Sunday, March 28, 2010

Up in my business

One of the things I forget from time to time is that the lesbian community here is small.  The girl at work knew the ex-girlfriend of Heather's ex-girlfriend, and that lady delivers food to where we work.  Mamie is part of the lesbian couple who had a baby, and her partner Whitney knows the girl at work.

Some of that is charming, but some of that is overwhelming.  Both Heather and I are homebodies-- we eat sushi, we watch a lot of trashy reality TV, and we talk a lot more about work than we should-- and we don't network or see that many people outside work, her small group of friends, and my parents (the ones who don't know about Baby).  The gay community is not our community.  We don't really have one.

Except now we're in the gay community without asking for it.  It's like we've spoken the magic words, but instead of the Goblin King arriving to steal the baby away from us, the lesbians have arrived to bring one.  What have we gotten ourselves into?  "We want a baby" fell from our lips, and then "We need some advice" followed, with a stream of nosy people right behind it.
Did I mention that we have one friend who works at the women's clinic here?  And that when we went there to meet with Nina, another friend turned out to work in the offices, too?

But it isn't just the lesbians.  We're in an early stage, and there's going to be more interference with every step.  Opinions about sperm donors and ICU versus ICI.  Advice about names and birthing, strangers rubbing Heather's swollen belly, and people in grocery stores smiling at the toddler in the cart.  Babies are public, aren't they?  We've sold ourselves into community slavery with those words of yearning and hope, and we cannot walk away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Advice from a new source. And some new equipment, too.

There is a woman named Mamie who worked with Heather's friend, Gina (or she did, or something like that).  Mamie and her partner Whitney had themselves a wee baby and, via Gina, we heard about their baby journey, which included the nurse Nina, who's now a part of our own baby journey.  We're proud, I-can-do-it-better-by-myself folks, but after our encounter yesterday with Nina and Heather's fundus, I felt disoriented enough to bite the bullet and turn to someone who has been at Heather's end of the speculum.

Accordingly, I hit Mamie up on Facebook.  Turns out, she's swell.  She wrote back and told me what an exciting prospect we had before us-- easy to say "exciting" and not "terrifying" when you've already got your baby.  She recommended the same book Nina did, and I was a little sad that I couldn't run to Amazon for the solution if we already had it.  The nice thing about ordering a book or tool online is that you have a few days to fantasize about how it's going to make everything easy and perfect, until it comes and you realize to still have to read it or use it and it's not going to pop out like a Jack-in-the-box and make you pregnant.
But we got lucky: Mamie also recommended a nifty tool, the Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor, which is something I can order from Amazon.  Now, I'm not endorsing it, but Mamie is, and I'll happily click "purchase" on Amazon if it gives me a few days to cross my fingers that, with a click of my heels and Heather's pee on a stick, we can pop out a baby after all.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some tips on finding a cervix

Today we learned the word "fundus."  I consider it a sign of my full immersion into the baby-making vocabulary (no, not the dirty kind) that a word sounding like "fungus" flies right past my ears, filled as they have been with terms like "mucus" and "vagina" and "mucus" and ...  I don't think I'll notice anything after "mucus."

The fundus came up (this is a pun, but you might not get it till later in the paragraph and I don't think you should feel bad about that) during our visit today with Nurse Nina.  As Heather grimaced first in pain and next in horror when Nina prodded her gentlest parts and used a word that sounded like "fungus," I sympathized but inside I relished how difficult it was because it meant I hadn't been the problem.
To be fair, I didn't relish how hard it was for Heather, but how hard it was for Nina.  She'd said it would be quick work to find a cervix, yet there she was searching out a third speculum because the first two didn't pop Heather open enough.  I was right!  I was right!  I was right!  Or not wrong, anyhow.

The show-and-tell with Nina lasted 35 minutes-- about 30 more than what she'd expected.  Those 30 minutes included: Heather on a table as an intern, Nina, and I floated around her crotch; Nina's kind disapproval of the plastic speculum we've been using; a comparison of speculum length, width, and material; pink gloves; Nina's wondering whether upward pressure was so painful to Heather because her bladder was full; Heather hopefully but minimally peeing; my feeling Nina's arm to gauge how much downward pressure she had to use to find the cervix; and somewhere in there the word "fundus."

The fundus is the part of the uterus past the cervix.  The oven for the bun.  The fundus can be tilted forward or back, and it takes the cervix with it, so, because Heather's fundus is tilted forward quite a ways, her cervix is directed down.  Nina said it pointed nearly straight down, not face-forward to the vaginal entrance like mine.
Then again, Heather has always been a challenge and it's been worth it so far, so I guess it's time to get a new metal speculum and dig back in.  Down.

