Our first call to the fertility clinic went something like this:

Me: “Hi! I’m calling to check the status of a referral. My name is ____________.”

Them: “Nope. We don’t have anything.”

Me: “It should be there. We saw our GP over 3 weeks ago.”

Them: “Nope.”

Me: “Can you check again? Our doctor’s name is _____________.”

Them: “I’ll check the pile on our fax machine.”

Me: “Great!”

Them: “Oh, we have to send it back to your doctor because we can’t process the form. I can’t read your husband’s name.”

Me: “I don’t have a husband.”

Them: “Your boyfriend.”

Me: “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Them: “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, that is really too bad.”

Me: “I have a partner.”

Them: “What is her name?”

Me: “Norse.” (I’m too shocked to speak to the receptionist about pronouns or gender)

Them: “NORSE? What a funny name. Honestly, this writing is terrible.”

Me: “That is my writing.”

Them: “We’re booking into next year. You’ll get a letter in the mail.” *hangs up phone*

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Talking to Queers

Norse is a queer evangelical. Well, at least that is the joke at our house. And, it is partly true. Norse is an LGBTTQ* community educator, and they often travel to small and remote communities to spread the good news. While Norse leaves the pup and I at home during the school year, I have been lucky enough to play assistant for the month of August.

Driving has given us plenty of time with little distraction (because there isn’t much to look at in the prairies) to talk about gayby-making. And, we have also been able to make baby-dates with a bunch of queer friends and acquaintances during our travels. While our gayby-making process hasn’t really moved forward, we’ve been busy talking to queers.

In the past three weeks, we have met with a number of incredible people with cute infants, busy toddlers, and giggling kids to talk about their journey to parenthood. People have graciously opened their homes and made delicious coffee for Norse and I because they know what it is like to want to make a baby, but not know how. They know what it is like to “free-float,” as one person described it, through a tornado of desire, optimism, fear, confusion, and dead-end research.

There are little-to-no formal resources for #parentslikeus, with the exception of the fantastic work being done by the LGBTQ* Parenting Network in Toronto. While I’m grateful for their open-access library and guides, they are Ontario-centric (which is likely their mandate). There are few other resources for queer and trans* parents publicly available, and there is nothing out there about making gaybies in the Canadian prairies.

Since there are few resources, queers make babies by talking to each other. Move over dyke bars and bathhouses! Now queers meet online, and then IRL at the front doors of each other’s homes. To be fair, most lesbian and queer bars are closed anyways.*

The queer bar that is now closed in Winnipeg named Gios.
Gios, a Winnipeg queer bar that is now closed. 

When we first decided to “start trying” to make a baby, we thought it would be important to keep our plans quiet in case we were unable to get pregnant, changed our minds, had to put the plan on hold, or fell apart under the stress of it all. Folks who can get pregnant on their own (without the help/intervention of what feels like a million people) have the privilege of trying quietly. We kept our “trying” quiet for about two weeks before realizing that we would never access sperm on our own, and would not be able to become pregnant (completely) on our terms.

So, we got loud and literally went to a bunch of people’s houses, pointed at their kid(s), and asked: “how do you make one of these?”

Queer communities are incredible. They really can be. People with absolutely no time, or little time, for leisure or self-care took hours out of their day to talk to us. They let us tell our story, describe our experiences so far, and affirmed us every time we told them what made us scared.

I’m sure these folks know how great this feels. I mean, they did the exact same thing when they were first trying to make babies. They too had no resources, so they talked to each other. They wanted to give back to the community, and we promised to do the same. After all, we’re family.

The sheer amount of information we gathered—from iPhone cervical checks to cloth diapers, and sperm banks to daycare mishaps— was wonderful, if not completely overwhelming. And yet, I found some of the moments before and after our conversations were the most impactful. For me, it was when people trusted us to hold their children, let us linger too-long in their nurseries, and how they shook my hand on the way in, but hugged me on the way out, that truly made this experience incredible.

Every single person told us to call, text, or write with questions and concerns at any time. Jokingly, I told every single one of them that they would regret ever offering. But seriously, they’ll hear from us again.

* For a great short documentary on social spaces, the transformation of queer communities, and the decline of lesbian bars, watch http://www.shewired.com/feminism/2015/08/18/watch-broadly-asks-where-have-all-lesbian-bars-gone

The (early) search for queer midwives

When my (chosen) sister announced her first pregnancy many years ago, I gave her Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth. I give great gifts. I mean, how else do feminists learn about pregnancy?

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This pregnancy book is a 2008 expansion of the hugely popular Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS) from the Boston Women’s Health Collective. OBOS is a for women, by women collection that was originally self-published in 1970 on newsprint and stapled together. At the height of the white mainstream second wave women’s movement, Our Bodies, Ourselves represented a reclamation of women’s knowledge of their bodies and resistance to medicalized expertise that too often positions women as passive patients needing care. It has since been reproduced in 29 languages and circulates around the world.

When I read the introduction to the pregnancy and birth edition, I was surprised to see it begin with the following sentence:

“If you are newly pregnant, or are close to someone who is, we hope this book will serve as a friendly companion through the months to come.”

I immediately checked the index for “insemination” which doesn’t exist and “lesbian” which connects readers to “co-parenting” and “resources.” The resource is  The Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy and Birth

I bought the wrong book.

