Ice Cream & Horseradish: Baby Chapter 13

J&EThink back on your childhood days when your parent made you take your Flintstones One-A-Day™. Oh, yeah, they pulled you in with their little effigies of Bedrock’s favorite inhabitant’s (except Betty, ‘cause Betty’s Not A Vitamin). You could giggle and bite off Barney’s head or feet in a little defiant act of cannibalism, but did Barney or Fred or Wilma or even Dino really taste like grapes or cherries? I think not.

Oh, a first there was a strange unidentifiable sweet – just enough to fool you – then came the slow realization that the back of your tongue was now coated in tin foil and no amount of water would scrape it off. It forced you to go brush your teeth – a cooperative childhood conspiracy between the vitamin and toothpaste companies and our parents, I say. Anyway, the dang things were just gross.

Now, prenatal vitamins are horse pills, big, long oval horse pills. They don’t even come in appealing little cartoon shapes. The ones Bashert took were light kidney bean colour and they smelled like rust. They tasted like, well, vitamins (see above). So, you may excuse me the grimace that comes over my face when I write the next line.

Bashert loved to suck on her prenatal vitamins.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Bless her little pea picking, pregnant, weird craving heart, that is exactly what Bashert did with her prenatal vitamins. Sucked the goodie right out of them, she did. Even Dr. OBwan thought that one topped the charts for her records. Excuse me, I think I need to go brush my teeth.

Another peculiarity about Bashert’s dietary changes during pregnancy, she could consume as much milk as she wanted. Normally borderline lactose allergic (think Meg Ryan on the train in French Kiss), once she realized that she was free from the bonds lactic tyranny it was look out ice cream! She became the dairy industry’s poster child. Cheap, expensive, soft serve, cone, or Klondike Bar™, no mixture of creamy frozen milk was denied. For someone who had to down four lactic counteractive pills before tasting the sample at the frozen yogurt place, this was a dream come true.

After the ice cream, came the need to consume all things that burn out your entire gastrointestinal track. Up until Bashert’s pregnancy neither one of us really had a palate for spicy foods – savory, yes; spicy, no. Pepper to us was just a doll from the 60s. That all changed for her during the pregnancy.

For some reason, Bashert’s body chemistry took a weird turn and decided to keep her sinuses blocked up for weeks on end. She didn’t want to take medications, so asked around for ideas. A friend suggested consuming something spicy – not an appealing thought, but she was desperate for some kind of relief and decided to take the chance.

The first opportunity (since we didn’t keep any peppery spices in the house) came when we attended a Passover seder at a friend’s home. Passover is full of traditional stuff, from the actual order of the meal (seder means order) to the things simply repeated year after year by the friends gathering round the table. Sometimes the traditions can combine, ancient and invented. One of the combined traditions was “Charlie’s Horseradish.”

Part of the seder is to consume bitter herbs (maror) to symbolically remember the bitterness and tears of slavery. The primary food of choice for this bit is horseradish. Charlie’s horseradish had to be kept in a specially designed jar – it ate through ordinary containers. When the lid was removed to start partaking of the lethal concoction, it did not take long before everyone’s eyes filled with tears. This stuff could have been used as a chemical agent for warfare or riot control.

So, why was this night not like any other night? Normally, Bashert and I would take the tiniest portion possible of Charlie’s horseradish, say an imaginary one, but this night Bashert took a heaping spoonful of the slow burning acid, spread it on her matzah and popped into her mouth.

I was writhing in sympathetic agony when I first realized what she had done, but then I got a look at her face. The transformation from the initial, “oh shit, what did I just put in my mouth” to “praise be, I can breath” was nothing short of a miracle. The look wonder and profound joy was incredible. My eyes filled with tears – the fumes were killing me.

Just Ducky: Baby Chapter 12

J&EYou know what? I was going to write about some of the other “challenges” we faced during Bashert’s pregnancy, but I was really depressing myself.

There was her job at the private dining club that made the environment so hostile she had to quit. There was the inequality between the treatment Dad’s-to-be received and the treatment I received at my job that was supposed to not recognize any difference. There were our ever present money worries. There were her demeaning experiences with the WIC office and last but by no means least; the most painful for Bashert was our “excommunication” by the Jewish community.

Yes, I could write about those and probably dig up plenty more, but why? If the picture of the inequities we suffered just because of who we loved is not apparent by now then perhaps, just perhaps this is not a story for you to read.

From this segment on, I just want to concentrate on the good things – the wonderful and joyful things that came with expecting our baby boy. We still went to Borders Bookstore and poured over all the baby books we could get our hands on, except for the really graphic ones. Bashert couldn’t take the graphic ones.

We had hysterical moments trying to come up with names we both loved or at least could live with. We seriously considered naming the baby Céilidh (pronounced Kaylee) since that was Bashert’s mother’s Hebrew name. It also means a type of party in Gaelic. But when we asked a friend’s eight year old what she thought of it, she went into a singsong rhyme, “Gayly, Kaylee. Gayly Kaylee.” Nope, we could not do that to the boy. It was going to be hard enough with two moms. We might as well as name him Sue.

