Adventures in Fertility Clinics

In July, we were given a referral to the fertility clinic from our family doctor and finally had our first consultative appointment last week. While we are still inseminating with frozen sperm at home, and plan to for a few more months, it seemed wise to keep our appointment and get ourselves into the system.

When we arrived at the clinic, we passed forms to the receptionist and included a letter from Norse’s doctor explaining their identity and pronoun and requesting that all tests be completed at their home clinic. It was important for us to share this information through a letter, rather than explaining our need to work with the fertility clinic in person with doctors, nurses, and staff. In return, they gave us a contract which outlined all the doctors as “he” and all the nurses and “she” and requested a $550 joining fee. This package also included a study about the impact of heterosexual couples disclosing their conception method on the child’s well-being. Mixed results.

After waiting over an hour for our appointment (entertaining ourselves and dealing with our anxiety by lip-syncing Adele’s ‘Hello’– which was played numerous times as we waited), I was promptly weighed and measured before being placed in a small exam room. Our doctor clearly read the letter from Norse’s doctor, and this proved to both beneficial and difficult.

At the beginning of the appointment, he announced he has a gay son. Helpful.

The doctor confirmed that we were seeking “therapeutic donor insemination” (I’m still unsure about the therapeutic part) and that I had no medical issues or previous pregnancies. We then moved onto Norse’s health history, which prompted unnecessary questions about Norse being “gender reassigned” (as if trans was not the language clearly outlined on the letter and the language Norse was using for themselves). The doctor then offered Norse a hysterectomy because he “does it all the time” (and yet, his name has never come up as safe in the trans community for this or other procedures). The assumption that Norse wants to remove their uterus was incredibly awkward (if not traumatic) since we have yet to decide if Norse will carry baby number two, or provide eggs. The assumption that trans folks on the masculine spectrum desire particular surgeries is not new, but was particularly concerning in a clinic setting where we were discussing our options to become pregnant. Norse was never asked if they desired to carry if I was unable, which we were expecting since this is the kind of treatment many lesbians receive when working with fertility clinics. Unfortunately, for many women, the assumption that you would want to carry at all is deeply rooted in expectations of proper and ‘biological’ femininity. On the other side, the assumption that masculine folks would not want to carry is equally misguided.

While the doctor was good about deleting unnecessary information on the form (such as prostate cancer, semen analysis, etc), it was clear that the clinic did not have more than one form that assumed that people coming to the clinic were cis females with a cis male partners.

When it came to defining our relationship on the form, he looked at us and asked “same-sex?” We both answered “queer.” He then asked us if “queer” was “a bad word” and if the reclamation of “queer” meant he could use the ‘n’ word. Nope. It doesn’t.

Finally, Norse and I opened up about what we both do for a living, and began teaching.

Exhausted from the question and answer period, I consented to an internal exam (where, I swear, the stirrups were Christmas themed). The exam table, and thus my spread legs, faced the window and all of Portage avenue. I found out that my uterus and ovaries looked great, that my left ovary was active, and that I had likely ovulated in the past 24 hours. This meant that our terrible insemination was timely to some degree.

Our last step was to pick up blood work requisitions for both Norse and I to complete before we joined the “fertility program.” We resisted the mandatory HIV test (which is illegal, and a human rights nightmare), and the testing of the none carrying partner all together, to which the nurse replied “it is not just for your situation” and “everyone has to do it” in a way that ensured we knew us queerbos weren’t being discriminated against.

Upon returning home, Norse found that their form was marked “female” which does not match their health card, making the blood requisition invalid. Norse bravely called the fertility clinic to request a change and the nurse fought them about their sex designation. Norse requested a receptionist to call them back, and promptly called Manitoba Health to request support. A receptionist from the clinic called back to apologize for the error and is sending a new form in the mail this week.

When people asked how it went at the fertility clinic, we both answered “not terrible,” but the standard of care for LGBTTQ* people in the medical system is so low that “not terrible” is often the best one can hope for.

The good news is that we’re now in the system and we know what we are up against. We’re still dedicated to getting pregnant and committed to supporting each other along the way.

 

 

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Third time’s a charm?

This month, my peak day landed right in the middle of the holiday season. Norse and I decided that we would inseminate at their mom’s house when the time came. We suggested that Norse’s mom take a long coffee break, or plan to do some last minute holiday shopping while we tried to make a baby in her guest room.

On the morning of my peak day, we visited Norse’ grandmother. I packed ovulation sticks into my winter parka and got a happy face while the family finished having tea and cinnamon buns at the senior’s residence. Norse and I quickly snuck home after the visit and the family ran some errands.

I'll never look at donuts the same way
I’ll never look at donuts the same way again.

Since we had been at aquafit that morning (Norse’s favourite form of exercise), we took turns showering off chlorine while handing-off the many steps of sperm defrosting. In our excitement, and due to the pressure of inseminating mid-day at Norse’s mom’s house, we forgot a major step. After the sperm was defrosted, we realized that my fluid was not where it needed to be even though my luteinizing hormone (LH) had surged.

We forget to check my cervix before defrosting the sperm.

