The Insemination Game

 

It has taken me a while to sit down and write this post.

It has been busy and stressful month at the university, and the emotional rollercoaster of trying to get pregnant is in full swing.

Last weekend, Norse and I attended an incredible Trans and Queer Parenting class in Toronto put on by the LGBTQ Parenting Network and the 519. We had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know 30+ queer and trans folks who are interested in, or in the process of, growing their families. We also met the most amazing Dad of all time who was taking the class to support his gay son. Take note: the bar for supportive parents has been raised.

Norse and I had the opportunity to learn from experts in fertility, family law, and adoption, in addition to engaging with a panel of queer and trans parents about everything from queer daycare co-ops to names for parents that differ from various versions of “mom” and “dad.” While the educational component of this course was exceptional, I benefitted the most from being in a room with other people in similar, yet variant, journeys toward parenthood and family-making.

The thing about the rural prairies is that while Norse and I have some great gay and lesbian friends, we do not have a solid community of queer and trans folks. Plus, while everyone I know seems to be pregnant right now (and I’m struggling to be cool with that), we are the only ones in our community and friendship circles who are in the queer-baby-making process. We’re lonely and isolated.

We are also working outside of the fertility system, and up until last weekend, I was convinced that we were doing something illegal, which further isolated us from community.

Norse and I have ordered sperm through a general practitioner. Instead of working with the phobic fertility clinic, we asked a doctor in Winnipeg to sign-off on our sperm shipments through their clinic, and have been inseminating at home (or in hotels).

During our summer interviews with queers, we heard from one couple that shipped sperm to their GP after the fertility clinic closed for holidays without warning. Instead of missing a cycle, they asked their GP to accept the shipment of sperm, and inseminated at home. They were successful!

While a GP should have a license for dealing with sperm (as if sperm is a dangerous or risky material), there is a loop-hole in the system which allows, specifically, queer and trans folks to work with friendly practitioners.

Working with a GP is a middle ground between working with known and unknown sperm that fits perfectly with our desires to make queer-spawn.

Most people using known sperm do so with friends (especially, but not only, with gay, bi, and queer men) and at home. This is what most people call “the turkey baster method,” but actually requires a 1ml syringe. It also requires a legal contract, and someone who is either willing to be a “spuncle” or “spauntie”or an anonymous donor. Norse and I do not have anyone in our our lives that makes sperm that we could imagine being a part of our process. So, known sperm was out of the question.

It is also important to know there are financial and structural barrier to freezing known sperm. It requires testing and quarantines, and invasive screenings. Trans women and folks taking estrogen face incredible barriers to freezing sperm at clinics. Gay men continue to face HIV-phobia at clinics, and are disallowed from donating sperm at sperm banks.

Unknown sperm, from what most people know, must be accessed through a fertility clinic in Canada. Sperm banks in the US and Europe will ship individual vials to a clinic for insemination. The fertility clinic setting forces queer and trans folks into a system which targets ‘infertility’ and their bodies are subject to a variety of invasive tests, procedures, and pharmaceuticals to ensure optimal fertility.

If working with a GP, one should be inseminated at a clinic under the supervision of the doctor. If you have a rad doctor like ours, they’ll just let you take the sperm home.

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Our first insemination date was November 1st. We inseminated at a hotel in Winnipeg and it was incredible and romantic. We feel really lucky to have been able to have this experience, especially knowing what we know about the harm others have experienced in fertility clinics.

We conceived. We think.

A few days after insemination, I began to have all the early signs of pregnancy. I had dull cramps, sore breasts, nausea upon waking, fatigue, and a consistently high BBT. I even had implantation spotting and cramping. However, the embryo (if there was one) didn’t stick.

Norse and I were lucky to be with family in Ontario during this time because we needed support from our people. During our few days in Toronto, Kingston, and Ottawa, we experienced an outpouring of excitement for our soon-to-be-gayby and loving support while we grieved the loss of cycle 1.

Today, we start cycle 2. After brunch with some friends and a trip to meet Norse’s mom on HWY 1 or a sperm exchange, we’ll inseminate again and cross our fingers.