We had fun just watching him grow and move – well, I had fun watching him move – Bashert often felt like she had an alien parasite inside her. One of our favorite times was when I got home in the early morning hours after work. I would crawl into bed and massage Bashert’s stomach before falling asleep. It didn’t take long for the little guy to become accustomed to our nightly routine. He would lean into my hand like a cat asking for a head rub. Those were lovely time suspending moments.

Then there was the baby shower. If ever we doubted that we had any friends or supporters, that wonderfully over-the-top shower proved us wrong. Bashert against all Jewish tradition (and superstition) decided she wanted a baby shower AND she wanted it fairly early in her pregnancy. She wanted to look pregnant, but not be in the final month where she wouldn’t enjoy anything but making it to the bathroom on time. So, in true Bashert form she made it happen. She got our ducks in a row quite nicely.

She spoke with two of our wonderful and beautiful friends – both of whom I have written of before – Betty who has endless capabilities of turning rotten things into fodder for beauty and Alberta, who lost her battle with breast cancer, but left a song in our hearts. Betty agreed to host the party at her warm and spacious home and Alberta agreed to be co-host and caterer. Bashert said she would take care of the invitations. I just looked on and said, “Yes, dear” a lot.

When it came time to register for stuff, I often felt really silly and uncomfortable trying to decide what things other people could buy for us. I am not an ‘ask for’ kind of person. It made me uneasy, but we knew that we could not provide many of even the most basic things we needed for the baby after Bashert lost her job, so unless I wanted the kiddo to sleep in a drawer and wear only white t-shirts I had to get over it and accept the kindness of our friends and family.

I am big enough to admit that once I got over the idea of asking people for things, it was fun going to the baby store to register. It had been 16 years since I was into any baby items and I was amazed at the sheer number of items now available. There literally was enough stuff to fill a warehouse sized store.

Bashert and I wandered up and down those aisles for the longest time looking at the tiny little clothes and accoutrements that one could fill a nursery with – baby wipe warmers, cart covers, monitors, magic diaper disposal systems, any kind of lotion you could ever want – it was enough to make my head spin. For goodness sake, I used cloth diapers for Nene!

After we played with everything, we sat down and figured out what we thought we would need and just registered for those things. The theme we both loved was John Lennon’s Imagine animal prints. It was just off center enough for two artists and the song lyrics really sat well with us, too. We still have the little diaper bag someone gave us. It holds socks now instead of diapers and bottles.

The shower itself was wonderful. Every single person we invited showed up! Either they were just curious as to what a lesbian baby shower would be like or we can pick some good friends. I like the think the latter, although we did get some looks for the pregnant lady cake…which was awesome and delicious, by the way. The weather was perfect, the setting warm and welcoming, the food was fabulous, the company fun, and the gifts were a plentiful and much, much appreciated bounty. Those two lovely ladies pulled off a celebration that made our hearts ache with joy.

All the adversities we had suffered up to that point kind of melted away that day. Our friends and family members made such special efforts for us (and that includes Nene as recipient, too). We may have been “the girls”, but that day we were also just another couple having a baby and celebrating with friends. And that my friends was just ducky.

http://wp.me/p1Bz9K-12 – Alberta 🙂

http://wp.me/p1Bz9K-cN – Betty 🙂

Boy Parts?: Baby Chapter 11

J&ENow that our house had grown by one for sure, it was time to see how many more might be joining us in the next nine months. Bashert had to brace herself for another vaginal sonogram. This time though we were going to our doctor on our terms.

From the get-go Dr. OBwan was in our corner all the way. There was never a question that I was part of this whole thing. I was the other parent, period. You cannot imagine the feeling of breathing that free air. It was simply incredible.

The day of the sonogram, I was nervous. Bashert had been through such horrible circumstances during her previous exam and I was afraid for her. And I was admittedly nervous to see if we were going to see more than one baby in there.

OBwan couldn’t have been more gentle and understanding. Now the procedure was still uncomfortable for Bashert, but there was no pain, no clinching, no terrified gasps. I was vibrating with happiness. I think at one point, Bashert had to ask me to settle down. I have to tell you it is a lot easier to be excited when you are not the one in the stirrups with your feet in the air and bum exposed to the world.

The sonogram revealed that we were having just one. Although I questioned a dark spot next to the little fluttering thing on the screen, OBwan assured me that it was not another baby. I was a little bit disappointed, but still overjoyed to see the tiny dancing blob on the screen. Back in the dark ages when I was pregnant with Nenè, these exams were not routine, so I did not get to see her image until she was about four months along. This was really cool.

It was a stinking relief to leave a doctor’s office with joy instead of heartache. Bashert couldn’t help but share it with our world, damn all the superstitions. She figured if anything were to happen she wanted as much support as possible and how was she to have that if no one knew what was going on. Hard logic to fight.

