Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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Tales from the Front

Hi, folks.

So much has been going on, and I haven’t managed to tell you any of it. Mea culpa. Today’s update post comes to you from the couch, where I am staring over the horizon of an empty ice cream container and into space (such as it is in an NYC apartment), worn out from a 12-hour weep-fest. (We’ll get to that, but please don’t worry — everyone is healthy if not happy.)

Here are some updates and stories for you, in this so helpful style I have shamelessly plagiarized from our* May:

Item: Christmas, New Years, and the Great Middle Western Odyssey in general went fairly well. We met the famous TA, as sweet as they say, and her happy mother. I threw caution to the wind and ate my annual bratwurst at the Christkindlmarket. We went swimming at Sugar’s mother’s health club; after looking forward for months to the experience of grace and support I keep hearing about in re: gravid paddling, my attempts to avoid further rib injury lead to a kind of aquatic lumbering down the lane with a kickboard, a foam noodle under my ribs, and a foundering midsection intermittently covered by an old exercise top with shot elastic. Sadly, the ribs got angry anyway, possibly because of the indignity of being seen with me.

Swimming, 28 weeks
All the Grace of a Foundering Tugboat

I steered clear of Sugar’s dumbest cousin on Christmas Day — though I still managed to hear her dumb husband (whose last name is a synonym for “detumesces,” which gives me great delight, even if detumesce isn’t a real word, which it probably isn’t) threaten to spank their child for…oh, I forget. Something dumb that all 10 (10!) kids in the house that day were doing, like being loud. So no stories for any of us there.

To celebrate arriving at my parents’ house, I got a rip-roaring cold. After a day of utterly failing to breathe, accidentally overdosing on my inhaler, and subsequently freaking out about killing/brain-injuring the Bean, I was saved by Sugar’s suggestion that codeine is a fine anti-tussive. My parents’ house could easily be mistaken for a well-stocked pharmacy, and codeine not only stopped the coughing but also made me stop wheezing/turning blue. Mama made Dada listen to my lungs with the chimney of an oil lamp, since he had left his stethoscope at the office. I tried to teach Mama to cut and paste, so she’ll stop sending me emails with instructions on how to google something she’s found (“put X in. now go to the 4th result. in the corner, there’s a drawing of a fish. under that, there are some words you can click on….”) and instead caused a fight over dinner. We (98% Sugar) made a play-quilt. I was given (not “gifted,” dammit) replacements for the water bottle and good gloves I’ve recently lost on my commute; I promptly lost my best wool shawl on the trip home.

Item: We returned home to a house empty of food and full of cats very pleased with the success of their efforts to drive away our vacationing guests (the Baking Dane’s in-laws) by pooping all over their and our belongings. I walk the mile to the grocery store (over mostly-cleared sidewalks), discovering on the way that all that lying around in the midwest while steadily increasing in size has left me woefully out of shape for our car-less life. When I arrive at the hippie coop, I have a stupid exchange with the pregnant idiot working the front desk (this is the kind of coop where you work a shift to secure your right to Waldorf-educated kohlrabi) over her refusal to ask those working with her to rearrange the heavy carts (used to walk home shoppers who live closer than I do) so that those of us who schlep our own organic flax milk can hang our granny carts on the appointed hooks. Another woman sweetly takes my cart from me and says she’ll fix it. While I am recovering myself (read: weeping in the corner by the signs about how evil Coca-cola is), Pregnant Idiot calls over to tell me it’s done. I say thank you and think humiliated thoughts. On the way home, I get stuck in a pile of slush in the middle of a busy street at rush hour, oncoming traffic surging at me. Good times.

Item: We begin birth classes with the lesbian CNM and her somewhat dippy co-teacher, who keeps saying “dilatition.” We are pleased at the first meeting to see that we know one of the 7 couples there: an extremely chipper lesbian and her partner, who has a very charming lack of filter between her brain and her facial expressions. I enjoy watching my own horror reflected on her gaping face all evening.

The class begins with introductions. We are all (partners/husbands/friends, too) to say our names, when the baby is due, etc., and tell a story about our birth knowledge/experience — a birth we’ve been to, the story of our own, what have you. When the talking beanbag (not kidding) comes to us, Sugar goes first.

