artificial insemination


I am kind of a hippie in a corporate lawyer’s clothing. We recycle. I used to live in Berkeley. I wear bandanas on my head from time to time. That kind of thing. Which is partly why I wanted my pregnancy and childbirth experience to be as “natural” as possible. One small problem with this, though, is that I am actually a lesbian. So right off the bat, we will need a little medical intervention to get things started.

BUT! I absolutely definitely wanted to conceive at home, and I for sure needed to have an unmedicated home birth. Early in our planning process I announced these two things to my wife, who is decidedly not a hippie (although she somewhat reluctantly recycles, she will NEVER, EVER wear a bandana on her head). She was totally on board with the first one, and totally NOT on board with the second one. Apparently her college roommate had tried to have a home birth, was in labor for some excruciatingly long period of time, was rushed to the hospital, etc. So she was understandably afraid. We talked, negotiated, discussed. I am not going to spoil a future birth-plan post by telling you now where we landed.

Back to conception, though, which is actually the stage we are at now. We both have a very romantic ideal of how the whole conception thing is going to go. A tank of frozen sperm will arrive at our house right on schedule with no logistical difficulties. Our kids either will not see it or will not ask why there is a nitrogen tank in our house. Surrounded by candles, after a romantic dinner, the magic will happen. The first time we try.

A few weeks ago, at our first meeting with our (new!) reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. R., this fantasy was abruptly shattered. You see, our particular office does not facilitate home insemination — we would have to negotiate directly with the sperm bank. Oh, and the success rate is much higher if you do an “intrauterine insemination,” (a.k.a. artificial insemination) which can only be done in the office. And by “much higher” we mean a one in four shot in any given month. Which means the home rate is… something less than that. And by the way, it’s expensive, and as time goes by, this weird thing happens where we keep getting older. As we were walking from Dr. R’s office to the exam room, my wife whispered to me, “Let’s just do the in-office thing. It seems a lot simpler logistically.” I kind of agreed, but the hippie in me rebelled against doing something with “artificial” in the name.

I thought long and hard about a doctor’s-office conception. I talked about it with my wife, and we both finally agreed that for our life, and our reality, it’s the best way to go. Having a baby is all about flexibility, right? Let’s be honest. With three kids at home, the likelihood of a nitrogen tank making it into the house unnoticed is extremely slim. And due to our “no secrets within the family” rule, the likelihood of my wife’s ex-husband promptly finding out about our baby-making was extraordinarily high. That thought was, um, less than appealing. So the discretion factor was part of it.

But also – how would we actually get the sperm home if we couldn’t pick it up from Dr. R’s office? We would have to have it delivered to our house, which, owing to our two full-time jobs, would mean that our BABYSITTER WOULD BE ACCEPTING DELIVERY OF OUR SPERM. That is just weird.

Plus, my wife is a good cook and everything, but she has definitely forgotten to thaw the chicken we were supposed to have for dinner, and then sort of half-cooked it trying to thaw it in the microwave so we could eat dinner on time. I think the success rate with half-frozen, half-cooked sperm is probably pretty low.

All of this is an extremely long-winded way of saying that we can’t really handle the logistics of a home-insemination. I know, I know. If we can’t handle the logistics of an insemination, how are we going to handle the logistics of a baby? But the thing is, the baby is not going to be a secret from our own kids. This, necessarily, is. At least until it works. Plus, the baby doesn’t have to be thawed at a particular time. And it’s not weird to have your babysitter take care of your baby, the way it’s weird to have your babysitter take care of your sperm. Taking care of your baby is actually the babysitter’s job. Etc.

Still, it was hard to let go of how I thought my conception-story would go.  I wanted it to be “natural.”  Not “artificial.”  I wanted it to be me, and my wife, and some romance. And, you know, sex. Which, heteronormative though it may be, is where I still kind of think babies come from.  But we just can’t.  We can’t make it work, not with everything else going  on in our lives.  So, artificial insemination it is.

Before we left Dr. R’s office, I had an ultrasound and blood drawn. I have a uterus! And two ovaries, one with black lines that are apparently follicles! It was so cool to see it all on the monitor. I pretended like I could see the things Dr. R was pointing out to us, but I’m going to be honest – it was just a bunch of black swirly crap and lines to me. Can other people actually understand things on that show up on the ultrasound monitor? Even when people post ultrasound pictures of their fetuses on Facebook (which is a topic for another post) I always just see black swirls, sometimes with a nose or foot. It’s like those magic-eye posters that were popular when I was in high school. Oh look, it’s a schooner! Anyway, this week, I get the results of my lab tests, and we see if all systems are go for the artificial insemination, which is how these two lesbians are going to bring a baby into the world.

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