One sticking point between us was finding out the sex of the baby. I generally do not like surprises, they cause too much expectation on both the surpriser and the surprisee, but in this situation, I had a case of the old-fashions. I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby until he or she came into the world. Bashert on the other hand wanted to know right away. But we are talking about the woman, whose mother had to do triple security on all gifts so that Bashert, the child would not pre-open them. She cannot stand the lure of a wrapped package. “Do not open until Chanukah” she does not understand.

She finally convinced me to go along with the idea when she told me about her dream/visit with her Mom. Her mom passed away when Bashert was 15, but has remained a guiding voice throughout Bashert’s life. So when she told me that her mom had spoken to her about our “son” and mentioned several specific things about him, she got me to relinquish. We would find out.

The opportunity for the big reveal arrived at 12 weeks. Bashert was all excited to sit in the waiting room with all the other pregnant women. I don’t think the excitement of her condition had once left her (except maybe when all she could eat was crackers and drink ginger ale – yeah, that wasn’t fun). She was happy that she was finally showing and could take her place among the visibly pregnant.

Like with everything else, we had done some homework about what we would see on this sonogram. We used to spend hours in the local Borders Bookstore pouring over the baby books to see what was going with the developmental stages of this week or that month. These were some of the things I missed out on when I had Nenè, so I was enjoying this second chance. Anyway, we knew that developmentally, the baby was pretty much all there – it would be much more than just a dancing blob this go around.

We had also asked around about our sonographer. We wanted to make sure that we were going to get a good reading and that like OBwan, she would be accepting of our family. After being burned so many times at the infertility clinic, we tended to get a bit paranoid about each new person involved. We did not have to worry about this sonographer a bit. She worked from inside the offices where OBwan practiced and her reputation as one of the best in town had been confirmed by multiple sources. OBwan herself, vouched for her professionalism. Yay for us.

I keep repeating this, but it really was a relief to be in OBwan’s care. So much so, that it allowed us to be silly again. Those of you who are devotees of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” will appreciate what happened next.

The entire suite that houses OBwan’s offices is quite large (there are over 10 doctors in all). It occupies about one third of an entire hospital floor and the hallways in the back leading to the exam rooms are quite the labyrinth. You have to be led to your respective room or get lost without a map. So when Bashert’s name was called we knew we were in for a little trek, but what we weren’t prepared for was the appearance of the sonographer.

She was as solid as she was tall and completely expressionless. She checked her clipboard for some unknown data and then turned with that fateful phrase – wait for it – “Walk this way.” I swear, I could not help myself. Igor appeared within me. As I hunched and dragged myself down the hall behind the unaware woman, I thought Bashert was going to punch me in the arm, but she couldn’t even if she tried because she was giggling too hard. Wow, did it feel good to laugh again.

The sonogram was awesome. The little bugger in there was magnificent. Sonograms are difficult to distinguish for me, but with the aid of the expert I was able to discern all those lovely parts that were supposed to be there. It was so funny to see the outline of the baby’s facial profile. All I could see was the distinct Bashert family resemblance in the nose area. It made me smile.

After the sonographer had taken all the measurements and said all looked okay, she asked the question of questions, “Is there anything else you want to know?” Bashert looked at me and I at her and we both took a breath and said yes. I asked to know the sex of the baby. No going back now.

I watched the monitor with my breath held. I had my own worries about having a boy – the difficulties he may have with having two moms, the unknown of raising a boy instead of a girl, and a myriad of others I cannot even recall now. Bashert was in a private place waiting to hear if her mother’s words would show true.

When the sonogram wand hit the right spot, there was no doubt. “It” was a boy. We were going to have a son! I whispered to Bashert to look at the screen. Tears began to leak out and in a quiet voice she asked if what she saw was really what she saw. When the sonographer confirmed that it was indeed a “boy part” (her phrase), the tears really began to flow. I told Bashert, “Yes, it’s a boy. Your Mom was right!”

Well, between me talking about Bashert’s mom and all the tears, the sonographer finally showed some emotion: nervousness. She got the completely wrong idea about what was going on. She thought we were upset that the baby was a boy! We laughingly told her of Bashert’s dream and mother’s predictions and her apprehensions about us disappeared. She handed us our first photos of our son and we were on our smiling way.

OBwan met with us briefly after that – another wonderful experience and I can finally say that without a hint of sarcasm. She congratulated us (imagine that!) and laid out the plan for the rest of Bashert’s prenatal care. Our frightening and fabulous journey was back on track.

At least for the time being.

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.

We Need to Break Up (or I’m going to prison): Baby Chpt. 9

J&ESince Bashert, and then I  began writing about our journey toward parenthood people have asked us why we didn’t just report the infertility clinic and Dr. Lizardo. The answer is a plain and yet complicated one: Fear.

