Memories

Breakfast at McD’s

place-setting-compToday I returned to the doctor’s office for my lab work. I need a big girl sticker for just returning after Tuesday’s misadventures in waiting. But this time the wait was reasonable, my appointment was a 8am, first on the list, so I was willing to give them the 10 minutes for set up time. Twenty minutes overall wasn’t too bad (I was early again).

Dr. M. told me that the tests being done get the best results if I fast and stay hydrated. I took that to mean that not only was blood being drawn, but also the good ol’ pee in a cup thing. So, I gulped a nice, large thermos of ice water on the way over to the office. Turns out the hydration was just for getting a good vein. I ended up hungry, but full if you get my drift.

Since the blood drawing (sounds rather Medieval doesn’t it, blood drawing…), anyway, since that didn’t take very long, I figured I could wait until I found a breakfast place to relieve my hunger and bladder. The less time spent in a place where sick people congregate, the better – especially in a place where you know they will have touched the same things you will.

I really didn’t want to stop at a fast food place. I thought I owed it to myself to have at least a decent egg and toast breakfast. But time and nature have their own ways and my nature call became rather urgent just as I was coming up on, you guessed it, MacDonald’s.

I succumbed to the lure of the golden arches and it’s usually clean bathrooms. What the heck, their iced coffee isn’t that bad. I pulled in and parked across from the door and walked in. I first hit the facilities, which thankfully, were in lovely order. Next, I moved to find something on the menu that didn’t seem to scream, “You are eating crap!”

All the cute little pictures above the counter seemed to feature some version of a biscuit sandwich. I wanted at the very least, pancakes. I questioned the woman behind the counter. “All you seem to have are biscuit sandwiches. I want pancakes.” She replied, “You can get a McGriddle with an egg and bacon.” I asked what a “McGriddle” was. She said it’s like two pancakes with the syrup inside served with an egg, cheese and bacon. I thought okay, it’s not Denny’s, but it will do. I placed the order.

What came back to me was a biscuit sandwich. Seems I should have paid attention to the ‘like’ portion of her statement. Oh, well. I asked for a fork so that I could take the sandwich apart and pretend that I was having the breakfast I ordered. (I did not eat the bacon. I rather figured it did not come from a turkey.)

My doctor’s office is located about 15 miles or so from where I live in town. The county where it is situated is developing and has quite a few businesses popping up all around. The countryside is fast becoming a quasi-urban/suburban area. Many of the residents, however, are still very rural. They are the ones who grew up on the former farms and country roads now being overtaken. The McDonald’s that chose me is also in this same rural/suburban crossroads and the clientele showed this with clusters of older folks speaking with deep, Georgia southern accents.

Not wanting to sit at one of the single barstool type places, I took a booth seat next to a group of three older gentlemen, who were deep in swapping stories. Expecting to hear tales of hunting or local politics, I was pleasantly surprised to hear what they were discussing – their families, more specifically, special family vacations! It was all so sweet.

One gentleman, who I shall call Mr. Buttonup, was treating his coffee clutch brethren with the tales of how he and his family used to take vacations in the mountains and tell ghost stories around the campfire. He laughed and laughed telling the tale of how he and his wife took turns inventing outlandish stories that took place “right on this very spot.” He added with a smile on his face that it never took long for everyone to end up in the same big bed for the night.

Another gentleman, Mr. GreenPolo, told of his inexpensive vacation at the beach. “Best time we ever had and all for under $300!” His companions were very impressed. “We walked the beaches for miles, it was just wonderful.” They all agreed that one could not get such a vacation for $300 nowadays. And at that they began to talk about moseying along.

My heart jumped a little when I realized they were about to leave for it had struck me a little into their conversations that they were all about my Dad’s age. I was eavesdropping with a wistful ear and wanted their stories to go on. It was so pleasant to hear these men teasing back and forth and regaling each other with stories, not of hunting, or business deals, but of times spent with their families. It was if I was listening to my Dad again. I wanted to thank them for that little piece of joy they had just given me.

As they started to leave, I called out to Mr. Buttonup, “Sir, if I may…” and I explained that I had lost my father this year and that their conversations about their families had truly touched me. I apologized for listening in, but I thanked them for letting me in for just a moment even if they didn’t realize they did.

Mr. Buttonup said I was most welcome and Mr. GreenPolo asked what I said. Apparently, he was a bit hard of hearing. (I guess that was one of the reasons I could hear them so clearly; they were compensating for Mr. G.) Mr. B told him the short version of what I said and they both smiled. Mr. B asked if I was from there and I told him no, I was only on this side of town for an appointment. Then he said I was welcome to come back anytime, they met almost every morning right there. That made me smile.

I may not have gotten what I wanted this morning, but I sure got what I needed. I cried a little after they left, both for what they had given me and for what I will never have again, but in the end I was left with a smile. Someone knew I needed that little slice of love even if it came wrapped in a fast food breakfast biscuit. Thanks, Dad. I love you, too.

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Lullaby

Naptime2    I am very weary these days, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of grief and stress. It is difficult to find a safe shore to rest upon and when by chance I do find a moment to lie my head down, anxiety churns the waters. So tonight I thought perhaps I could try a story of a lullabies – lullabies that eased weary souls a long time ago.

