Bionic Mamas

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


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Lucky Me

This was going to be a nice, neurotic little post about how I’m freaking out about the idea of having an actual baby in the house, how I still can’t wrap my head around the idea, all that sort of thing. With some weepery about newly-discovered stretch marks thrown in, for spice.

But I just got off the phone with the Department of Civil Service — I have been working for the state — who told me that, contrary to what I’d been told by my own HR department, my insurance was canceled at the beginning of February. Not March. Close observers will note that it is FUCKING LATE FEBRUARY ALREADY. WAS ANYONE PLANNING ON TELLING ME THIS INFORMATION AT ANY POINT?

I am hopeful it will get resolved quickly and only require me to resubmit all my bills for this month or that, worst case, it will become clear in time for me to retroactively join Sugar’s insurance, which was the plan for March (but costs more than mine — let’s not even get into the extra month of imputed income taxes, fuck you, DOMA — and so would be nice to avoid as long as possible). Of course, that isn’t even remotely the worst case.

Also, I am not going to insert the boilerplate here about how grateful I am that I can get on Sugar’s insurance, because dammit, we’re married, and having that relationship recognized in basic ways shouldn’t be something we have to say “thank you” for every time.

Ahem.

Now do you want to hear about my stretch marks? Sure ya do.

They’re on the part of my belly below my navel, which I can’t even see in our one full-length mirror (which I rarely look in, as it isn’t in our bedroom) without the extra effort of hauling my belly up to look. Consequently, I didn’t see them until today and was blissfully ignorant of any marks other than the almost-cute dots over by my hips. Apparently, they’ve been there for several weeks. I am not best-pleased, although I know that’s irrational. Partly, I don’t like how they look (vertical, purple, angry); partly, it’s unnerving to find out that I don’t even know what’s happening to the front of the outside of my own body.

(You’d think I’d be used to the idea that I don’t know what’s going on with my body by now, wouldn’t you? What with the endometriosis and the cyst-riddled ovaries and the surprise cervix? I guess I don’t learn.)

You might also think — or hope, at any rate — that I could be classy enough not to complain about stretch marks, sore hips, and exhaustion, given my great luck in being pregnant at all. Even if whatever the Bean is doing to my cervices does make me wonder at times whether we’re having a unicorn, whining about it isn’t seemly. I realize that.

As long as we’re on unseemly topics, might as well go for broke:

I haven’t been very interested in narrative in the past few months. I haven’t wanted to watch movies and, very odd, I have scarcely been reading. (And I am always, always, always reading.) I couldn’t figure out why until the other day, curled up on the couch with Sugar, watching something perfectly innocuous. Without realizing it, I had slipped into that state where you are so immersed in the story that you forget you exist outside of it. I love that feeling. More than anything else, that’s what I read for. It is so freeing to forget myself for a while.

And then the Bean started kicking. And I jolted back to myself, immediately into a state of anxiety. It was like that moment when you wake up…and then remember you have an exam or a funeral to go to, that you got bad news yesterday, that the world has weights for your shoulders. Every time this happens, it takes a few minutes to calm myself back down, to remember to not be scared about the approaching unknown — or at least try not to be scared. The truth is, I am pretty scared. About labor, yes; but even more about what comes next.

I am terrified at the idea of this baby actually being here. What was I thinking? What if it’s all a terrible mistake, this parenthood thing? A bit late for cold feet on the subject, I know. And of course it is only part of my brain that’s terrified — much of it is excited and (guardedly) happy — but boy is the scared part loud all of a sudden. Despite the very deliberate nature of all this, despite having pictures of the Bean as a blastocyst, for heaven’s sake, I often feel like I’m having one of those dreams where you are suddenly in labor, never having known you were pregnant, and you’re trying to figure out how this happened.

The IF-style kicker to all that, of course, is how damn guilty I feel for ever having thoughts like that, for ever allowing something other than pure gratitude into my heart. The sucker punch is knowing how deliberate all this was. We conscious conceivers — lesbians, IFers, that sort — talk a lot about how whatever situation has made us unable to have children easily has the silver lining of making us sure we want them, careful in our decisions, grateful in our parenting. To some extent, that’s true, I think. But right now I am a little envious of those people who are surprised by pregnancy, who get to react it and know they are doing the best they can, rather than always knowing the decision was intentional and perhaps sometimes fearing that their choice was not the right one.

But, right or wrong, what is there to do but go forward in faith that it will all work out?