We are a lesbian couple. Now to many fair-minded folks that may be a nonissue anymore, but remember our story takes place 10 years ago when it was not quite so chic to be out and proud. Oh, sure we were affectionately known in our neighborhood as “the girls,” but in our other social and professional circles we were made to feel outcast. We lost friends after coming out to the world. There were still iffy situations within our respective families. There was my government job where Bashert had to remain known as my “roommate.” There were many in our religious community that, at the time, treated us as pariahs – they avoided close contact, as if we had some kind of contagious disease. The medical community we had to deal with did not accept “us” and we had to use subterfuge in order to get what is was we needed.

We were scared of losing it all. Bashert was afraid that she would be found out and denied service. We were afraid we would have to go to some half-baked quack (the actual infertility doctor was very well qualified) or travel such distances that we could not financially afford, as others of our “tribe” had to do.

Were we naive? Yes. Were we blinded by fear? Yes. Would we do the same thing again? Not knowing what we know now, of course not, but at the time it was all we could do to hold on and move inch by inch toward our final goal – having a baby.

So, with that being said, I am glad to announce that after the blood test came back positive that Bashert truly was pregnant, we were able to break free from the infertility clinic. It was not a clean break by any means. They took what should have been one of the most joyous times of our lives and continued to interject fear and worry into Bashert’s mind.

The clinic nurse had called with the “official” results of the blood test, but after letting Bashert know she was indeed pregnant at the moment, her hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin – wow, huh?) levels were uncomfortably “high.” They wanted her to come in as soon as possible to be checked out, after all, she was a high risk pregnancy. Read that as, more blood testing and vaginal sonograms. What the hell? I was getting ready to do bodily harm to someone at that place.

I could see Bashert getting more and more upset and when she told me all of this, I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore – not the pettiness of the money grubbing – not the emotional and physical torture they put her through – not the idea that these people wanted to control our very lives for another nine months. I told Bashert we just needed to call our own doctor and get some kind of straight talk and get the freaking hell out of Dodge. We had what we wanted, now let’s get some real help.

Our OB/GYN’ staff was absolutely wonderful! For the first time since all of this started I saw genuine pleasure in Bashert’s countenance. Our nurse explained in delighted detail just exactly what the high hCG levels meant (I almost fainted at this one) – it could be an indicator of multiple birth! It didn’t mean that Bashert had entered some high risk category of imminent spontaneous abortion. What a relief to talk to someone who actually sounded pleased at the insemination’s outcome. We set up some appointments and took a big sigh – we could really kiss that nuthouse goodbye.

Bashert was armed and ready when the nurse called back from the infertility clinic. As the woman rattled off the appointment date for the next blood letting and assault, Bashert calmly interrupted the woman and said “we” would no longer be in need of their services. She thanked the woman, but said “we” had made other arrangements with “our” regular doctor. From the sound of it, the nurse was not happy with this, but Bashert stood her ground and hung up.

I don’t think I have ever been so happy to break up with anyone as I was at that moment.

Now, what was that about having more than one?

Stop Peeing on the Damn Sticks Already: Baby Chpt. 8

J&ENever buy pregnancy test kits before the requisite two week waiting period.

Many of the kits advertise that they are the ones with the earliest detection times – “Our test can detect pregnancy one day after your missed period.” What they fail to mention is that is still two weeks after insemination – artificial or not. But to Bashert, early meant early, as in right away. She was driving herself (and me) crazy peeing on those damn sticks. Every time it would fail to show the smiley face, she would slump just knowing that she was not pregnant then she would do it again the next day. I finally just had to get rid of them – for both our sanity.

As the years weeks of waiting dragged on…Bashert began to notice that our animals were acting strange around her, more than usual and in a different way that is (All of our animals seem to come with some neurotic misfirings). The dogs were suddenly more protective and the cats, well, here’s a bit of TMI for you – the cats loved to roll in her underwear! They would pull it out of the dirty clothes and just roll. I love my cats, but they are freaky little things. Was our strange menagerie giving us an animal kingdom head’s up?

Finally the two weeks were up, I could safely put out the pregnancy tests again. Bashert was beside herself with anticipation. I’m not sure which night was worse, the night before insemination or the one before she could possibly get a real reading from the damn pee-stick. So early that Saturday morning, yes another laundry day, Bashert got up as late and as early as she could so that the test could be taken with what was considered her “first voiding” of the morning.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that one. I can only imagine the 3600 things bouncing around in her head that morning.

I was still dozing in bed when I heard MaLea calling my name. I jumped up and ran the full three feet to the bathroom. There I found two smiling faces; one big smile on Bashert’s face and another tiny one on a little white stick. I was in shock. I’ll be damned if the thing wasn’t showing her as pregnant. The insemination worked!

I asked her a billion questions to make sure she had followed all the instructions to the T. I didn’t want it to seem that I doubted her capabilities of peeing on a stick, I just wanted to make sure that all the required protocol was followed so that we had a true result (don’t judge, remember the cutting in line episode, she wasn’t known for following all the rules). The truth of the matter washed over me and I could feel the warmth of joy spread throughout my body. We were going to have a baby! What a Chanukah present!