When my daughter Nene was an infant, she was at first calmed by the old standard by Brahms, but as she grew into toddlerhood, she began to prefer more rousing  tunes. She had a strange proclivity toward military anthems and Linda Ronstadt’s, “You’re No Good.”

I remember one particularly grouchy afternoon at my grandmother’s home. Nene could not be cajoled or convinced into thinking anything other than the world was coming to an end and she had to meet it with her lungs giving full voice to her song of woe. My grandmother, mom, and I were stretching to our respective wit’s end. Four generations of women were about to implode and bring Nene’s prediction to fruition.

When the tension and noise finally reached ‘this will drive out the armed fanatics holed up in the house’ level, my mom asked if there was anything else to try. I said well, it sounds odd, but we can try the “Marine’s Hymn.” Mama and Mom looked at me like I was nuts, but at this point it was that or actually call in the Marines. So, I started in with, “From the halls of Montezuma…” And it worked!

Mama and Mom started chiming in and Nene fell into a stupor that would have won a prize on “America’s Funniest Videos.” By the time we finished “Anchors Away”, she was out, lolled over in her little yellow walker. Always her own, that kid.

Sixteen or so years later, Yoda was a completely different story. He definitely preferred the more melodic, slow tempo themes. Often I would hum as smoothly and dolce as I could muster the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” or a quiet version of some folk song culled from my memory of “Sing Along with Mitch.” But the one song that would always close the deal, was “Little Red Caboose.”

Now if you Google this song, you will more than likely be bombarded with versions containing inane adults wearing engineer outfits and singing the lyrics in an over the top Barney fashion. The version I sang was one I found in my collection of old 45rpm single records – a slow spiritual, one sung or hummed right gives the slow, rhythmic rocking of a train moving down the tracks. It was a perfect tune for an active and sensory issued baby.

One afternoon while Yoda and I were out visiting my parents, he had reached his infant tolerance for sociability and began to fuss. So, at that point I swaddled him up tight and removed myself to the dining area to try and calm him down before it went over the top. I could recognized the signs a wee better with the second child…

My Mom stepped off to I don’t know where, to give us space to work I guess. My Dad went to sit in his chair in the living room, not too far from where I was sitting with Yoda. I began to run through my repertoire of songs and then moved in with the closer of “Caboose.”

I rocked, sang, and the hummed for about 5 minutes and the little guy finally settled into a nice little nap. I could even hear a small snore. I smiled and listened again. This wasn’t Yoda’s snargle (what we had termed his breathing issue common to baby boys when born small – another story). I turned my ear to the sound again and realized that my Dad had fallen asleep!

When it came time for me to leave my parents’ house that afternoon and I went over to say goodbye to Dad, he pulled me in and thanked me. When I asked what for, he said it had been a very long time since anyone had sung him to sleep.

Eleven years have gone by and it still brings a smile to my face to remember the time I sang a lullaby to my Dad.

Sleep well, Deddy-O, sleep well.

Let’s Go For A Ride

Dad_motorcycleIn the late 1960s, our neighbor Mr. Lynn introduced my Dad and brother Stavro to the exciting world of motorcycles and they fell in love. Soon our two car garage was filled with all manner and makes of bikes: dirt bikes, street bikes, minibikes and even a couple of mopeds (the kind that have pedals to start the motor).

Our weekends soon consisted of family day trips out to the Phoenix desert to ride until it became dark. Round and round we’d go, racing through dry river beds and over cracking dusty roads. I remember stopping only to eat lunch and gaze at the beautiful brown Arizona mountains. Even at that young age I was filled with an awe for their dangerous majesty. I love the memory of those times.

Sometimes the urge to ride couldn’t wait until the weekend and Dad would pull out a street bike and take me for a quick ride after he came home from work. At that time, there were still pockets of places we could take a mini-desert ride inside the city. Phoenix was still sitting on the edge of the mega city it was to become.

On one particular evening, Dad said, “Let’s go!” Never willing to pass up a ride, I climbed on the back of the motorcycle, safely wrapped my arms around his waist, hooked my fingers tightly into his belt loops and off we rode heading for the empty lots between two neighborhoods. We slipped past the bar recently planted to keep cars out and into the wilds of Phoenix suburbia we rode. We did our usual circuit and then Dad hit the little mounds of dirt to make me bounce and laugh. I laughed so hard, I was breathless, but with a child’s enthusiasm kept urging, “Again, Dad, again!” It was on one of those last go rounds that I happened to look behind us. Someone else was out for a ride and closing on us fast. He had lights mounted on his bike.

Hello, Officer.

I tapped Dad on the stomach to gain his attention and motioned for him to look behind. “I think he wants us to stop.” Seems the last bastion of space we could ride free in the city was now under police state and some non-motorcycle loving resident ratted us out.

We left our little haven with a blue slip of disappointment. Dad was a bit embarrassed to have to admit to Mom about the ticket we received, but of course nine-year-old little me thought it hilarious and kind of scary exciting. It didn’t occur to me that our evening rides in the last little oasis were over. In a child’s mind things last forever. But of course, they don’t.