We lost our minds. 4c35c1cb8f6c5deb550ff8141356a15e

Another cycle gone. Another $1000 lost.

We actually lost our minds.

I may have said that there was as much of a chance of me getting pregnant that day inseminating as there was if we just threw the sperm on the ground. Ok, I did say that.

Norse and I blamed ourselves and each other for the misstep. We inseminated anyway because defrosted sperm have a short shelf-life. It was horrible.

Afterword, Norse left the room at my request and I practiced some mindfulness techniques our therapist taught me for dealing with my  (new-found) anger and grief. I texted Norse to come back into the room, they put their hand in mine, and I cried. Well, I full-bodied sobbed until I couldn’t catch my breath. We talked about how awful this insemination was for both of us, how unkind we were to each other in the process, and then laughed at the possibility of having gotten pregnant from a fuck-show of an insemination.

Not everyone has romantic conception stories, right?

After our insemination, I decided not to chart my basal body temperature for the rest of the month in an attempt to enjoy the holidays. Instead of obsessing over pregnancy, I read fiction and watched movies with family. I ate shortbread cookies and something called “Hello Dolly” that involves three ingredients, one of which is condensed milk. I took myself to the gym (which has been a fear of mine over the past few months). I lifted weights and cycled. I ate bacteria ridden cheese and cured meats. I drank coffee. I even had a glass of wine. Maybe two.

The thing about trying to conceive is that it targets all the wounds people who assigned female at birth and/or socialized as women have about our bodies and our body ‘failures.’ Trying to conceive is a package of patriarchal fuckery that tells you that your body is not healthy (read perfect) enough to become pregnant and teaches you how to monitor, control, and govern all aspects of your “health” toward reproduction (solely, as if nothing else in your life can matter equally). For me, this apparatus is matched by homo and transphobic systems that make my imperfect and unworthy body a site of profiteering and exclusion. This is an incredibly difficult system to navigate on the best of days, and during the holidays, it is almost impossible. Something(s) had to give.

And so, we are working on balancing hope with reality. We kept our sperm tank under the Christmas tree for the holidays and opened a few gifts for our maybe gayby.

image1

This week, we’re going to finally put together a bed frame for the guest room. I had been putting this off because I was sure we would be changing the guest room into a nursery sooner-than-later. But, our guests shouldn’t have to sleep on the floor and we have to keep living our lives the best we can during this process.

 

 

Surviving the Rollercoaster

The two-week wait.

Anyone trying to become pregnant knows the two-week wait all too well. It is the worst possible two weeks in the insemination game. And yet, the two weeks prior aren’t so great either. In fact, the entire month is tough.

Part 1:
Menstruate.
Order sperm.
Pick up sperm in Winnipeg.
Watch for signs of ovulation.
Pee on ovulations sticks.
Decide a LH surge is not coming this month.
Think about the money wasted on unused sperm.
Keep peeing on sticks.
Cry.
LH surge hits.
Have a beautiful and romantic insemination (complete with articulated hopes and dreams for maybe gayby).

Part 2:
Wait for signs of conception.
Decide cramps are conception.
Decide cramps are PMS.
Google the difference between PMS and pregnancy symptoms.
Google it 100 more times.
Yell at every pregnant character on TV (not the time to watch Grey’s Anatomy).
Think about calling friend. But friend is pregnant. Not a safe bet.
Lie in bed all day and feel sad.
Decide breast swelling and pain is a sign of early pregnancy.
Decide it is actually PMS.
Ask partner to hide pregnancy tests. It is too early to tell anyway.
Sad.
Maybe I’m pregnant!
Sad.
Maybe I’m pregnant!
Sad.
Maybe I’m pregnant!
Menstruate.

My whole life now revolves around this cycle of possibility and grief. The grief is beginning to seep into the possibility. How do people do this? When and why do people stop trying?

We are only in cycle two.

According to The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians, I am suppose to:

  1. Take care of myself first
  2. Understand that this will take a while
  3. Get to know the two-part cycle (done. and done.)
  4. Keep believing it could happen
  5. Find support wherever you can
  6. Don’t hang out with unsupportive people
  7. Try not to obsess
  8. Take time out
  9. Indulge in pregnancy reading
  10. Reevaluate the process

It is true that trying to conceive is a terribly isolating experience. It is one that fractures friendships that were already cracking. It exposes what was already failing in relationships. It pokes at all of our raw wounds. It causes of our emotions to bubble-up to the surface. Some folks are unsympathetic. Some are rude. Others stop calling. Some never ask how you are doing because talking about trying to get pregnant is akin to talking about miscarriage. While the weight of trying to conceive and miscarrying is different, the stigma of speaking about it is similar.

There are little community supports, and support from friends and family becomes more difficult to find and harness when you are on the rollercoaster. You can’t get off because the possibility of becoming pregnancy continues to outweigh the grief, but I’m sure it is really hard to watch people ride.

Apparently, people rally when the baby arrives. That is what this books says. Unsupportive family members will rally. But what if a baby doesn’t arrive? Pregnancy books always end in pregnancy, and specifically pregnancies that are carried to term. I’ll have to find some new books to read. See #9.