SUGAR: “Hi, I’m Sugar and this is my wife, Bionic. Our baby is due in March and we’re delivering at Kips Bay Mega-Hospital. The story of my birth is that my mother gave birth in 45 minutes and is still mad that all she got for dinner was a ham sandwich.”

DIPPY: “Wow! That’s amazing! How lucky!”

SUGAR: “Yeah. Too bad I’m not related genetically to our child.”

DIPPY: “But you’re related to your mother!”

BIONIC: Yes, but not to our baby.

DIPPY: “But your hips! You’ll have her genes! This is great!”

BIONIC: “BUT SHE’S NOT PREGNANT.”

[Awkward pause, in which DIPPY flusters about how she couldn’t really see us where we were sitting. Lesbian Teacher looks long-suffering.]

BIONIC: “Hi, I’m Bionic. My mother did not give birth in 45 minutes.”

I then proceed to talk about my (not un-traumatic) birth, touching briefly on a few major anxieties. I do not cry, but I don’t look calm either. Before I have collected myself, The door opens and the late couple walks in. If you’ve already guessed that the late couple was Pregnant Idiot and her identical twit of a husband, full marks.

Watch this space for further reports on the Happy Couple, who remind one nauseatingly of high school. Highlight of the first night came during one of the activity portions, when we were all draped on one another practicing slow-dancing to loosen back, etc. Sugar is admirably taller than I am, so my face was nicely snuggled against her chest, my eyes closed. I hear a *SMACK* on the Happy ass next to me, followed by “THAT’S a BOOTY!” Gorge rises.

Item: I begin to worry more seriously about this whole birth thing. I spend much of birth class freaking out (internally — at least I think I didn’t look as horrified as the Other Pregnant Lesbian, since the Lesbian Teacher never stopped what she was saying to ask me, “Do you have a question? Or is that just the face?”). It’s all very well learning about what the cervix does, what the birth canal will do, and so on, but while I don’t really wish to share the idiosyncrasies of my lady bits with the class as a whole — Lesbian Teacher knows already — it’s frustrating that no one has a clue what my body might or might not decide to do when the moment arrives. I have found 3 anecdotal reports of cervices like mine: one reassuring, one cautionary, one horrifying. (There’s much more out there on UD, but officially, single utes with double-doors do not exist, as we contravene the prevailing theories of fetal genital development.) I’m increasingly despairing that a vaginal birth will even be possible, which makes this all seem like something for other people. I know there are good reasons for us to take the class anyway, but it’s still a bit hard to sit there and look like I believe this stuff will apply to me.

Item: Dr. Robot has quit the practice and returned to Canada, according to Dr. Sympathetic Noises (But No Answers To Your Questions), whom I saw last week. I was quite nauseated and asked Dr. Noises whether it could have to do with the Zantac I’ve been taking for reflux, given that it seemed to have coincided. No, she said sympathetically. Later, I asked Dr. Google, who reported nausea as the most common side effect. Back to pepcid, and it’s a more acidic but less queasy life for me. Nice work, Dr. Noises. Thanks also for refusing to answer my questions about your practice’s labor policies until week 36.

Item: We finally have our belated hospital tour, led by a horrible, scolding bitch. We chose this hospital largely because of how uncommonly NICE every staff member we’ve encountered, orderlies on up, have been over the course of several radiology jaunts, Sugar’s surgery, and my BFF’s terrifying 27-week bleeding incident while visiting us a few years ago. So we weren’t expecting one of those bitter, angry people who loudly pretends to be cheerful while referring to all non-pregnant parties as “Dad,” kvetching endlessly about why her department deserves more space than another, and generally yelling at anyone who asked a question. I also liked the part where — apropos of nothing except a quiet moan from one of the rooms — she snapped at us, “labor is PAINFUL!” Part of my reason for going on the tour at all was to see the space at a time when I wasn’t feeling actively upset. FAIL. I was calmer when in the company of my bleeding friend.

