insemination

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?

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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.

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.

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.