What to Expect When Everyone Else is Expecting

This blog post is about me and my family on our journey to pregnancy. Plenty of people choose to remain childless by choice, and that is as rewarding and valid as the choice to have a child. Check out http://www.childlessbychoiceproject.com for more thoughts about this. We are also well aware of other options of having children, including fostering, adopting, and surrogacy. This piece is not about those options at this time.

My partner and I are trying to get pregnant. Some people know this, and some people do not. Some people know specific details (and text us sweet words the morning of insemination), and some people only know that we’re on this journey.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve got conception and babies on my mind, but it feels like I’m seeing pregnant people everywhere. Out of the five women on my organization’s board of directors, three are pregnant. Many young people in the drop in center where I work are pregnant. I see pregnant people and women at the co-op, at the park, and at restaurants. I see them at the bus stop, at the movies, and walking past our house; all in various stages of “bump”. Recently, someone was excitedly telling me about a pregnancy in their extended family. “How nice for them.” I said dryly, as I stared at my computer screen and clacked away at an email.

I don’t like them. Ok, let me back up; I’m sure they are all nice people. I don’t even know them. But my partner and I have a challenging and costly journey to pregnancy (if that will be the end result) due to age and egg/sperm viability, and seeing people have “happy accidents” and “perfectly timed bundles of joy” really chaps my ass. To borrow a phrase used around our house from the kid lately: NO FAIR. I can be peaceful and steady minded about a lot of things, but not knowing if this road will lead to a child makes it extremely hard to be happy for others who are meeting egg and sperm in rapid fire succession.

Many years ago, before I met my partner, I had all my reproductive pieces removed from my body. I knew that even if children were in my future, it sure as hell was not going to be me that carried them to term. As I was showering a few nights ago, tiny thoughts crept in before I could stop them. What if I still had my uterus? What if I kept those ovaries? I wonder if I stopped taking testosterone long enough…. But that’s where the thoughts stopped. I was surprised that I was even considering that as an option, but since it’s not possible, I didn’t think much more about it. See what this has done to me? I’m reaching backwards for pieces of myself that don’t even exist anymore in the hopes that we could have a baby.

Once we made this choice to move forward with getting pregnant, I signed up for all sorts of informational websites. I read books and talked to friends about the pregnancy and birth process. That is all good, and has been helpful. But I’ve noticed that lately, with a few unsuccessful tries under our belts, those emails and books have been quiet pokes in my side. “Look at what you’re missing” they all seem to say. One website, “The Bump”, is particularly annoying with frequent emails. Until we have a few weeks of a successful pregnancy behind us, I’ll just keep deleting them:

Actual gif of me deleting the email

and keep my scowling face towards pregnant people in public to a minimum.

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Guest Post: Super Sperm!

This post is a submission by a guest author who wishes to remain anonymous. To submit your own guest post, click here.

My partner and I are shopping for sperm. With all the sperm available out there in the world, you would think this would be easy. Cismen unload that stuff in frenzied sessions all year long. They literally throw sperm away all the time. But when we asked our good friend for a bit of his sperm so that we could try to have a baby, he said no.

I’ve never felt that my body was lacking something the way that I feel it right now. In the past, if I wasn’t able to change something about my body with available options presented to me, I could make peace with that. Somehow, this feels different. This would not be an “accident” baby. This baby is well thought out; names meticulously considered, lists compiled of anti-racist baby books, theories on how to talk to our child about trans stuff, should we make baby food or buy baby food?*, what happens if I get bored or isolated as a stay at home father?, how much screen time should they have, etc. You get the point. This kid is well planned for…..now we just need the kid.

We approached Kyle with compassion and neutrality. We did not beg for his sperm, nor did we make it overly emotional. He felt honored that we asked, but he quickly said no. He wanted his own children in the future, and felt that having a child who was “sort of” his would mess up something, emotionally, for his future kid. We respected his choice, of course. But that left us with the real problem of sperm. We do not know any other cismen that we feel comfortable being a known donor to our child. That simple “no”, however we love and respect Kyle, just cost us a minimum of $1,000 worth of: anonymous vials of sperm, trips to the doctor, and any insemination costs not covered by insurance – then multiplied by however many times needed to get pregnant. What an expensive rejection!

