On Waiting, Infertility & the Creation of Air Hares

How the path to having kids led us to IVF, the perfect dog, a thousand lessons in patience, and the making of a video game and graphic novel about a bunny airplane pilot who never gives up

Q: How do you come out as “fertility-challenged”?

(And is “fertility-challenged” a better euphemism for infertility than the old school horrors of “barren” or “sterile”?)

Do you:

A) Start casually mentioning your many appointments with the reproductive endocrinologist and hope people know what that means?

B) Grimace when people ask when you’re going to have kids, or, worse, when strangers ask if you’re pregnant and then double down on their assertion that you must be, even after you curtly tell them no? (Shout-out to the barista at the Philadelphia International Airport who insisted she saw a “pregnant glow.” Gee thanks, it’s NARS blush in Orgasm and sweat from an overheated flight.)

C) Burst into tears while holding your friends’ baby at brunch and repeat “I’m sorry, she’s so beautiful, I’m so happy for you!” over and over?

D) Write and erase a million Instagram posts about this very topic because you can’t align your experience with a hashtag and — no shade to people who do but — you really don’t want to call yourself an “infertility warrior”?

E) Wait until you and your husband release the demo of an indie video game you’ve developed, based on a dystopian future in which bunny rabbits must pilot retrofitted remote control airplanes to grow their carrot crop, that’s also based on your specific fertility challenges, and write an essay about it?

F) All of the above.

My husband, Tim, and I meet freshman year at our small liberal arts college in a leafy town in Pennsylvania. We’re friends for a few months (AKA he had a girlfriend and I had a painfully obvious crush on him) and then we are together, and we stay together. We agree on wanting children; we also agree to get our lives and careers jumpstarted before we contemplate bringing another little person into the mix. We’re serious about each other and our relationship from the start, but are just kids ourselves, and we’re happy to put the idea in the “definitely someday” category.

Megan and Tim dressed up for a fancy dinner when they’re sophomores in college.
Me and Tim, in one of our first years dating. Look at these college kiddos!

After we graduate, we move to New York and rent a tiny garden studio in brownstone Brooklyn. I go to grad school and then become a reporter for a local weekly newspaper; we both produce the plays Tim writes for our scrappy theater company, roping in our friends to direct and act and write music and make low-budget magic with us at weird venues all over the city.

In 2011, we get married in Park Slope a week after we move out of our apartment there, then move to Sunnyside, Queens with one of our best friends, plus a rotating roster of third roommates (some better than others) because that’s what we can afford. We have a lot of fun together, going to karaoke at the Irish bar down the block and Zumba class at the YMCA and playing video games and watching new episodes of “Dexter” every Sunday night (Showtime: our one extravagance).

Tim, Megan & their roommate/BFF in their apartment in Queens. Tim holds a Mario Kart tournament bracket on a poster.
Tim, Megan & their roommate/BFF in their apartment in Queens. Tim holds a Mario Kart tournament bracket on a poster.
Us with our BFF/roommate in our Queens apartment, during Tim’s Mario Kart tournament birthday party. As you can see from the brackets, we take this shit seriously. Photo by Sam Maxwell

Eventually our friend moves out and another one moves in. Tim gets laid off from his job at a dating app company when they’re bought by a bigger dating app company.

We’re both 30. We’re still not ready for kids. But we start to ask ourselves, what happens when we are? How could we make this work? Is New York still the place? And we decide to move to Chicago.

In our first months in Chicago, in the dead of winter, we’re living in my brother-in-law’s apartment while we get our bearings and I look for a job. We are thrilled at this new start, but we’re also broke, and spend most nights eating veggie pan pizza from the grocery store, watching “Twin Peaks” and playing our favorite nerdy tabletop game. It’s called X-Wing Minis, a Star Wars game involving tiny plastic ships, different colored dice, character cards, special ability cards, movement measuring sticks, little damage tokens and…you get the idea.

Playing the Star Wars tabletop game X-Wing Minis and drinking Miller Lites with our friends visiting from California.
A different, spirited game of X-Wing Minis with our friends.

One weekend night, I’m getting wildly lucky dice rolls on all my turns; Tim can’t land a hit on my Y-wing and I keep pummeling him.

“Who’s flying that ship?” he asks incredulously as I score another point of damage.

