Midwife in the rural 204

We met with the midwife coordinator this week for our first appointment. Upon settling into the office, she exclaimed that the midwives were very excited to work with us because we would be their first “transgender couple” (and their first LGBTQ couple, full stop). We outed ourselves as queer and trans while explaining our isolation and lack of a wide-social support system over the phone prior to our acceptance into care. I think it got us through the door.

Instead of speaking about my medical history and the pregnancy, we spent the first 45 minutes explaining our bodies, identities, relationship, and how we got pregnant to an older British woman who claimed to have a gay best friend (they always do). We talked about how she once saw a trans dad breastfeed and couldn’t make sense of it. Don’t get me wrong, she was very sweet and well-intentioned. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the office had not educated themselves about the LGBTQ community prior to our appointment, but as I sat there, I kept thinking that they had 12 weeks to at least do some Google-ing in preparation.

Finally, I decided stop the conversation and said “So… babies?!” to try and move on. I promised them videos and resources at our next appointment. I let her know that we expected to knowledge-share;  she needed to help us to have a healthy pregnancy and birth, and we would help the office learn about the needs of our community in relation to prenatal and postnatal midwifery care.

The midwife struggled fill out her “mom” and “dad”-based form, record our donors medical information (what we have, anyways), and to date our pregnancy because of our miscarriage the cycle prior to getting pregnant. We briefly spoke about genetic screenings and toured the office. We found out that there is a male midwife (a big deal in our tiny, conservative town) who she described to Norse as a “woman in a man’s body,” which was hilariously inappropriate.

At the end of the appointment, I laid back on the comfy pillow-filled examination bed and we heard the baby’s heartbeat. A heartbeat! Sure the “morning” sickness was an incredible sign of pregnancy, but there was something so very real and special about having a sign of pregnancy outside of my body and to be able to share the experience with Norse. We both teared and high-fived.

When we returned home from work later that day, we posted our news on Facebook. It is now public and I couldn’t be more relieved. We made a baby.

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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.

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