A year ago: K comes home from work while I am deep in the Internet weeds at the dining room table. “Good news,” I say, barely looking up from the screen, “we can use FedEx. That way, we’ll get a tracking number.” “That’s great,” K replies, just as abstractly, “except I’d really prefer to use UPS, since they’re union.” And then we are off down yet another rabbit hole in our curious, convoluted quest to conceive. Which, since we lack half the goods necessary to do so, requires some creativity. And in our case, FedEx airbills.
11 months ago: We want desperately to do this the low-key, DIY way. We both know queer couples who have spent years and down payments and second wedding budgets on frozen sperm, IUIs, fertility treatment, IVF, surrogacy, and adoption. Before we go down that path, we are determined to replicate as closely as we possibly can the experience of those lucky straight couples who say they’re not trying but not not trying. Oh, God, I think when I hear my straight friends talking about accidental pregnancies; what I would give for K to accidentally knock me up.
10 months ago: It’s been clear from the start that I’ll do the gestating of the offspring. K has no interest in anything hanging out in her uterus, and I’ve been dog-earing pages of Spiritual Midwifery for years now. Since I’ll have that biological connection to the kid, I think it’s only fair that K should take the lead on deciding where we rustle up some sperm. She picks someone we both love dearly, who also happens to be a major hunk. In an incredible display of generosity, he says he is honored and would be glad to donate some genetic material.
9 months ago: We meet up with our friend and talk through the logistics. We describe how he’ll deposit his… deposit… into a little vial, add a buffer (which I like to imagine is a high protein chocolate milkshake for the long journey), throw in some ice packs, and drop it off at FedEx. Aside from a battery of testing, a legal agreement waiving his parental rights, and some time zone calculations, that’s really all there is to it. “That’s it?” he says, incredulously. “Well, yes,” I say. “You know, the queer movement is really borrowing a page from veterinary medicine—” “So I’m a STALLION?!” he gasps, and we giggle the rest of the weekend about what a stud he is.
8 months ago: We meet with an extremely energetic lawyer, who cautions us that until the second parent adoption goes through we should carry copies of temporary guardianship forms with us everywhere, notarized, each copy is how many dollars, better get at least six. We stare at each other in disbelief. K reminds me that the legal rigamarole binding our family together, proving to the rest of the world that we both are fully vested parents of this child, would still be cheaper than what our friends just paid for one round of IUI.
7 months ago: We temp. We chart. I lick a strange microscope to try to see if my saliva shows any fertile ferning patterns. I eat so much pineapple I shred the top layer of my tongue off. Why? Because someone said that someone they know once ate pineapple and had a baby, so.
A few months ago: We decide to do a FedEx dress rehearsal. What seemed so easy on paper now becomes complicated. The FedEx store says it accepts drop-offs through 5pm, but the tired employee behind the counter says 4pm was the cut-off. Our donor heroically drives to the airport, the little package seat-belted in the backseat, to try to make the last flight out. We worry we are wearing out our welcome with our loyal stallion.
This spring: One morning I lazily pee on a stick and suddenly the little egg symbol is staring back at me, with no warning, like a Vegas billboard blinking COPULATE in white lights. “K!” I yell. We are caught off-guard. K sends an urgent text to our friend, and we rearrange schedules and figure out that we can make one golden try work this month.
Go Time: By the time the package arrives, I’m imagining my egg as a shriveled up raisin, getting ready to give up the ghost. K has been hovering outside the living room window, stalking the FedEx truck, and finally goes downstairs to watch by the door. Somehow we missed it, and the package has been hanging out on the stoop like a little orphan in a bunting basket. She streaks upstairs into the bedroom, where I’m hanging out with my hips propped up on four pillows. The clock is ticking. “Wait!” I say. “Are we supposed to… you know… before or after?” This is no time for googling! We decide to split the difference. K unearths my old copy of Best Lesbian Erotica 1995. “Where the hell did you get that?” I say in disbelief. “Didn’t I give that to Goodwill?” We try for… you know, but I’m laughing too much as she reads aloud from a tender lesbian romance. I sit with my hips up for twenty minutes, and then have to dash to a meeting. Oh well, we tell ourselves, we missed the boat this month. There will be more months.
14 days later: I get out of the shower, rub my face in my towel, and gag. I accuse K of buying ham-scented detergent. No period.
17 days later: I wear a sports bra to work because my chest hurts so badly. No period. Neither of us has ever had any reason to worry about late periods, so we’re not exactly a robust sample, but we think this would be noticeable, even for straight ladies. But what do we know?
3 weeks later: No period. K is traveling, so we speculate via Skype. K is sure, and I am unsure, as I practice mouth-breathing to avoid the ham smell. According to the Internet, the symptoms I exhibit as a possibly pregnant person mirror the symptoms I exhibit as a slightly neurotic picky eater. But this wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly. It takes every lesbian we know at least a year, maybe more, to get pregnant. We were supposed to travel! I wish that we’d met when we were twenty-two so we could have a decade of adventure under our belt. We wait, and wonder, and get the tiniest bit excited, and also terrified and overwhelmed.
26 days later: No period. K finally, finally comes home at 11PM. And the next morning, when I had imagined the two of us walking through our neighborhood sharing this amazing secret, smiling at each other over breakfast, and imagining an addition in a high chair gumming spoons next year, I start cramping. For about an hour, we think there’s still a chance, and then it becomes painfully obvious that my body is efficiently doing exactly what it should with a rogue embryo. We don’t know what to do. So we go to the grocery store before we hole up for the weekend. I grab a cart, and she waits for me in the produce section, and when I round the corner, she looks at me with tears in her eyes. “But I was just getting used to it,” she says, “and now it’s gone.”
We tell each other that this is good news wrapped in sadness. That we were able to use a bizarre science experiment and the magic of FedEx to actually get something started. That my body was smart enough to know that this one should move along, to make space for another. That we should be grateful it was so early, because we hardly had any time to hope, and it would be so much more painful if it had happened later. That someday we will look back and say to each other, remember how sad you were, and remember how much we love this one now, and this one would never have existed if it wasn’t for that one?
But the thing is, we wanted that one. We wanted, so badly, to be part of that common experience. To try to not try and see what happens, to be joyfully surprised by biology. I never thought we would actually get pregnant, and then when we did, I never thought I’d miscarry, but I did, like so many other women do. And now I understand how it feels to share such a very common experience, and be so lonely all at the same time.