(I hippity-hopped into the bedroom while writing to escape the wild-animal drama that Heather is watching in the living room-- no, I do not want to be educated about hippos getting trapped in the mud and subsequently devoured by lions-- and found a roll of masking tape at the foot of the bed.  I realized that it was there because Ms. Heather had been using it to tape up the torn hems of her pants, and I fell in love with her anew.  Then I wondered if I could use tape to keep her legs apart during cervical explorations.)

How to dress for a cervix-finding mission

Nina is meeting with us around noon today.  She e-mailed me this morning to ask me to bring the speculum we've been using, and I had this sudden flash of anxiety that she would tell us it was crummy and that no one could find a cervix with it.  She would be wrong since we can find mine with it and because we couldn't find Heather's with the big metal one, either, but I'm obviously in a delicate state when it comes to implied criticism of my research/shopping/organizing work, and I am sore afraid that the suggestion of speculum failure will bring me to tears in the same building where braver women are getting abortions.

Yes, incidentally, this building does sometimes have protesters.  "Hey, guys, it's okay!  We're trying to have a baby!" might distract them for a second, but of course I would feel compelled to clarify, "Now, we are big dykes who are going to raise one of God's children in our damned house of sin..."

Now I need to get Heather up.  Then I need to stand in my closet and wonder what is an appropriate outfit for this occasion.  I'm leanings towards a sweater dress.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Administrative assistance

Heather and I rarely fight.  What we do is have these tense discussions wherein an issue comes up, we both get defensive and get our feelings hurt, Heather raises her voice, and I cry.  That is what we just did.

The source of the discussion was my mixed-up scheduling of our appointment with Nurse Nina to find the godforsaken, mythical cervix which now is an object of resentment instead of the life force that provides perfect clues and perfect babies that I'm supposed to think it is.  Anyhow, I've been e-mailing Nina back and forth for a week or so now, first in hopes of advice that would change the cervix-finding game, then to schedule an appointment for her to show me where that whore of an orifice is.
We tried to set up something on Tuesday, our off day, but that wasn't good for Nina.  She suggested Thursday, but Heather can't get out then.  We switched to Friday, then Heather started her period and that was a no-go.  This whole time, Nina and I are e-mailing and I'm embarrassed at making things so difficult when she's doing us such a huge favor.  Heather is pissed because I keep making these suggestions to her that don't work at all and she keeps reminding me why I should have objected to start with.
Saturday we went to lunch, and I reported that I thought we'd see Nina Tuesday.  But what really happened was that Nina said Monday or Tuesday, and I said that Monday would be great but Tuesday we could go any time so it was really great.  This is because I have a terribly non-confrontational personality and feel so guilty to ask so much of Nina, and I will do just about anything to avoid causing people not to like me.  In my mind, though, we had settled on Tuesday, and I said so to Heather.  Then Nina said Monday at 12:30 and Heather said ...

The long and short of this is that I cried, as I am wont to do, because I've been trying to take care of my end, doing the research and organizing that I'm usually good at.  I'm trying to make this appointment, then one with a lawyer, and find sperm, and have a blog that I secretly wish would make me millions of dollars so I can support my child without going to work outside the house.  But it turns out that I'm not very good at that, and Heather saying she loves me and is sorry that I have all this on my shoulders does not make me feel any more that I'm contributing to a future with a child or that I have what it takes to organize one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And we don't care about the old folks

My parents don't know we're planning on a baby.

I see my mom and dad every Sunday for dinner and e-mail them all through the week.  I know every time my mom buys a pair of shoes and whether she paid full price, and I know about my dad's new clarinet accessory, and they know what my planned guest-room decor concept is.  They do not know that I want the guest room complete so that we can have family and friends visit after the baby is born; Mom doesn't know that I expect her to be sleeping in there a lot when I become convinced Baby has an earache.

It's strange not to tell them, but it's one of the few situations where I feel they'll doubt my judgment.  Mom felt I moved in with Heather too soon, and the biggest stumbling block was the foot I put in my mouth by saying that Heather had been planning for a few years to get pregnant after her 35th birthday, less than six months after I moved in.  When I settled on moving, I assured Mom that Heather and I had agreed to wait on the baby, but I'm not sure she felt better.  A year after that conversation, I'm afraid that she'll still think it's too soon, and I don't know how long to keep my midwife and speculum adventures away from her.

My sister knows.  My friends know.  Heather's friends and family know, and now there's a blog.  But telling my mom that I think I'm ready to be a mom risks her saying she thinks I'm not.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy

We've spent the evening on home improvement: Heather has been hammering zip-its, measuring, centering, evaluating paint finish.  I've handed her the hammer, the pencil, the screwdriver-- always three seconds later than she needed them and always in the wrong order.

