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Back in spring of 2014, during those months when I was trying to conceive Jonah, I had a moment in the fertility clinic that I’ve never forgotten. I was sitting in a very crowded waiting area all by myself, anticipating an ultrasound to count the eggs in “my basket.” It was to be my fourth cycle of IUI (intrauterine insemination)–the cycle that would ultimately result in my pregnancy with Jonah. But I didn’t know that then. I was sitting alone, watching the comings and goings of couple after couple and feeling just a little bit sorry for myself. Everyone in the room had a partner–male, female, a mother, a friend.

But not me.

Now, to be fair, my dear friend Kim often accompanied me on these appointments, but she just so happened to be out of town that day, and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I just so happened to be feeling a bit down on my luck. I watched as all these women approached the front desk to check in. “Oh! Hi Susan!” Hug hug. Kiss kiss. “How’re you feeling?” “Oh! Hi Fran!” “Oh! Hi _______.” The receptionists seemed to know everyone by name.

But not me.

It was the same with the nurses and techs who were calling couples into the exam rooms: “Hi there, Cindy!” “Martha! John! It’s great to see you again.”

When I approached the front desk I had to give them my full name and date of birth. There was no sparkle of recognition, no broad smile. Don’t get me wrong–everyone was perfectly kind and cordial–they just didn’t know who I was. When it was my turn to see the doctor, the nurse stepped out of the frosted glass doors, called my name, and had to scan the room until I finally stood and walked toward her.

That’s when it hit me: this was not Cheers. This was a flipping fertility clinic! The last thing on god’s green earth that I wanted was to be coming here long enough to be on a first name basis with the staff! The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I shuddered. I followed the nurse into the exam room suddenly filled to the brim with gratitude. No one here knew me. Thank goodness!

As it turned out, I would only return to the fertility clinic two more times–once for the insemination, and a second time, to see a lentil-sized Jonah’s heartbeat flickering with life on ultrasound.

Fast forward to the present.

This past Friday, I arrived at the fertility clinic for an ultrasound to count the eggs in my basket. Sound familiar? For my fourth IUI of this current season, I elected to do a medicated cycle (Letrazole 7.5mg) to help mature more than one follicle, not because I have any interest in twins (heaven help me!), but to give those chilly and sometimes lazy little donor-swimmers greater odds at hitting their target. This ultrasound was to see how many follicles I had to work with after taking the drug (one good-sized follie at 19.5, and one “maybe” at 16.5), and to measure the thickness of my uterine lining a few days prior to ovulation. The idea behind the look-see is to make sure that all systems are go before I elect to thaw $1200 worth of purchased man-goo, and to get the timing of the insemination right when I do. But I digress…

When I walked into the clinic last Friday, the young woman behind the counter beamed at me, “Hi Dana!”

Shit.

Moments later, the phlebotomist popped out from behind the frosted glass doors to greet her next patient, but took the time to come over and say hello to me first. She gave me a hug. “I’m so glad to see you back here.” She was the one who had drawn my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels last cycle. We watched them rise and fall together. I wasn’t sure then that I’d be back. I am.

But, double shit!

They knew me now. I was officially a card-carrying member of the infertility club.

But was I really?

Things are a bit different this time around. With Jonah at home, and home an hour and twenty minutes away, I’m scheduling as many appointments as I can right after work. Stanford’s fertility clinic is only about ten minutes away from the hospital, so it’s easy to ask for the first appointment of the day, then pop over after working a night shift. But that means I’m turning up for my appointments in a blazing red flight suit. Now, unless one of my 14 other coworkers are holding out on me (Scotty G.?), I’m guessing that I’m the only person in a Stanford Life Flight flight suit coming into the clinic to get knocked up. That might have been the giveaway.

And, I was wearing a name badge…

On Saturday night, I gave myself a trigger shot (to enhance my natural ovulation), which meant that I was scheduled to come in for insemination on Monday morning–a non-workday. I piled Jonah into the car and headed down to Stanford. We counted trucks, blue cars, red cars, A JEEP!, and listened to Music Together CDs along the way, but all the while I couldn’t help but obsess over whether or not they were going to recognize me in my civvies.

We walked through the door and stood in line. Jonah flirted with the women in front and back of us, and pointed out all the men in the room–his latest thing. “Mama, it’s a man!”

“Yes, it is. And a lady.”

“A yay-dee,” he tried out.

At the front of the line, the receptionist called us forward, beaming. At Jonah. “And who is this,” she asked.

“This is Jonah. You guys helped me make him. And we’re here today to try to make him a sibling.”

“He may be the cutest baby I’ve ever seen! Hi Jonah!”

“Hi,” he said shyly and waved.

“And remind me of your name again?”

Hallelujah! “Freedman. Dana. 10/15/74.”

“Oh, of course! Dana! I didn’t recognize you out of uniform.”

Shit.

If only being a “regular” here came with a freebie every once in a while. We’ve got this one, sister! This round of baby-daddy’s on us!

Jonah and I were eventually called back into the exam room where we hopefully made a baby in the good old fash–ahem–totally newfangled way: he sat next to me on the table and snacked on peanut butter crackers while Dr. Baker, the same doctor who successfully inseminated me with Jonah, attempted an encore performance.

“I feel good about this one,” she said.

“Let’s hope!”

On our way out the door, everyone in the clinic was smiling and waving at us. “Bye bye, Jonah! Bye bye, Dana”

“Bye bye,” he waved.

“Did we make him,” someone asked.

“You did!”

“We did! Hooray!”

“Bye bye,” Jonah waved.

It was official. They knew us. A free round of baby-daddy it was not, but it wasn’t the end of the world, either. If I’m being honest, it maybe felt kind of good.

Here’s to hoping that our next visit to the clinic is one of our last. One that involves another glimpse of a glimmering microscopic bean.

I’ll keep you posted…