The actual L&D facilities are nice, though it’s a bit annoying that the much-vaunted TV/DVD/CD players are only allowed to be used with headphones — bit of a reach from the bed. Post-partum, like everywhere in the city, is another matter. The rooms are clean and tiny. There are four, un-reservable private rooms that cost a fortune; the semi-private rooms are exactly big enough for bed-chair-crib, bed-chair-crib. There’s no nursery anymore — theoretically great; actually somewhat terrifying — so they allow partners to sleep over…in the hard chairs, which do not recline. It’s not at all clear to me how I’ll get through this (especially with no nursery to give me a break) if I send Sugar home to sleep, but it’s plenty obvious that she won’t get any sleep in that wretched chair. Mostly, that horrid woman made me afraid the PP nurses will be like her. As far as I can tell, she’s a lactation consultant. So help me, if she comes near my nipples, I will not be responsible for my actions. And I do think it would be nice to wait until we’re home before beginning the Bean’s profanity lessons.

It all seems so trivial when I write it, but the aftermath of the tour has had me up weeping since 4:30 this morning. Okay, it’s possible hormones are playing a role here. The basic issues, as I see them: terrible fear of being left alone; much greater comfort taking care of people than being taken care of (read: vulnerable); fear that I won’t be able to take care of the Bean and Sugar and that no one will be taking care of me in that strange place.

Item: Sugar had to talk to the Stupid Cow at HR today, who deliberately refuses to understand that our relationship (our legally recognized, accorded benefits by the employer relationship) exists and tells Sugar she’s single all the time. But that is Sugar’s story to tell.

Item: I wish there were some useful guidelines on alcohol and pregnancy, short of ZOMG POISON. I know plenty of people drink in the third trimester; so far I haven’t, beyond pilfered sips of Sugar’s wine now and then. But boy, I could use a drink tonight.

*Brits: I have no idea if the “our ____” usage has some meaning that’s inappropriate to this situation; I just love how it sounds. I am a dumb ‘merican. Feel free to attempt to (gently) correct my heathen ways.

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Book Fair Betrayal

If you’re as nerdy as I am, perhaps you remember with a similar fondness the Scholastic Book Fair. Ours was around this time of year, as I recall. Parent volunteers would set up table after table after table of books in the GYM — double-bonus, since that usually meant no dodgeball for at least one day. My mother could usually be convinced to take me to the fair after school (massive understatement — apples don’t fall far from trees, and the woman is OBSESSED with books), but even if your parents weren’t the sort who understood why you HAD TO HAVE that shiny copy of The Boxcar Children or Sideways Stories from Wayside School or Harriet the Spy — a new copy, of your very own, a perfect rectangle that you would be the first to peel open — the school would lean on them to send you with a little spending money for the day your class went to the fair. (Triple-bonus: book fair, no gym, and less time in class.)

Scholastic makes money hand over fist at these things (and gives less back to the host school than they used to), as one would expect with a captive and coerced audience, but it’s hard to begrudge them a little profit for something as all-around good as the book fair.

Which is why it made me so sad to read this:

You have to wonder why an organization dedicated to getting students to read would decide to make censorship such an important part of their work. You also have to wonder why one of the leading organizations dedicated to helping students learn would decide to wallop a giant blow of discrimination toward gay and lesbian families and children of same-sex parents.

But that’s what Scholastic Books is doing by banning a book from its book fairs simply for the fact that the book contains a girl character who has two lesbian moms. The book in question is Lauren Myracle’s book Luv Ya Bunches, a new book that wittingly covers the trials, tribulations and friendships that a group of young girls go through in school.

Teh Gay Agenda?

And yes, the book is definitely, no question about it, being censored because it dares to suggest that not all children grow up in heterosexual households. Scholastic is up front about that:

The company sent a letter to Myracle’s editor asking the author to omit certain words such as “geez,” “crap,” “sucks,” and “God” (as in, “oh my God”) and to alter its plotline to include a heterosexual couple. Myracle agreed to get rid of the offensive language “with the goal—as always—of making the book as available to as many readers as possible,” but the deal breaker was changing Milla’s two moms.

