My friend Cindy Rizzo tagged me in a Facebook post about Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day and so I’m writing this post in her honor. I don’t think this is what I was supposed to write about and I think I’m supposed to tweet about it too but I don’t know how to do that, so this is all I got. For you, Cindy!
Here is the thing about being a lesbian mom that ‘s different from being a straight mom. People want to know where your kids came from. A lot of people wait until they know you a little better before they ask, others just hem and haw trying to get you to say something, and some blurt it out. My girls happen to look like me, which actually confuses people. Over the years I have told hundreds of people that I inseminated, from closest friends to new bosses, from colleagues to the dentist, from parents of my kids’ friends to the guy who came to fix my stove. I wrote about this a little in a previous blog post, and it continues to happen, even now that my girls are 15 and 19.
There are a million insemination stories, and I tell people a little or a lot, depending on the person and the situation. Sometimes it feels like a way of educating people, sometimes it feels like a rite of passage, sometimes it feels like stand up comedy. But always it is putting yourself out there. It’s letting people in on your orientation, your politics, your struggles, your biology.
The truth is, as soon as you start the journey of insemination, your vagina is out there. It took years for me to get pregnant the first time, starting from home-based methods and moving on to the most scientific and clinical interventions possible. It was the nineties and this was a relatively new way to go. I spent a lot of time charting my temperature, taking fertility drugs, jabbing myself with needles, getting blood drawn, and receiving vaginal ultrasounds. Over the years I have probably had more vaginal ultrasounds than mosquito bites. Countless technicians have brandished the magic wand inside of me, searching for follicles, those little indicators of eggs trying to pop out of ovaries, the promise and hope of conception, children, a family.
Here is perhaps my most vivid memory of the whole process: I am in the exam room after just having a nurse practitioner inject sperm into my uterus with a catheter. My legs are up in the stirrups, a white sheet thin as a Kleenex covers me to just below the knees. A tiny angel pin is clipped to my johnny, a gift from the only other lesbian couple I know who have gone through this. I don’t really believe in angels but I am weary and desperate and willing to try anything. The nurse practitioner is talking to my partner and before I know what is happening she asks her if she wants to see the sperm and they are out the door, off to a microscope in another area of the clinic. My partner, the last one out, leaves the door wide open.
A few other things that happened along the way included 1) a trip to the emergency room after a near death allergic reaction to the dye in a hysteropingogram; 2) encountering a doctor who didn’t think I should inseminate because a child should have a mother and a father and she was convinced I had too much testosterone in me, which was why I was a lesbian and why I couldn’t get pregnant (I wonder what she’s doing these days); and 3) selecting my final donor (I used a number of different donors trying to get pregnant and agonized over their profiles determined to pick the right one) when the nurse told me he was really handsome. Embarrassing, yes, but worth it because I finally got pregnant and later used his reserved “sibling sperm” for my second child.
As for actually parenting as a lesbian mom, well that’s a much bigger story filled with awkward father daughter dances and a strained relationship with my own parents, and a straight mom thinking the donor might be Mel Gibson, and relationships ending and beginning, and most importantly, two amazing children who are just as proud of me as I am of them. A wild and wooly ride but worth every page of the story.