“Um…it’s Captain Rabbo!” I say. Our whole relationship, Tim has nicknamed me some form of rabbit — Babs, Bunnyrabbit, Rabbo. I encourage it. I love it.

“Of course! There’s a little bunny in that cockpit.”

“Yep, she’s got flight goggles on and everything. She’s a crack shot.”

A doctored X-wing Minis game character card showing the pilot Captain Rabbo, a white rabbit wearing flight goggles.
A doctored X-wing Minis game character card showing the pilot Captain Rabbo, a white rabbit wearing flight goggles.
Captain Rabbo’s first appearance as an alternate player in X-Wing Minis

The next time we play X-wing Minis, Tim surprises me with a custom character card he made for Captain Rabbo. It’s a running gag every time we play. We mention Captain Rabbo’s fearless flying every so often, and we start giving her a personality. She’s funny. She’s determined. She uses a booster seat to see over the control panel. Don’t worry about the mechanics of how she maneuvers the yoke with her paws. She learned how to fly on remote control airplanes, a brave bunny soaring through the air where she doesn’t belong, which only makes her love it more.

Soon I get a new job at a business media company; Tim gets into a prestigious art school and earns his MFA in writing. We make wonderful new friends and introduce our old friends to our new city when they visit. We swim in Lake Michigan; Tim watches me become a more ardent Cubs fan than him, a north side native. Friends and cousins our age start having beautiful, perfect babies. Tim’s brother gets married and my sister gets married and we both turn 33 and have decent health insurance. We like where we are. We like where we’re going. So, we start trying.

When you spend your entire sexually active life studiously avoiding pregnancy, it’s a trip to just…stop it. Public school sex education would have you believe that you can and will get pregnant as soon as you dare to have unprotected sex, but we will quickly learn it’s not that simple.

At first, it is fun and exhilarating! The first few times we have sex at “the right time,” I try to memorize everything about the experience, so I can one day embarrass my child by telling them that I remember the location (our bedroom) and time (a random Tuesday?) of their conception.

I spend the first couple months telling myself I can be breezy about it; this is a lie from the start.

I spend the first couple months telling myself I can be breezy about it; this is a lie from the start, but I try to keep it up. By the third negative pregnancy test, I drop the pretense. I’m not a breezy person. But it usually takes time, and we do our best to be as chill as possible about it, even when we have to literally schedule sex, which is…not chill.

Every month, for those two weeks between Ovulation Party Time and Waiting for Your Period to Hopefully Not Start Hell, I proceed as if I could be pregnant, explaining to friends at happy hour that I’ll just have one cocktail, because you never know! I monitor every twinge, every minute change in my body, and then Google “early pregnancy symptoms” even though I have the list memorized and my “symptoms” are either not on the list (itchy palms) or indistinguishable to PMS symptoms (crying at car commercials).

After about eight months of this, I go to my ob/gyn, to check things out. An ultrasound shows maybe “something” on one of my Fallopian tubes. The doctor says not to worry, it’s inconclusive, to just keep trying. I buy the expensive ovulation tests, the ones that show a little digital smiley face.

That summer, we take a vacation with Tim’s family to a beach town in Michigan. We pack up our entire X-wing Minis set up and play it on the wooden kitchen table in our rented house, much to the confusion of the rest of the family. Captain Rabbo, now with hours of flight time in her captain’s log, continues to crush her enemies.

One night, after my in-laws are in bed and Tim’s focused on forming better strategies for his hapless Tie Fighters, my sister-in-law and I hang out in the hot tub and drink local craft beer. She asks me how it’s going, pregnancy wise.

“Well, I thought I might be pregnant for this trip,” I say, raising my beer. “Obviously not. So at least I don’t have to have a dry vacation!” I am keeping it light. We laugh at my unfunny joke.

“Actually though,” I find myself saying, “It’s been kind of hard.”

It is frustrating. It’s maddening. But all we can do is keep trying. And wait.

“Yeah, it must be! You guys have been trying for awhile now, that’s really frustrating,” my wise and kind sister-in-law says. I am so relieved to hear something other than “oh I’m sure it will happen soon,” or “enjoy it while you can!” It’s one of the first times I let myself admit to anyone, aside from Tim, that it is, in fact, frustrating. It’s maddening. But all we can do is keep trying. And wait.

