As a child, I was terrified of needles. And I truly mean terrified. I remember hiding in the bathroom in tears and terror after listening to family friend just talk about giving injections to his son. I remember him explaining about learning the procedure on an orange. It was enough to send me fleeing from the room.
Years later, I, myself, endured those weekly allergy shots. They weren’t the end of the world. Each hurt briefly but the red, swollen, angry knots that appeared on my skinny little arms were worse and sitting for an hour in the doctor’s office just in case the worst case scenario occurred was torture to a middle schooler who had much more important things to do. Over the years of receiving these shots, my fear abated.
Again, I find myself with a regular routine of injections. My intense fears of childhood have been conquered. However, giving injections to myself is a different kind of mental game. I prepared thoroughly (as I do for everything). I watched the training videos in which a kind nurse walks viewers through each and every separate injection, explaining every step from prep to mixing medications, from injection to disposal. After two videos, they all start to look the same, and even though she is encouraging, “You can do this” and praising, “Congratulations, you’ve done it!” the mental block to stab myself in the stomach still existed.
I was also fortunate enough to have a friend who is not a only a nurse but also used IVF. She talked to me about tips and advice and drew dark black x’s on my body with a permanent marker. She even provided hands-on training. I practiced filling the needle and mixing the medication. I even got to practice the actual injection using a teaching dummy. I gave intramuscular shots to the dummy’s backside (not marked with large black x’s), noting how the needle stuck and stayed put. (I was worried I wouldn’t have enough hands to pinch my fat, stab the needle, and push the plunger.) I placed the subcutaneous practice pack against my own stomach to practice the angle of the injection. Somehow, though, injecting a practice dummy isn’t quite the same as stabbing yourself in the muffin top.
Today is the day my muffin top became a pin cushion.
From the large box of meds in my living room floor, I dug out the Menopur boxes, the bag of needles, the alcohol wipes, the sharps container, and my instructions sheets. I Chlorox-wiped the kitchen counter and washed my hands. Then I started. I dug out the giant needle and withdrew the diluting liquid. As I was finishing up, I realized I had already made a mistake. I didn’t sterilize the bottle. More of a sigh-moment than shit, I disposed of the needle and bottle of dilutant and started over, thankful I only need one bottle of dilutant per two bottles of powdered medication (and more importantly, that they’re packaged 1-1).
This try, I pulled the dilutant without incident, and it mixed easily with the powdered medication. I diluted the second bottle then switched needles to slender, less scary one for subcutaneous injection. I tapped and removed air bubbles. It was time.
I sat on a dining room chair, wearing a pants with a giant stiff waistband. As I held the needle in my right hand, aimed at the black x two inches to the left of my belly button, I was thankful for my muffin top. Then, without realizing it, I had done it. The needle was in. Slowly, I pushed the plunger.
If I look closely, I can see the small red spot, the first of many. Twelve hours later, I will do it all over again with another medication and a different injection system, adding another hole to my pin cushion muffin top.