Stavro traveled to Phoenix a couple years ago and visited our old haunts. The empty lots are filled with houses. The desert we rode upon is swallowed up by urban sprawl. The dusty roads and river beds paved over. The beautiful brown mountains in the distance are now crowded up to their bases and shaded with pollution.

And my Dad is gone.

I know that Dad would want me to keep pushing onward, to stay on the bike and keep riding, even taking the chance of seeing the lights flashing behind me again. He was proud of me for taking on some pretty bouncy and terrifying mountains throughout my life and conquering them. He never failed to tell me that.

What I failed to tell him was that in my heart I always had my arms around his waist, with my fingers hooked into his belt loops knowing that if I held on tight enough, just over the next hill was the promise of breathless joy and laughter. There would be an open space to ride free and say, “Let’s go!”

But there will never be another evening ride. No more, “agains.” Grown-ups know these things and that’s the hard part.

I’m trying Dad, but without you the motor is terribly hard to start.

1 + 1 = 4: Baby Chapter 10

Three no evilsI know this is the story of our journey toward a baby, but don’t think we had forgotten about my daughter Nenè. Oh, no. Between all of the crap of the baby making situation, there was high school football games (she was in marching band), booster and PTA meetings, and the usual teenage ups and downs.

Nenè, like most children of divorced parents shuffled between our house and The Jackass’s, but her primary place of residence was with him. Nenè lived with us on temporary basis throughout the year. She was here every Wednesday and every other weekend. And it just so happened that she was here the weekend we found out that Bashert was pregnant. We could not have planned it any better to have us all together as a family to celebrate the happy news.

As usual, all too soon Sunday rolled around and it was time for The Jackass to pick up Nenè. This was 7:00 in the winter evening. We gave extra hugs all around and she was off. We then decided to walk up to our neighbor Laura’s house to let her in on the good news too. Laura was our neighbor, friend, substitute grandmother and greatest supporter in the Jewish community right from the moment we all met. It was going to be fun letting her in on the news.

We had been at Laura’s for about fifteen minutes or so when someone knocked on the door. Laura got up and answered it to find Nenè standing there, shaking and crying. We all immediately jumped up to pull her inside and find out what in the world was going on.

It turned out that Nenè had left some of her school work at our house and needed to return to get it. She realized it when she and The Jackass were just down the road and asked him to turn around. As Nenè tells it, he was not too happy about this and started an argument, but nevertheless did turn around. This must have been at the exact time we were walking up to Laura’s.

When Nenè knocked on our door (she didn’t have a key at this point because we didn’t trust The Jackass not to take it – we had our reasons to be paranoid) of course no one answered, but the dogs started barking. When we didn’t come to the door, Nenè said The Jackass kept insisting she keep knocking, that we would not have gone off without the dogs. She was beginning to get more and more upset with his treatment. She tried to explain that we did often go off without them and we were not home.

Something in this answer set off The Jackass. According to Nenè, he began yelling at her and a stand off ensued – she insisting we were not at home, he insisting we were but just choosing not to answer the door. The solution that the grown-up had was him getting in his car and driving off without her. He left a dumbfounded 15 year old girl standing alone, in the dark. At this point I am going to call up the old adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I was proud of what Nenè did after she was dumped. She knew we were not home and couldn’t get in the house. She had no access to a phone, so she did the best thing she could – she ran to Laura’s house. And that is where I pick up the story.

At Laura’s house Nenè told us some things about living with The Jackass we had not been aware of. All was not well over there. She asked if she could stay with us at least for the night, still not knowing what the situation with The Jackass would turn out to be. Of course she could stay! Her primary residence may have been with him, but we had joint custody and at 15, she could choose to stay wherever she wanted.

It took a bit of time to get her settled down and all of the story out of her, so it was probably a good half hour or more before we said goodnight to Laura and headed back to our house. When we turned the corner to approach our place who did we see sitting in the lot in front? Yep, The Jackass. Seems he had had a turn of heart. He demanded Nenè get in the car immediately.

Remember how I said, go after one of mine and I go into Hulk mode? Prime example just about to happen. Nenè had confirmed some things about The Jackass that Bashert and I had wondered about and let’s just say I was not going to let Nenè back in the car with him driving that night.

First I made sure Nenè was firm about not going back with him, but would take her if she wanted me to but I also told her I was not going to let him drive her. She said no, she wanted to stay with me. I told her to go in the house and I would take care of things. The strength of Hercules rose in me that night. I turned to face The Jackass and gritted my teeth.

All the anger over the ten years it took to get our divorce and all the mud he tried to drag me through took over. I was a towering steam of barely controlled fury. I stood up in his face and I told him Nenè would not be returning with him that night. I told him he was a jerk and a fine example of what a parent should be and that he needed to leave now. Nenè would not be going with him.

He got hot, boy did he get hot. He really did not expect me to stand up to him. He started yelling about calling the police and charging me with kidnapping. Funny thing at that point, his anger transformed mine. I knew I had control then. Oh, I was still angry, but it was an anger I could use. I told him to go ahead and call, even offered him the phone. I told him that I wanted to see who got in the most trouble – me or the jackass who just dumped a visible shaken 15 year old girl into the dark alone. He seemed to sober a bit at that. Still sputtering to himself, he finally got in his car and drove off. Victory was mine and Nenè was safe.