The fly in the ointment remained the stupid infertility clinic. Bashert had been instructed to call them if and when she got a positive response at home. So here we were on another Saturday, forced to call the on-call nurse. Oh, joy. After what seemed from my vantage to be a much more snippy version of what I had asked, Bashert said she had to go in on Monday and have a blood test done to confirm the findings for sure. Much in the vein of Dr. Lizardo, the nurse had gone off on how next to impossible it was for a woman to get pregnant on the first go round and that all the different hormone levels needed to be checked to make sure the pregnancy was in fact true and the fetus was viable. Viable?

Two hours earlier, Bashert and I were dancing on air and in one fell swoop another minion of that cursed infertility clinic had dashed us to the earth. I had really begun to hate that place. Once again, I was put in the place to try and alleviate the fears creeping back into our lives. That’s me – comic relief central.

Monday finally rolled around and I was hating it. I wanted to be there with Bashert for this step too, but my morning job didn’t have any flexibility to it. We only had the one car so Bashert had drop me off at work before heading over to the blood lab to have her blood drawn. As we pulled into the parking lot, she began to get upset. After all of our discussions over the weekend, I thought she was upset about the prospects of the pee-stick smiley face telling a lie. I began to try and tell her that things would work out the way that was best and we can’t be sure of anything and so and so on. A strange look came over her face and she finally interrupted me to let me know it wasn’t about whether or not she was pregnant, but that she was scared sh*tless about having to be stuck with a needle! I thought I would bust a gut laughing.

After all the crap she had been through already to get to this point, she was afraid of the blood test? Even she had to laugh at that point. At least we parted in a good humor that morning. She took off for the blood lab and I went in to work to wait out whatever the results were going to be.

It was hard to concentrate at work that day. There were only two phones in the locale of my position at the time. One was on my immediate supervisor’s desk and the other slap in the middle of the work floor – a phone call was not going to happen (these were our no cell phone days). I had to wait for Bashert to physically return. The day dragged on and on for me. I couldn’t believe it was taking so long to get a simple blood test. Did they really have to go kill a rabbit?

Finally, I got a call from the front office that someone was here to see me. It was about an hour before I was to get off. That meant she had been gone four hours! When I walked out into the lobby all I could see was Bashert crying. Oh, no, the damn clinic was right! She wasn’t pregnant after all.

Now Bashert seems to recall that I began to speak again, waxing philosophically about how it will happen when it supposed to happen and all that. I don’t remember talking that much at all. I just remember a lot of crying and then her finally spitting out the words that we were pregnant. It took a minute for the words to actually register. I went from crushed to elated in such a short span my brain couldn’t keep up. She actually said, “We’re pregnant!” And that rat had me thinking it had all been for naught. Always, always an adventure with this one.

We were having a baby.

Back Alleys & Laundry Day: Chapter 7

J&ENovember 16th – a dark, damp morning with a misty rain drizzling out of stone-grey clouds. It was a day made more for crawling back under the covers than for jumping out to greet it with joy. This was especially true after having spent a long rather fitful night of nail biting, but Bashert was up before dawn too excited to stay in bed any longer.

You know the saying about having something burning a hole in your pocket? That was Bashert. She was more than ready to bolt out the door and storm the doors of the clinic at sunrise. It took some convincing to hold her back. Our appointment with the infertility clinic wasn’t until 8:30 and we lived only a few minutes away.

Bashert had made arrangements for me to come with her on insemination day – as a friend. The ID had no problem with this at all. Finally, I was going to be allowed to participate! And on the THE DAY.  The knowledge that she had to go through all the previous stuff alone was frustrating and frankly hurtful. I wanted to be there every step of the way for the creation of our child and to support Bashert the best I could. It meant the world to me to be able to be there on creation day.

When we both could stand the tension no longer, we loaded into our car and made our way downtown. According to the on-call nurse, the clinic had moved into temporary digs while the main offices were being renovated. (With all the damn money they were soaking out of everyone, I guess they had to spend it somewhere – but that’s different part of the story). We had the address, but it took a minute to find the place. It was tucked behind another building.

There are some sensory things that will always stay with you, sights, smells, sounds. One of several things I will never forget from that day was the sound of the loose gravel under the car wheels as we pulled into the parking lot. The crunching and grinding permeated my senses as we cruised the perimeter looking for any signage to tell us we really were in the right place. It was a very strange feeling.

I recognized the strip of connected offices. This was the former location of my ophthalmologist’s office way back in the 70s. It had been old then. Now it looked dilapidated and abandoned. The old veneered doors were weathered and stained. With the gloom of the drizzly rain and overcast skies, the whole vibe of the area gave the aura of a gritty film noir. Trying to find the right office was a warped Burtonesque version of “Let’s Make a Deal” – guess what’s behind door number two, Monty. There was still no official signage to be found. We didn’t know if door number two held the temporary office of the infertility clinic or a guy with a machete ready to do away with us in a most unpleasant manner.