This is a lot like trying to get her pregnant.  Nina suggested we chart together so that Heather wouldn't feel all the pressure was on her, and I've bought in for sure, but there's no real pretending.  I can check my temperature (which I have not) but it's just a number on the chart that we'll throw away.  It doesn't have a damn thing to do with our baby.
Heather's chart is not going to get thrown away.  Once we stop being jackasses and find the cervix so we can find the cervical opening (the "os," if you're playing along at home) so we can find how much and what kind of mucus is coming out, we'll shift into the stage where putting her chart down on the wrong dresser will destroy the peace of our home.  I will hand her the thermometer, the pencil, the cup to pee in-- and that's as essential as I get.

I realize that she'll need a support person, and I do the reading and research and e-mail Nina about where the f-ing cervix is today, but I'm supporting the effort and she is the effort.  Will her whole pregnancy feel this way for me?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Medication: always the answer

Trying to distract myself from a day shortened by Daylight Savings, I hit up my Amazon Recommendations-- a terrific time-killer, if you're looking for one.  After six months of an attitude of "If I buy more, it will happen," I've encouraged Amazon's recommendations of fertility books, breast-feeding advice, specula both metal and plastic, fertility pee-sticks, and legal advice for gay folk.  Today: fertile-mucus vitamins.
Right.  So now fertile mucus isn't alarming and icky anymore, but an object of open, saleable ambition.  Heather still doesn't like to talk about it-- I, in contrast, will reassure myself during speculum disasters by declaring, "Wow, but your mucus looks great!"-- and now we're supposed to be so deeply passionate about it that we're buying supplements to ensure its quality.

But I realize, with each absurd recommended item, that there could be a time when we're that stretched.  Heather is confident of her natural fertility and I'm suckered in, so right now we're in a position of dismissing as extreme the supplements and fertility beads, but there's a reason those things are out there.  They could look a lot less extreme after three inseminations without baby. 
Would it make the blog more interesting?

How to keep failing

Okay!  So Saturday I had a tough day at work, got in the bath, and left Heather to TV.  Pink-faced and clean, I hopped out of the tub, got dressed, and declared to Heather it was time to get to it.  We had new advice and new reason to think we weren't entirely hopeless.  Who wouldn't be excited at the prospect of not sucking?
And then I sucked.  Or maybe I didn't.  It's hard to know whether it's lack of effort, or lack of skill, or god's sneaky clue that he really does hate gays, but when you can't find the bodily orifice that is responsible for your future offspring, failure just feels like failure.

The first time we tried, I was excited.  I laid out the towel and washed the speculum, opened the tube of generic KY, and was proud of how perfect my flashlight was for the task (although in later efforts I began to wish it came with a special bar to hold between my teeth).  But when you put the new, carefully-researched speculum-- I spent days tracking the package, yearning for my pre-baby toy-- inside someone's flesh, the shine wears off.  Things don't just slide smoothly, and the duck bills aren't as harmless and fun as they look.  And the cervix is not right in front of you like they say it'll be.

Understandably, this is an unpleasant experience for Heather every time.  She's lying prone on towels with her ankles in the air, and her undextrous girlfriend is squinting at a clanky little item that's going to be up her twat.  And Heather does have some problems relinquishing control-- sometimes.  When the person to whom she has relinquished control is not doing things just right, her instinctual reaction is great impatience.  Vocal impatience.

One thing you should know about us is that Heather has a bit of a temper, and I am a cryer.  Better that we're not both angry, or both cryers, but it means we have plenty of raised voice/weeping occasions.  That's what we have when the cervix remains hidden.  It only gets worse the more we struggle, so yesterday we had raised voices about the number of pillows-- I picked one thick one and Heather insisted on adding another.  We had raised voices over whether to try this on the floor or on the bed.  We had raised voices about the speculum pinching Heather's butt.  And then we had tears because of the raised voices.
An hour later?  "E-mail that lady and tell her we need to come in."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Advice from a nurse on finding the cursed gateway to fertility

So I e-mailed Nurse Nina.  I didn't really want to, mainly because I didn't want to admit we'd done such a crummy job of charting so far, and also because, no matter how medically relevant, it's uncomfortable to ask someone whether one's partner has an unusually large vagina.
Nina, however, was a lot more comfortable than I was.  She wrote:

"I think it was very smart of you both to try to compare things by looking for your cervix.  That is a great tip I may share with other couples.
It is possible for someone to have a long vaginal canal.  It is also possible that Heather's uterus tilts at an angle which results in her cervix being difficult to find.  Sometimes putting 1-2 pillows under her hips and having her head lower than her hips helps to get the right angle." 
(I don't know how to copyright that, but don't plagiarize, guys.  The sweet nurse wrote it and it's hers.)