Earlier that year, Tim had been waiting for something else — the final word on a book deal with a prominent publisher, for a collection of epic poetry based on a wildly popular video game franchise. He had pitched the publisher cold, months and months before, and each person who responds gives him a version of “We don’t usually do this but we really like it, and we’re going to pass this along to Next Person.”

Each Next Person is progressively more intrigued, and approves it, and they start talking about pub dates and contracts. He fills out a direct deposit payment form. He gets approval from the American division of the video game company. All he’s waiting for is the parent video game company to say yes.

And this deal is not just a deal; it is a validation. It is proof that Tim’s pursuit of an MFA and the accompanying student loan debt, his dogged adherence to writing in metrical verse, and even his lifelong love of video games — all of that will culminate in something momentous, the thing that will launch his Dream Career. The psychic ghosts of every shitty menial job and the continual questioning of his path, by himself and others, and the risk of writing material that requires someone else’s permission to publish — all of that will be gone with the final approval of this deal.

For months, he doesn’t let himself think it’s a sure thing. Every new email from the publisher is a gift, a welcome surprise. He doesn’t count on anything. But that direct deposit form? That feels real. He starts to hope. So do I. The small circle of family and friends he has told about it say, it’s going to happen. I say, it’s going to happen. We really think it’s going to happen.

And then, it doesn’t.

I cannot claim that it is harder to watch the person you love most in the world suffer such personal and intense disappointment than it is to be that person. It might be close.

It’s the boyfriend who breaks up with you and says, “maybe we’ll get back together some day” — you’re crushed but you cannot move on.

The parent company doesn’t say no, exactly. They say “not right now, but maybe next year.” It’s the boyfriend who breaks up with you and says, “maybe we’ll get back together some day” — you’re crushed but you cannot move on.

Still, there is a pinprick of hope that stretches for months, through the end of the year. Until the publishing imprint folds.

Tim recovers, because he is resilient and he is never down for long. But he is searching for an anchor, and having a hard time finding it. Meanwhile, by that fall, my job is getting so stressful that a dime-sized bald spot appears on the front of my hairline and that’s the final straw for me; I start looking for a new job and Tim keeps searching for a new direction in his artistic career.

I’m still not pregnant.

By the beginning of 2019, we are tired of waiting.

“You know what we don’t have to wait for?” he says one day. “Captain Rabbo.”

He attends an indie video game conference in Boston and joins a video game developer meet-up group in Chicago and begins formulating the world of Captain Rabbo. What does her plane look like? What would the mechanics of a video game be? One day he calls her an air hare, and we know that’s it — Captain Rabbo and the Air Hares.

By February, Tim has written a game design document and decides that Air Hares will be a top-down flight scroller. He begins developing other characters for the game and working with artists to draw Rabbo. We see the first sketches of what she might look like; it feels like we’re creating a real person.

The character sheet for Captain Rabbo, which depicts several poses and expressions as well as her full-body outfit.
The character sheet for Captain Rabbo Sunskipper. Character design by Mark Leo; color by Cybill Macadaeg.

We go see my ob/gyn, tell her there’s nothing happening after over a year of trying. She says she’s sure whatever is going on is minor, that even if that one Fallopian tube has a problem, I only need one to get pregnant anyway. She refers us to the fertility specialist.

We go through all the evaluations. Uterus looks good. Eggs look good. Sperm looks good. It must be the Fallopian tubes after all. With a painful procedure called a hysterosalpingogram, it is confirmed: both of my Fallopian tubes are completely blocked.

My tubes have been blocked ever since my appendix ruptured when I was 16 years old. All that wasted birth control.

There was never any chance of getting pregnant naturally. (In fact, it’s likely that my tubes have been blocked ever since my appendix ruptured when I was 16 years old. All that wasted birth control.)

With this diagnosis is a kind of grief I did not expect. The finality of it hits me hard. Knowing the problem at least gives us a road map to solve it, but in our case, it’s a long one. I will need surgery to remove my Fallopian tubes, and then we’ll do IVF — that’s the only option.

(For the uninitiated: IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, and it’s one type of assisted reproductive technology that involves extracting a bunch of eggs, fertilizing them with sperm in a lab, letting them grow into blastocysts, and then transferring one of them into a uterus and hoping that results in a pregnancy. The success rate is high, but it’s also about 50 percent. It’s unbelievably expensive and often not covered by insurance.)