I went through several days of depression while I sorted out my feelings. I felt embarrassed that I had to ask another man for his sperm. Angry that he put some theoretical child of the future as a larger priority than his good friends’ current situation. Considering the costs of sperm banks, I felt anxious that we wouldn’t get pregnant right away and the costs would be too much with subsequent attempts. I felt angry that he can make sperm and I cannot. I feel angry that he has the choice whether to give his sperm away or not. I wanted to write this post in a letter form, addressed to Kyle, but I think that he’s been at the center of my brain for long enough. We are not waiting for anyone else to be part of this path to parenthood. Whatever the outcome, we are doing this together. I just hope we get lucky with some awesome anonymous sperm that does the trick! Hopefully at this time next year, I’ll be wiping up drool and longing for the days when I could sit down to write a blog post about sperm.

* Make!

The Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men

I am one of those people who likes to have a plan. Doesn’t matter if it’s school, work, vacations, midweek, weekend, I function better when I roughly know what I will be doing in a day and when it’s going to happen. I’ve even been known to calculate queer standard time into my plans when planning with others. My tendency to start talking about “the plan” for the weekend before coffee, let alone breakfast, has irked my partner on more than one occasion. Plans help me feel calm and prepared for whatever it is I need to get done, whether it is laundry, cleaning, schoolwork, or socializing. Without them, I tend to get anxious and generally unpleasant.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, being a parent has completely altered my ability to make plans and stick to them. My almost 13 month old kid, Little Bear, was born when I was three-quarters of the way done with my first semester of grad school. It was the most exquisitely beautiful hurricane of joy and stress. I went from having scheduled time for homework, being with my partner, work, transit, exercise, class, relaxing, and cooking, to pretty much everything being up in the air. I had an economics test five days after she was born that I somehow managed to pass and vaguely remember drifting off into daydreams of how perfect her fingers and ears were.

As Little Bear got older, my partner and I settled in a new sort-of routine of parenting. I still was trying to plan my time like I did pre-kid, and that did not go well. I would anticipate being able to work on assignments at home or plan on getting certain amounts of sleep at certain times, and have immobilizing anxiety when life didn’t unfold exactly as I had expected. I started adjusting, stretching, bending. For example, if she wasn’t sleeping when she was 2 months old while I needed to be doing homework I would wear her and stroll around the house reading my statistics text aloud. Which, by the way, is a surefire way to make both you and your kid want to nap.

Frankly, I am still figuring out how to be a parent and a student and a partner and an employee and myself all at the same time. We are fortunate to live in a community where our family has many people that love us, help us out of tight spots with child care, and manage to not roll their eyes when I start talking about the minutiae of having a baby. Even so, I get stressed. I get anxious about time, and money, and when am I ever going to be able to finish projects. I obsess over the remaining balance on the hospital bills from when she was born. I worry about when is the right time and how will I talk to Little Bear about being trans. I spent time late at night recently worrying about how to talk about race and white privilege. I worry about how to talk about our family in a way that doesn’t center my trans identity as it’s queer locus, that both her mama and I aren’t straight even though that’s how we are perceived by the majority of the world. I want nothing more than a clear idea of how life is going to work itself out.

And then Little Bear does something heart melting and perfect like toddling over to me whenever I come home with her arms raised to be picked up and hugged. She “sings” and bounces in time to Whitney Houston while I’m cleaning lunch debris off the walls. She drags her well-loved copy of “Brown Bear” over and climbs into my lap so I can read to her. Or she giggles hysterically while I tickle her, then signs for more as soon as I stop.

As I am finishing up the last few assignments and getting ready to start my last semester of grad school, I’ve taken to reminding myself that in the long run doesn’t matter what the plan is for tomorrow, or next week, or next month. I will get my assignments and work done. Her mama and I will figure out how to talk about our family and ourselves in a way that is genuine. We will even figure out a way to talk about America’s genocidal colonialism. For right now the plan is trying not to worry or plan too much. The plan is to be here in the moment in all it’s messy, loosely scheduled, unplanned glory.