Saturday, February 23, 2008

The hammer drops

July 20 was Bub's mom’s birthday. It’s also the day that I miscarried.

I woke up and had some spotting that morning. I hoped beyond hope that it was implantation spotting, but I had a feeling that I was just letting myself drag it out just a bit longer. As the day wore on, I continued to bleed and panic. The doctor told me to get to the lab for blood tests to confirm what was going on. I even peed on another stick to make sure that I was still pregnant. It read “positive,” but I now know that there were still a lot of hormones in my body.

We had lunch with C. for her birthday. We had wanted so badly to tell her and D. our good news. Instead, we just ate our food with sick feelings in our hearts and stomachs. The bleeding got worse, and I took the bus up to the lab while Bub tried to have fun with her mom. We didn’t want this to ruin her 70th birthday! Finally, Bub told her that something at lunch made me sick and that she needed to take me home. I cried all the way and all night, too.

It’s hard to learn that your embryo wasn’t healthy enough for your body to want to keep it. That’s a moment that is filled with relief and with anxiety, all at the same time. It’s good that our bodies are “smart” enough to know when there is some chromosomal or hormonal abnormality that would result in a deformed or challenged person in the long run. It’s good for our bodies to let those less-than-perfect cells go before too much time and effort are expended. At the same time, it hurts so much to know that your body contributed to something that couldn’t be viable. I felt so betrayed by my “advanced-maternal-aged” eggs and uterus. Me! My body!

I couldn’t help but feel that I had done something wrong. Had I not had enough water? Did I drink too much beer two weeks before any of this even happened? Did I not have the right combination of fruits/veggies? Was I too fat? Does my body know that I’m just not meant to be a parent? Is the world trying to tell me something? Am I really just too damn old? The miscarriage was hard, but the accompanying self-doubt was torturous.

The swimmers are in the pool

As you can imagine after the delivery stress, we weren’t about to let #2488 out of our sight, so we took him to lunch with us. We sat the shipping box in the booth next to me and dressed him in a t-shirt and baseball cap. He fit right in (although he wasn’t much of an eater). Next came shopping – another endeavor that I do not necessarily enjoy. However, this trip was specifically for #2488. We wanted the swim team to be prepared so we stopped to buy them some gear. By the time we arrived at the doctor’s office, our canister was decked out in goggles and snorkel set. (Our doctor cracked up. We actually are rather funny sometimes.) Holy cats. The time has come to load up the syringe with our previously frozen swim team. The doc was great and there was no pain from the syringe or speculum. It all went well and after lying with my pelvis tilted up just a bit for 20 minutes, we were ready to go home. The only feeling that I had was one of being full. Not like after a big meal, but a poofy feeling in my lower abdomen area. It was a strange feeling. The next morning, I knew that I was pregnant. I absolutely, positively, unequivocally knew. Unfortunately, my “knowledge” isn’t enough. We had to wait fourteen days until we knew for sure. What an agonizing time. As I’ve said before, TTC is the ultimate mind-f**k. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard to be nice. It’s hard to remain calm. It’s also one of Mother Nature’s cruelest tricks since the signs of early pregnancy mimic the signs of pending menstruation. So, are my boobs sore because I’m pregnant or because I have PMS? Do my moods swing because my hormones are preparing my body to host a guest for the next nine months or because Aunt Flo is planning a visit? It’s just mean, plain and simple.

I don’t know any lesbian (or probably most straight women) who managed to wait through the entire recommended fourteen days. We all know that testing early can just show nothing at all, but we are compelled to pee on the stick contained in the home pregnancy kit. It’s just something that we must do. I’ll admit it. I did it! I woke up on day 13 and peed on the first stick that I could find. (Actually, that was really easy since I had left it sitting on the counter the night before.)

Like the ovulation test two weeks ago, this test, too, was positive. Or was it? The lines were so faint that I thought that I had done something wrong, so I re-read the instructions. Nope. I did everything right. Could it be faint because I was throwing caution to the wind and testing a day early? Yes. Could it be faint because it really wasn’t there, and I was just imagining a line because I wanted it so badly? Yes. Damn!