I turned to go back in the house only to have it hit me that he had all of Nenè’s things with him in his car. We would have to go over there in the morning to get her school stuff she had returned to our house to get!

What a hell of a weekend.

Bashert and I talked about what was going on and we agreed that if Nenè wanted to make her stay permanent then it would be okay.  We talked about it all week – Nenè was still too upset to return to The Jackass’s house for anything but a quick run to get extra clothes. She finally said that she wanted to leave him for good. She wanted to live with us and not have to deal with all the issues going on with him. The decision had been made. Nenè was moving in.

In one fell swoop, our house and lives were about to get amazingly full.

First a Bank & There Ought To Be a Law: Baby Story Chpt 4

J&ESince I couldn’t be directly involved with the physical proceedings, I threw myself into finding the perfect cryogenics bank and donor. First came the bank.

Sperm banks are regulated at the National level by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). They are supposed to be regulated at the state level by each state’s respective State Department, but as we have all heard, the follow through is not always the most attentive. We wanted a place that stood by ethical policies that protected both the donors and the clients.

We wanted a place that did the most genetic testing possible at the time. As Bashert has Ashkenazi Jewish heritage on both sides of her family, we needed to make sure that the donor we selected didn’t have a history of known diseases prevalent in that type of lineage.

We also needed a bank that supplied IUI ready special sauce. Not all places did.

One of my own criteria was that the donor be anonymous. Bashert and I talked about that one extensively. My reasoning was emotional. If I wasn’t able to contribute genetic material, I at least wanted to be the full other parent to our child. To me, a anonymous donor is as the dictionary describes – one who gives without need of recognition or acknowledgement. I didn’t want any ghost of parental figure lingering in the background of our lives. We would have the pertinent information, such as, medical background, family histories, physical characteristics, personality reviews and so on to give to our child when the time was right. I just didn’t want another physical person in the mix. Three’s a crowd.

So, I was looking for a place that was shown to follow ethical practices, have IUI ready specimens, perform extensive genetic testing and have donors that agreed to remain anonymous. And oh, yeah, we had to be able to afford it.

Well, in 2002 that narrowed down our choices quite nicely. It even eliminated the bank we have right here in our home town. It would have been wonderfully convenient and less expensive, but we just didn’t feel it met our picky standards. Besides, it sort creeped me out knowing that the donors could have come from right next door. Silly, I know, but there you go.

We ended up with one of the larger banks located out of state. It had been around for some time and seemed to set the standards for what a cryo bank should be and met the qualities we were searching for. The next step would be setting up an account and finding the perfect donor for us.

I am going to pause here for a moment and tell you something about myself. I am a mild mannered person, quite shy really and it takes a lot to get me visibly angry. But mess with anyone I love and it’s Bruce Banner to the Hulk in three seconds flat.

Now, in the previous chapter I said that I was not able to attend the actual appointments with Bashert due to our situation. We had to maintain covert operations in order to achieve the goal of the mission. Little did I know what indignities (sounds like such a small word for her suffering) Bashert was having to endure. She kept me in the dark about many of them so that I wouldn’t go to the clinic and get myself arrested.

It makes my blood boil even now to recall the horrific circumstances she had to go through with one of the doctors. I could deal with the attempts to overcharge us and even the onslaught of negativity that came from a place that was supposed to be about giving the gift of joy to parents, but I could not deal with was the physical violation that occurred.

You see, part of the process in verifying that a woman has viable eggs is a vaginal sonogram. It is an invasive procedure that should be handled with the utmost of respect, care and gentleness. Bashert’s original compromise with the ID was to do one ovulation cycle and then have the sonogram. What Bashert didn’t know was that her ID had a partner that filled in when he was not available. It just so happened that her ID was not available the day she was to have her sonogram done.

It is always discomforting to have your regular physician replaced at a pivotal point, that’s why I have disliked going to team practices where I am never quite sure who I will be seeing on appointment day. Knowing that Bashert was already on edge about a procedure she had never experienced before and had not been told what to really expect, the change up created an even more heightened state of unease.

I did my best to try and give her support as I kissed her goodbye that day. What she told me later had me ready to wrap my hands around Dr. Lizardo’s throat. If I had known the rest of what Bashert did not reveal, I am not sure we would have Yoda right now.

When I came home from work that afternoon, I expected to find a partner relieved that the deed was done, but happy with the results. Instead what I found was a visibly shaken woman who had obviously been traumatized by the doctor who was supposed to be helping. (see Bashert’s site for her revealing story). I was ready to report that freaking doctor to the head ID,  the AMA, and whoever else I could find. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have reported it to the police (after I had beaten the living hell out of the woman).

This woman, this “doctor”, who supposedly took an oath to protect her patients had basically raped Bashert when performing the vaginal sonogram. Dr. Lizardo made sure there were no witnesses – all the staff was gone, including the attending nurse. She used undo force and did not listen to Bashert’s concerns. She offered no real apology or comprehension as what she had actually done.

Bashert didn’t let me in on the whole story at the time. She wanted to go ahead with our plan to have the baby she so wanted. She didn’t want to jeopardize anything even in the face of such degradation. She felt constricted by the limited choices we had and for whatever reason, Dr. Lizardo seemed to realize that Bashert was bound by that. What a fucking situation to be in. Even with the partial information I had, I was so beyond furious.

