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.

 

 

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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.

A Fresh Perspective

Plan B. Well, it was Plan C for a long time, but before that it was Plan B. Now it might be Plan A, actually.

What is the plan? A known donor.

After three unsuccessful cycles with frozen sperm, we checked in with our GP and began running tests on my hormones levels and general health. At that appointment, my doctor asked us if we would consider using a known donor given that frozen sperm is expensive and loses a large percentage of its mobility in the freezing process. We weren’t expecting this question, and for this first time in many months, we actually opened up to the idea.

After the appointment, went went to for vegan thanksgiving burgers (yum) and began writing a Facebook message to friends of ours.

How do you ask someone for sperm? I have no idea what is right or wrong in this process, and I have no tips on how to mitigate awkwardness or communicate genuine gratitude for just reading the plea for help. But, if you were wondering what such a plea looks like, here is ours:

Dear ______________.

after a few months of trying to make a baby, we find ourselves at a crossroads; we can’t keep trying with only unknown sperm from a bank because of the costs, the general laziness of frozen sperm, and our fear of the winter trek to winnipeg and back. we are writing to you today from boon burger, open and vulnerable, listening to first aid kit with a question:

would you, ______, consider donating sperm to our queer baby-making on the prairies project?

your name was the first on our list of kind, gentle, caring, and rad sperm-producing people that we know. we are happy to have a conversation about the process, the legalities, and the ins and outs of what this might mean for all of us, _______ included.

we are writing because we want to give you time and space to have a conversation, and to think about the questions you might have for us.

we don’t want this to become a weird thing, so ‘no’ is a totally ok answer. we’ll keep moving and continue to think highly of you both. our friendship is not sperm-dependant!

with hope and gratitude,*

Thinking back, it took us so long to seriously discuss using a known donor because of the vulnerability associated with asking for help. I have walls. Big huge barriers of walls. Some walls behind those walls. And last minute booby-traps. Not asking for help in this process was a a wall I built for myself, but it was also shaped by someone around us who I let weigh in too heavily on the process.

At a beautiful summer-time queer wedding in a barn, Norse and I had a conversation with lesbian acquaintances about the process of gayby-making, and about whether or not we were going to inseminate with known sperm. I gave our very rehearsed list of reasons, including we don’t know anyone we would want to ask. Unexpectedly, Norse looked at me and said, “well, we would ask _______. He is at the top of the list.” A mutual friend of the maybe-donor was listening in on the conversation, and exclaimed “oh ________ (his partner) would never go for that. She would shut that right down.”

And just like that, I let someone who moves in the same group of friends as Norse and I make a decision for us, and for our maybe-donor and his partner.

Thinking back to this moment, and writing it down, tells me that I still hold some pain from this interaction. I am surprised at how willing I was to let someone else draw a line of im/possibility in our lives. And yet, that interaction told me exactly what I wanted to hear in that moment. I wanted someone to tell us that asking someone for their sperm was just too much to ask. No one would be willing to help us (me) make a baby.

That day in my doctors office, my GP gave me permission to ask for help, told us that we were worthy of help, and that we had people around us who would want us to be parents as much as we want to be parents (ok, maybe not quite as much).

Since Boon Burger, there has been wine and conversation, plans, and phone calls to lawyers.

Plan B is shaping up nicely. Sometimes you just have to ask.

 

*my partner does not believe in capitalization

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.

 

 

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.