Bub could see something, but not enough. She decided that I was definitely not pregnant. We decided to go fishing again. This time, we chose Vernon Reservoir, which is much closer to our home and not nearly as popular. (Duh! There’s a reason that it’s not popular: nobody catches any freakin fish there!)
At least we had out-houses to tinkle in on this fishing day. In light of that, I took a second home pregnancy test with me – just in case my hormones would change enough during the day to make a darker line. So, I hit the can at about 10am after holding it for a few hours (to increase the hormones in the urine, of course). I was so excited to pee on the stick that I forgot to take the cap off! I wasted most of my sample peeing on the cap and – of course – my hand again since the out-house was lit only by the light of one small window. I finally got the cap off and utilized the rest of my stream as well as I could. I soaked up a bit of sun while I patiently (?) waited the requisite three minutes. The result looked the same as it did when I first awoke. Oh well. Who gets pregnant on their first artificial insemination? Almost nobody. But, I still hoped.

As the days went on, however, my period was very obviously NOT here. Oh my god! I’m pregnant! However, Bubba just wouldn’t believe it. The lines were too faint. She doesn’t follow her own cycle, let alone mine, so the absence of mine meant nothing to her.

We scheduled an appointment with the doctor.

Upon arrival at the doctor’s office, I immediately peed on a stick. We were then shown to a waiting room. When the doctor arrived with the positive result, we congratulated her on her wonderful plunger technique. After all, it’s not everyday that she gets someone pregnant on the first try! We asked a few questions, set a new appointment, and then took our positive test (still with a faint line) home. We were about to be parents! This was July 19.

Sperm Delivery

we placed a call to the doctor’s office to give them a heads-up. Our very nice nurse, however, questions the arrival date of “the goods,” and encourages us to expedite the order.

Our first moment of true PANIC! What if “the goods” aren’t here by the time ovulation occurs? What if we spend oodles of money just to miss the best day? A frantic phone call is placed to the cryobank, and the order is moved up for Saturday delivery. (This comes with a triple whammy, of course. One charge for move-up and another charge for Saturday delivery and another charge for overnight delivery.) The package is now scheduled to be delivered to our front door, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, Friday afternoon brings no news of “goods” delivery. We turn our attentions on-line to track our order, which shows NO MOVEMENT from the Memphis hub of FedEx. (Why, why, why – I ask – does a shipment from California need to route through Memphis to get to Utah?!?!) A call is placed to the shipping company where they inform us that the plane has experienced technical difficulties. Not to worry, though, because “the goods” will be delivered on Monday.

Well, see previous mention that Monday delivery just won’t work. More intense, more pure PANIC sets in, and I lose it. I’m a sobbing wreck. I even develop a spontaneous bloody nose, which has never, ever, ever happened to me! We are, of course, going to miss our opportunity, and the world will crash down around us. Bubba steps up and gets involved with the shipping company. Let’s just say now that any sane person does not want to be on the other end of a phone conversation with her when she is angry.

After trying to calmly rationalize with the phone representative, Bubba's voice began to creep up the decibel chart culminating in “If my wife’s egg expires before that sperm arrives, there will be hell to pay!” Mr. Phone Representative quickly – and wisely – transfers the phone call to his supervisor.

“Oh, my goodness, Mrs. Christensen – er, Mrs. Beeny – er, Mrs. Christensen – er, Ma’am. This is quite a predicament. I fully understand your position and the crucial nature of this delivery. I will be sure that your package is delivered before 10am on Sunday at no additional cost to you!” (OK – really, lady? Do you think that you really understand what we’re going through? Are you a middle-aged lesbian with an expiration date on the DNA inside of an egg awaiting a no-guarantee romantic encounter with a frozen, anonymous bundle of DNA-with-tail? Do you REALLY understand what we’re going through, Little Miss Phone Supervisor? Thought not!)

But, hey! We’ve just been given the holy grail of the delivery world: A no-fee-added-Sunday delivery. (Reader, please insert angelic voices singing “Hallelujah” in unison.) Whew! Disaster averted. We celebrate by having me blow my snotty nose and practice calming, deep breathing exercises.