“A child having same-sex parents is not offensive, in my mind, and shouldn’t be ‘cleaned up.'” says Myracle, adding that the book fair subsequently decided not to take on Luv Ya Bunches because they wanted to avoid letters of complaint from parents. “I find that appalling. I understand why they would want to avoid complaint letters—no one likes getting hated on—but shouldn’t they be willing to evaluate the quality of the complaint? What, exactly, are children being protected against here?”

And here’s where I get all misty (am I pregnant or just PMSing???) and fall in love with Myracle a little bit:

“Over 200,000 kids in America are raised by same-sex parents, just like Milla. It’s not an issue to clean up or hide away,” says Myracle. “In my opinion, it’s not an ‘issue’ at all. The issue, as I see it, is that kids benefit hugely from seeing themselves reflected positively in the books they read. It’s an extremely empowering and validating experience.”

So here’s what we need to do:

1. Sign this petition at Change.org

2. Especially if you’re a parent whose kids will have a book fair (or who just love Scholastic Books), let Scholastic know why appeasing a few testy weirdos who hate everyone who isn’t just like them is a bad business decision.

Investor Relations
Strategic Development
(212) 343-6741
investor_relations@scholastic.com

(Thanks to Mombian, Change.org, and The School Library Journal for writing most of this post.)

(Also: If, like me, you’re wondering whether or not I have been knocked up, I feel I should let you know that I’m up at 5am on a Sunday not to begin walking across the fields to church but because I’ve been throwing up much of the night. Gross. I sure as hell better be pregnant.)


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Best Planned Lays

This isn’t going to be one of those well-made blog posts. This is one of those pissy lists. BUT: Before the ranting commences, Hello and Thanks for dropping by! to everyone, but especially to those of you directed here by the lesbian-lovin’ Kymberli. It’s a pleasure having you. If any of the rest of you don’t read Kymberli’s blog, you should certainly head over to read today’s tale of accidental head-shaving.

1. LH surge: I can has one, pls? Still spending my days with legs crossed, still but the palest of lines on the OPK. Not yet out of bounds for my longest cycles, but getting close. Am secretly convinced I don’t make LH.

2. Farewell, Mr. NMEBSI? It turns out he wasn’t screened for a genetic disorder that I only just now got tested for. I won’t know my results for at least another month or so. I had thought that no donors had been screened (so my own results would only be to help us decide about prenatal testing), but it turns out that some have. So we will choose a screened donor for September, at least, and maybe beyond (depending on my results).

(If you think I’m being over-cautious, please keep in mind that my father is a pediatric geneticist, who treats very small, very sick kids. This disorder is common, and although my parents raised me to be independent, he all but asked me to get tested.)

We were pretty upset about this, but we’ve since found some screened donors who also seem like good choices. Which means we have plenty of energy left to be upset that…

3. Dr. Baby Factory will not waive the $450 counseling session, nor will he allow us to see a counselor outside of the practice (who might take our insurance or just charge a little less than $9/minute). There are so many reasons this enrages me (and fills me with hopeless despair, but the anger is more interesting, I imagine) that it’s hard to keep them all straight in my mind. I’ll limit my rant to three. I’m realizing that they mostly come down not to the refusal to waive the counseling but to how it’s been talked about.

a. There’s equal ≠ fair aspect to the whole thing — Dr. Baby Factory cannot or will not (as I find white men of privilege generally can’t or won’t) wrap his mind around the idea that treating all couples using donor-whatever in the same way may be equal but it isn’t fair, in the sense that it is willfully blind to what brings each couple to this place. The best I can come up with is that this is like saying that it’s fair that no employees get Jewish holidays off, when in fact that’s equal but unfair. It bugs me that he won’t acknowledge that our position is different from that of a straight couple using donor-stuff.

b. There’s the giant fuck-you that is their counselors working with NO insurance. I don’t think I’d be half as mad if they worked with some but not ours, though I’d still be pretty tweaked, since we chose this practice because it works with our insurance. But taking no insurance at all? So it’s just an automatic “too bad you aren’t normal” charge? Shitty, shitty, shitty.

c. There’s the way Dr. Baby Factory distinguishes straight couples from us by referring to them as “married”. GAH! I AM TRYING TO BE MARRIED, JERK-FACE. (How I wish we’d already eloped to CT, so I could tell him off properly for that one.)

