Obviously Allergic To His Sperm. Obviously.

You guys, I hope my wife isn’t quietly seething inside,* because I am about to tell you one of the things I love about her. I love her ability to take my broad, sweeping, generalized whims and turn them into reality. For example, when we decided it would be a good idea to have another child, she sprang into action and narrowed down the huge donor pool into a few possibles. She took care of the detailed searching, listening to/reading profiles, and selected a few to send to me. As usual, I thought all of her very carefully researched choices were wonderful, offered an opinion, and we settled on a pick. She says she likes this weeding part whereas I would be overwhelmed by the detail and, subsequently, die.

Our previous donor described himself as laid back. His interview was laid back. The answers to his questions were laid back. My wife is also laid back. I’m pretty sure that his sperm met her egg and she got pregnant simply because the pair fell asleep and accidentally attached to the uterine lining. Enter RR. Hold on, she’s still asleep.

It’s no surprise that when his sperm slipped in to meet MY egg, the results were unsuccessful. They probably took one look around and fainted dead away. I certainly didn’t respond well to that first IUI. It was very uncomfortable and I spent the entire first week complaining about the pressure, cramping, gurgling, and bloating. Picture bubbling acid melting through plastic. That’s actually what I thought my insides must look like.

This IUI was completely different (same doctor). It didn’t hurt as much and there has been very little to remark upon. Some noise directly after the insemination but then business as usual. This donor is ambitious and driven. He climbs mountains. He climbs those same mountains again to rappel into unexplored caves. Those sperm probably sidled up to my egg and started comparing adventures and then, my egg being mine, quickly tired of the oneupmanship, started scanning the uterus for other sperm to talk to, decided she was too lazy to move on, and promptly, hopelessly fell right into him**.

Well, let’s hope they bumped into each other. For better or for worse, the positive evening stick meant using both vials at once instead of doing IUIs on two consecutive days. Assuming my egg showed up, she’ll have to be pretty wily not to run into one of those guys. Here’s hoping for the best!

* She’s not really the seething sort. I think when I married her I won at life.

** Note: this is not a metaphor for my joining with my wife. I assure you, it took an extraordinary amount of mutual drive and commitment to bring us together. That said, I might have used it all up on her.

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Sharks and Minnows

So this getting pregnant thing – turns out it’s fraught with feelings. I knew that academically but I don’t think I grasped what that might mean for me. And let me tell you, I wasn’t completely prepared for the emotional shenanigans I’m suddenly experiencing.

mud

I’m disappointed that I’m not actually pregnant (and, I assure you, the two days late “gift” didn’t merit a thank you note on nice stationary) mainly because I actually thought I would be. It’s SCIENCE. How could it not happen? Here’s an egg. There are the sperm. How can you miss each other in a space that small? Also, once you get together, which, how could you not, how do you not make it to the wall in time? You know what game I hated when I was younger? Sharks and Minnows.

Hateful Game

I started swimming competitively at three. Yes, I’m that kid who says “I’ve been dancing/singing/drawing all my life” and you think, “Asshole.” The second I could dive down far enough to get a hateful black rubber ring from the bottom of the pool, I was listening for a gun (yes, actually) to go off so I could race some other unfortunate kid to the other side. The coach’s favorite practice tool was a game where one child, the shark, began treading water in the center and the other children, the minnows, attempted to swim from one side of the pool to the other without being tagged by the shark. Once tagged, they too became sharks and the game progressed until one minnow remained and was either crowned the winner or besieged in a terrifying way by ravenous sharks. Imagine being one of a couple wily kids staring down a pack of people trying to get you at all costs. I wasn’t ever dumb enough or slow enough to get caught early. Apparently, neither are my eggs.

scared egg

So, I vacillate between WTF SCIENCE and a host of other frustrations, some as ridiculous as, “Great, now I’ll have to WORK in February, one of the most depressing months of the year.” I told you they were ridiculous. I admit I also feel some relief. Fine, fine, look shocked and then say, “Well, that’s why you didn’t get pregnant. Your body knew you had hesitations!” to which I say, SCIENCE. As much as there was some draw to having both of our children be genetically related, the first donor we chose looked a lot like me. Having been the blondest, palest, bluest eyed baby, I’d kind of like my kid to have a shot at not looking like she fell into a bucket of bleach until she’s 12.

jonahhilleminem

Now we’re able to go with someone who looks more like D. Also in the feelings category, it’s kind of cool to be able to pick what you want your kid to look like but not as cool as actually getting to have a kid. As much as I’m disappointed, I’m also deeply glad this isn’t our first. I feel much less sad when I look at RR and think, best baby ever. Still, now we have to wait, depressed and flummoxed by science, until we can try again this month, Because SCIENCE is so ACCURATE that you still have to wait for the perfect day to give it a chance to fail. You can’t be BOTH, science.

