oscars. During morning rush hour.
Last year, after I turned a “certain age” and suffered a miscarriage, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the state-of-the-art fertility boosters that are available in Southern California. Which is how I ended up on Sunset Boulevard with a cup of warm sperm in a brown paper bag like a bottle of Scotch, heading west to my gynecologist in Beverly Hills.
It’s 7:54 when I get in the car, twenty minutes later than I intended, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, don’t rush a man with a specimen cup in his hand. I have an hour and six minutes to get to my doctor; the most it has ever taken is 40. Todd hands me the cup and assures me that getting there in an hour, the approximate shelf life of sperm, will be no problem.
I am a performer who has spent more time on the road than the red carpet, so my fantasies about following in Susan Sarandon’s footsteps have realistically faded to black. Which sounds more sad than it feels. Surprisingly, the morning of 9/11 when I woke up in South Dakota after a college gig and was trying desperately to get home to LA, I found myself daydreaming about starting a family, not winning an Oscar. I made it home and married my boyfriend a few months later.
I never thought I’d bear one child, let alone two. But I got lucky and have a 3-year old named Gabriel. I love him more than I thought I would. I have an addict’s mind and knew as soon as I met him that I would need another fix. One child is beautiful, but two would be the answer. However, because of my age, only one in eight of my eggs is viable. This means if my husband and I try the old-fashioned way, we only have about one chance a year to make a baby. Which is how I ended up traveling west through Los Angeles with a cup of sperm that morning.
We followed my doctor’s recommendation that I take an egg-stimulating drug and then, when the eggs hatched, to have him stick a catheter full of sperm inside me. (Who wouldn’t jump at that opportunity?) There is only one day a month that this procedure might possibly (but probably not) work and this was it. Despite the pills and tubes, I was determined to create a less antiseptic vibe (atmosphere?) in the room. I bought candles the night before at an Indian candle/incense/sarong store that were labeled “Welcome New Life.” Todd had to work so I planned to get to the doctor’s office early, drop off my his swimmers, stroll to the nearby Whole Foods for some womb-enhancing tea, and meditate while the little guys were prepped for their journey.
For those of you who don’t live in Los Angeles, Hollywood Boulevard is blocked off for a half-mile radius during the week before the Oscars to allow for the construction of a bridge, so celebrities can cross over the wide street without soiling their gowns. It’s also a fabulous way to ramp up anticipation for the event because it screws up traffic for about 40 miles on either side of the Kodak Theater.
“I think you need to calm down,” Todd said to me over the cell phone. “Find somewhere to make a left off Sunset.”
“The whole city is blocked off by the Oscars, Todd! There’s no place to make a left, Todd!”
“You’re smart, you just need to get a grip and figure out how to circumvent the traffic.”
“Smart is having your babies at a normal age and not waiting until you’ve done every other thing with your life twice and then waking up and saying, ‘Gee, maybe I should have some babies!’”
I hang up, inching past the El Capitan.
I make a left and call him back.
“I’m at La Brea and Sunset.”
“That’s good. La Brea is good.”
“It’s 8:40. I’m landlocked in front of the Rock ’n’ Roll Ralph’s. That’s not good. Good is being in the delivery room.”
“Can you take a deep breath, honey?”
I figure it can’t hurt, so I do. As I’m exhaling, I see one of those lit-up traffic signs 20 blocks ahead. The amber sign flashes, “ROAD CLOSED FOR EVENT.” Traffic was backed up to allow for a 20-foot V-shaped hedge to be installed for the Vanity Fair Oscars party.
8:52. In 12 minutes Todd’s sperm will be useless glue. He’s still on the line; I start to cry.
“I just can’t believe I did everything right and now it’s not going to happen because I didn’t factor in the Oscars. I didn’t make the Oscars part of my infertility protocol! It’s not going to work. Nothing is going to work. It’s hopeless.”
I snap the phone shut and pass a billboard advertising a cruise line for gorgeous gay men. That’s the life, knowing that adoption is your only choice.
9:01. Four minutes left. I flip the steering wheel hard to the left and tear down a side street. With a dead end. Madness descends as I execute a very angry three-point turn.