Why would I ever think that a book for and by women would be lesbian-freindly? I mean, lesbian feminists? What was I thinking?

Lavender_Menace_1970_Lesbian_Feminist

I giggled about the book purchase for a while, and ordered the lesbian guide since I can’t seem to find a book on queer or trans conception.

I decided to read on. After learning how to “approach my birth with confidence,” I read about birth plans and settings, and models of maternity care. I am already familiar with the differences between midwifery care and critical of the medical model, and Norse and I plan on having a midwife and doula.

On a Sunday night advocacy rampage (which involves me writing stern emails to a bunch of local and regional institutions that are sexist, cissexist, racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic, etc or that forget rural queers exist), I decided to call our local midwives office. Sunday night seemed like a great time to leave a long and overly detailed message requesting information on their queer and trans* friendly midwifery practices (which ended abruptly after I mutter something embarrassing about a “difficult, but exciting journey”).

On Monday morning, I received a call from the office and was told that they spoke to the local LGBT* educator to retrieve information on how to best support my partner and I through the process.

The midwives called Norse! For their expertise!

We called them, they called us. And here begins the infinite loop of small-town knowledge and service gaps.

As it turns out, the midwifery office asked Norse for a LGBTTQ* awareness and support workshop, and hopes to be better aquatinted with our “situation” by the time we are pregnant. Good thing queer gestation periods are long.

If some other queerbos don’t beat us in the race to become pregnant, we will be the first queer couple through their office doors (they can’t remember of they’ve ever dealt with lesbians).

We’ll be educating the whole way.

The search for basal thermometers and hetero-jealousy

Since my last post, my partner and I have been doing some major work on this whole “let’s make a baby” thing.

One thing that is great about living in small town is that everyone rad who grew up here has (mostly) left, but many of them come back to visit friends and family. Norse and I recently reached out to a few queer parents we know, and one couple came to town to visit and were lovely enough to meet us to share their experience. They even agreed to meet us after our Saturday yoga class because they are that cool.

There are a few things we learned from them that inspired us to take some new steps in this process:

1) Start charting ovulation yesterday because the fertility clinic will want to see 3 months worth

2) The fertility clinic has a social work consult, not a psych test (and it remains unjust and BS)

3) Not to rule out known sperm as an option (even if it is plan B)

I’ve decided to leave the question about known sperm donation to another post, because it deserves my full attention, and I’m not sure what I want to say on this question just yet.

Let’s start with ovulation charting.

After driving to a few pharmacies and department stores, and calling all the other ones in town, I can say with total certainty that basal thermometers are hard to come by where we live. Basal thermometers chart your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) which is slightly raised when you ovulate. After a few months, you can estimate when you will ovulate based on your previous cycles. And yes, there is an app for that.

Some big name pharmacies don’t even carry basal thermometers, some don’t order new ones when their stock runs out, and some hide them behind the desk. Two pharmacists even asked me why I needed one before going to check their shelves for stock. Others carry their own brand, but do not stock comparables.

IMG_0502

While we happily buy generic ibuprofen among and other drugs,  we would like a choice in the thermometer we purchase. In any other circumstance, this lack of choice wouldn’t get me down. I am pretty used to limited shopping where we live, and Norse and I are pretty resourceful. However, the lack of control (or reduced control) in every stage of getting queer-pregnant is getting me down.

I’m going to need to find a way to better navigate gaps and barriers to our queer baby-making process.

I know that this is true because when a lovely and wonderful feminist friend (who totally saved me during an epic break-up) sent me a ultrasound picture this week to announce her pregnancy, I could not help but ask about her ovulation charting and resources immediately following her announcement. 

Me: “Congrats! Amazing! Yay! Love you! Help me!!”

When another friend in the group text chimed in with her excitement to have “unprotected sex” with her husband, my straight friends’ conversation about hot, sexy sex and the thrill of an “oops” pregnancy left me in tears. Don’t get me wrong, I want this friend to have lots of hot, sexy sex and an “oops” pregnancy if she wants one (preferably right around the time I also get pregnant), but I felt excluded from the conversation and that my experience wasn’t being validated.

And herein lies the problem: I did not validate their experiences either. I hardly validated the experience of my newly pregnant friend who was sharing incredible news with me.

Who has a guidebook for “how to be happy and loving to your amazing friends while also obsessively working out how to get pregnant in the rural 204 where they don’t sell basal thermometers”? I would devour that book.

I know from my time in a poly relationship that jealousy is often connected to other emotions (insecurity, fear, questions of belonging, lack of validation), and it is a name we often give to affects (put simply, intensities of the body) in order to make sense of them. Jealously doesn’t feel good, but you can cope with it. And like all ethical sluts, I might have to rid myself of the “ought-to-be’s” in order to experience our baby-making process without comparing it to any of our straight or queer friends.

I need to validate my own experience.

It is worth mentioning that a few really great things happened for Norse and I this week, too:

1) We were invited to join a Facebook group of queer parents, and are meeting rad parents and hoping-to-be parents virtually

and

2) We both enjoyed a new Autostraddle post about queer gayby making which is one of the first online posts that I have read so far that really speaks to our identities and the millions of questions we have about baby-making.

We also explored midwifery services this week. More on that to come!