The Devil’s Pills Return

I know a lot more than the average Jane about birth control. I even know things about now all but defunct methods like vaginal foam and diaphragms. I also know rates of perfect vs. average use, how often you can take plan B (as often as you want) vs. ella (no more than once per month) as emergency contraception. I spend a sizable percentage of my working hours talking about birth control, learning more about birth control, and explaining birth control. I can put condoms on wooden penises REALLY fast, while explaining to you how to also do so correctly.

On the other hand, I’m pretty gay. My personal experience with contraceptives is limited to a short stint at 19 when I was occasionally having sex with a guy friend, use of condoms for the other handful of times I slept with dudes, and most notably, during my IVF cycle, where I had to use OCPs (that’s oral contraceptive pills, for those of you less down with the jargon) twice and the nuva.ring once throughout the process. So I only know about the lived experience of birth control pills and the ring.

Basically, my experience is mostly highly academic and data driven. Which means that, when pushed, I will always recommend an IUD or an implant, because those methods are almost perfect at preventing pregnancy thanks to a lack of opportunity for user error. After all, you go in once and a doctor sets you up with almost fail safe pregnancy prevention for between 3-10 years. You don’t have to remember to take it everyday at the same time, you don’t have to get it refilled once a month, and also, it doesn’t turn you into a raging harpy.

Listen, everyone has different needs and wants in birth control. That’s why, as a health educator, I don’t make recommendations – just share the knowledge I have. There are all kinds of cultural and personal reasons for the decisions we make. I have known doctors who say things like, ‘when girls get to 15, we should just stick an IUD in ’em’ not even realizing the extensive history of coercion and forced sterilization and other fucked up things that have happened to poor people and people of color when it comes to having babies or not. So I’m never going to make a blanket statement about what kind of birth control everyone should use.

I just REALLY don’t understand why anyone would choose birth control pills.

And after the last week – a week of living with my beautiful, amazing, wonderful wife on OCPs – I stand by my question. Listen, I love my wife, its just easier to like her when she’s not on birth control pills. At least I intensely remember my personal experience well enough to give her a little extra space and grace and keep my head down until next week when, pleasepleaseplease, she’ll be done with the pills.

This morning she apologized for being so short with me and I said, it’s ok, I understand. Then I said, this is just proof that we should be gay. Because if God had wanted us to be straight, he would not have made us such miserable wenches on birth control.

It’s happening.

It’s happening.

It’s happening SO.FUCKING.FAST.

LL is on OCP’s (she started Saturday) and we are barreling toward egg retrieval on December 15th. Wut?!

Basically, she got her period last Thursday, got a call, and then the train went blasting out of the station. Partially, the speed is because the clinic closes for Xmas, so we are trying to get things in under the wire. But, it also seems like this process is just a little more streamlined and quick than it was at the clinic in CO.

We had to quickly make our final decision about sperm. It actually wasn’t a difficult decision at all. We had three we liked – two CMV + and one CMV -. Last Thursday we went to go look through them all again, and discovered one of them was no longer listed on the site (?!) Which narrowed it down to just two, and the answer was really clear. We picked the tallish (not the tallest, though) black haired, blue eyed college administrator who is a few years older than us (shocking, I know!) and donated because he met folks who’d struggled with fertility in his parenting classes. There are some benefits we like about his age (like being older when our kid might eventually want to meet him, having a greater maturity about the long term consequences of an open donation) and ultimately, while I don’t think it matters in the least to me if people donate mostly (or even solely) because of the financial compensation (although I continue to feel somewhat ripped off that something so casually discarded in tissues and athletic socks the world over costs over $500 a vial), there’s something I like about his having had personal relationships with people struggling with infertility. Guess I’m a sucker for that?