At home, I cry on the floor of my bathroom and find myself apologizing to my children. I have this feeling I’ve never had before: that they exist, and we have to pull them into this life, into bodies that I’ll grow for them. “I’m sorry,” I say out loud. “You’ll have to wait a little longer.”

I’ve asked Tim to meet me at a restaurant a few blocks from our apartment, where we can discuss What This Means in person, having already called him from the mall-like surgical center lobby to tell him I’m sorry, my body is broken, and he is more upset that I think that than about anything else.

I tell Tim everything while I drink a sour ale and eat a few bites of my shrimp tacos. I say again to him, “I’m sorry.”

“What are you sorry about,” he says. “It’s not your fault. We’ll just do whatever we have to do.” It’s like he’s reading a script from The Amazing Husband Handbook, except I know it’s sincere, which makes me cry more, but not in the alone-on-the-bathroom-floor way, at least.

I insist that we keep our plans for the evening, to go with Tim’s brother and our sister-in-law to see Avengers: Endgame, because what else are we going to do? It will be a good distraction.

The theater is packed, and the movie is fantastic, and I’m grateful to have some other world in which to immerse myself. In the epic final battle scene that culminates a cadre of 22 films, there is this perfect moment that everyone in the theater realizes at once had been telegraphed in the very first Avengers movie, years and years ago.

The audience loses its collective shit, and later I think of the grand, plotting patience of the writers and producers, to hold back something so simple and yet so essential, to let it grow in resonance until the last possible second, until it would have the biggest possible impact.

To wait.

I have the surgery in May. The recovery is brutal and slow; it is months before I am fully healed. I have four new scars, some overlapping the long-faded ones from the emergency appendectomy that saved my life 18 years ago. I know that the surgery and its aftermath are technically progress toward having a baby, but it feels further away than it ever has.

Good things are happening too. I love my new job; I get to work from home and I get to travel, for meetings, for magazine award ceremonies and creative workshops and filming videos in national parks. Tim gets a new position at work, and Air Hares starts taking shape. We’ve added a trusty canine companion to her crew, loosely modeled after Tim’s beloved late Cairn terrier. We realize we’ve got more than just a game, and Tim, a playwright at heart, gets to work writing episodic scripts of Captain Rabbo’s adventures and origins.

The main objective of the Air Hares game is to seed and water a barren field to produce a carrot crop. But Captain Rabbo Sunskipper was not always an ace pilot. Her life started out very differently, and she never expected to find herself fighting off enemy falcons in the sky, leading a squadron to feed and defend an entire metropolis in the wake of a devastating, life-altering storm. The odds are bleak, but she doesn’t give up.

We find a new clinic and a new reproductive endocrinologist and get approved for IVF. In Illinois, insurance coverage for infertility treatment is mandated. Our insurance covers even beyond the mandate, which is one major weight off our shoulders. We meet with the medical team, the financial counselor, the psychologist; we have more tests. We take notes while a nurse shows us how to inject all the medications into a little silicone pillow that stands in for my body.

We can start as soon as I feel ready. For the first time, though, we make the decision to wait a little longer, on purpose, so that we can take a long-planned, and much needed, trip with my mom, sister and her husband to Italy.

That October, we wander in awe through the ruins of Rome, take selfies on the bridges of Florence, glide through the canals of Venice, eat so much pasta and gelato. Tim finishes an episode of Air Hares on the train from Florence to Venice. It’s one of the most incredible experiences of our lives.

Tim and Megan pose in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.
Us in front of some old building. (JK, the Colosseum is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.)

We plan to start IVF when we get home, but we’re delayed again when I start to feel mysterious, persistent symptoms of…something. Tightness in my chest. Shortness of breath when I lay down. A weird small pain in the back of my throat. An awful feeling of dread. My primary care doctor suggests it may be anxiety, which I dismiss. I’m not anxious, I say. This is physical.

Another doctor sends me to the ER to make sure I don’t have a pulmonary embolism. For a while we think I have bronchitis, but when nothing changes, that’s ruled out. I get my heart checked, my lungs checked, my digestive system checked. Some days I feel fine. Some days I feel bad, but everything serious has been ruled out, so I try to push through it.