I will admit that, due to some late-evening grocery shopping and a fine dinner, we did not make use of Nurse Nina's advice.  
I'm not proud of it, but it's surprisingly hard to find motivation to get half-undressed and lube up a speculum, spreading out towels and washcloths for follow-up, in preparation for a highly-invasive procedure with entirely undependable results.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to fail at fertility charting

We met with Nina in the first week of January.  Now we're into the second week of March, and nary a week of that time has been fully charted.

It's not that I didn't do the reading, or that I didn't spend days debating which chart was the best (that's a whole other post), or order the supplies.  I did great at all the research and shopping (as usual).  However, waking up Heather, not a morning person, to take her temperature at the same time every day, then asking her to lie on her back with ankles in the air while I search for her cervix every night, is harder than giving Amazon yet another portion of my income.

But here's where even my most-beloved Amazon can't help: I started by ordering a small, metal speculum.  Tried once, twice... and couldn't find the f-ing cervix.  Washed it (I at least did that much), put it aside, and, after a few days to recover from the effort, realized we'd lost it.  So after payday rolled around, I ordered a 10-pack of medium plastic speculums, thinking that Heather's lady parts just needed a firmer hand, so to speak.  (The opening parts on the speculum, reader, are called "bills."  Like you were putting the head of a duck in there.  There is just no pleasant vocabulary to be had here-- "mucus" and "speculum" and the ever-appealing "vagina."  That's why I spend so much time fantasizing about baby names.  And, ladies, I am not going to get into a conversation about "vagina."  I listened to The Vagina Monologues on CD and that didn't make the word any prettier.  Let's talk when you've read Cunt.)

New material, new size: still can't find the cervix.  I just can not find it.  Heather claims that she must have one, and she didn't hear otherwise when she got her PAP smear a month ago, so it's gotta be in there.  And it's not like we can't use the equipment-- she found my cervix in one go.
It looks like it's my fault, but who do you look to for a second opinion?  We can't pull in our roommate like we did when Heather got new clothes and I didn't like them.  And, again, I excel at research, so Heather and I were all up on the illustrations in our baby-making bible and hitting Google harder than I did that time I needed to see the video of the exploding whale carcass.  (Yes, I needed to.)
And it's not like I don't understand the pictures and text-- I had an 800 on my verbal SATs, man-- but the cervix is just not where it's supposed to be.  It's like her lady-canal is longer than nature and the charting system intended.  I knew about penises and clits, but are there different sizes of vaginas, too?  Is one better than the others?  I will tell you this: I wish Heather's was wee and tiny right now, because I look like a dumbass.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Charting? What?

In January, realizing we were ready to set things in motion, Heather and I met with a local nurse/midwife.  A friend of Heather's knew another lesbian couple who had worked with the nurse-- let's call her Nina-- when they inseminated.  They got pregnant on their first try, so we got to calling.

"Hi, my name is Rachel and I got your number from X.  I want to knock my girlfriend up and we need some advice."

Heather, overhearing, was horrified at my wording, but Nina was not, and I felt that boded well for our relationship with her.  If this lady was going to squirt semen into my girlfriend's vagina, we'd better go ahead and get down to brass tacks.

We met with Nina at the library.  I was overflowing with passionate opinions about home birth after reading the excellent Baby Catcher and watching The Business of Being Born... but I'd skipped right past the getting-pregnant part, and apparently that's a big deal.  We never even got to birthing pools.

We told Nina we wanted to get pregnant around September, having agreed to wait till our two-year anniversary.  She said we were at a great point to get prepared because this gave us a lot of time to chart and research.  Charting?  Shit.  I don't know how I thought we'd find out when to inseminate, but tracking Heather's fertile mucus was not what I anticipated.

Nina suggested we get ourselves over to Amazon and buy The New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth.  I'm a big fan of online shopping so I was all kinds of ready for that.  I was not ready for what I'd be reading.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

On becoming a person who refers to "fertile mucus" daily

I'm 26. I've been with a 35-year-old for a year and a half and I'm wild about her. She's sporty, bold, brave, loyal, and a technician; I'm nerdy, perpetually anxious, sappy, and I answer phones 8 hours a day. What does that spell? Parents!
And in truth we make a great team as partners, and we want to be a great team as parents. She can teach the baby to swim while I cry and I can teach the baby holiday crafts while she takes pictures.
Sounds like a great plan, except we happen to both be women and we happen to need a man's sperm to get that baby. And that sperm costs about $700 a pop.
So here we are talking about fertile mucus and having passionate arguments about the use of a speculum, while two men at work have babies on the way with their wives and nary a word of mucus, speculums, or 24-hour windows. In another world, you can have a lot of sex for three months and pee on a stick-- not wonder whether a potential sperm donor is genetically inclined to write pretentious essays.

It hurts and it's fun and it's a struggle with every mucus-texture call, so this is my document, and let's hope I get to change the title of it to "The Lesbian Mom" in a year.