As I see it, we have three options — but please let me know if you think of any others, wise internet:

1. Suck it up, swallow pride, see if pooped-out pride sells on eBay, and pay for it.
Pros: Path of least resistance (except cost means less sperm means fewer tries before we have to store up money again).
Cons: Money, rage.

2. DIY at home, at least to start. (Assuming Dr. Baby Factory will still sign the home delivery release, as he said he would back at the HSG.) Reevaluate after a month or so.
Pros: No one involved who makes me want to spit nails.
Cons: Lower conception rate than IUI. Inefficient use of money, since we would be buying 2 vials/month and having to get them shipped every month (vs. getting 3 months’ at once and storing at the clinic).

3. Change clinics.
Pros: I have another recommendation that my insurance will cover, with free sperm storage and no seekrit psych fees. Could work on details while trying DIY for a month.
Cons: Starting all over with intake, etc. More prodding of the vages. More theories. Sounds exhausting and like it will take forever.

Stay tuned, internet, to see down which path our heroines next gang agley.


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I’m A Lesbian And I’m Okay

I should really put my insurance on speed dial. Not a day goes by, it seems, that I’m not talking to them.

This morning, I finally got resolution on the “will you pay for this genetic test” question I put to them in…June. That’s 2 months of their losing letters, requiring codes they hadn’t asked for in the first place, requiring still more codes, and so on. Every fax takes two days to process because they convert them to microfilm before reading them. This makes the bureaucratic aspects of my health care sound more like a James Bond movie, but also seems to negate the speediness of faxing.

Now I’m on hold to find with a different branch of the company. Rather than the Mozart the main line uses, the mental health section favors silence punctuated by a firm voice saying, “Please wait.” Repeatedly. I’m calling the mental health division because apparently, I’m cruising for a nervous breakdown by being gay. News to me, but hey, I’m no doctor.

The above is an oversimplification, but near enough to the truth. Sugar and I had been thinking we’d skip the Barry White and vanilla-scented candles portion of the TTC journey in favor of the favorable if florescent-lit odds of IUIs at the Kips Bay Baby Factory. Mr. NMEBSI* has more IUI than ICI vials available, and we have been starting to think that we should face the fact that we don’t have baby-making equipment in the house, rather than let sentiment stand in the way of a better chance of conception. In the aftermath of my HSG, I had been feeling reluctant to encourage any more catheter-on-cervix action, but now I’ve had two months of the least painful periods since high school. Some private investigation indicates that I’m bleeding almost exclusively out of the side that was — to quote my chart — “perforated” at the HSG, which makes me think that totally tubular experience left my cervix more open and that an IUI was therefore less likely to require overwhelming force. So today I called the clinic IUI nurse to find out the procedures. All fairly straight-forward, except, oh, had no one told me I’d have to meet with their psychologist first? Everyone using donor sperm does.

Let me be frank: I’d rather we didn’t have to use donor sperm. I’d rather bring home a bottle of cheap champagne, line a roasting pan for Ray’s lucky Beer Can Chicken, and end up with a kidlet who looks half like me and half like Sugar. I’d also like a magical flying pony who lives in the apartment and doesn’t poop. I suppose I can see recommending a sit-down with the counselor for het couples using donor sperm, who perhaps haven’t spent more than a decade considering the ramifications of having a child who isn’t genetically related to both of them, but come on. We’ve been over this, trust me.

I find this requirement annoying if not discriminatory, but I also remember my grandmother telling me not to cut off my nose to spite my face, so I called the office psychologist and made an appointment for next week. Sugar must have been able to tell over gChat how pissed I was, because she didn’t say boo about having to miss more work. At the end of the conversation, the receptionist says, “By the way, the fee for the consultation is $450 and we don’t work with any insurance companies.”

EXCUSE ME? $450 because you’re worried that I might not have thought about being gay? $450 so Sugar and I can put on our Happy, Well-Adjusted Couple Show for you? No matter what anyone who’s known us for more than an hour might think of our parenting ambitions; clearly what you think matters most.