This is what many lesbian and gay couples have to go through just to have a family.  Humiliation and violation without recourse. And people wonder why we are fighting so hard to get the rights we deserve.

At that point, no matter what the ID said was needed, we were going to stick to the plan, get the insemination done and get the hell out of Dodge. As the kids say today, that place was “whack”.

To get this accomplished, it was time to pick a donor.

Secret Sauce: Chapter 3 of my version of our baby story

J&EOkay, I know two women cannot make a baby together, at least at this point in time. We are sort of minus one component, the squiggly little guy production factory; the secret sauce, if you will. So what does the resourceful lesbian couple do? Why research cryogenic banks of course. It seems many kind gentlemen finance their college educations with possible life-giving donations.

During the initial research, we found that most reputable banks required that we work through a doctor’s office or a fertility clinic. There were a few places that would ship directly to your home, but since we were new to this and I wasn’t quite ready for turkey baster 101, we decided to discuss our options with our OBY/GYN.

Our doctor is a lovely woman, great sense of humor, wonderful bedside manner and general nice person. She had/has never once blinked an eye or made any kind of issue about Bashert and I as a couple. She is about as grounded as they come and we knew she would give us the straight poop, so to speak. We were a bit disappointed, okay, a lot disappointed, to find out that while she would gladly be the one to see us through any pregnancy, she wasn’t set up to do inseminations. She told us we would need to seek out an infertility clinic to aid us in the insemination process if we didn’t want to try at home.

As fate would have it again, we met a couple who had just gone through this process. Their sage advice – don’t let them know you are a same-sex couple. What? This couple was turned down by the two clinics in town because they were a lesbians. They had to go 100 miles away to find someone to assist them. Bashert was shocked at this, but I found myself angry and frustrated. Here we were determined to face the world as a unified front and we are being told that for our most important act as a couple we must go into hiding again or travel outside our community? Criminy! Not a good way to start out in my opinion. But Bashert was determined (again) to see this through come hell or high water, so she hatched a plan. It’s always a little scary when she comes out with, “I have a plan…”

She would present herself as a single woman.

Confession time here. I know I have been talking all out and proud, you know, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.” sort of thing, but the reality of it was different. One of my jobs was with a local government agency, a local Georgia government agency. That meant no protection under the law. I could be fired for my relationship with Bashert. It was the same damn thing as her “moral turpitude” clause and the South Carolina state laws that prevented me from fighting all out for full custody of my daughter. The people I worked for weren’t exactly readers of The Huffington Post. I still had one foot in the closet in order to pay the bills. Sometimes, economics does win. So, Bashert’s plan of action was a bit hard to take, but like the economic reality of my job situation, it was necessary to achieve what we ultimately wanted – a baby.

I hated being left out of the loop. I couldn’t be there to hear all the little things, the details that usually get lost because, well because, Bashert is a hypochondriac. If one thing is mentioned that sets off her worry button then all else is lost while she chases down her imminent death inside her head. I couldn’t be there to hold her hand and let her know all will be okay. I couldn’t be there to participate in the steps leading to the creation of our child. I just couldn’t be there. And it hurt.

The amount of information that Bashert came home with from that very first visit was astounding. We were so grateful that the doctor took the time to write everything down, but then as I found out what all he had suggested, it sounded like this guy was all about taking time. And for us time meant money.

The infertility doctor (ID) was suggesting that Bashert got through six to twelve cycles of ovulation to make sure that she could get pregnant and that was after waiting three to six months to make sure she was ovulating correctly! Each cycle would mean another visit to and testing at the clinic, as well as, a vial of the secret sauce for each insemination try. This guy was out to bankrupt us even before we got started.

I know the money talk may sound crass and you may say, hey if they were that determined what did money mean? Well, eating for one thing. We had hopes and dreams, but eating and keeping a roof over our heads seemed important too. I was putting in as many hours as I could at my second job and Bashert was working full time for the club, but we were still barely making ends meet. Any extra money we made was set aside for “plan baby”.

The ID listed several options when it came to the secret sauce. Here comes the scientificy stuff. The first option was ICI or intracervical insemination. This is the form of artificial insemintation (AI) that most resembles the way sperm is introduced during actual intercourse.  The sperm is deposited near or into the cervix and the boogers have to swim the race. Not much prep work is done to the sperm before the AI takes place. The sperm remains “unwashed” – we rolled with laughter when we were introduced to that term! The chances of becoming pregnant with this option were roughly the same as anybody’s. (This is the one people do when choosing to do AI at home.)

The second option was IUI or intrauterine insemination. In this AI, the sperm gets a shower first – it is referred to as “washed”, really can you keep a straight face? Anyway, the sperm is washed so that it won’t cause cramping and have the uterus just turn around and kick the little guys out. Because the sperm is place in the uterus, usually directed toward the side the egg is scheduled to release, the chances of pregnancy go up a good bit.

The third option was IVF or in vitro fertilization. This is one of the most complicated procedures.  While technically still a form of AI, it is usually listed separately because it involves removal of the eggs, inseminating them outside of the uterus and then implanting them back in. Expensive, painful, more than a beggar’s chance of multiple births, but no more guarantee of viable pregnancy than any of the other methods. I can safely say we ruled that one out first thing.

