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.

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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 First Trimester

I’ve spent much of the first trimester googling the following:

“how to survive the first trimester”
“what helps first trimester nausea?”
“when does nausea subside in pregnancy?”
“pregnancy sucks”

My first 7 weeks have been interesting to say the least. To start, my body experienced pregnancy twice in a just over a month. That is a lot of hormones.

At 5 weeks, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection, but was not given antibiotics right away because of the pregnancy. I tried to fight the infection for a week before taking medication, and it was literally the worst week I have experienced in a long time. After taking medication, I began feeling incredibly nauseous all the time.

It is very difficult to be in the world when you are always hungry, but all kinds of food you normally enjoy looks disgusting to you, and you are simultaneously nauseous and don’t want to eat at all. I have tried a few different things to combat nausea, and have found that lemons, sparkling water, walking and fresh air seem to be doing to trick. Also, I have to spend extra time in bed in the morning with some kind of carb-heavy snack. I go to bed before 9pm on most days.

I miss the world and my friends. I miss being my full-self at work. I remember the days where I could teach 3 hours without passing out immediately afterwords, and the days I didn’t have to take naps under my desk at lunch.

I miss having something theoretical, political, or humorous to say about getting queer pregnant.

For now, I will just try to survive the next 5 weeks and hope that second trimester brings some relief.

Rainbow Baby

We’re pregnant again.

Two home tests and one much-awaited blood test confirms it. Pregnant.

Rainbow babies are real.

After our miscarriage, I went to Winnipeg for doctors appointments and acupuncture. Three people told me that the post-miscarriage window of fertility was true. Three is a sign. I called our donor and drove back home. We inseminated late that evening and fell asleep in each others arms.

Norse was meant to meet me in the city that evening, as we were about to travel to Las Vegas. We wanted to go South for my 30th birthday, but the outbreak of Zika during our first pregnancy changed our plans. After the miscarriage, we really need a break from reality. We woke up early, drove back to Winnipeg to catch our flight, and spent my birthday hiking in Red Rock Canyon. We made a Scorpio in the desert.

When we returned to the 204, we both had classic post-vacation- how is it still fucking winter here?- blues. Plus, I had (what I thought was) pretty incredible PMS. I was uncharacteristically short with Norse, and I cried my eyes out uncontrollably to an Usher song in a grocery store line-up. When my period was three days late, I was convinced that my cycle was thrown off from the miscarriage. Finally, I took a test to confirm I wasn’t pregnant.

The positive test came with all kinds of heavy sobs and curse words. I couldn’t believe the results. I was terrified of losing a pregnancy again. Norse was up North giving a presentation on how to be cool to homos like us. I wrote a sweet congratulatory note, taped it to the outside of the door, and anxiously awaited their return.

I feel different from my last pregnancy. In addition to coming down with a cold (thanks to a lowered immune system so my body doesn’t reject the developing fetus), I am exhausted and become nauseous if I don’t eat enough during the day. So far, I’ve craved yam maki roles and lentil curry.

I am weirdly teary, too. After watching the new Ghostbusters trailer, I cried telling Norse how great it was that we are going to be raising a child at a time where an all female (and super lesbionic) cast would be their reference point for the franchise.

We’re 5 weeks today.

We are cautiously excited. We know what is feels like to have a big loss, and instead of preparing for the worst, we’ve convinced ourselves to be excited and happy. Everyday I’m still pregnant, I’m one day closer to carrying a baby to term.

 

 

Feminist and Queer Readings on Miscarriage

“It is not easy to name our pain, to make it a location for theorizing.” – bell hooks

I took the week off of work and have read everything there is to read online about miscarriage from a feminist and/or queer perspective. I’ve done the search so you don’t have to (and because the Pro-Life fuckers will get you on Google). Here is a list of the articles that have helped me to theorize through the pain of loss:

  1. Why pro-choice rhetoric precludes dialogue on miscarriage and mainstream feminists have little to say on the issue (limited by its lack of analysis of miscarriage from a reproductive justice frame)-“Unpregnant: The silent, secret grief of miscarriage” by Alexandra Kimball
  2. Why the word “miscarriage” places blame onto those who conceive and do not carry to term.
  3. S. Bear Bergman gives permission for pr0-choice feminists to grieve in his new advice column for Bitch Media. His best line: “You created an entire room in your heart for this new human you had started gestating, and now it stays empty.”
  4. Who doesn’t like a self-care list? Here is one for surviving a miscarriage by Everyday Feminism. I would add taking a long bath with your love while listening to rain on an iPhone, and talking about what you both liked the most about being pregnant.
  5. What I wish I had given out to everyone who has said something hurtful and mindless to us about trying to make a baby and miscarrying prior to them opening their mouths or texting weird things. FYI: If you are a doctor, don’t tell a queer couple that they are young and to just keep trying. “What to Say-And What Not to Say- After someone Has a Miscarriage.
  6. #Ihadamiscarriage and the card I would send myself.
  7. A call for papers for a book I wish was in-print from Demeter Press “Interrogating Reproductive Loss: Feminist Writings on Abortion, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth.” 
  8. A reminder that anti-abortion laws criminalize women who miscarry in the US.
  9. The lack of queer and trans studies/writings/advice never ceases to astound me, but this one is a good start for thinking through heterosexism and supporting the grief of the non-carrying partner.
  10. Queer Mama writes about miscarriage and conceiving after loss. This is the queer club you don’t want to belong to, but nevertheless, you are happy it exists.

Rainbow Babies

I was pregnant for a week.

After a few meetings and some wine, friends of our decided to help us in the process of getting pregnant. I imagined that the next time I sat down to right a blog entry, I would be describing the exchange-of-sperm process. This was my biggest concern last month. I was worried about timing the fresh sperm delivery just right, thanking our friends properly, and how it might feel to see our donor in public after trying to conceive with his sperm.

Soon after we inseminated for the fourth time, my best friend and chosen sister came to surprise me for my 30th birthday. I had the most incredible five days, and at the end of it, we found out we were pregnant. Happiness can do that.

My period was a day late on Monday, and I tested positive on a Tuesday morning after my basal body temperature skyrocketed instead of dropping off (indicating menstruation). My body felt different, and I settled into the idea of being pregnant more quickly that Norse. They called their favourite nurse (who works with our local Trans Health Clinic) to confirm that our faint positive was a positive, and called me tearfully from work. We spent the next few days spontaneously shouting “Holy shit! We’re pregnant!”

On the Friday after testing, we called Norse’ mom and sister to tell them the good news. It was Norse’s mom’s birthday, and we wanted to let her know she would be a Grandma (to more than our fur baby).

Pregnancy was beautiful and terrible. I had the most incredible acne I’ve ever had. I also had food aversions and insomnia. Norse rubbed our soon-to-be growing gayby bump, and said goodbye to the two of us when dropping me off at work in the mornings. We were swooning with love for our “nugget.” We were high.

On Sunday, I went to my usual cycle fit class with a friend, and for smoothies. When I returned home, I felt exhausted and slept for the afternoon. Norse was gone for the day, and when they returned home that night I began to bleed.

The blood came slowly at first.

Terrified, we called our province’s telehealth and they suggested I see a doctor the next day. I sobbed.

Knowing that neither of us would sleep anyway, we went to our local ER. We checked in with a nurse and sat for 4 hours in the waiting room. By the end of our wait, the bleeding had gotten worse, and my body seemed to be deflating. I was watching hormones leak out of my body slowly. Children’s programming was blasting out of the TV (because the world can be cruel), and we held onto my belly like we we’re pleading with the nugget to stick around. When we finally saw a doctor, she told us that my pregnancy hormones were very low, and that there was nothing she could do. She suggested I see a doctor for more testing in the upcoming days.

When we got home, we did our best to sleep and at 7am on Monday, I came out of the bathroom and fell into Norse’s arms. The bleeding had become very heavy. We were miscarrying.

I don’t know how to describe the feeling of miscarrying, other than to say it is actually flushing your hopes and dreams down the toilet.

Norse texted our counsellor and asked for an emergency Skype session. She was in Hawaii with her girlfriend, but picked up our call and talked us through our grief. She had tears in her eyes while I cried and Norse talked through their shock.

I was pregnant for seven days. I will always have been pregnant for seven days. So, the next time we see a doctor, I will have to answer “yes” to the question “have you ever been pregnant?” and somehow we will survive the countdown to Oct 8th, which was our nugget’s due date.

Google-ing “how to survive a miscarriage,” I found out that babies conceived after a miscarriage are called “rainbow babies.”

How gay.

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.

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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.