Since I started writing this post, I talked to a very nice woman at my insurance company, who tells me that they’ll reimburse for 80% of the fee, less my deductible, which is $363. So it would only cost me $380.40 to be gay. Bargain prices! Everyone will want to be gay now!

I say “would” because this pisses me off way too much, even if we had $380.40 we couldn’t figure out how to use (answer: sperm). I have a call in to the doctor. If he won’t waive this, we’ll go elsewhere or just crank up the Barry White after all.

*I love this name, by the way. Mr. Nmebsi sounds like he would get his oil changed by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and perhaps respectfully consult Mma Ramotswe about his suspicion that his neighbor was pilfering from his garden.


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so…which one of you is the man?

It’s not so PC to ask that question any more (if it ever was). Here’s what people say instead — Do you two plan on having children? Which one of you will have the baby? Then they usually look very pleased with themselves for having come up with such an open-minded topic.

Now when I say ‘people,’ I don’t mean my close friends. I mean colleagues, or people I’ve just met at parties, even the occasional stranger. This has been happening for years, since long before Baby Mama and I started talking about actually having an actual baby. As you might have guessed, it really pisses me off.

I have several answers to the baby question that I don’t say out loud. These are:
1) Do I know you?
2) It’s absolutely none of your goddamn business.
3) Will my answer help you decide which one of us is more gay?

I also have out-loud answers, which mainly try to head irritating conversations off at the pass:
1) Oh, we at least need to wait until ____ is done with ____.
or
2) Yeah, we’ve talked about it . . . Hey look, is that Elvis?


Quick! To the Batmobile!

Now though, _____ IS done with _____ . We are actually going to do it and we’ve decided that Baby Mama is going to carry the child. So sometimes I tell people that. When I do, they turn to me and say, “And how do YOU feel about that?” (dramatic pause….)

Wait a minute, you don’t look like my therapist.

The only way I can describe questions like these is as prurient. And what makes it especially annoying is the fact that the (straight) people asking get to satisfy their curiosity about how the other half lives while feeling magnanimous about recognizing my right to exist.

But the show must go on, so either I say that I’m fine with it (frosty smile) and maybe I’ll carry the next one, or the questioner suddenly solves the problem of lesbian fairness for herself by asking if we’ve ever thought about adoption. I prefer the adoption question because it lets me take the questioner directly to the land of straight guilt:

“Actually it can be really difficult to adopt if you’re gay. Some agencies won’t work with you. State law in some cases blah blah blah.”
“Oh,” she says, “that’s terrible . . . . Are you going to that concert tomorrow?”

But, since we are in Bloglandia here, how do I really feel about it? I don’t think I’ll really know until Baby Mama pops one out. Here are some things I think right now:

On wanting to be physically pregnant
I don’t. The fact that theoretically I could grow something inside me, change my body shape, then push it out and change back is kind of cool, but along the lines of how it’s cool to fly in dreams. I guess I don’t really believe it. Kind of like how sometimes I don’t believe in men. They’re just so unlikely.

On sperm
I hate that we have to use sperm. It’s like buying a stranger’s snot. I am, however, a realist.

On having a pregnant wife
I’m going to be less inclined to the whole ‘your body is a miracle’ kind of shtick. On the other hand, I know how having your period sucks. Things will balance out.

On wanting to be the biological mother
Here is where I get into territory where I feel worried. What if I don’t really feel like the baby’s parent? Or it doesn’t love me? Or I don’t know how to hold it? Or a thousand other things that might be solved by a biological bond? Normal new parent (or new dad) fears, I know, but still bothersome. And not something I’m going to dump into small talk with the office gossip.

I do think that it will end up being fine. Right now I feel some of the bizarre ennui that followed directly upon my coming out. I had heard all my life how gay people were abnormal, unnatural, lonely, sad, never had long relationships, and could only live in New York City (oh no!) because they would be ostracized anywhere else. So I worried about those things until I realized they did not apply to my life. I hope my baby worries will go the same way.