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Waiting For The Stork


...Or the FedEx Truck

by Elisabeth, Contributing Editor

Waiting For The Stork | A Practical Wedding

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.

Elisabeth

Elisabeth is an MPH working in public health in New York City. Her old okcupid profile said she’s really good at: fixing socially awkward situations at parties, return trips to Ikea, whipping up excellent mac and cheese on camping trips, leaping into the ocean, being chronically late, and having Friday night adventures all over Brooklyn. In September 2013, she married her introverted, punctual K.

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  • Amanda L

    Oh man. As someone who has been through ‘trying but not trying’ for 13 months, then endured what I call ‘Procedure-fest 2013′, and is back to ‘trying but not trying’, I can only send you a giant internet hug.

    Also, as a chronically late person (I swear it’s due to my optimism about how long it takes to get places) who married a punctual person, I just want to give you a high five! (I’ve given J my permission to lie to me about what time we need to be places. That way, I can still be ‘late’ and he is still on time). :)

  • BeccaC

    My condolences Elisabeth and K :( Sending internet hugs your way.
    Your writing made reading this article an emotional roller coaster. I really hope your stork arrives soon!

    • Alyssa M

      More internet hugs from a teary eyed stranger.

      Also sending prayer/positive thoughts/etc your way that next time is soon and more successful!

  • Aly Windsor

    I’m so, so sorry you and your partner went through this experience. Your essay is beautiful. I wish I could reach through the screen and hug you. My partner and I also wanted that experience of as close to accidental pregnancy as possible. We ended up, after a year of lower-tech gyn attempts and interventions, going to an RE who, with injectables and an IUI, got me pregnant on try one (try 6 overall). I admit I hated how unromantic and sometimes painful (and expensive!) everything was then but I barely remember any of that now, two kids later.

    Plus, a few months ago I was on the playground with some straight mothers. One of them mentioned that her son had asked how he was made and she got all flustered and couldn’t answer. I realized then that this was one area where I sorta had an advantage. It’s not the least bit awkward to me to explain to my kids how they were made and I’ve been doing it since they were old enough to converse. So that’s kindof awesome.

    Anyway, thanks for writing about this. I know so many can and need to relate. Best of luck to you on this journey.

    • alloallo

      thinking of you all… we are an infertile straight couple but have had a similar experience. Trying at first to do things in a more low-key way and feeling very resentful (and deeply sad) about having to do this route at all. And then, going for the stimulated doctor-monitored IUI and getting pregnant on the second round. I did end up with twins (and there’s the down/up side!) but now we have them and they’re wonderful and we didn’t take a huge amount of time for it all to happen… so I feel quite good about our route though it was everything but ‘natural’

  • TheresaSea

    Your writing is beautiful and honest. I am so sorry for your loss, but am sending you positive thoughts for a happy and celebratory future! Thank you for sharing a part of your truth today.

  • jenny

    Thank you for sharing your story. My wife and I have discussed having kids for quite some time now, and it nearly always comes back to the “I wish we could just accidentally get knocked up.” I’m definitely taking some comfort in knowing I’m not the only one that feels a little pang when viewing cycles of pregnancy and motherhood on my newsfeed.

    It’s unbelievably hard when finances have to play such a role in TRYING to conceive. I try to assure my wife that like any couple, once we had a baby we would just find a way to make it work financially. Not saying of course that planning ahead isn’t a good idea, and all but admittedly neither of us quite feel like grown-ups in that area yet. When living what seems like paycheck to paycheck it’s near impossible to imagine somehow saving up 10k+ to take a shot at conceiving.

    But its funny how the universe works, because just this morning (prior to logging on and reading this article) I was thinking how I should call and set myself an appointment to see if we might be able to explore getting the ball rolling on this. I’ve been severely irresponsible in “regular” visits and don’t currently have an established gyn. After a diagnosis of “possible PCOS” at 17, I’ve never been confident in my ability to conceive anyways. But the more I spend my spare time googling adoption options the more I find myself yearning for the experience of pregnancy.

    Thank you again for sharing this experience, because part of my fear in moving forward is that we wouldn’t be able to handle the let-down that so many experience on the road to conception. Seems like it’d be so much easier if it were free to just try again the next month. I wish you and K all the luck in your endeavor to be parents and hope I someday soon gain your courage to embark on a journey myself. Much internet love to you both!

    • k

      I am not a medical doctor, nor do I know your personal situation, but take hope — a lot of PCOS diagnosis are inaccurate! I was diagnosed via ovarian ultrasound, even though I had very mild symptoms, if any. Three years and several doctors later, I asked about it, since nothing had ever been done and I wasn’t sure what it meant. My doctor re-scanned me and said “oh, they must have read the ultrasound wrong, or you were just hyper-ovulating. Everything looks fine.”

  • Hils

    This is so lovely and sad. I am so sorry about your miscarriage. I had a surprise pregnancy and a surprise miscarriage and that roller coaster of emotions was a terrible, wild ride.

    It was an isolating experience for me, because it was hard to share news that wasn’t good with those who love us — I didn’t want them to be hurt like I was hurt. But I get now the value of sharing these stories however we can, because too few of us do. And life shouldn’t be so lonely when it’s hardest.

    As a side note — Go union!

    • JDrives

      Those who love you want to know, and be there for you. My dear friend shared with me and only a few others that she was expecting, and when she was suddenly not expecting anymore a month later, she told me that too. She said she regretted saying anything in the first place because it sucked so much to have to give the bad news later on. But I reminded her that the reason she told her loved ones is so that we could rejoice in the good and support and love in the bad.