With that in mind, we have ordered a mattress for the crib. The stroller (so expensive and trendy that we won’t discuss it, but I love it and am telling myself that it’s a lot cheaper than the car we don’t have) came in the mail today. Last night, we went to meet the Bean’s probable pediatrician, whom we liked a lot. She recently parted ways with her practice partner and opened a new office next door, I assumed over something mundane like money disagreements. But from the way she talked last night about the search for new partners, for “more intellectual doctors…who like to discuss medicine,” I wonder if there isn’t a more interesting story behind the split. As you might imagine, I prefer intellectual doctors myself, and I’m happy to have found her.

I almost wish, seeing how small her hands are, that she were my doctor. Tomorrow brings my first cervix check, which I hear is a barrel of laughs. To answer the question on everyone’s mind: yes, just as with pap smears, I get two. Lucky, lucky me.


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Back In The Saddle

Or the stirrups, at any rate.

Greetings from the [state college where I teach] campus library, where I spend my non-teaching time this semester, since I don’t have an office. Today I’m at a large, shared table in the very open art history section, staring at the double-lined OPK I’m holding under the table, where I can pretend that the students can’t see it. (They can, of course, just as I can see them pass notes in class.) Lord knows what they think, but who cares?! I am FINALLY OVULATING! W00t!

A little background: after taking November and December off from TTC — November because I o’d the weekend we got married; December because of travel (and because I wanted to be drinking, not weeping over my period, while visiting my in-laws) — I expected to ovulate about two weeks ago. Which was right when I found out that I might lose my health insurance. And just like in October, when my revving-to-go body encountered a big wallop of stress, everything came to a screeching halt. (Except the soreness at my left ovary that I get every month around ovulation. That has obligingly kept on going.) Following some major hustle on my part and some help from others, I did NOT lose my health insurance, but even though I’ve been peeing on sticks like it’s going out of style, checking my TP like I’m expecting the Virgin Mary’s face to turn up there, and urging my pituitary on, nothin’. So, I say again, W00t!

I’m going in for a valium-assisted IUI tomorrow, so wish me luck, please. Sadly, Sugar can’t cancel her afternoon meetings, so I’ll be riding solo. I’m sad about that, but it’s evidently a difficult thing to schedule around, my ovulation. I’d be happy to think some of you were keeping me company, however virtually.

Heigh-ho, Spermies, Away!


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Thanks, Ma

“You’re always like this at the beginning of the semester,” Sugar remarked to me this morning, after another night of half-sleep. “You don’t sleep well, you worry, and you think crazy thoughts about death.”

“I don’t mean to interrupt you,” I replied, “but we should get up. The cat is crying at the door, and I’m pretty sure it’s because the other cat has had a heart attack in the living room.”

The beginning of the semester is always tough, especially when I’m teaching seniors, whose college degrees rest on my mandatory class, which they typically feel neither prepared for nor terribly interested in taking. Things even out by mid-semester, when they’ve gone through one draft of their final project and begin to sense that I’m not trying to ruin their lives, but the first day is Rough Sledding.

The class met for the first time last night, as the massive storm that has lashed us with wind and rain for the past two days finally blew out to sea. As often happens when the air pressure changes radically, I got a migraine — luckily a fairly mild one, but I was nonetheless exhausted by the time I’d fought the dread and resentment of my students and the malaise of the 2-hour ride home. As I sat down to eat the late dinner that Sugar had saved for me (Ain’t she grand?), I opened a letter from my mother, written on three index cards.

My mother’s letters to me usually begin “Dear [Bionic]” and then go on about what the cat has been up to, the etymology of a few surnames and maybe a fun double plural like “kine”, concluding with a recipe for some wheat-free item best used as a hockey puck substitute. This one opened:

[Bionic B. Mama] — Strong Family History of Breast Cancer.

…and went on from there, listing which relatives have had what cancers, calculating rates per generation and in total for the past three, breaking down rates according to numbers of cancers versus numbers of individuals with any cancer. Emphasis via underline abounded. DEATH was always written in all caps. At no point in the letter was I addressed directly or was anything other than cancer discussed. “Whichever way you view the #’s,” card 3 concludes, “THESE RATES (37.5%, 50%) ARE HIGH for U.S. women.

(Yes, they are high. Yes, the information is useful to have all in one place — my mother has had to jump through hoops to be eligible for certain screenings and so on, and those hoops would be statistically more difficult for me to just through because I don’t have as many siblings (and therefore not as many “first degree” relatives). But…still.)


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Updates of All Sorts

One of those dreadful bullet-blogs.

Exciting things afoot (asnatch?) over at Two Hot Mamas! Go give ’em some labor-love!

