An inch below your belly button, you pinch then pierce the skin with the first of many 22-gauge needles, pressing the syringe until thumb meets forefinger, until every last drop is released—a hormone bath for your aging ovaries.

At first, this is exhilarating, a miracle of science, growing follicles in your body like the cherry tomatoes you once grew on your windowsill. At first, you are hopeful, a belly full of bruises like badges of devotion to your new husband, to your grandchildless mother, to the you you never knew you could be.

At first turns into at last, and you are at last in the procedure room, a masked anesthesiologist the last thing you see before the harvest begins, before you dream of the little girl you were always afraid to want, before they extract one-two-three-four-five-six-seven eggs that might become her. Before the email one day later congratulating you on their fertilization. Before the email seven days later informing you that none of them survived.

How do you mourn the loss of an embryo that never existed?

An inch below your belly button, you pinch then pierce the skin.


And again.

And again.

And again.

Belly expanding, providing an ever-growing layer of nutrients for a baby that may never come, unable to explain the weight gain, the downward turn of your lips, the hollow in your eyes, your always absence—your schedule held hostage by doctors, injections, the start of yet another cycle.

And another.

And another.

Until your embryo awaits you, you—an almost-mother. Waiting for your womb to grow just one more millimeter.

I’m sorry, but your lining is too thin for transfer.

One more millimeter that never comes.

Carly Anderson lives with her husband in New York City, where she writes fiction and personal essays and sings backup for her rescue cat, Hudson. Her works have appeared in 100 Word StoryNewtown LiteraryBoston Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. You can find her at her newly minted website:

Photo by Christina Brobby