Sunday morning! We await the arrival of the coveted man-sicle. We wish god speed to the delivery representative in the blue suit. Please have a lead foot and sure driving skills as you hurry to our modest home!
“Hey, honey! What time is it?”
“What time is it now?”
“How ‘bout now?”
“For god’s sake, woman, get away from the window!”
9:00. 9:15. 9:45. 9:55. 9:56. 9:57. 9:58. 9:59. 10. 10:01.
“Call the shipper, NOW!”

“WHAT?!?!??!?!” What do you mean nothing is scheduled to come to our house today? What do you mean you don’t do Sunday deliveries? What do you fucking mean that Little Miss Phone Supervisor didn’t put any notes into the system? HEY!!! I’LL CURSE IF I WANT TO!!!!!”

Well, now that our crying, stomping, screaming, and phone receiver slamming has sufficiently scared the crap out of the dogs, we should probably get out of the house. Let’s take a breather. You know, relax. Unwind. Yeah, let’s go fishing! That always makes us feel better – especially since we cancelled a previously planned camping weekend to wait for sperm that may never arrive. We can surely find someplace relatively close as a relaxation destination.

We decided to travel north even though we never travel north to fish. It’s always south or east. That’s just what we do, and – let’s face it – we are creatures of habit. Surely, however, there will be some fantastic fishing spots for us to catch our limit and completely de-stress. We load up the dogs (since the fishing gear is always loaded), and we hit the road.

We have our favorite fishing holes. Who doesn’t? The challenge today is that they are all two or three hours away. We know that it’s just a day trip, and since the day is half over, we open up our trusty map to find something close-by.

I remember some fun fishing with friends in Farmington Canyon. The fishing day was about twelve years ago, but the state has certainly been stocking the pond all of this time. It sounds like a change of pace, so we decide to give it a whirl. Important information: in addition to the good times several years ago, I vaguely remember the drive to the pond being steep and the road a bit narrow.

Well, first, I fail to remember which road will take us to the canyon, so we meandered around the fair hamlet of Farmington for more minutes than Bubba appreciated. Next, the road twists and turns quite a bit. I had forgotten that part. Finally, when I say steep and a bit narrow I actually mean a goat trail on a K2 mountain! There are only a few places wide enough for two regular sized vehicles to pass each other. Thankfully, most of the people on the goat trail were riding ATVs!

After two hours of winding, cursing, stressing, and cursing some more, we ask a passing motorist where the ponds are. He informs us that at the rate of speed necessary to traverse the goat trail in a full sized vehicle (read: very slowly), we will arrive at our destination in two hours. TWO MORE HOURS?!?!? We finally found a place in the road wide enough to turn around and headed back down the canyon.

At the bottom of the canyon, we had to stop so that I could pee on a stick. Yep – it was time to test my hormone level so that ovulation could be predicted and insemination would be well timed (provided that the man-sicle actually arrived soon).

Now, I had peed on a few sticks in the months leading up to this day because I was trying to understand my body and my cycles. I was pretty good at this, so I hadn’t really thought much about today’s tests. Next challenge of the day: I’m not sitting on toilet seat. I’m squatting on the ground. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that I peed all over my hand. (Goddess bless the inventor of wet-wipes!) The test is positive. We now know that my timing is good even if the delivery company’s isn’t.

Thankfully, our map indicates that East Canyon reservoir isn’t far away if we just jump in I-84. Off we go only to find that this particular body of water is very popular with water skiers and personal watercraft enthusiasts. It’s loud and crowded. It’s also a Sunday. (Why aren’t all of these people in church?) Frankly, we should have known better.

Back to the map….. Our next attempt to fish is at Lost Creek Reservoir. Never even heard of this place. We turn off I-84 and follow a road for several miles. This place is definitely out of the way. Unfortunately, it is no longer lost. At least 50 other carloads of people have found this fishing hole, but we couldn’t drive any longer. The dogs were going crazy, and everyone but me needed to tinkle. We fished this spot for a couple of hours. I got skunked; Bubba caught one. The dogs had a blast swimming.