Only by slowly checking out each door did I happen to see a piece of paper stuck to one of the doors. It was a simple 8.5 x 10 piece of paper with nothing but the address typed on it. No name, no hours, no indication that anyone was currently occupying the offices. The creep factor just kept on rising. Nothing like two scared women roaming a deserted parking lot downtown in the early winter morning.  I started wondering who would play me in the movie of the week.

Given that this was the only indication that life may exist among this cluster of offices, we  took a breath and tried the door: locked. Bashert noticed a little sign next to the door that asked us to, “Please ring the bell”. By this time I would not have been surprised to see the guy from the Wizard of Oz poke out his head and cry, “Who rang that bell?” But instead a normal, average woman peered out from behind the curtain covering the tall thin window next to the door. She spoke through the glass and asked us to wait a moment.

Sure, no problem. We’ll just hang out here in the creepy abandoned parking lot, in the rain, waiting patiently, still not quite positive if we are in the right place or not. Good times.

When the woman finally opened the door, she confirmed that this was indeed the clinic. The woman pleasantly took Bashert’s name and information, confirmed her appointment – “You are early” and asked if the $500 dollars was going to be cash, check or card and oh, yeah, reconfirmed that Dr. Lizardo was, in fact, the on-call doctor. Talk about a set up for wham, bam, thank you ma’am.  It just kept getting better.

After the woman took the credit card, which was by the way in my name – some friend, eh? – it was hurry up and wait time, again. You see, not only did we have to wait for Dr. Lizardo to show up (far be it from her to be there at the appointed time on off hours), but the specimen had to be prepared. It had to be thawed, washed, spin cycled and whatever else had to be done to make ready for the IUI procedure.

The inside of the office did not offer much to buoy our spirits about the place. The lobby decor was early threadbare carpets, washed out wood paneling and the stale smell of a place left long empty. Cardboard boxes filled all open areas. The entire office gave off a the feel of a back alley practitioner’s secret lair.

There wasn’t much to do while waiting, Bashert and I were only friends after all, so it is not like we could discuss future plans or I hold her close help soothe her worries. So we flipped through magazines and watched the clock move through sludge. Finally, the door to the back opened and Dr. Lizardo called Bashert’s name. I could feel the electric panic run through Bashert.

Dr. Lizardo seemed confused and disturbed to find me accompanying Bashert. I thought to myself, what the hell was this woman’s problem? What difference did it make if a patient brought someone with her to help her through a very intimate and nerve wracking experience? Did she have the same reaction to women who brought their husband’s? I tried to catch Bashert’s eye to give her the raised eyebrow, “What the hell?”, but she was already beginning to zone out and take herself away from the circumstances she was facing. Cannot say I blame her one bit.

The doctor’s demeanor was cold and unwelcoming, the hallway we were led down was claustrophobic inducing, with boxes crowding the walkway. The exam room we were shown to was equally as stuffed. Boxes and files filled the corners and all flat surfaces, there was barely enough room left for the exam table, one chair and the doctor. The walls were the same age bleached wood and the floors were crappy stained linoleum. All of this was not confidence inspiring to say the least.

The doctor instructed Bashert get undressed, put on the ubiquitous and fashionable exam gown and get on the table then she left. It was a bit of a relief to have her out of the room. I knew that if I was nervous, Bashert must be triply so, after all, I wasn’t the one on the table. I tried to lighten the mood a bit by joking about what earth they could actually be storing in all these boxes and why they would need to be in such a dilapidated facility. We laughed nervously in fits and starts trying to fill the nervous silences.

When the doctor returned with all the accoutrements to perform the procedure, to say the woman lacked any kind of bedside manner would be a gross overstatement. Bashert tried to engage her in some kind of conversation, asking her where she was from, desperately trying to find some sort of common ground to break this cold and distant woman’s attitude. Nothing seemed to penetrate this woman’s shell. It got even worse as we went along. My brain was spinning – “this is a doctor”?

After the doctor had prepared the syringe to do the insemination, she turned as if ready to move ahead with the procedure. Instead, she went into a diatribe about how far fetched the odds were to getting pregnant on the first attempt and how low a motile sperm count our donor had (I knew this was untrue, I did the research before hand). I wanted to reach across the table and throttle the damn woman. How dare she do this? How dare she? I kept my temper under control only for Bashert’s sake, as she had started to cry. I didn’t care what that bitch doctor thought right now, I took Bashert’s hand to give whatever little support I could offer.

As I took Bashert’s hand, Dr. Lizardo inserted the syringe and Bashert’s entire body clinched and leapt up with pain. I looked daggers at the doctor and could barely constrain myself from ripping her arm away from Bashert as I asked if she was okay. Dr. Lizardo must have finally sensed that she was pushing it because she deemed me fit to speak to. She said that all was okay, that Bashert’s cervix was just contracting in response to the insemination. “It happens,” she said. (Bullshit, it is not supposed to hurt or cause pain – this doctor was full of shit.)