You’re Not New

You know the most common question about RR I get from other women? It’s “how does that work?” Not, my god how do you live with her? or, the more diplomatic, she’s so…spirited…isn’t she? Most folks simply want to know how she came to be in the first place. I suppose there’s room to be flip* but I love to be asked and find it much more respectful than idle speculation. The process isn’t exactly transparent, after all.

So it was that I found myself on a bench in the depth of the Indianapolis Convention Center earnestly explaining the fertility clinic cycle to a friend. We were knee deep in a professional conference, kids and partners at home, and discussing the pros and cons of getting pregnant (in her case, again). I didn’t MEAN to tell her we were thinking of having another child, but we’ve been friends since she and D got pregnant at the same time and I was curious about whether they’d be trying for another. Once the pregnancy door is open, the questions start and I find I’m not tired of them even after three years of answering.

And you guys, my friends are pretty awesome. They manage to put even the most delicate questions nicely. I can’t even paraphrase without bungling the wording. But here are the answers, in case you, too, were wondering**:

Q: Will you use the same donor?

A: Only for the first go round since we have one donation left. RR’s father is in retirement and, for the low low price of $1500 we could bring him out of retirement, pay for his travel expenses, and agree to purchase (at regular price) any donations he makes. We won’t.

Q: How did you pick?

A: We looked for a donor with similar features to me so that RR would look as much like me as possible. This isn’t how everyone does it – in fact, I’d say donor selection is a very personal process. This time, we’ll use D as a template.

Q: So what happens?

A: We visited the fertility clinic to set into motion a series of tests prior to insemination, things like RH factor and whether or not my thyroid is producing enough ovulation hormone. The doctor scoped out my uterus and ovaries with an ultrasound (using an internal wand) and scheduled one more test to make sure my tubes are free and clear. Barring any complications, we’ll do an IUI when I ovulate next.

There are more questions, of course, but those are the pertinent ones for now.  I was super excited to find that I ovulated (via a predictor kit change, I didn’t just know) right on schedule and that all of my anatomy seems to be in good shape. I’d never seen my ovaries on screen before and the doctor said there looked to be plenty of eggs (so. damn. cool.) One batch of blood tests is done with results in at the end of the week. After the next set, we’ll do an HSG (don’t tell me, D already wincingly explained that it hurts) and then undertake an IUI in May when I ovulate again. You guys, biology is so cool.

The best part of the day (aside from the part where the doctor didn’t say “Oh ho, I will never inseminate you, you have too many issues!”) was the receptionist at the clinic who saw us when D was getting pregnant. After a moment of helping us she said, “You’re not new right? I don’t think you’re new.” and we had several happy minutes of catching up and picture sharing and I remembered that this could work and there could be another baby down the line. No, we’re not new indeed. Not new at all.

* Just in case you were planning to ask someone else about their fertility process, know that not everyone like to blab as much as I do. Even I draw the line at meanies and drunken relatives. But if you want to ask questions, I’m happy to answer!

** No doubt you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this post and you’re wondering why on earth I’d discuss things like my ovaries in public. You’re probably wishing this disclaimer was up at the front so you didn’t have to read about my internal organs or things like wands. Next thing you know I’ll be discussing thing like the quantity of lube that goes into making this a smooth process. But here’s the disclaimer: things are likely to be more graphic than usual around here for awhile. Feel free to skip if you don’t want to picture ovaries. Or wands…or lube.

Rent

We’re paying rent on Vegas’ baby brother.

We didn’t have much faith in the getting knocked up process.  We assumed that we’d give it three tries and see if it took and then reevaluate.  We carefully picked a donor, flew his junk to town and plopped it into cold storage to await the seductive call of D’s hooha.

Two seductive calls later (well, one was more of a semi-seductive squawk) and we’re the proud soon-to-be-parents of our donor’s contribution.  And that leaves a third vial in the vault.  I’m not sure what to do with it, besides paying $40 a month room and board.  We might not want another child.  We might want five more (probably not).  Regardless, it sits there, alone, sending us a bill every month.

