marriage equality

Never Hide Again

Pride balloons        As this day, this “National Coming Out” day comes to a close here in America. I am reminded of something Bashert and I promised ourselves about 16 years ago; we will never hide again.

You see, Bashert’s first ‘real’ job after graduating from college was teaching art at a local, private high school. Thing is, this private high school was also a Catholic school, complete with their very own nun and moral turpitude contract clauses. Bashert could not reveal the fact that not only was she living in ‘sin’, she was also living in sin with a woman. So, for the first year of our relationship, we lived in hiding.

Every morning before Bashert left for work, she took the ring off her finger. It broke my heart each time. We were careful not to be seen too close together when out and about town. There was many a time I took off for other parts when one of her students or their parents were spotted. Even as far away as Atlanta, we had to watch out. We ran into a student of hers up there in a jewelry store, of all places. We became professional level dodgers.

Why did we do this? Fear. Bashert was our only means of support. I was still in school with no job. Our livelihood depended upon her livelihood and she could be fired for being openly gay.

After a year of this exhausting life in the closet, Bashert said she didn’t want to hide anymore. She couldn’t stand all the avoiding and having to take a ‘beard’ (false male date) to school functions. So, we quietly began living our lives in the open. Well, sort of. She still took her ring off and I just became an unnamed entity in Bashert’s life: her unspoken partner, her ‘friend’. I attended fund raisers and didn’t leave her side when kids or their parents came up to her. I helped with community projects and we attended Pride festivities in Atlanta. We went to dinners with other faculty. Some knew our relationship, others chose not to acknowledge it and others didn’t like it a bit.

What did this cost us? The least thing was a keyed car. The biggest thing was her job. At the end of that school year, the principal stated that there wasn’t enough money to continue the art program. They were cutting back and didn’t need a full time art teacher for the next year. Her contract was not renewed. Next fall, the art program was suddenly back on – with another teacher.

It was that year, we told ourselves no more hiding. If we lived in the closet and shamed ourselves, how were we to expect others to treat us with any dignity or understanding? How could be expect my daughter to accept us as the family we were if we didn’t set the example? We decided then and there to just be us. No fancy or dramatic coming outs, no topless marching in the Pride parade (although eventually I did get to ride in the Dykes on Bikes segment thanks to some very good friends who owned motorcycles at the time). Nope, we just went about our lives as matter of fact. And for the most part it was okay and became more and more natural as we practiced what we preached.

The only other time we shied away from the full truth was when I went to work. I got a part time job at the local library. I didn’t really go back into hiding or so I told myself: Bashert and I continued to live in the open outside of my job, I just didn’t talk about it at work.

This was my second time working at the county library, the first being 20 years earlier and with many of the same people. From what they knew, I was no different from that young student, except a good bit older and greyer. As said, I didn’t talk about my present outside life.

I worked there two years before the rumours and comments began. Of course, a lot of it probably had to do with the timing of Yoda’s birth. Not many ‘roommates’ get that excited about the other roommate’s pregnancy and birth. I took my vacation around Yoda’s birth for goodness sake and kept a picture of Bashert and him on my desk – not so subtle.

One coworker kept dropping the hint that she loved watching the HBO show “Queer As Folk”. If I hadn’t been so exhausted from now working two part time jobs and having a newborn and a teenager in the house, I might have recognized an ally, but I was pretty blind.

Another coworker, actually, my boss at the time kept making side comments as to how she was grossed out by seeing two women kiss on television. These were never made quite in my full presence, but as I was passing through the room or loud enough so that I could hear them through the doors in my area next to hers. I got that picture.

Why didn’t I stand up? Why didn’t I fight back? One reason alone – fear. At this point, I was the sole means of support. I needed my two part time jobs and I lived in a state and worked for a county government where I was not protected under the law. I could be fired for being gay. Money won out, plain and simple.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a full time position at my other job not too long after Yoda was born. At that job, I was protected under their anti-discrimination policies. I said goodbye to library and the last time I ever avoided the truth of my family.

Bashert and I reaffirmed our stance with each other after my stint at the library. No job was worth lying about ourselves even if it was by omission. Yoda and Nene would not know parents who were together, yet separate. We were a family and took our place in the world.

For the last ten of almost 18 years, Bashert and I have just lived our lives, no fanfare, no dramatics, just matter of fact. We are lucky. Despite a few, short rough patches in other family relationships and our initial forays in the job market, we have met with few who deny our place. Yoda’s school and friends know he has two moms. Nene has grown proud of her relationship with Bashert and considers her a stepmom of the best character. My job continues to support and expand their anti-discrimination policies and Bashert is now a substitute teacher for the same government that could have fired me ten years ago.

It did get better and we have kept our promise to each other; we will never hide again.