After some time of discussion, we decided (outside of the clinic environment obviously) that we would choose the IUI. From the preliminary research of cryo banks, we figured we had enough money saved for two vials of the secret sauce and we needed as much bang for our buck as we could get. We also knew that we not could afford six to twelve months of visits and testing. My insurance (from my second job), just that year had begun to cover domestic partners and would pay for most of the testing, but not the visits or any actual insemination procedure. And my friends, the clinic demanded money up front,. No cash – no service.

Along with the discussion about what type of AI, we had to discuss how to circumvent all the testing and waiting the ID wanted her to do. He was treating her as if she couldn’t get pregnant and that was not the issue at hand. We finally came up with a compromise that she would present to him. She would agree to one month ovulation trial and the vaginal sonogram to verify that she had viable eggs to make the whole thing worthwhile to try.

Again, Bashert had to go face down the ID alone. Give that woman credit, she stood her ground and laid out the plan. I don’t know what she said to him, but she got what she wanted. We had advanced to the next round – one part fun, the other part down right criminal.

Friends, now what? Chapter 2 of my version

J&EI have to admit it didn’t cross my mind that our friendship would be anymore than that; friendship. Considering the gruesome breakup I was experiencing, I certainly was not looking for anything more. But somewhere between that first, “Geez, why doesn’t she just go away?” and my realization that I was going to be devastated if she really did move to Israel as planned after her graduation, the relationship had moved into something else entirely. Much to the amusement of our other friends (yes, I made more friends regardless of what my daughter Nené might say) we became a couple. The story of the in between is quite a tale unto itself, but that is ours to savor and occasionally let tidbits out, but for now I move on to the next step: cohabitation.

When Bashert and I first moved into together, it was as if we were on vacation every day, well at least at home, well at least some of the time. You know that closet that you hear about gay people coming out of? Well, let us say our life was pretty much one big walk-in.

I was still immeshed in that nasty ongoing divorce and my attorneys at the time suggested that I not reveal to my daughter the true aspect of our relationship. The laws in the state of South Carolina, the state that had power over the divorce proceedings, were not kind to those of my ilk. The ex-husband-to-be was not below using any and all means to keep my daughter away from me and cut off any kind of financial support he could. Bashert and I were forced to set up a farce of a roommate situation whenever Nené stayed with us.

Bashert had graduated and was in the “real” world teaching art at the local Catholic high school. I know, joke in the making: Jewish, lesbian teaching at Catholic school. When she was hired, she had to sign a “moral turpitude” contract. This meant that they had control over her so-called moral behavior even outside of school and oh, let us see – what was the official 1997 Catholic standing on homosexuality? Oh, yeah – get the hell off our property, die and burn for eternity. We were forced into another farce of pretense. Not that we were very good at it, in either situation.

By this time Nené was around nine years old and it was pretty apparent that we weren’t doing such a good job keep ourselves in the closet around her. I found a crumpled note in her room after a weekend visit. “Mom – I think you are gay with Bashert”. I guess it is hard to explain to a nine year old why Mom’s “roommate” is involved in most every aspect of our lives and not have her be suspicious. Trying to be something we were not in order to keep Nené in our lives was causing more damage than helping.

Things at Bashert’s job were not much better. Bashert took her ring off each morning before work, a painful thing for both of us. She took “beards” to various school functions. We separated whenever anyone from her school was seen in our vicinity when we were out and about – even at the grocery store. Despite the precautions we thought we were taking, we ended up having our car keyed and wonderful rumors were heard about us being seen making out in the Winn Dixie parking lot. Really? At least they could have picked a more up-scale place than a grocery store parking lot..

On a weekend excursion to Atlanta, we stopped in a jewelry store and lo and behold, Bashert heard a student call her name, “Hey, Miss Smith!”  Arg. We couldn’t even relax when we went out of town. The closet was getting mighty stuffy.

In 1999, after two years of teaching there, the Catholic school Bashert was working for suddenly “lost” their funding for the art department and her contract was not renewed. Funny how the funding was “found” two months later when they hired a new art teacher. I’m just saying.

Now at this point you may be wondering why all this background. Why not just jump right in with the baby story? Well, to understand some of the coming story, you had to know some of the back story. You see, it took those years of struggle – finding each other, overcoming our differences (still working on that one occasionally), hiding from family and the world – to build the determination and convictions needed to start fresh as an open and proud family.

After Bashert lost her teaching job, we decided that whatever job she found it would have to be one that accepted us. No more hiding. I also made the decision to fire my attorneys. All the secretiveness had done nothing to further my cause, in fact, it had done more harm than good to the relationship with my daughter. It wasn’t until Bashert and I made the decision to “come out of the closet” together that Nené started to come around.

Bashert found another job as a graphic artist at a place that really didn’t care one way or the other about her personal life and I found an attorney who specialized in representing gays and lesbians. We were on our way. The only thing left to work out was my lingering strings tying me to The Jackass. Bashert wanted to expand our family and I did not want to bring a baby into our relationship until I was able to say I was free and clear to be hers. You see, as liberal as my views had become, I was still old fashioned enough to say that we needed to be “married” before we had kids.

