19. “Moanin’ at Midnight,” Howlin’ Wolf


Sometimes I hear a song and I’m surprised at how the associations I have with it evolve over the years. I remember just sitting in my room listening to this and other great Chess recordings in my bedroom, reading the liner notes of the Chess Blues four CD box set.

I’d imagine what it must’ve been like to be in those studios while this magic was happening. Willie Dixon pounding on his upright bass. Muddy Waters’ soul pouring out all over the place. Hubert Sumlin unleashing slick lick after slick lick while Howlin’ Wolf’s gigantic, intimidating voice (and body) filled the room. It really does seem like magic to me.

But what it reminds me of now is a different kind of magic. The magic of science. I got a book, a biography of the Wolf (named after this song), and read it at a very specific time in my life. He really was a larger than life character and now any Wolf song reminds me of a larger than life chapter in my life: infertility.

It was stressful, it was painful, it was expensive, it was a little embarrassing and, at times, in a beautiful catharsis, pretty hilarious.

We tried the normal human way, as humans do, but the baby-making part of it just wasn’t happening. So we got checked out and it turned out we both had some issues that were affecting our ability to conceive. And both required a certain amount of pain thanks to out-patient procedures.

They actually had to cut into me, my first time ever going under the knife. Anesthesia was a revelation… And a curse. They wheeled me into the operating room, locked me into a Jesus Christ pose (which at least put an awesome song in my head), drew on me, and hooked me up to the juice, then I was out in an instant. I woke up in a room with other gurneys around me and a mouth like a cotton factory. “Can I have a drink?” I think I asked a nurse. But it probably sounded like, “Am ah am a ming?” Back in the recovery room they said I could go home after I peed. So I went to pee, thinking I can pee, what’s the big deal, and horrified Carrie by passing out in the bathroom. I’d never passed out before. It was almost immediately funny to me, once I was aware of what had happened, that the nurse and whoever else had had to drag me out of the bathroom, out cold (fortunately, at least, with my pants up). But Carrie thought I’d died, so not quite so funny for her. An hour or so later I was finally lucid enough to take care of business and go home.

Then there were the constant injections I had to give Carrie. I wasn’t good with needles myself, so the notion of stabbing my wife every night took some getting used to. And then the meds launched into her body through those syringes have a way of turning a woman’s hormones into something akin to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Completely maniacal and halfway homicidal. So that was fun. But it wasn’t really her, I kept reminding myself, it was the Joker meds.

And let me be clear, what I had to endure was nothing next to Carrie’s trauma and I won’t even begin to pretend to truly know what it was like for her – and it’s really not my place to spill her business in my blog. But I’ll say this for her: she was incredible through it all and proved she’s far stronger than she ever gives herself credit for.

Then there were the times at the clinics. I won’t go into the details of what went on there, the biological and scientific details of it all. But I will never cease to wonder where these clinics’ porn collections came from. These upstanding offices housing small rooms with the most hilariously raunchy decade-old (so we’re probably talking 90s) porn you’ll ever see. Oh, and the drugs! I have never seen Carrie drunk, but listening to her nonsensically ramble on, high on whatever they put her on while they transferred the fertilized egg back into her, was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever experienced. Almost made up for the whole Joker situation.

The whole ordeal for us lasted about a year and a half, which I know is a lot less than a lot of other people have to endure. We started out at one place for the better part of a year. At first it seemed like a nice place. It’s there, waiting between procedures, that I was reading the book that this song brought to mind. I remember Carrie and I heading over to Tim Hortons to eat breakfast sandwiches to kill time. And Carrie, after a procedure, having to lay down in the back of our Pontiac Sunfire for the 45-minute trip home – doctor’s orders.

But eventually that clinic felt less friendly and after four failed procedures that milked us for thousands of dollars, we gave up on them and tried another clinic. This one was less fancy, interior-design-wise, but one meeting with the doctor and we felt like we were in good hands. Besides, he had an autographed Tea Party (the band, not the political party) poster on his wall where one of the band members thanked him for his work. So I was sold. Also, the new clinic realized something kind of important: the procedures for which the other clinic was milking us for thousands of dollars were pretty much guaranteed not to work because of something they didn’t catch in their tests. Or chose not to tell us about, who knows? Needless to say: frustrating.

It was there, at the new place, that we tried our first IVF procedure – that’s the granddaddy of fertility procedures, the most invasive and most expensive. It was a tough time. But all of it was so profoundly worth it. We have two hilarious, healthy, genius, creative little boys – who just turned seven this week – thanks to the miracles of modern science and our own blood (literally), sweat (literally) and tears (literally). And other bodily fluids. And, of course, many thousands of dollars. But, I always say, at least we got the two-for-one deal.

Infertility is frighteningly common these days. I know a lot of my family and friends have gone through situations similar or worse. And a lot of people don’t wind up with the success we had in the end, which is truly tragic. I don’t even know what to say to those people. So I’m just going to end this post without a real ending – because for them, it doesn’t really end.


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