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Hello. My Name is Epidural. My Water has Broken. Prepare to Birth: Baby Chpt. 16, Part I

J&EThe five minute ride to the hospital is a blur. I do remember slowing to a roll to let Bashert and Nenè off at the front door, peeling off to the parking garage and then running, yes, running back to the hospital. Back then I was a good 30, 40, okay, 50 pounds lighter and could well, you know, run. Even still, I was out of breath and sweating like a glass of iced tea by the time I finally located them up on the third floor triage area in a curtained off area.

Now as our luck would have it, Todd and Marge Chester arrived at the hospital at the same time as Bashert and Nenè were entering. Apparently the ride up in the elevator was quite the hoot (see bashert04 on the side link for her telling). I got to experience the latter part of that comedy of errors.

When I arrived on the triage floor, Bashert was in obvious pain and dripping wet. Mrs. Chester – Margo – on the other hand was bright and cheerful, flitting about chirping to everyone that she just knew her water had broken. I got a good look at Margo. She was tall and thin and wearing skinny designer jeans with high heeled boots. The thought of pregnancy had not even crossed her body’s mind yet.

Triage Nurse was in the common area passing on information in a loud stage whisper. “Mrs. Chester in exam area one is here because her water has broken. Ms. Bedlam-Smith in exam area two thinks her water has broken.” That was it for Bashert. All the anxiety and pain lifted any filters she had left at that point. She grabbed my hand and said in a very not whisper, “Thinks? She ‘thinks’ her water broke? I’ve got Niagara Falls between my legs and I ‘think’ my water broke?” Momma-to-be was not a happy camper. This did not bode well for our rapidly approaching birthing experience.

We could hear Triage Nurse making nice with the Chesters. “Let’s get you checked out, okay, Honey?” For crying out loud even I could see that Margo was dry as a bone and looked less pregnant than I did! Meanwhile, as they were checking out dear Margo, poor Bashert was lying on the exam table shivering, sodden and scared. All I could do was be with her and try to take her mind off of things until the doctor arrived.

I heard Triage Nurse start in with her stage whisper again explaining the various states of the women on the floor. When she got to Bashert, she again said, “She thinks her water has broken.” This time Bashert did not hold back at all, “Will you stop saying that! I don’t think my water has broken; I know my water has broken!” I could hear the bass voice of the doctor quietly responding to Triage Nurse. Thank goodness he finally got there. It did not take long after to get things straightened out as to who was actually birthing a baby that night. The doctor sent Todd and Margo off into the night to ponder how many stock options they could wrangle before their next dry run at childbirth.

You will notice that I used the pronoun “he” in reference to the doctor. Please recall that OBwan warned us that she would be out of town over the weekend. What night was this? Right. Saturday night equaled no OBwan. Bashert and I had joked early on about the “lesbians” ending up with a drop-dead gorgeous doctor on call when she went into labor. Guess what – the doctor on call that  weekend turned out to be the living, blue-eyed embodiment of Ken. Even through her pain and fear Bashert had to laugh at that one.

Dr. Ken turned out to be very nice. Once he quickly cleared up the whole Todd and Margo thing he turned his full attention to Bashert. He was kind and reassuring and most of all he was able to put Triage Nurse in her place with a dazzling smile.

You see, Bashert does not do pain. Bashert’s middle name is Epidural. First name on the admittance forms: Epidural. From day one of our prenatal visits with OBwan it was clear that Bashert would be getting an epidural. OBwan, herself a three times over mom at this point, agreed whole-heartedly and made extensive notes in the file to that effect. Big bold letters: Bashert gets an epidural as soon as possible. Apparently, Triage Nurse did not think this was a good idea.

After Dr. Ken examined Bashert and gave us the news that there was meconium (baby poop) in the amniotic fluid and she needed to deliver in the next twelve hours, Bashert asked about the epidural. Well, little miss Triage Nurse, stepped up and interrupted, “Oh, no, you don’t want to do that! It will just slow things down.” All I could do was look at her with “Wha?” stamped on my face.

Dr. Ken let her have her say and then turned to Bashert directly, did the toe squeeze, flashed a smile and asked her if the epidural is what she wanted. I believe if she had not been having a contraction at the time, her response would have raised the roof, “YES!” Dr. Ken then said that he would make all the arrangements and they would make her as comfortable as possible until the arrival of the anesthesiologist. Triage Nurse huffed and finally went away. One stone, two birds. Bashert relaxed as well as she could for the moment. Her epidural was on its way.

Now that Dr. Ken had given the official declaration that Bashert really was in labor, we were moved to the actual birthing room. It was a relief to get away from the confusion and craziness of the triage area. The birthing room felt incredibly spacious after all three of us being squashed in the exam area. Even with the little area that was portioned off for working on the babies after they were born, there was quite a lot of leg room. Here there was a bed, a couch, a hard chair and the usual assortment of medical machines burping and whirring. We actually had access to a private bathroom which was great. Nenè set herself up on the couch and began dozing. Bashert and I were alone for the first time since we sat down to watch Sir Elton so many hours ago.