So, off we go . . .she has some additional blood tests tomorrow, then an office hysteroscopy and “uterine sounding” (they called it a trial embryo transfer when I did it, but “uterine sounding” sounds MUCH more badass) next week. We sign all the consents on December 1st and I believe she starts stims on 12/3. The weekend of the 10th we’ll be in PDX (LL for a conference, Ansel and I to hang out) and are hoping our Seattle clinic will give the OK to have her get blood tests and a follicular u/s at OHSU as that’s just a few days out from retrieval (if not, we have a plan B that sounds stressful but do-able) and then . . .then we harvest some eggs from my lovely wife’s ovaries.

Unlike my experience, where I had to wait a month for a ‘wash-out’ cycle (something I’ve never heard of happening with others . . .), we will likely move forward pretty quickly with the FET (if I didn’t mention, we are having these embryos biopsied, as we did the ones from my IVF cycle, which forces a FET vs fresh transfer) – hopefully, mid-January. Which means gayby #2 arriving smack in the middle of Libra season, which I ain’t mad about at all. (Maybe for my 36th birthday, my wife will give birth to a baby!)

Although we know (from personal experience) that the best laid IVF plans can easily go awry, we are – as we should – smack dab in the middle of hope and daydreaming right now. The excitement of my IVF cycle came after almost two years of failures to get pregnant, and it was like a balm then – the idea of pregnancy being so close. The context this time is so very, very different. But the hope feels magical all the same.

Of course, I’m nervous about things this time that I wasn’t before. Like, where do I fit in and how will all of this work with me on this end? How can I be a good partner to my pregnant wife and use my previous experience to be helpful and not pushy or weird? But there’s a strange, soft note of grief too . . .although the excitement about my beloved being pregnant is overwhelming, there is a bit of a loss there too. Being on this side of things is different, that’s all. For better and worse.

But then Ansel hugs his babies (a gaggle of soft bodied, vibrantly colored, many-ethnicity bearing dolls that a co-worker gave me) and piles them into his cart, or holds one up to the opposite breast while he nurses from the other, and my heart swells because I’m SO EXCITED for him to be a big sibling. I’m a little scared about what life might look like, and nervous about going back to sleeplessness and incommunicative wailing and the foggy exhaustion of a newborn. But I can almost always feel the joy under the fear, the hope . . .

But. It’s happening.

Here goes nothin’.

 

Mortality

My parents came to town the weekend before last. Mostly, it was fine. By which I mean: there was no intense emotional drama, no fights, no obvious guilt trips. It was absolutely exhausting. Totally, entirely draining. I think we learned enough to take the edge of the next visit, but I also think I learned a lot about my parents, and the only thing to be done about that is grieve.

Our rental house is small, it’s not terribly accessible, and while we do have a guest room (/storage space/’room of requirement), it’s a smallish bed and cramped with boxes. We have one small bathroom. My parents are not super mobile. My dad has a condition that is similar to MS (in fact, the doctor’s don’t know what it IS, just that it impacts the myelination and communication between nerves and his brain. He went to Johns Hopkins and even they couldn’t figure it out.) and he has 0 control of his left leg and needs crutches (the kind that clamp to your arms) to walk, and even then, it’s exhausting and slow. My mom has terrible osteo-arthritis that has resulted in two hip replacements and, now it would appear a knee replacement (or two?) are in her near future. For these reasons, we had them stay at a hotel about 15 minutes south of us (there weren’t any hotels closer and, for whatever reason, we totally didn’t even check for an Airbnb.) The original plan had been to lend them a car so they could have some flexibility, but my dad ended up not wanting to drive (and my mom is pretty adamant about driving any place she isn’t super familiar) so, we had to shuttle them back and forth. With the car seat and four large adults, we also couldn’t all fit comfortably in our car, so we had to rent a minivan (which I’m kind of coveting now, y’all. Don’t judge.)