My mom comes to Chicago for Christmas, and she and I go see Little Women at The Music Box theater, then wander around shopping. We visit a children’s boutique where they sell $79 dresses for infants. My mom buys me a baby book about Chicago, for our future baby. She can’t wait to be a grandmother. She’s read the first episode of Air Hares on the plane ride, and we all talk about how much fun it will be to share the story with our kids someday.

January rolls around, and my symptoms persist on and off, but I figure, I’m totally ready to pump my body full of hormones and start an emotionally arduous and physically grueling process. We make an appointment to see our reproductive endocrinologist again, to make sure he agrees that everything is peachy and we can get going already. We’ve waited long enough. Tim tries to prepare me to hear what I don’t want to hear. I brush him off. I stay positive.

“Well,” the doctor says gently, after I finish listing my symptoms and all the tests and appointments I’ve had. “I think it’s important that you figure this out before we proceed. IVF can be very stressful.”

I am, once again, crying in a doctor’s office, being told we have to wait. Tim looks at me with a mixture of sympathy and relief; he knew that it wasn’t time yet, that I shouldn’t go through it until we could know I was healthy. He’ll do whatever I want to do. But he’s glad that the doctor is backing him up.

“I know it’s stressful,” I say. “But this is more stressful. Waiting is more stressful.”

“I understand,” the doctor says. “I just wouldn’t want to see you go through everything and then have complications.”

Our doctor is not a psychiatrist, but he knows enough to know that’s probably what I need.

He is not a psychiatrist, but he knows enough to know that’s probably what I need, and writes a referral for a reproductive psychiatrist at a practice that specializes in treating people who are also dealing with fertility treatments. I leave the doctor’s office in a teary daze. Tim is upset too, I know, but he’s more concerned with me. He wants me to get better.

My mother-in-law calls me. She works in a woman’s behavioral health clinic; she has seen the complications and the pain around infertility and she says all the right things: that my mental health is important, that the delay won’t be forever, that the wait will be worth it. I believe her. But I am still devastated.

Later that night, Tim says, “You know what else we don’t need to wait for? A dog.” We had been perusing local shelter websites, even submitted an application and inquired about a specific dog, a little guy named Pal striking a goofy pose in his photo. He looks like a Cairn terrier mix. The organization said he was already spoken for, though, so we dropped it, until Tim recognizes how desperately I need something good to focus on.

The same rescue organization has an adoption event that Saturday, and the night before, we zero in on a dog. His name is Charlie; he’s got black and white spots and giant ears and he seems rambunctious and sweet. The organization responds to our eager email to confirm that Charlie will be there, ready to go to his forever home. We’re elated. The next morning, I check the website and notice that Charlie isn’t listed anymore; I email them, again, and am shocked to find out that Charlie has been adopted just that day, before the event starts.

I believe I shout the sentence “If this is indicative of how they run their organization, I will never give them my money!”

Perhaps there is no better representative example of the cumulative frustration of years of trying and failing to have a baby than the tirade of vitriol I unleash (to Tim) against the volunteers of the independent non-profit animal rescue organization working tirelessly to find loving homes for luckless dogs. I am glistening with rage. I believe I shout the sentence “If this is indicative of how they run their organization, I will never give them my money!” Tim finishes brushing his teeth and says, “We’re gonna find our dog.” I don’t want another dog. I want Charlie. I climb into our Uber ride with great begrudgement.

We arrive early and get in line outside. It’s absolutely freezing. Staff members are corralling dogs and trying to back an enormous truck into a tight parking spot between snow banks. If anyone needs our money, it’s probably them. A cheery volunteer checks us in and asks which dog we’re here to see, and I cannot help myself. “We wanted to see Charlie. But I guess he’s not available.”

“Yes, I’m sorry,” she says genuinely. “He was adopted just this morning, another couple got him first.”

“Oh, I didn’t know it was a contest,” I say with a clenched smile. “We could have gotten here earlier if we had known that’s how it works here.”

Tim cuts in before I can get us banned by the animal rescue organization. “What about Pal? Is he still available?”

“Yes!” she says, relieved to talk to someone who is not me. “He’s here with his foster mom. I’ll put you down first for him.”

Tim gives me the raised eyebrows that mean I’m being absurd and kind of a bitch. I am convinced that we won’t be leaving with a dog, and I’m salty about it. “Have a little faith,” he says. I roll my eyes.