Animal Magnetism: Baby Chapter 14

J&EPheromones caused it all. Some kind of magnified parallax whereby all things mammal were attracted to Bashert for good or bad. Remember how the animals knew about her pregnancy before we did? Apparently, it spread to the neighborhood animals too.

At the time Bashert was pregnant, we had the original two dogs, Elisheva and Shit Dog. Elisheva had not one maternal bone in her 20 pound body. Really. She growled at puppies and had no use for children at all. She alone seemed impervious to the pheromone power of Bashert. She didn’t change must during the pregnancy except to possible get even more clingy than normal. E-girl had issues.

Shit dog was normally a fairly easy going guy save his ongoing and imposing Napoleon complex. He had no time for other small dogs; no they were beneath him. He preferred the company of large dogs, the bigger the better. He would put on airs about being able to stand up to the fiercest looking Rottweilers, but somehow magically be somewhere else when any altercation started. He was also known to run away from cats. His bark (high pitched as it was) was definitely worse  than his bite. That is what made what happened all the more impressive.

One of our neighbors had the grand idea to keep an un-neutered Bullmastiff in an 1100 square foot (102 M2) townhouse. Those dogs do not have “mass” in their breed name for nothing. Jasper easily weighed a good 200 pounds (90 kilos) and his humongous head reached chest level. It is a cliché, but small children really could saddle up and ride. The dog was big. And territorial. And his idiot owner allowed him to walk free inside the courtyard.

One morning, a very pregnant Bashert put Shit Dog and Elisheva on their leads and walked out into the courtyard for their first potty break. As soon as Bashert got to the end of our patio, Jasper charged. He slammed Bashert up against the brick patio wall with visible intent of attacking. At that moment, all the courage of all the mixed breeds inside Shit Dog rose to the surface and he lunged at Jasper. I ran outside at the commotion and saw an amazing thing. Shit Dog was holding  that freaking monster at bay! Between all of the shouting and Shit Dog’s devoted response the idiot owner was finally able to body slam Jasper away from the scene. (E-girl was no where to be found.)

A shaken and bruised Bashert made it safely back into the house and Shit Dog lived high on the hog for quite some time. Never did we think his bravado would actually amount to anything – he proved us pleasantly wrong. (As a side note, after some legal discussions, idiot owner finally realized she needed to place Jasper in a better situation for a dog his size and he went to live in the country.)

Outside of our home environment the pheromone effect took a different path, one of less resistance.

Before it became too uncomfortable to walk any distance, Bashert and Nenè would take evening strolls. It was not unusual for me to get a morning report that this dog or that dog would come up to them as the were on their walk around just wanting to bask in the glow of Bashert’s being. A few would trot along with them for a while and then return from whence they came. But apparently one night the moon, stars and all in the universe lined up correctly – Bashert became the piped piper of all the loose dogs in the neighborhood.

Around 8pm, I received a phone call from Bashert. This was on my desk phone as we still did not have cells and for her to call me at work was odd, especially when I heard the tone in her voice. “Cee-ee, I don’t know what to do…” I started to panic, but I could hear Nenè laughing in the background. What was going on?

“They followed me home, Cee, they all followed me home.” I was beginning to get the picture. She repeated, “I don’t know what to do” and added, “there’s seven of them!” I immediately sat straight up in my chair and said, “Please tell me you haven’t let them in the house! Do not let them in the house!” I asked her to put Nenè on the phone. “Nenè, please tell me Bashert has not let those dogs in the house!” Through choking laughter she confirmed that yes, there were indeed seven dogs and they still remained outside. She gave the phone back to Bashert.

“Oh, my g-d, Cee one of them is looking in the window!” That, I-need-to-take-care-of-every-stray-animal tone was slipping into her voice. I put on my air traffic controller tone to match hers and talk her down through situation. “Bashert, just do not engage. Do not look through the windows. Do not open the door. They will give up eventually and go back to their own homes.” I knew neither of them would go out and shoo them off.

“But Cee, they are looking at me” – gales of laughter from Nenè – “and now they are knocking on the door!”  More laughter and a muffled voice in the background, “I swear they are knocking on the door Mom!”

“Bashert just back away from the window and turn out the front lights. That way they can’t see in and will give up.” “And tell Nenè to be quiet so they can’t hear y’all in there!” They complied and went into stealth mode. I remained on the line a few minutes more as the only outside contact and then had to get back to work. I was getting funny looks by then.

The next morning I got the rest of the scoop. After they turned out the lights and quieted down from the  laughing, it took maybe five minutes for the Bashert-worshipping doggies to go on their disappointed way. I think it took Bashert and Nenè hours to get over the ridiculousness of them both crouched in the darkness hiding from those dogs as if they were unannounced guests and the house was a mess.

All I could do was shake my head and mumble, “Only you Bashert, only you.”

The number of her faithful followers never reached that number again, but to this very day I can attest to the fact that we have at least one dog (or cat) try to tag along when we go out for a walk. – a hormonal hold over I guess. She just has that animal attraction…

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.

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.