The contrast of two older (almost 70), fairly immobile adults and one can’t-stop-won’t-stop 20 month old was jarring. In Colorado, we mostly spent time at their house, having dinner and letting Ansel play with the toys there, or in their yard. It was somehow quite easy to ignore their physical inabilities. But here, it was obvious and, for me anyway, heartbreaking. We hung out at our house, I took them on a driving tour of the city, we went out to eat a lot (which was the most exhausting because toddlers are the worst at restaurants – I’m embarrassed with how much Thomas the Tank Engine Ansel watched at tables!) and we took the ferry to Bainbridge island. It was so tiring, and yet also didn’t feel fulfilling. So much driving, so little real connecting. I ended up feeling overwhelmingly confronted with my parent’s fleeting mortality and also being so ashamed by how annoyed I was.

I know that moving was the best thing, for all kinds of reasons, including my relationship with my mom. But I’m not used to this, and it’s sad and strangely lonely – being so far away from the people who have been so long all up on your business. You can learn the miss even the stuff you can’t stand, I guess. We’ll see how the trip to Denver goes. We are staying with my brother and sister-in-law, which my mom strangely supports wholeheartedly, which should make the whole thing a bit easier to handle.

Growing up is fucking hard.

In other news . . .

  • L got her period today and we are waiting on a call back from the nurse to get more details on the schedule. It’s possible she’ll be starting OCPs on Sunday (?!) This whole process is going SO MUCH FASTER than when we met with the clinic in Colorado. It helps when it ain’t your first rodeo, I guess? Also, this clinic seems hella efficient, which I appreciate.
  • We are still waiting on L’s CMV results to make a final donor decision, but have it narrowed down to a few favorites. It’s funny how much I’m relying on my gut response to their interview recordings. And how much more I’m thinking about what a baby with L’s eggs + X donor sperm will look like. It’s a game we never really played much because using BFF was such a given. The guy I like the best just sounded so kind, and I really liked that. But, I mean, WHY? He’s not gonna be my friend and is kindness genetic?! I don’t know. All of this sends me down the rabbit hole so intensely! But also, I don’t feel super strongly – about anything, honestly, except height. You might not know, but I’m pretty tall. I have mixed feelings about it but it is the thing I want to pass along to kids, I guess? So, I’m advocating for one of the tall guys. Our new addition to the list is 6’4”!
  • Upon the advice of basically everyone, we decided to plan a trip to a sunny locale for February. Initially, we thought we’d go to CA and maybe hit up Disneyland, but after pricing things out, it will be cheaper to go to Florida and hit up Disneyworld! L’s mom is going with us, and we’re going to mostly be using the money my parents give us for Xmas so we won’t have to dip into our savings at all. Which is good because . . .
  • Like many of you, we are knee deep in second parent adoption bullshittery thanks to America’s dumb move and the potential for the rise of a fascist state. Thanks to some awesome queer lawyer’s in the Seattle area, we got enough information to get the process going without having to retain our own counsel, and we should we able to walk away with the second parent adoption for $1K or less. If we can find a social worker who won’t gouge us, anyway.
  • Even with really really good insurance coverage for fertility, it looks like we’ll have to pay out of pocket for all of our meds – because the insurance covers egg retrieval but not Lupron?! Anyway, those of you who bought meds out of pocket (ours were all bundled with the package through the CO clinic) – how did you find the cheapest prices/discount programs?
  • We’ve all been sick for the last week with snotty noses, sneezes and some coughing. The last couple of days, Ansel has had a deeper, wet sounding wheezey cough. I’m starting to get worried about him. This is really the sickest he’s ever been, for which I am incredibly grateful. But still, it’s scary and sad when your kid is sick.
  • Ansel has been in a zippity-zip (a kind of wearable blanket thing) since we transitioned him out of the woombie at like 5 months. He’s in the largest size (12-24 months) and is fast growing out of it. Does anyone have tips for transitioning out of sleep sacks/wearable blankets? Did you add real blankets at that time? Go cold tukey? HALP! I kind of want him to stay in it forever because it keeps him from climbing out of the crib and doing anything shady like removing his diaper, but I think our time is nigh . . .
  • L got headshots done by a friend, who also offered to take some family pictures. Can’t say I’m in love with any that I’m in, but holy fucking shit my kid is cute. Sometimes I’m not quite sure I believe that I contributed half his genetic material . . .Also, he’s super into fistbumping, which is what we are doing in the 3rd picture down.
  • 15068280_10154714774124419_7222209056309374213_o.jpg15025097_10154714773454419_991332085597030553_o.jpg15000029_10154714770009419_3357419663342859457_o.jpg15042016_10154714769594419_2616464436485469700_o.jpg15000131_10154714769784419_2825251578684295149_o.jpg