It took two more years before the divorce could be finalized and believe me it wasn’t for want of trying on my part. By the time it was all said and done, I had graduated with my BFA, started not one, but two part time jobs, Bashert had started working for a private dinner club as Membership Director and Nené had begun high school. It was a long haul to get to that sad, but relieving day in May.

Once the shock of the reality of my divorce had worn off, Bashert wasted no time in preparing for our commitment ceremony – she had that fierce determination going again. On July 27th we were standing in front of 50 of our closest friends and family to proudly show them that we were committed to living an open and loving life together. It was a beautiful ceremony that people still talk about today 12 years later. I only hope our legal wedding will be half as warm and special when that day comes (hint, hint to the federal government).

After the ceremony, Bashert began talking in earnest about wanting to have a baby. I admit it, I was nervous. I was now 40 years old, trying to maintain two jobs and going through the teenage years with Nené. One by one, Bashert knocked down my arguments, made sure to include Nené every step of the way and had me convinced.

We were going to make a baby.

A baby story – my version of the tale

J&EMy partner Bashert is writing a series of exposés on our journey to have a baby (Yoda). She is amazed by all the wonderful responses she is receiving. I’m not surprised at all. She can tell a story, that woman. She pours all her heart into what she is regaling and lays it on the line, warts and all.

I am reading right along with all of her other fans. It is funny to read about my life from the outside. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I sit and make note of things I had forgotten and sometimes I revisit very angry moments. It was a roller coaster ride for sure. If you haven’t read her exciting tales of the road to motherhood then pop over to her site: www.bashert04.com.

I was teasing with her when she told me with wide eyes how many hits she had in under an hour the other night just after she posted another segment. I joked that maybe I should write my own version of what went on. She said why not? I thought about it and decided, why not? So I present to you my side of the story – our baby story.

 

We Meet

We met in college. In 1995, at the age of 34 and seeking some source of sanity, I returned to school to finish out my Fine Arts degree I started back when the dinosaurs roamed about. I was two years into a very nasty divorce and custody battle that would eventually drag on for another eight years. I was emotionally and physically scarred and needed a place to help me feel good and right about myself.

Learning had always been a refuge for me, but starting over was hard. I was so socially removed, I barely spoke above a whisper and held everyone at arm’s length. To say that I tried to keep to myself is a radical understatement.

Bashert was ahead of me in the program despite being nine years my junior. A couple of years earlier, she fought to gain her independence from an abusive father and get into college. Fighting hard for things is a major theme in Bashert’s life – keep that point in mind as we go through this story. She knew no strangers; she had friends and acquaintances all over campus.

As a sculptor, Bashert had no love loss for two-dimensional work. Give her some clay to play with and she is a happy camper. Back then the closest thing she came to painting was applying glazes to her ceramic creations. I had the reverse situation. Three-dimensional work and I just didn’t get along – never did; I still have the pinch pot I made in third grade as testament to that fact, the poor malformed little thing. No, give me paper and pencil and I was in heaven.

I never really painted before taking that class, but oh, it was love at first stroke! The way the paint moved across the canvas, pushing and pulling in a beautiful dance of negative and positive spaces. The sharp, piney tang of turpentine and the mellow musk of the oils were heady perfumes for me. And the colours – oh, the colours! The painting studio turned out to be my home. There was only one thing out of place there – Bashert.

It would be suffice to say that painting and Bashert didn’t get on, but add in that we later found out she was pretty much colour blind, that sealed the deal. At the time, I just thought she had been sent into my life to be yet another punishment for whatever hellbent life I had lived earlier. Shy to begin with and emotionally crushed on top of that, I did not know what to do with this girl.

I would arrive at the studio to find her sitting cheerfully at my station with a big grin on her face announcing that she “borrowed” some of my cadmium yellow or a cleaning rag or any number of other supplies. She would chat away as I tried to start my painting day and tactfully extricate myself from her. But she had worked it out so that her painting station was right next to mine and the badgering never ended. Often I would find myself staring in wonderment that she couldn’t get it that I was yearning to left alone.

Get it, she did not and the barrage of questions kept coming either about myself or ultimately about how to paint her images. “How would you do this one?” What colour should I use?” “Could you just take the brush and show me how?” My reply was always, “It is your painting.” I think this made me more a challenge to her. I remember going to my therapy sessions and telling the doctor in an exasperated voice, “That girl has some serious boundary issues!”.  I was already dealing with a vindictive ex-husband to be and a hormonal seven-year-old daughter, another aggravating person was the last thing I needed in my life. On some level I think I was relieved when the class was over just to end the torture from Bashert.

But remember what I said in the beginning? Bashert knows how to fight hard for the things she wants and for some unfathomable reason, she wanted to be my friend. She didn’t give up.

We went on a university sponsored trip to Washington, D.C. and she made sure that I couldn’t bury my nose in my crossword puzzle book on the ride up. She asked me to help her with the art gallery at school where she worked putting up monthly art exhibits. She asked for rides around town to her various other jobs, despite the fact that she hated my 1968 Mercury Cougar muscle car. I loved that car…sigh. But that’s another story.

