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This Woman Has a Secret

Self,  July 21, 2010

Lisa scans the room for an empty seat. Save for the disembodied voices of unseen nurses summoning patients into exam rooms, the place is excruciatingly quiet. The clouds outside the floor-to-ceiling windows cast a pallor onto the walls, the furniture and the faces of some 40 women waiting at the Perelman Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

Everyone is here for the same reason: She can't get pregnant without a doctor's help. Yet with so much in common, no one speaks or even acknowledges one another. The women sit at least one empty chair apart, reading the newspaper, tapping on their BlackBerries, staring at their shoes. The few who are accompanied by husbands—they don't talk, either.

"You can cut the tension with a knife," says Lisa, a 33-year-old health-policy analyst who is here for her fourth cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Lisa finds a love seat with room for her and her oversize red leather purse and plops down into it. It's 8 A.M., but already she's exhausted. And she's scared, hoping for joy but preparing for heartbreak. It's a feeling she's grown accustomed to in more than two years of trying to have a baby with her husband, Jack. Her big brown eyes are on the verge of tears. "I never imagined it would come to this," she says.

After three failed IVFs in their hometown of Washington, D.C., Lisa and Jack have taken a leave from their jobs, moved to New York for two weeks and are spending roughly $20,000 for another chance to conceive.

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