I was never the little girl who walked around pushing a stroller with a baby doll in it, or the one who rocked a stuffed animal to sleep. I was the type of girl who scraped my knees on gravel after failed bicycle wheelies — the one who nursed my raw shins after sliding into home plate. Being a mom — or even pretending to be one — was the furthest thing from my mind. As I got older, I never heard my biological clock ticking. Looking back, I think its tick-tock may have been muted because I’m gay and was told I couldn’t lead a "normal" life with marriage and kids and a white picket fence. Either way, it wasn’t on my radar. It wasn’t until I married my soul mate and the Supreme Court validated our union that my wife and I started to joke about popping out some mini people. My wife is a lot older than I am and couldn’t responsibly carry a healthy baby to term, though she seemed to be the one who wanted to have one the most. She said she feared it would be her biggest regret if she didn’t try. The more we talked about having a baby, the more I realized how much I had buried my personal urge. I found myself crying at terrible commercials simply because there was a family featured. The baby who skillfully steals the Hawaiian King Rolls from the top of the fridge and blames it on the dog somehow turned me into a weeping mess. Suddenly, I was drawn to my Facebook feed and the endless scroll of other people’s baby photos — like a moth to a flame. Still, I wasn’t 100% convinced kids were for me. I’d wipe my tears away and start planning my childless vacation to Barcelona, thinking about how great my life was; I only had to worry about wiping my own snot, and I could enjoy my wife and all the lovely activities we were lucky enough to experience together with a flexible budget and schedule. I’d wake up luxuriously on a Saturday morning, roll over and go back to sleep, eventually getting up to enjoy a fresh cup of pour-over coffee and an unread New Yorker. I knew all of those niceties would go flying out the window at terrific speeds the moment a tiny person was screaming in my ear, waiting to be fed, changed, and coddled.
I couldn’t silence the voices that told me that my fears were too 'selfish' for motherhood.
Having a baby is an insanely huge undertaking, and I had a hard time reconciling that. You often have to reorganize your priorities, your life, even your sense of self to some degree, and I couldn’t silence the voices that told me that my fears were too "selfish" for motherhood. Not to mention, I was well aware of how society perceives gay parents. From the barrage of questions about who the "father" is, to stares and epithets from disapproving homophobes, to plain discomfort from those who are curious but afraid to ask how a child came to be from two women, I knew the path wasn’t an easy one. The idea of pregnancy and childbirth didn’t sit well with me, either. I was nervous about being pregnant and the health concerns that could come as a result. Would I get sick of carrying around this parasitic creature inside my body and catering to its every need? And would giving up alcohol and caffeine mean that I’d also have to give up that glass-bottomed hut in Tahiti that had my next summer vacation written all over it? Clearly, I was not fully on board just yet. There were conflicting emotions nosediving in my cerebrum when I took the plunge and went in for my first insemination. At this point, I realized that I wasn’t getting any younger, and that if this was something I wanted to do, I had better do it soon. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted a child for both my wife and me. So I put aside my doubts and navigated the invasive doctor’s visits, hot-flash-inducing fertility drugs, and hopeless efforts to track my cycle with thermometers and pee sticks and charts. But even when the doctor inserted specimen #9784, the potential half of my potential child’s genetic code, I still wasn’t sure exactly how to feel. Walking around for two weeks not knowing if I was pregnant was an unsettling, oddly emotional experience. It’s weird to think you might be carrying the seedling of a little person in your gut. I started to feel like I could be pregnant; I found my hands magnetically drawn to my belly, where I’d hold the possible needlepoint-sized zygote. I noticed pregnant women around me and felt like I might be part of the club. I tried to watch my intake of caffeine, alcohol, and fish, just in case. I vacillated between feeling intense excitement at the thought of being pregnant, experiencing waves of terror at the prospect, and then feeling totally relieved that I might not be. I kept these feelings to myself, which made me feel like I had swallowed a giant bowling ball. Perhaps I should have called my best buddy on the West Coast and shared my trepidation, or phoned my cousin who had just gone through the trials and tribulations of trying to get pregnant (and had a beautiful baby to show for it). Instead, I let the roller coaster of emotions run its course, which left me feeling completely exhausted and confused. And then, I got the call from my doctor with my blood test results: I wasn’t pregnant, after all.
I realized this could be the start of a very long series of disappointments.
It wasn’t until then that I realized just how much I wished I was. Since I was at work, I went into the bathroom and heaved huge sobs into coarse paper towels, waving my hand under the automatic hand dryer every 12 seconds to muffle the sound. I was deeply saddened to learn that I wasn’t pregnant, and it came as a shock to learn just how devastated I was. I felt like I needed to lie flat on the cold tile of the dirty restroom until my face was absorbed into the square pattern and I ceased to exist. I felt like a failure. I realized this could be the start of a very long series of disappointments that ended in two lonely, depressed lesbians reconciling by adopting a cat and dressing it in baby clothes. I walked around downtrodden for the rest of the day, going through the motions and leaking out mini weeping sessions whenever privacy allowed. My wife and I talked it out that evening and agreed that it was sad, but that we were only getting started. She reassured me that it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t a failure, and that I hadn’t let her down. For two weeks, I had felt alone in my thoughts and emotions; this conversation helped bring back into focus that we were in it together, and that I didn’t have to take on the emotional burden on my own. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time was that it was incredibly silly to think we had a good shot of getting pregnant on the first try. Most women under the age of 35 trying to get pregnant via an IUI — which is the boat I’m in — have a 10 to 20% chance of success. After our first unsuccessful attempt, we proceeded to hear stories from our family and friends about how long it took them, which actually made me feel better. I’m now on my second try, and I feel a lot calmer. If it works, I know it will be the most amazing confluence of circumstances. If it doesn’t, I know I still have options. In fact, I learned that the more times I try, the higher my success rate is (assuming all else checks out). I’m now fully committed to baking a bun in my oven and to all of the wonderfully messy, draining experiences that may come if it all works out as planned. I’ve come to realize that I will always be that girl who prefers wheelies over dolls — and I know I’ll still be an amazing mom. In fact, one day, my child will benefit from having the diversity of experiences that my perspective brings. I no longer listen to the voices telling me that I’m too butch or too gay or too selfish to be a parent. And even though the journey isn’t quite finished, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.