All the while we were together, she would talk. And talk. And talk. Slowly, oh so slowly, those rides became stops and the talks became conversations, long conversations that lasted into the wee hours of the night. The aggressive girl with the boundary issues taught me how to be in the world again and somewhere in the midst, miraculously became my first friend in almost 15 years.

Dibs on the MatchBox Car

In my grandmother’s home was a magic box. Every child in our family was magnetically attracted to it. It sat almost at the end of a long hallway that divided Mama’s shotgun house, directly in front of the single bathroom.

It wasn’t a grand thing. Only about as wide as a five year old’s arm and covered with brown shelf paper, it was an unassuming vault of treasures. It was Mama’s toy box.

As soon as we entered the house, my younger brother and I would beeline through the living room, dart through the doorway from the dining room and race down the hall to the awaiting trove.  Lucky was the kid who arrived first, she or he got first dibs on what was the choice item of the day.

It varied from time to time what things it held for us to discover. Slinkys, yo-yos, soldiers with their feet frozen in blobs of green plastic or some ViewMaster reels might be found. Often, Matchbox cars, HotWheels and Tonka trucks were at the ready to populate the small, two-story garage handbuilt by my Grandfather or race down the long hall.

There was never anything large or very expensive in the box. Mostly just odds and ends left over from birthdays or Christmas’ past. Things to be discarded or treated with possible childhood distain would be magically transformed into an object of desire. Mr. Potato Head might not have both ears, but his pipe and glasses were there and that was great. Only a few Spirograph gears might be available, but there was enough to create fabulous designs to captivate any willing adult art admirer.

Palpable delight was felt in digging through the bit and pieces, mining for just the perfect toy to claim for the day or the hour or until Mom told us our turn was over. Imagination would take over when we found the stray crayon or some pirate coins hidden in the back corners.

Built way before mandatory locking hinges and I’m sure repurposed from another use, the box had a lid with the tendency to fall back into closed position. You really had to make sure that it was all the way back before starting to rummage. Once, in my haste to grab a good toy, I failed to push the lid all the way back. Slap! across my nose the hasp came – blood, tears and a lesson well learned.

The inevitability of growing up and its cruel disassociation with the magical never really affected Mama’s toy box. It never moved. Even as we grew and became busily involved in the ways of adulthood, it remained steadfast in its place guarding the long hallway ready to offer any passing child a chance to play. The next generations would soon experience the joy of running through the house to claim their daily prize.

In these often harried and tense days, it is nice to bring to mind the magic box in Mama’s hall. Though the home she kept for 40 odd years or so has been gone for quite some time, claimed by urban planning, the memory of it and that box full of childhood joy will always be there ready for another day of play. Race you there.

Peas Under the Plate

I owe my mother apologies for many things done or not done over the years, but I believe high on the list should be a hearty, “I’m sorry” for the repeated utterance of the following three little words:

“What’s for supper?”

Every night the same inquisition. Every night the same stares of anticipation. Every night the same dread. What’s for supper?

My Mom faced this eternal (infernal) question each night from four children, a husband and various and sundry pets who passed through our way for thirty years or so. Bless her little heart. I wonder if she, like I now, wanted to slap a frying pan upside someone’s head when those three little words came out?

Mom made do. I admire that and wish I had more of her “do”. She made supper and we ate it (with the exception of my younger brother Ernst, who subsisted on peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for 18 years, but that is another story). We had a meat, a veggie and a starch every supper. She made it work, whether we deserved it or not.

When we asked “what’s for supper?” I’m sure there were plenty of turned up noses at times, but the menu she worked out is what we got. There was no ditching the kitchen and heading off to the nearest fast food establishment. Going out was for special occasions and with dinner guests numbering from four to six most of the time, it was rather expensive, too.

We lived on my Dad’s one salary. Mom made it work. Some nights we had Spam patties as the meat source, other nights we had round steak that had been split in half lengthwise then pounded out to stretch. There were other nights of fried chicken or pork chops and mashed potatoes (not applesauce).  Looking back those must have been the times my parents were more flush, but it didn’t matter, we partook of what we had, which is not to say we ate it all – no, I remember clearly trying to hide peas under the rim of my plate and I’ve heard stories of my brother Stavro covertly placing items behind the refrigerator.

Supper was the time the family regrouped. All were called by the rallying cry, “supper’s ready”! Off went the t.v., down went the books, the telephone conversation was cut short, play was halted and we all came together.

We had marvelous conversations and learned of each other’s daily lives. We told stories, passed on new knowledge, played word games and made plans. Occasionally, we would fight, but most of the time we laughed, a lot. Supper became less about the food and more about the time spent together. It was something I think we took too much for granted. Another apology owed to Mom.

Maybe that’s the “do” I’m missing. Even in the worst of times, Mom found something to make for us so that we could sit together and eat. She may have wanted to conk each one of  us on the head for asking what’s for supper, but she didn’t and we survived to ask another day.

Perhaps I need to take the message more to heart. The t.v. needs to go off, apps turned off, Yoda called in from play and make supper the focus it should be, our family reconnection. Stretched paychecks and crossed schedules need to take a backseat to the preparation of what’s for supper. Nothing says I can’t resent the question, but everything says I can make it mean something else.

Thank you, Mom.