The Audacity of Hope

I will not tell anyone to feel anything today, just to clarify if you thought that the title might lead to some cockeyed optimism that you just aren’t prepared to deal with. That is not what I’m going to say.

I’m going to start by acknowledging the obvious: America has made a devastating but actually unsurprising decision to elect a xenophobic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist blowhard and we will all suffer the consequences. The racism and classism that has been bubbling beneath the surface of our communities for decades has surfaced and, I fear, will be set loose with abandon. The best we can do now is to dig deep for strength and resiliance, batten the hatches, protect the most vulnerable amongst us, and do what damage control we can. In the intervening 4 years (less!) we need to build strong coalitions and elect progressives in the midterms, and then emerge with a solid candidate to run in 2020. And pray.

L and I, distraught as any two queers (though, to be fair, white middle-ish class queers in a hella progressive state) decided to do the audaciously hopeful thing in the midst of this absurdity: we went to the fertility clinic to begin the process of making another baby.

That’s what I’m going to tell you about. That’s where I’m putting my focus (what focus I can wrench from the gut plunging anxiety of what might be on the horizon for myself and those I love) because I need to believe there is life beyond the next four years. Is it selfish and stupid, to think about bringing another baby into this broken, busted world? I don’t know, maybe? I don’t think that we have reached a point of no return, although I also don’t think we will somehow emerge from this shitshow unscathed. But this world needs more magical queer babies, right?

So, we went to the clinic. We discovered, not surprisingly, that we would not be able to use BFF as a known donor OR use the embryos from the previous cycle (my eggs +BFFs sperm) because of the hep B issue, despite having already assumed the risk through at-home inseminations. The doc said they would be happy to work with a directed donor through the Seattle sperm bank or an anonymous bank donor. We asked about going directly to IVF, given the lifetime max on our (really amazing) insurance benefit and they said, sure – great. And then they asked if we wanted to get started with testing today.

I’m letting L drive this car. I drove the last time, for better or worse, so I’m doing everything I can to be a thoughtful co-pilot. Of course, if there are hard vetoes, I’ll bring them up but when it comes to the finer details, she gets to make the calls. She was game to at least move forward with the testing, so we got started.

As we were waiting for the doctor to do the ultrasound, I asked her what she was thinking about the donor issues. “You might be surprised but, I think I want to use a sperm bank donor.” I was surprised, but also. . . was feeling the same. After fighting tooth and nail to make it happen with BFF, after the almost irreconcilable disagreement mid-way through our process where she was all but unwilling to even consider another option . . .here we are, both feeling shockingly ready to pursue a willing to be known but ultimately anonymous donor.

Part of it is cost and time, the expense of a directed donor and the 6 months + of waiting and testing would be 2-3 times that of buying sperm and cost us a minimum of half a year. We don’t even have a for sure known donor in the area, which would mean more time and not even a guarantee. And, knowing BFF is out of the picture, there really isn’t anyone else we feel so deeply about. So why go through all of this extensive process and cost for  . . .a maybe?

I also think both of us have learned a lot about biology and it’s complex but ultimately somewhat irrelevant impact on a family. Things were different 3 years ago, they felt more intense and maybe more fragile. Knowing what I know now, it just doesn’t feel important. Not as important as having that extra money for the million other things a baby needs that do matter, much more than if their genetic donor is our friend.