Now that we’re so stinking far from home, we figured that we might as well just hit one of our regular spots. Hell, it’s just across the mountain, anyway. We made our way to the Mirror Lake area and fished Lily Lake. I even waded into the water up to my knees which is a big deal for a person that hates cold water!

After catching nothing but bug bites at Lily, we decide to call it a day and go home for dinner. Luckily for us, we’re not far from I-80 and the ride home should be quick. Again, we should have known better because it’s “that” season in Utah. No, not the summer season, but the construction season! We found ourselves in stand-still traffic in Parley’s Canyon on a Sunday. By the time we got home, we were completely frazzled and ornery!

Regardless of the mood, I peed on another stick to confirm the positive result. This time, it was just the stick; I managed to spare the hand.

With Monday morning came renewed hope that everything would be OK. After all, my hormone surge didn’t occur until Sunday, so a Monday insemination was perfect timing. Now, if we only had some swimmers….. Then, the doorbell rang!

Ding-dong, the sperm is here! We practically danced a jig. Arrangements were made with the doctor’s office for a 3pm insemination. 3pm? What are we going to do all day? Well, fishing is out of the question. We decided to go to lunch and toodle around a bit.


So, what’s the story with anonymous donors? Since the local cryogenics program was discontinued at a nearby university, we were forced to look at cryobanks in other states which automatically adds about $100 to each procedure for shipment of “supplies.” We figured that all reputable cryobanks would essentially follow the same screening procedures, so the donor pool would be similar. We chose the cryobank closest to us (700 miles away) knowing that the gene pool choices would likely reflect our family heritages the best. Having extremely similar family trees spared us much agony of trying to find the right “match.”

We went with donor #2488. He’s smart, fairly athletic, and likes animals. Unfortunately, he’s not artistically inclined. Well, nobody’s perfect. He seems like a nice enough guy. Besides, we’ll never know.

Why go anonymous? Well, legally, it’s the way to do things. As a couple in a same-sex relationship, the non-biological parent has very few rights. Just by virtue of being an anonymous donor, #2488 relinquished any and all rights to any offspring conceived by AI. This makes it easier for the non-biological parent to legally adopt if allowed by the state of residence. Hmmmm….. See post on being a blue family in a red state. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that our ultra-conservative, red-as-oxygenated-blood state has made it impossible for non-biological same-sex parents to make their relationship legal. Not surprising considering the fact that our life and love commitments aren’t even legal. Make no mistake, though, it is legal for non-biological opposite-sex parents to do exactly what we’re wishing for.

So, back to #2488. After choosing him, we anxiously awaited pending ovulation. This is an exciting time full of temperature taking, cervical mucus self-analysis, and peeing on a stick. After a couple of months of charting, we had a good feel for my body’s ovulation schedule. So, a couple of days before ovulation, we place an order for “the goods” to be delivered on Monday.

Artificial Insemination (AI) and Trying to Conceive (TTC) – aka mind f**k to the degree of infinity

TTC is a miserable experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, using natural or artificial means, twenty or forty years old – it stinks. Oh, sure. There are some interesting anecdotes to pass along to others, and there are more insightful, introspective moments than originally expected. In all, though, we would have to say that few things in life have been more difficult or have tested our relationship as much.

Let’s talk AI. Some lesbians happily choose to have intercourse with their sperm donor. Hey – if it works and it’s comfortable for all involved, who are we to judge the method? Truth be told, that particular idea was never an option in our book. Nuh-uh, no way, we would have to be insane to even consider it. So, we chose the syringe approach.

Hold on a minute! Before the goop is sucked into the syringe, it must come from someplace, er… someone. Our options were only two: anonymous or known donor. With the same sure-fired confidence that we relied on the night we decided to get married, we chose a mystery sperm-cicle for our first attempt.

Blue v. Red (and, no - not the rivalry)

We’re trying to create a blue family in a very red state.
We’re blue. We’re very blue. We’re almost as blue as two lesbians in an eleven-year relationship can be. We vote blue. We talk blue. We hang out with other blue people. We yell at the TV when the not-blue president gives a speech.