When the volunteer tells us that Pal is ready, we walk down the line and spot a woman clutching a small, golden-haired Cairn terrier mix clad in a puffy red coat, shivering in the wind. He’s got a little sore on the top of his head. He is the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

“Is this Pal?” we ask. It is. We chat with his foster mom, ascertain that he’s smaller than we thought we wanted, but also that he’s perfect. We learn that he’s got some chihuahua in him and the sore on his head is already being treated and that he loves snuggling and he needs a little more housebreaking training, and everything else we need to know we find in his sweet shining eyes. We look at each other and know. This is our dog.

Megan and Tim pose happily with their new dog, Arthur, a Cairn terrier-chihuahua mix, on a blue couch.
Megan and Tim pose happily with their new dog, Arthur, a Cairn terrier-chihuahua mix, on a blue couch.
Our very first picture with Arthur, right before we take him home — my face hurt from smiling that day.

We bring him home, trying out different names until a friend suggests Arthur. It’s perfect — Tim is an amateur Arthurian lore scholar, and we already know he will rule our household. He’s the next Cairn in the lineage of Tim’s terriers. We put on the soundtrack to Camelot and Arthur falls asleep in his arms. I snuggle up to them, and now we are a family of three.

I used to silently scoff at people who referred to themselves as the mother or father of their pets. Especially in the throes of so badly wanting a human child of my own, I didn’t think being a pet owner compared at all to being a parent. Within hours of bringing Arthur home, I was calling myself mama and asking him fervently if he loves his new mama and daddy.

When I recount this to my sister, who hates when anyone refers to her as the mother of her dog, I ask her, “Isn’t it weird that I just started doing that?”

“It’s not that weird,” she says. “You guys want to be parents.”

I don’t know what it’s like to bring a newborn home, and I won’t until we do it. But now we know what it’s like to take care of someone else, together, who relies on us completely, and who we love unconditionally. Now we have a little creature who thrills at the very sight of us, whose whole body wags with elation when either of us enter the room, who refuses to go on walks unless both of us accompany him. We spoil him thoroughly, and he brings us unending joy.

Arthur also brings Tim a renewed zeal to finish the scripts for Air Hares. One day we glimpse Arthur with a no-hide stick in his mouth; it’s dangling from his little jowl and it looks like he’s chomping on a stogie. We capture it in one of the literal thousands of photos we have taken of him, and that photo becomes the reference for the artist who draws the character Dirk Doggo, Rabbo’s right-hand pooch. Dirk takes on Arthur’s personality traits — he’s stubborn as hell but a big softie; he loves to chase things; he gets all jacked up when he’s excited.

Megan, Tim and Arthur pose for a photo together; Arthur’s tongue is out licking his nose.
Catching Arthur’s tongue out in a photo is a practiced art.

In our first month of our new life with Arthur, I begin taking the pregnancy-safe SSRI medication that my new psychiatrist prescribed me for anxiety disorder.

And slowly, in conjunction with help from my long-standing therapist, I get better. When I see the psychiatrist again, I tell her that I think the medication is working, but also it could be that my new dog makes me so happy that my anxiety practically vanishes. She laughs and says it could absolutely be both.

By March 2020, my anxiety symptoms are not gone, but they’re much minimized. If I do feel them, Arthur will jump into my lap, curl up into a tight donut, let out a little sigh and rest his head on my knee. We are finally, finally ready to start IVF.

We are concerned but unfazed by the fact that we’re both now working from home and our companies have restricted travel and we’ve stocked up on (but not hoarded!) toilet paper and hand sanitizer and are watching terrifying scenes of overcrowded Italian hospitals on the news.

On a Thursday, the governor bans gatherings with more than 1,000 people. On Friday, we talk to the doctor on the phone and he gives us the go-ahead. Does he think that COVID-19 will impact us? “So far, we’re not changing any of our procedures,” he says. “I don’t see any reason why you can’t get started.”

We rejoice. We buy champagne. We tell our families. On Saturday the entire country of Spain goes into lockdown. There are 66 cases in Illinois. On Sunday, all bars and restaurants in the state are ordered closed. On Monday morning, we get the message that non-emergency procedures — which includes IVF — for the whole hospital system are cancelled until further notice.