Even if we do go for a second child, we’ll probably need more than one shot.  So do we store up on donor Good Job the First Time by buying a couple of samples now?  Do we keep paying rent on our lonely guy just in case?  Do we send him off to sperm heaven and hope for the best when we try again?

Biased it may be, but I’d like our kids (if there is more than one) to have the same father so that they share a common gene pool with a second person.  I’m already completely out of the equation, so it would be nice to give Vegas someone with whom he shares a smile or a laugh.  On the other hand, I’m a miser who can’t stand the idea of paying $480 a year so that we have a slim chance some time in the future if we ever wanted it of getting Vegas a baby brother.

What’s more valuable, living in a family with a brother and mother with whom you share genes and an extra random mother or living in a family with a mother whose genes you share and an extra random mother and brother?

Yes, that’s our number.

Here in Charlottesville, you get to have a sperm parade.  Oh yes, you have been missing out.  But don’t worry, come here and you can walk the sperm promenade just like we did.  Jealous?

We tried to get knocked up for the first time this month.  I don’t think we knew what to expect, really.  I’m pretty certain I didn’t expect to personally bear the sperm into the waiting room of the office.  First, we went to the lab where they asked us thirty times whether this was our number, the right number, for the other half of the gene pool.  Yes, we said.  This is the one.  Yes.  Yes, still.  Yes.  Give me the vial.

Then we marched down the hall to the doctor’s office where we waited alone until the gene pool thawed.  Did you know that all 17 of the Best Sex Secrets You Didn’t Know involved getting your breasts groped and waggled?  Well, now you do.  And, incidentally, Screech did write a tell-all.  But nobody will publish it.  When the frost faded the receptionist (I think we’re her favorites) dispatched us back to the lab and they verified again that it was our number.  Yes.  Really, yes.

Then, without another word, they passed a tiny vial in a clear bag through the window and said “Keep it warm”.  Wait.  WHAT?!  You are telling me that I’m responsible for keeping the little tiny beacons of hope from dying a freezing cold death in the hall?  In the hall?  The hall I’m going to walk down brandishing a tiny tube of human secretion?  In a CLEAR bag?  Hi, yes, we’re putting this into my wife’s vagina.  Yes, this.  Don’t worry, it’s our number.

So back into the waiting room we go where we sit, alone again, cautiously holding a tube of a substance we both have steered clear of at every opportunity.  You’d have thought it was radioactive, the way we gripped it without moving, faces twisted into that grimace that says “Oh god, what am I doing in here…with this”  while simultaneously trying to convey to each other, “I love you honey, it’s not you that’s freaking me out.”  I’ll let you guess how successful we were.

Soon enough, we were ushered into a room, my wife divested of her pants and installed under a sheet, and our sperm tucked into a toasty drawer in the table.  We waited nervously.  Her hands were cold (they are never cold).  I worried the precious harbingers of life were dying by the second (they were, but there are millions of them).  We joked nervously about how our only topic of conversation was the release of the Pan Am terrorist.  God, we’re brilliant.

Our doctor arrived and warmly shook hands before asking us if this vial was ours.  Is this your number?  This one right here?  Is this the man you want inserted into the sacred vessel of your womb? Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  And in the next five minutes he used a syringe-like device, a speculum, a large lamp and the tiniest tube ever to get the blessed man critters into my wife.  Then he left us alone to marinate.

I’ve never been more terrified than I was in the moment I looked into her eyes.  I’d been holding her hand, watching the process (I admit it, I was making sure it was still our number) and then we shook hands with the doctor, exchanged niceties with the nurse and got back to looking at each other.  I didn’t cry, well, not outright, but that was mostly because we were both locked into that point just before MacGyver disarms the bomb and wondering who brought the bobby pin.  It was intense, and weird, and wonderful and it’s over.

On the way out, we remarked on how grateful we were that the waiting room packed full of sour-faced, conservatively dressed couples was empty when we waltzed though with our number, all gay and fancy-free.  Lucky, I guess.  Now we wait.

Just Order and Click Submit

In all the delight of picking a donor, I overlooked the idea that a bodily fluid would be winging its way to us in some delivery person’s satchel.  Not bad, right?  Like bottling a few tears.  Or, that sweat you flick away at the gym.  Or, scraping the inside of your vagina, slipping it into a plastic pouch and saving it for later.  More like that really.

Not so pleasant when you think about it.  And I didn’t, not really.  I didn’t consider that some guy was scraping his vagina into a plastic pouch.  Well, you know what I mean.