  • Brigid

    Elisabeth, your writing always takes my breath away, and this honest and beautiful essay is no different. I just wanted to offer my gratitude for sharing your story, and wish you and K the best on your journey.

  • Hannah B

    <3 <3 <3

  • StevenPortland

    Thanks for sharing your story. During our long surrogacy journey our surrogate had a miscarriage and your writing brought back all of those feelings of something that is a common experience and yet something that couples often suffer silently without support.

  • Shotgun Shirley

    So many internet hugs to you and K. Elisabeth, I always love your writing and I’m so glad you’re still around and sharing so much of yoursel with us. I’m sorry you had to go through this and I wish you all the best as you continue in your journey.

  • Rose

    Oh, I’m so sorry, but I hope you have success soon.

    I’m some years from really thinking about having kids, but we’ve been looking ahead a bit too to “how are we going to do that?” I know the jealousy–my barely-older cousin was careless and got a kid a couple of years ago, and I have to be responsible and get through school and get a job (because that’s just my personality), with absolutely no chance that any accidents will happen. Every now and then it gets so frustrating.

  • Amber Smith

    I’m so sorry for your loss :( Thanks for sharing something so intimate. It’ll happen for you and it’ll be incredible!

  • Fiona

    I’m totally blubbering into my coffee. Thank you so much for sharing this. I know it’s hard, but it’s such an important perspective and I so value hearing it.

  • G

    One of my greatest fears is finally seeing those two pink lines and then miscarrying. Thank you for writing about this with such honesty. Best of luck on your journey to your take-home baby :)

  • Crysta Swarts

    I always dreamed of having a little flock of kiddos before I was thirty and prancing about the world with my happy family. Now that I’m thirty-one and my flock is made up of two grouchy kitties, I’ve come to understand much more about the world of babies. One thing I’ve been shocked and heart-torn by is the number of women who have miscarriages and aren’t able to share with anyone. My aunt had three (IVF) before my cousin was born; a friend had two (traditional) before her daughter came to stay. The best way we (as women and people) can support each other is by sharing openly and growing empathy through that sharing. Thank you for sharing and therefore strengthening the empathy muscles of all who read it. Best wishes for you and K, in all you do.

  • http://www.therewm.com/ Rachel W. Miller

    Oh my gosh, I got tears in my eyes at “17 days later” and got so excited that I just started scrolling to the end of the post…at which point I got a lot more tears in my eyes, for other reasons.

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. And this was a great piece.

  • Outside Bride

    Elisabeth, I have missed you (and by extension K) more than I had realized. I got a little jolt of happiness when I saw your name this morning and got to dive into your piece. And, now, of course, I am feeling heartbroken for you, as well. Writing this, much less living it, had to have been an incredible emotional expenditure. Thank you for doing it anyway. So much courage. So much grace. Best wishes for the next try.

  • Granola

    *hugs* This was really beautiful and I was laughing right along with you, never expecting to be so sad two paragraphs later. I’m impressed that you were still able to tell such an delightful story with such a (for now) sad ending. Good luck to you both. I’m kind of in your camp at the moment (well, but straight, so without the FedEx) and each month when it doesn’t happen, I get a bid sad. So I can only imagine how you must have felt. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rachelle

    *hugs* and solidarity to you. Miscarriage can be very lonely and terribly sad. Best wishes and good luck on your next try! Then – a cake for the stud!

  • Rachel

    Heartbreaking, and beautifully written, and I am so sorry for your loss and so happy for your present and future happiness.

  • Grace from England

    Elisabeth, I was so happy to see a post by you today, I’ve been thinking of you and K since APW Pride started. Your posts are always so beautiful and full of love. I’m sorry your journey to parenthood has got off to a bumpy start, and I really hope there is a happy ending for you both in the near future. I’m already looking forward to the next chapter

  • CH

    I am so, so sorry for your loss.

    And thank you for smacking me in the face with what a privilege it is that I can get accidentally pregnant with my male partner.

    I wish you so much luck in continuing your journey toward parenthood.

  • Brooke

    Ohhh Elisabeth, so sorry to read this. As always, you manage to get straight to the heart with everything you write. Getting an update on your married life is such a treat, I’m sorry that you two are facing sadness right now. Thank you for sharing, and fertile vibes to you.

  • Helen

    Elisabeth, I’m really glad you shared
    this with us, for lots of reasons. Some dear friends have lost babies
    recently and it really sucks, but posts like this makes things less
    lonely, so thanks. More selfishly, I’m really grateful to hear from other fertility-challenged couples
    about how they’re going about conceiving. So thank you.

  • Caroline

    I’ve been reading APW for nearly 4 years now, generally as a lurker,

    This is one of the top 5 posts I’ve ever read.

    Elizabeth: thank you, and I’m sorry. I hope that light shines out again soon for you and K (and your sperm donor).

  • Valerie Day

    I read this before work this morning and was so grateful to read it (and pissed cause I started crying). Miscarriage, even early, so hard. Thanks for sharing your story, even before your future happy ending. We want to adopt, and I worry about losing children that way too. Uncertainty is already hard for me, and I can’t imagine how it will be when its about a child!

  • anon

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Devastating essay. But! But! Women with early miscarriages are MORE likely to get pregnant in the following couple months and have a healthy baby (mostly because it means she is fertile). So fingers crossed for you and K (and the stallion) to get good news soon!

  • DeeAnna

    “Waiting for the stork” is what I tell people when asked when we’re going to have children.

  • Kayjayoh

    I am also sorry for your loss.