By now, we are pros at waiting. It doesn’t make it any less difficult. Nor does managing anxiety during a pandemic of a disease whose symptoms closely match one’s anxiety symptoms. But we have each other, we have Arthur, and soon more people in the country are dying, and we are fortunate; the people we love are safe. We can wait.

After a few months, COVID-19 is still a very real concern, but we’re allowed to start IVF. Tim has made leaps of progress on Air Hares, and it gives us something positive to focus on while we’re living through a pandemic and a national crisis of racial injustice and learning how to mix the right powders with the right amount of liquids to inject into my abdomen every night.

The map of the world of Winrose, where Air Hares takes place, is the biggest clue to the inspiration of the story — it’s modeled roughly on the female reproductive system. Each night when we sit down at the kitchen table to do the injections, I have to rotate spots on my belly so nowhere gets too bruised. The first night we’re on Mount Masterlop; then we go to the Rablands, and then to Hopland Hills. The injections don’t hurt too much, but sometimes I’ll hit a spot that makes me wince, and Tim will grab my shoulder and say, “You’re tough, Captain Rabbo.”

A map of Winrose, where Air Hares is set, showing a metropolis in the center surrounded by rivers, mountains and desert.
The land of Winrose, where Captain Rabbo and her crew reside. Map by Nick Reale

After we’re done with the meds each night, we eat Jenni’s Salty Caramel ice cream and go for a walk with Arthur, talking about the new art coming in for each character, the backstory of the villain Twin Horn, the social media strategy. We’re bringing Air Hares to life.

As I’m finishing this essay, we’re on the other side of two rounds of egg retrievals. Having to do it twice was tough. There is a lot of waiting even within the IVF process: for negative COVID test results first, then for my follicles to grow, then to find out how many of the eggs collected became embryos, and then how many of them survived to make it to the freezer. When the number wasn’t what we hoped for the first time, we waited another two months before we could try again.

But in between, we officially launched the website and social media for Air Hares. By the time we were in the midst of the second round, Air Hares had accelerated, and we knew what we were doing. Injections took mere minutes, and then it was back to the world of rabbit pilots fighting against the odds for the survival of their clan.

Arthur, Tim and Megan pose for a photo while on a walk in their Chicago neighborhood.
Arthur, Tim and Megan pose for a photo while on a walk in their Chicago neighborhood.
The three of us on Tim’s birthday this year, the day after our second egg retrieval.

Now, we’ve got five frozen embryos, three finished episode scripts, dozens of character and location and plane sketches, original music, a roster of talented artists lined up, and a PC game demo. If things go according to plan — which so far they haven’t but what else can we do but have faith and forge a new way — we’ll be transferring one of those embryos into my uterus the same week we’ll be launching the Kickstarter campaign for Air Hares. We didn’t plan it that way, but I don’t think it’s an accident.

The other night, Tim and I are taking a walk with Arthur, and I’m going on and on about our marketing strategy for Air Hares and he stops. He turns to me and says, “You know, I hope we get fully funded. But it doesn’t matter. I wrote Air Hares for you. And for our kids.”

IVF could fail. Air Hares could be a commercial flop. Both of those outcomes would suck. But, with Arthur around, we refer to each other as mom and dad every day, and I believe we’ll become parents to a human child someday soon, no matter what path we end up taking.

Air Hares could flop, but it can never fail. That little bunny is already airborne, and nothing will ever bring her down from the sky.

Author’s note: As it does with everything in our society, structural racism impacts access to fertility treatment and reproductive health resources. In the United States, Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. My husband and I believe that Black lives matter, and we know that not everyone has the privilege and resources we do when it comes to options for building a family.

We have set up a recurring monthly donation to Black Mamas Matter Alliance as one small way to support Black mothers and families. We hope you will check out their work and consider donating as well.

We also vote for candidates who support reproductive justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. Please be sure you are registered to vote and know voting rights and procedures in your state.

If you’re looking to adopt a pooch in the Chicagoland area, we highly recommend the wonderful organization One Tail at a Time, which brought Arthur into our lives despite my terrible attitude.

If you’d like to learn more about Captain Rabbo and the Air Hares, visit airhares.com and sign up for our newsletter, or follow us on Instagram.

Essay writer, magazine editor, cheese lover, procrastinator. I believe personal stories matter in the world.

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