The phone rings.
“None of these goddamn roads go anywhere!” I scream.
“OK,” the female voice says.
“Who is this?”
“Sorry,” I say. “I’m working on a character who is completely out of control.”
“Can you be at Bundy and Olympic in an hour in something that looks like a chicken suit? Obviously, they’re not really expecting you to look like a chicken. Just suggest it, you know maybe a yellow shirt and don’t comb your hair º ”
“No. I can’t. I’m sorry. I can’t be a chicken in an hour. I’m going to be on a metal table with my legs spread. Or slitting my wrists in a bathroom.”
“Is that the character talking?”
I make a right on to Burton Way and then, I see it, the sign for Crescent Drive. I feel like Dorothy approaching the Emerald City. Until I see lights flashing and hear the deafening sound of helicopters above me. Crescent Drive is blocked off for a “police action” just outside my doctor’s office. Cop cars are parked at right angles at the north end of the street to stop cars that want to turn on to it.
Will there even be anyone in there to prep my husband’s sperm?
I park away from the chaos, sprint to the office, and leap directly into the lab where, thank God, the nurse is standing. She’s stirring sugar into her coffee.
“He gave it to me an hour and fifteen minutes ago. Am I too late?”
She puts down her stirrer and gets a small appliance out of a cabinet overhead. That must be tthe sperm “washer” where they separate out the most active ones.
“No, you’re not too late” she says, plugging the tiny apparatus into the wall socket.
“No one told me you were coming is all. I have to run it through here. It’ll take about an hour.”
We are in completely different movies. I’m action-adventure; she’s Bergman.
“But it took me over an hour to get it here. It’s OK?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, we just tell people that.”
What else to do they ‘just tell’ people? I knew better than to ask the lab technician that question. It’s not her fault my nerves are frayed from the whole fertility process, which making me feel like I’m being sold a dream.
I call Todd.
“See, you did it. I knew you would,” he says. “It’s gonna be OK.”
Once in the room where the insemination will happen, I drape myself in the paper skirt and put the three candles, purple, yellow and lime green, on the Formica table right next to a tube of K-Y jelly. I pull matches out of my jeans’ pocket and light them. Then I turn off the fluorescent lights and lay back, my knees up in the air. Looking up I see shadows in the cottage-cheese ceiling that remind me of fresh, wet snow. The room looks almost pretty. There is a knock at the door and it opens.
“Uh, what’s going on here?” Dr. Lin asks.
It’s his day off and he’s dressed like a J. Crew model. Looking down at him from between my legs, with his hooded sweatshirt, in candlelight, for a second I feel like I’m back in my college dorm.
“Well, you know, we’re trying to create new life, so I thought I’d give the room a little atmosphere.”
Dr. Lin exits as soon as he puts down the syringe. I lay on the table for 20 minutes. It isn’t until I try to get up that the cramping hits. And it is fierce. I put my clothes on gingerly and hobble out to the lobby.
In my car, the pain is so intense I have to pull off the road on Beverly Boulevard. A man with at least 15 cameras around his neck stops traffic both ways to cross the street. It makes me think of all the people getting ready to be photographed, even the most cynical of them convinced that getting a gold statue might erase the creeping self-doubt from which it seems no one is exempt. I grab my throbbing side. Is it possible that I have I made having this second child my ‘Oscar’? That if I am able to deliver this one I will prove that the first one was not a fluke, that I am not a hack, that I wasn’t just “lucky,” but that I really am a “woman”? Now I don’t just have cramps, I’m nauseated too. I fear I have had these kinds of thoughts my whole life about everything I pursue. I am no different than a hopeful nominee with a gift bag. I’m just a lot less glamorous.
The funny thing is, I’ve known one or two Oscar-winners, and many mothers of two, and I have yet to hear a member of either group prattle on about their newfound contentment from their achievement. A day, a week, or a month later, when the adrenaline rush ebbs and life resumes its normal pattern, the doubts somehow bubble up to the surface again.
But I’m hoping with two children, I’ll have less time to think about them.
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First published Jul 1, 2010.