Watching Bashert lie there was the hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life. I wanted to kill that doctor, and fling her from the room, but I knew Bashert would have cried out against the interruption of the procedure. She would rather face the pain than give up our chances of having a baby.

After the procedure was complete, the doctor told Bashert that she needed to stay lying down for 20 minutes and then left the room again stating she would return when time was up. We were ready to bolt from the room immediately, but made ourselves stay. I chanted positive things and gave Bashert’s tummy a good luck Buddha massage, trying to pass on what ever positive energy I could.

I was leaning over Bashert, whispering words of encouragement when Dr. Lizardo returned. The look she shot me is another thing I will never forget. It was only an instant but it was if she truly hated me for being there. I can still see the narrowing of her eyes and then her face freeze into a neutral, but distain filled expression. We were dismissed.

We emerged from that surreal back alley to find that the rain had stopped. We hugged each other in relief both for the weather break and the fact we were out of there. Then a thought popped into my head. I told Bashert that everything was going to be okay, I just – knew it. I said if things had gone smoothly then it would not be us – everything she did was a wild ride one way or another!

The rest of the day was delicately and surreally mundane. We relaxed around the house watching t.v. and doing little household chores, it was after all Saturday – laundry day.

The Surge: My Baby Story Version, Chpt. 6

J&ENow that we had a donor, the waiting game began again.

Bashert is not the most patient person in the best of times. She hates to wait. Oh, does she hate to wait.

Once we traveled to North Carolina to see the Highland Games that are held on top of Grandfather Mountain – a real mountain, mind you. The road up is quite steep and twisty, so the organization holding the event had arranged for bus ferries up and down the mountain. When we were through with our visit to the games, we walked out and faced a half mile long line to board the bus down the mountain. I sighed and accepted the slow progression of shuffling forward foot by foot, but Bashert? Oh, no, this would not do.

Before I knew it we were out of line and meandering up toward the loading zone. As we got to the front, Bashert began conversing with a family as if she were picking up a conversation just left off. The family chatted back, as comfortable with this relationship as Bashert seemed to be. Now, knowing that Bashert had ties to the Scottish game community through her bagpipes playing days, I thought this may be a family she knew. We continued the conversation and eased our way on to the next bus, probably a good thirty minutes before we would have had we stayed in line.

As we took our seats, I turned to ask Bashert who those people were. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I have no idea.” I guess I must have blanched because she then added with a big smile, “But we’re on the bus aren’t we?”

Like I said, she hates to wait. So waiting for something pretty much totally out of her control, say the surge of ovulation, was excruciating torture. She thinks I didn’t notice, but I think she must have tested every single day that month in hopes that she could will it to happen on her schedule.

The Friday morning it actually did happened you would have thought Ed McMahon rang our doorbell. Bashert woke me from a sound sleep (two jobs remember?) shouting, “I’m surging, I’m surging!” and dancing around the bathroom holding the test stick. After realizing what was happening and it wasn’t just a panic attack about a bug in the bathroom again, my heart kind of stopped. The same terrified and joyous feeling I had when we chose the donor came over me. This was it; the ball was really rolling.

We shook ourselves out our happy stupor and managed to call the clinic. Our joy was short-lived.  The call to the clinic revealed that once “the surge” began, we had to wait 24 hours for the optimal time to perform the insemination. That meant 24 hours more of anxious waiting and a Saturday appointment. Bashert was not a happy camper.

I was privy to some of the anxiety producing situations Bashert was going through, but I didn’t know the full extent until much later – some not until she began to write her story – so, her extra heightened state of distress about having the insemination on a Saturday confused me. Being upset about the wait I could understand, but I just couldn’t see the big deal about Saturday. I thought the timing was great since I wouldn’t have to call into work and we could spend the whole day together.

Slow dawning came about when she finally told me that because the insemination would be done outside of a regular office day, the on-call doctor would do the procedure. The on call doctor that weekend: Dr. Lizardo.

Who’s Your Daddy (sorta): Baby Story Chpt. 5

J&EWe don’t all have access to a willing rock legend, so choosing a donor who will contribute half the genetic material to your child is no easy task. You wouldn’t believe the sorts of things you have to wade through.

I sifted through all the informational literature, testimonials, videos and price guides to finally come up with a cryogenics bank that suited our parameters – ethical, genetic testing, IUI ready secret sauce, anonymous donors and price.  Once that was settled, I was able to start concentrating on finding the perfect donor again.

We had already discussed what our ideals were. Since Bashert was to be the one who carried, we wanted to find someone with more of my features, colouring, etc. But I have to tell you, once I got into the website and saw the different combinations I could come up with, it was like playing with an electronic paper doll. Let me see…green eyes, black hair, medium complexion. No, no…blue eyes, curly hair, ears that don’t attach at the bottom and left handed. Scot/Irish heritage?  Latino? No problem, throw in a foreign language? sure thing…

Another thing to get through was the donor levels. Who knew that sperm came in economy, standard and premium?And for goodness sake let’s not forget the washed and unwashed states. As Bashert is want to say, “Oh, vey!”