— Couple new things up on the Etsy site:
1. the aforementioned custom pet stamp by Bionic
2. a wickedly sweet/sweetly wicked skull pendant drawn and enameled by Sugar

— Tentatively good news on the job/insurance front. After some serious hustle on my part, enrollment in the my endangered class is one student shy of “off the radar” for cancellation. I’m hoping that means they’re likely to run it even if I don’t get another one by Thursday. I also have calls all over the place to see if I could get coverage by taking a Saturday kids’ class offered by the same department. I’d rather not have to, since my horrible commute becomes excruciating when it meets the reduced weekend bus service, but I’d also rather not lose my insurance.

— I’ve been peeing on sticks and so on, and we’ve decided we’ll climb back on the TTC horse this month, now that insurance looks less scary. Frankly, due date for a child conceived this time of year is still bad for us financially — fall is my higher-earning semester — but I’m not willing to insem only during the limited “good timing” months. Especially because…

— I’ve talked to Dr. Baby Factory about my endo questions. He says yes, the GI badness probably is endo, but that there’s not much to be done about it, as that location has particularly bad surgical outcomes. (Basically, the scar tissue from surgery between vag and rectum is likely to be much worse than any original adhesion. Cervix glued to rectum, that kind of thing.) He also said, “I hope I haven’t given you the impression that I think everything is fine with your chances of conception,” and brought up again the idea that going to IVF after 3-6 IUI attempts might be more cost-effective in our case. Sigh.

Okay, I know this is the part you really want updated:

Pee Stick Follies Update….I chickened out. I already know what happens to silica gel when it’s allowed to absorb liquid for a few hours. And if Sugar came home to find quivering chunks of pee-jello on the bathroom sink, you can bet I’d lose all rights to talk about how icky her neti pot is.

If it’s any consolation, I did have a hell of a time getting the packet out of the pee-cup neatly. In fact, such a thing proved impossible. Don’t tell Sugar.


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Show and Tell and Beg A Favor

Calendar Image Sample

Hello, lovies. It’s time again for Mel’s Show and Tell. When you’re done here, go check out what the other kids are sharing.

It’s scary financial times in the Bionic household. It suddenly looks like I may lose one of the two classes I’m scheduled to teach this semester — already a low number, bank-account-wise — which would mean losing not only income but also my health insurance. What this means for you is likely losing the chance to listen to me griping about pee until the fall, when I can get back into the system and therefore into the RE’s office. BUT! It is a new year and TIME TO MAKE THE FREAKING LEMONADE ALREADY.

We had already (before scary news) planned to revamp our Etsy site in an attempt to garner a little pin money; here’s motivation to get on that, pronto, even if it’s for milk money instead. (Man, I’d love to find a way to make enough for sperm money….) And internets, I sure could use some market research help. If you could let me know what you think of these ideas — and perhaps what you think reasonable prices might be — I’d be much obliged.

Item 1:

Beastial Wall Calendars

brightersloth

brightermonths

Yes, I know it’s a bit late in the season for these, but we have them around, so why not give it a shot, I figure. Each page is 4.25″x11″, with a different drawing by Sugar or me. We’ll list it both as printed — high-quality ink on heavy, matte photo paper — and as a cheap, you-print-it PDF.

We’ll also list an option of a 12-month rolling calendar, with date range of your choice. For instance, if you ordered one now, we could make it February 2010 – February 2011, so you still get two month’s worth. Crazy? Plausible?

Item 2:

Stationery stamped with handmade rubber stamp images of animals (or something else? thoughts?). Here’s an example of a set I made for Sugar’s turtle-obsessed mom this Christmas:

brighterturtles

Her set was 10 cards each in 2 designs; I’d probably do 5 each in 4 designs for sale. (I made my mother a set like that, with 4 different images of her beguiling cat, but didn’t think to take a photo. Duh.) The cards themselves are very nice, heavy paper — the picture is of a paper with an artfully rumpled surface, but I’ll do future batches on smoother stuff, as these take the ink a bit unevenly.

I’ve also made dishtowels printed this way.

Item 3:

Custom stamp of your pet (or what-have-you). Here’s one I made of a friend’s dog:

Original photo:

The Nose Approaches....

brighterdog

These could be sold two ways:

– You commission a particular item or set of items with your pet’s image — say, a set of cards or an apron. I keep the stamp when done and add it to my general rotation.

– You commission the stamp itself, with all rights to the image. I send you the completed stamp, one stamped item (set of cards?), and instructions for what inks are permanent on fabric, etc. This version would cost more, since I don’t get future use of the image.

Help me, internets, please!


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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.