It’s not the actual fluid that’s a problem I guess, just the idea of it.  We’re lesbians, aren’t we?  Isn’t this supposed to be the golden nectar?  The magic solution that results in another family member?  I think I’m supposed to be delighted that we suddenly are in possession of the holy grail.  Instead, I admit that I’m a little unsettled.  That’s my wife’s business you’re fiddling around with.  If anyone is going to fiddle here, it should be me right?

I’m beginning to see why men strut around crowing when they knock someone up.  They did something.  They put a little fluid inside a warm, wet place and it bloomed.  They’re practically master bloody gardeners.  Me, I’m just a bystander.  I haven’t rooted anything.  Sprayed any gorgeous juices.  Watered the seed.

God, that was terrible.  I’m sorry.

So I admit, every time she updates me on the whereabouts (here, in storage) of the donor’s sperm, I get a little queasy inside.  It’s less of something to get over and more of something to get accustomed to, I guess.  I assume we’ll be at this a few times and if I keep turning green every time she mentions the tracking number she’s might wonder if I’m having second thoughts.  And I’m not.

Be My, Be My Daddy

Further cementing my cart-before-the-horse lapse, D and I donor shopped this week.  I did this once before, half-heartedly, in 2000 after watching If These Walls Could Talk 2.  I remember only two things about the movie.  First, it was heart-crushingly painful to think about the death of a partner – it’s a scene I still flash back to when I look at D in the right light.  Second, there was a store for sperm.  I was living in Brazil at the time and it hadn’t ever occurred to me that you could browse a database looking at hair color, eye color and hobbies.  Since then I’ve been on and off the baby train but I never returned to the donor shop to browse.

I know D has been looking for potential folks for a few weeks, considering friends and both our (sort-of) local bank and the granddaddy of all banks on the other coast.  I’ve been reluctant to join her without a plan for moving ahead.  Now that we have an appointment though, I feel more prepared to talk about the choices.

Most of our male friends have passed the point where they’d like to throw a child to the lesbian wolves and, while they love us, I suspect their minds (or their wives’ minds) boggle at the potential legalities of it all.  It was awkward enough to talk about their physical attributes between us, judging whether one’s potential uni-brow beat another’s height deficit.  D and I are not tall people and one of us already would be tossing in more brow than average.  It’s a risk we’re not willing to take.

Sure, we’d love to have a man our child could look to when she gets a genetic disease or can’t place her quirky laugh, but at the same time, I’m not sure our potential donors are as open-minded as we are in the ‘it takes a village’ sense. While I can’t speak for my wife’s childhood, I can tell you I spent plenty of roaming the neighborhood, being tending by family friends and passed off to grandparents.  My parents loved me to death, I’m sure, but they weren’t possessive about it all.  Who has time for that?  I’d like a known donor for that reason, but I recognize the complications of it.

Having opted for the sperm bank route, we picked a bank (amazing how that, in and of itself, was a conversation) and winnowed out a few likely prospects.  Despite taking four years to purchase a bookshelf we both like (and we’re still waiting…), we picked a guy in under a week, which is pretty phenomenal in our household.  I suppose for major decisions we do move quickly, it’s the little things that last an eon.  That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

Choosing what we were looking for was an interesting exercise in trying to control genetics.  Initially we were tied to one person who had an amazing sense of humor (though not our sense of humor) but no common interests and features that looked nothing like mine.  Somehow, his personality made up for the fact that, paired with him, we’d have a baby that wouldn’t look in a million years like it could be related to me. And he fell right off the list.

Look, it’s not like I want to pretend I’m the birth mother, or that D and I, through the magic of genetics, produced a perfect little mix of our xx genes.  But it’s more important to me than I thought that we shoot for a donor that looks like me.  We’re already living in a state that looks for as many ways to marginalize us as possible, and if someone, one time, at one critical moment, assumes she’s my daughter because she looks like me, I’ll take the stereotype and be grateful for it.  So we’re going for a blue eyed blonde.  There’s more to it than that, of course, but we tried to line up as many elements as we could.

In the end, it wasn’t important to us to know who the father was.  What was important was that we’d want to hang out with him, that his personality meshed with ours, that he had positive words of advice for our child and that we wouldn’t be ashamed to give her his information many years down the road and let her read his words and hear his voice.  No, she might not ever meet him, but parents run the risk of making bad choices all the time.  No reason why we can’t start now.