Our state is red. It’s very red. In fact, it’s arguably the reddest state in the nation. It’s a state where the masses brainlessly follow any red leader without a second thought just like lambs being led to the slaughter. OK – that may be an over generalization, but not by far. We’re currently the only state with a presidential approval rating higher than the disapproval rating, and it’s not something skinny like 48% - 52%. It’s overwhelming – like 75% - 25%! Asinine.
So, here we are: two women in a relationship that is seen as a grievous sin by most, frowned upon by many, and accepted by few. It’s often difficult to get through a day knowing that being who you are equates to danger. Don’t misinterpret this to mean that we are confronted with violence each day. We’re not, but many people that we meet daily would just as soon spit on us than look us in the eyes. Most of the others are simply disgusted. So, it is difficult to function sometimes. It is a crazy reality.

Oh! Don’t even get me started on the “It’s a choice…” argument. Who chooses to be hated?

So, we consider a perilous journey

Perilous? Well, that’s a loaded claim! After all, people have babies every day. It’s actually rather unremarkable in our neck of the woods where we have the highest birth rate in the nation. How can our journey be so difficult, so frightening, so treacherous that is seems wrought with peril at every turn?

Well, you see, because it’s happening to US. We have nieces and nephews, so we’re aware of what happened to our family members. We have friends who have been through very similar situations, and we sympathized with their struggles. We’ve seen the ups and the downs. We’re not completely without brains, but the world is another place when these experiences are happening to US!

Oh, one more thing…. While friends with good intentions tried to prepare us, their warnings were woefully inadequate. To these friends, we say, “Thanks, anyway!”

Monday, February 4, 2008

So, how did we get from there to here?

Bub agreed to having a child, but we weren't ready yet. There was too much fun to be had to settle down! Then, a few years later, she changed her mind. Of course, I was emotionally invested enough that I couldn't just walk away, so I decided that I could live without this dream. After all, I had done fine to that point.... Besides, no kids = late nights, expensive dinners, travel to exotic places, right?

Well, after bringing up the subject numerous times over the years, I just couldn't take it anymore. In 2006, I basically delivered an ultimatum: "I'm doing this - with or without you." Thankfully, Bub decided to stick with me.

It was a hard decision for her. Very hard. I was 36, she was almost 44. We weren't financially stable (still aren't). We were struggling through some difficult times, and our relationship was strained. Hard decision or not, I knew that she was the person that I wanted to raise a family with. I realize everyday how lucky I am that she made this decision.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

At odds

During high school, I was adament that I would not have children. Not because I didn't like them, but I guess because I really didn't date. I just didn't see myself having the opportunity of being a mother, so I disguised it as a desire and choice to be childless. Then, I went to New Jersey for three summers. Things were different there. I wasn't terribly different, but I didn't have any baggage. Nobody knew who I was, so I felt a little more free, a little less poor, a little more brave. Hell, I was even asked out on a couple of dates! I started to think about things from a new perspective.

I worked in kiddie land for the entire first summer. I came to love, love, love the kids. Don't get me wrong. I had always liked kids well enough, but there is something about watching a kid drive her first bumper car or ride his first ferris wheel. These faces are simply a reflection of pure joy. They are what happiness looks like. I knew at the end of that summer that I wanted to be a mom; I wanted to raise kids.

When Bub and I got together, I made it very clear that I wanted to start a family and if she didn't want to be part of the plan that we should end it all before it really got started. Ah-ha - a problem!

Bubba NEVER wanted to have kids. It just wasn't who she was. She came of age in a city where the burgeoning lesbian scene consisted of butch/femme couples where, sadly, the femmes were likely to be straight and experimenting. The bar was the ONLY place to meet other lesbians, and partying hard was business-as-usual. A lesbian's network of friends often constituted her family, too. Bub was happy in this world. Why disrupt something that is working just fine?

But, we both really wanted to give our relationship a shot. Somehow, we both knew that there was something special between us that could grow into a love so big that it would be hard to contain. Thankfully, we were right.

Now, about those kids........