Don’t believe the queers

Today, we had an ultrasound.

In Manitoba, the first ultrasound is normally booked for around 20 weeks, but we were booked for a dating ultrasound by our midwife. Dating ultrasounds normally happen between 12-15 weeks, but for whatever reason, we did not get a call until yesterday afternoon to book us in for first thing this morning.

As expected, we are 17 weeks.

Why did we need a dating ultrasound? We didn’t.

We were booked for an ultrasound by our midwife who was, apparently, unable to accurately calculate our date because we miscarried right before getting pregnant. Since the medical system counts from the first day of your last period, it wasn’t clear to our midwife when we would be due to give birth.

However, queer-trying is very specific. We knew exactly when we got pregnant because we inseminated one time. There is no other possibility.

While midwives are meant to be patient-centred, and empower folks to lead in their pregnancy and birthing experience, the fact that we are the first queer couple to work with our local midwives has presented challenges to our care. For many people, an early ultrasound might be seen as a bonus. It is an opportunity to get a clear image of the fetus, and to hear from a technician that everything is going well. For us, it was a bit of a bonus. We got to see the little in action! However, it was also a reminder that our pregnancy is “not normal,” and midwives and obstetrician don’t seem to know what to do with us.

In the examination, the technician remarked, “well, this is a good sized baby,” to which I replied, “that is because we are 17 weeks.” She asked me about the date of my last period, and when I had a positive pregnancy test. I told her the date of our insemination, and she asked if we got pregnant via IVF. When I told her that we had inseminated with donor sperm at home, she became quiet for a long time, and then later confirmed that we were 17 weeks pregnant. It took all of my willpower not to say “told ya so!”

Now that we are home and the excitement of seeing our little has worn off a tad, I am thinking a lot about this dating experience. What if our midwife had analyzed my very detailed fertility charting? What if she counted from the date of insemination?  What if, instead of spinning a pregnancy dating wheel or sending us for an ultrasound, our midwife (and the technician) believed us?

The ultrasound experience was soured by the fact that we were booked a day before the appointment, and the person who booked us did not enter our appointment into the system. I spent all morning drinking water (a full bladder is recommended) and then waited an extra half hour while administration and technicians loudly fought over who had made the mistake while I tried to hold my pee in the hallway. At one point, someone actually asked to see my phone to ensure that someone from the hospital had, in fact, called me.

When it was finally time, I was separated from my partner and they had to sit out in the waiting room while I stared at the ceiling, and apologized for the overbooking (which was obviously not my fault). At the end of the exam, the technician asked me what my husband’s name was, and invited Norse into the room. Really?!

In the end, we saw our little together for the first time, and got print-outs of pictures to take home. We have images of our little’s feet and a seriously creepy image of their face to put up on our fridge.




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*

Anxiety and Fears

Yesterday, we took a referral form for Procrea Heartland Fertility & Gynecology Clinic (Heartland for short) to our new doctor in the rural prairies, and paired it with ramblings about our pre-filled form.

I read on that one particular doctor at the clinic is fatphobic, has made sexist and misogynist comments, and is generally inappropriate and rude. “This doctor is not for us,” I said, “You’ll see that I’ve marked it on the form.”

Our new general practitioner (GP) replied: “You both seem so scared. Why are you so anxious?”

Heartland is the only fertility clinic in Manitoba. Save travelling to British Columbia or Ontario, our anonymous sperm insemination will have to happen here. We’re already trying to figure out what driving back and forth to a city 2.5 hours away will be like when I’m ovulating.

How do you know when you are? What do I have to pee on for that? What about our work schedules? What happens when Norse is out of town? Do I cancel classes? And what about winter? What happens when HWY 1 is closed? 

We can’t afford to travel out of province to get knocked-up, nor do we have flexible enough schedules to take time off work to do so. Heartland is our only “choice.”

Choice, autonomy, and power, are concepts that swirl around in my brain too quickly to grasp, and too loudly to hear properly. I have tornado-noise up there. Sometimes it comes out in tears, and other times in anger.

One time, it came out in an inarticulate request with doctor that specializes in trans* health care in our province’s largest city. He was off duty and with his kids enjoying our local folk festival. This really happened. It went something like this:

“Oh hey, so nice to finally meet you in person…. ya, ya, local trans* clinic visit and review… I’ll be there… non-binary… gender fluid…complex… uhuh… so I’m wanting to get pregnant with my trans* partner, can you help me?

While Norse and I have the choice to create a family, and the relative class power to follow through, we lack autonomy and control in this process. Our queer gayby-making necessarily requires other people (you know, the ones with sperm), and in our case, medical intervention. For starters, we will have to engage with a seemingly heterosexist, cissexist, and racist clinic that represents only white heterosexual couples, and lists women’s services and men’s services as navigation tools on their website (but their use of “partner” instead of husband or spouse on the referral form was a nice touch).

This makes us nervous. Being unable to answer (or find answers) to these questions makes us scared:

Can my partner’s trans* identity be a justification for denial?

How will “gender identity disorder” (now “gender dysphoria” in the DSM) come up on the (apparently mandatory) pysch test?

What about depression?

Will we have to mark he/she on every form? Mom and dad? Biological and non-biological?

Do we both have to have a physical? Even if I carry, will Norse have to have a pap test, too?

We have many questions.

As we are telling all of this to our new GP, she misgenders Norse twice and calls us lesbians. She also tells us that psych tests are conducted to ensure we are ready to have a baby because this isn’t the “normal” way of going about it. Then, she assures us that there is nothing to worry about, and that single women do this all the time. When I tell her that all kinds of people have babies without psych tests she pauses and, to her credit, listens to our concerns and Norse’s experiences with transphobia in the medical system.

After our bike ride home, we talk about the doctor’ appointment and call Norse’s mom to debrief.

How much of our identities are we willing to negotiate? How much will our experience and bodies, and Norse’s body in particular, be used as educational tools? When will we put our heads down and focus on the goal (a baby!), and when will we dig in our heels for ourselves and to make space for other people? And, how much can you really resist phobias when you are relying on the only fertility clinic in the province to impregnate you? 

When I teach my Reproductive Justice course, I show the following infographic about abortion access:

Source: Canadians for Choice
Source: Canadians for Choice

Why bring up abortion when I’m trying to make a baby? Good question.

While Canadians have the choice and legal right to access abortion services, access is inequitable.

Reproductive justice is a concept developed by women of colour in the United States, and complicates the choice paradigm around reproduction that is oh-so popular in mainstream feminist circles.

According to Sister Song reproductive justice is “the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environment… It represents a shift for women advocating for control of their bodies, from a narrower focus on legal access and individual choice to a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on our power.”

Yes, Norse and I have a choice to make a gayby, but there are significant constraints on our power to do so. Reproductive justice is a queer issue.

Choice. Autonomy. Power. Brain-swirl.

Maybe this is why many people self-inseminate with known-sperm? But how does one ask for someone’s sperm? Do you text or call? How do you maintain a friendship after a sperm-swap? How do you keep the bowl warm? How warm is too warm?

So many questions.