So, we are doing the thing that so many of you have done: sperm shopping. We are likely going with the Seattle sperm bank because they are cheaper and also save us some $$ on shipping. L spent most of Ansel’s nap looking at donors, and I just went through a few as well. I don’t feel like it will be an agonizing choice. But, it is really really weird. right?!

With that choice made, it’s possible we will be doing an IVF cycle in December (!?) and a transfer in January or February (we are doing the genetic testing that we did on our last IVF cycle because the peace of mind is worth the extra month and the out of pocket cost) which feels . . .surreal. But exciting. And hopeful.

You know what else gives me hope?

This kid.

14939974_10154696283334419_7462421359469707019_o

Who, most recently, has entered the toddler phase of condiments-as-food (god help us he ate an entire cup of mustard that came with the Peruvian rotisserie chicken) and the throw-yourself-full-body-on-the-floor-when-you’re-tired-or-frustrated. Even still, he’s adorable.

14900415_1266183103401957_2028103045021159399_n

(those are beans which, because we gave him a chip, he believed was a dip/condiment)

I also owe an update on my parent’s visit this past weekend which was exhausting and emotional and intense. Basically, we rode an emotionally draining weekend right into a devestating Tuesday and are bobbing gently on the small buoy of hope known as TTC.

So, I’ll be back.

Stay strong, loves. You are important, you matter, we’ll get through this – somehow.

The Reader

In the almost-20 months since my son was born, I have read one – MAYBE two – books to full completion. In the one case I am certain of, the book was for work and it was required for discussion at our staff meetings and I was allowed to read on the job. I still struggled.

I used to read SO MANY BOOKS. During my last year of college and for 5 years after, I worked at (the best) independent bookstore. Reading was a job requirement so I could make good recommendations and know what people were talking about. It was also facilitated by the ability to purchase books at cost or ‘rent’ them free of charge (as long as they were returned in like-new condition.) I barely broke minimum wage at that job, but with the cheap or free books and the free coffee and day-old pastries (from the café in the store, where I also worked some shifts and had many friends), I really only needed enough money for my rent, gin and tonics, and the cover at Ladies 80’s night on Tuesdays.

Even after the bookstore job ended (a job I romanticize to this day, if you couldn’t tell), I read a lot. I spent entire DAYS reading, sometimes. I distinctly remember a three day stretch over the holidays when my roommates were out of town, and I spent nearly every waking minute reading a book I was engrossed in – emerging only to make sandwiches or go to the bathroom. As a kid, I preferred the company of books to people (arguably, I still do) and could easily plow through a pile from the library in just a couple of weeks. When we were staging our first house to sell it and the realtor told me I had to put all of my books in storage, I went into a kind of depression. What kind of a home isn’t filled with books?

So, to realize one day that I haven’t finished more than a single book in over a year . . .well, I think it calls my identity into question more thoroughly than almost anything. Last week I also had a dream featuring a friend with whom writing and reading was the primary basis of our relationship. I sent her a text to tell her, and she asked what I’d been writing. Nothing. Nothing besides this, I mean (which isn’t nothing, it’s just a LOT LESS than I used to write.) “Having a baby makes you dumb.” I told her. “Or, it made me dumb anyway.”

So, yesterday I made the decision to rededicate myself to reading. I’m starting there, because getting over the writing hump feels so much harder. And maybe it’s a cliché, but it’s a good one: you really can’t write well if you aren’t a reader. I need more words in my head, I need my brain stimulated in a different way. I went to the library and got a card (L and A already have Seattle Library cards, but not me!) and spent an hour looking around for books to read. I got myself a memoir, a novel, and a non-fiction book, figuring if one didn’t take, another would. I asked L if we could not turn on the TV after A goes to bed, unless it is for a very specific show, to avoid the zombie suck that is The Food Network and HGTV. I got through 50 pages of the novel last night and it felt SO GOOD.

So here’s to more reading . . .especially books with paper instead of cardboard pages.

 

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a Halloween picture. So here we are: Mary Poppins and Her Sweeps!14890342_10154671173949419_9101697120684929770_o.jpg