Economy, just as it sounds, was the lowest level of sperm available. That sounds kind of bad, doesn’t it? Lowest level – like they should be hanging out on the street corner trying to push drugs to unsuspecting kids or something. No, these poor unwashed masses were simply those donors who had only limited genetic testing, no college education recorded and the other documented donor information was a bit skimpy. These were the guys that donated before the heavier standards were in place for this particular cryo bank. There was a sort of a “you pays yo’ money and takes yo’ chances” kind of feel to these donors. It may have been perfectly lovely sperm, but most of this bargain-basement special sauce did not come IUI ready and we wanted a bit more for our future child.

The next level up was the standard class, I think the group was actually tagged as the name of the cryo bank, sort of  the “Sperm R Us” donors. These were the young guys just starting out in life, but working toward something, undergraduate degree, next level management, that sort of thing. They had been accepted into the program after the more stringent testing began. They recorded more extensive medical and familial records. A few even had baby or childhood photos and a recorded interview. But with this added measure of security and intel came a jump in price. In 2002, an IUI ready vial of special sauce at this level was around $250 a pop (so to speak).

The crème-de-la-crème of the special sauce was the premium standard for this bank. Called the graduate level, this category was for the eggheads – no pun intended. To be in this club, the special sauce must have been cooked up by gentlemen with no less than a Master’s and preferably a PhD. That level of education was really all that separated the wheat from the chaff. The items available to share about the donor were all the same. Bashert and I weren’t prepared (or able) to pay upwards of $400 a vial just for the “dahctah”.

Remember, Bashert was working for a private diner’s club, but only making minimum wage – back then that was $5.15 an hour. I was working two part time jobs, one that paid minimum wage and had a set 20 hours a week and one that paid about $8 an hour for around 30 hours a week. The bankroll was not fat cheddar. We would have to pay outright for the sauce, storage, transportation, and insemination. The only thing covered under insurance was the testing – and that turned out to be a sore spot later.

So, with our picky protocols and shallow pockets, we like Baby Bear, selected the level we felt most comfortable with – “Sperm R Us”.

Once I was done playing genetic dress-up, I got down to brass tacks and began looking in earnest. Bashert’s clock was ticking toward her next ovulation and after the assault she suffered at the hands of Dr. Lizardo, we wanted to move through this stage as soon as possible.

It was frustrating. Time and time again, I would think this was the one only to read a little further into it and discover that schizophrenia ran in his family (yeah, we were really surprised that one made it on the list, too) or that there was rampant heart disease on his father’s side. As time grew nearer, I was seriously beginning to think about lowering our standards some in order to make this happen.

But then one afternoon, I was back at the computer and a new number popped up under my descriptive search. Green/blue eyes, medium complexion, dark hair, correct blood type…so, I opened his file to read more. Oh, hey, curly hair – Bashert would like that…a little on the short side, but that’s okay – good things come in small packages & I’m not exactly a basketball player either, getting his bachelor’s degree, likes team sports & art, absolutely clear medical record and family history until this caught my eye: uncle died in Holocaust…wait a minute…grandfather perished from injuries sustained in Holocaust…wait just a dang gone minute here…are we talking Jewish?

We had purposely not searched for Jewish donors. Since we were able to be choosy we didn’t want to possibly reintroduce diseases that run in the Ashkenazi gene pool. But as I read down this guy’s list of publicly available information, he fit the bill in every category we had decided on. The more I looked, the more excited I got. I called Bashert over to the computer.

I read off all the information I had gathered and then…ta da…revealed that he was all that and a bag of bagel chips! You would think we were at a Chippendales’ show they way we were oohing and awing over this guy’s profile. We were so taken that we decided right then and there to order the “extras’ so that we could get the fullest scoop we could. The extras included a personal profile he had written and a childhood photo. Yes, we knew it was more money out of our pockets, but I think we both knew this was the one. The essay was nice; he came across as a good guy, but what truthfully sealed the deal? The photo.

Now, I searched and searched for a match for my physical characteristics/interests and that criteria is what this guy came up under, but people when that childhood photo slowly revealed itself (we were on dial-up, so it took forever!), fractal line, by fractal line there in all her male gender identity sat Bashert. The kid could have been Bashert’s brother! I actually looked at her and asked, “Your Dad used to be a traveling salesman, right?” It was uncanny.

At that moment, we knew we had found the one. We went to the phone and began the arrangements. We had enough saved up for two vials of special sauce and the extras we had ordered. We had our ducks in a row with all the physician paperwork completed in advance, so all we had to do was set up an account, tell them what we wanted, hand over the credit card number and voilà! we would be set to move into the next phase of this story: insemination.

My friends, as joy filled as the moment was, it was also absolutely terrifying.