Here’s the first part of a longer book I’m working on about the process of making your family via artificial insemination.
Ever since I was a kid, I’d wanted to have a kid.
When I was nine years old and in the fourth grade, I used to play a game called Birth on an old mattress in the back of the garage of our raised ranch in suburban Massachusetts.
Three friends joined me in the game — Julie Levine, Stacy Goldberg, Stephanie Handelman. Nice Christian girls, us four. We loved our game, and we played it quite a lot. While boys our age were playing dungeons and dragons or reenacting Evil Knievel stunts, Julie, Stacy, Stephanie, and I would pretend to have a baby behind my mother’s caramel-colored Volvo, which the family called Butterscotch.
I had this hideous doll that I inherited from my cousin when I was about two. She was called Shashi and she had to be one of the ugliest baby dolls in the history of all baby dolls. Atop a cloth body made out of flannel that boasted a bright orange hound’s tooth pattern wobbled an infant head the color of a nectarine. The worst thing about the doll, though, was her mouth, which was twisted to the right so as to suggest a yawn. But really she just looked like she was screaming in terror.
Shashi was designed to resemble a newborn baby, so for our purposes, she was a perfect doll. We would stick her under our backsides and groan and scream and beg and cajole until somebody pulled her out and placed her on our chest. Sometimes the screams went on for some time. I remember one reenactment vividly because it was my turn to be the obstetrician, and I was using the barbecue tongs to help Stacy through what must have been a particularly difficult labor. She kept screaming and crying and saying all the right things like it hurts doctor oh it hurts, please make the pain stop doctor. And Julie Levine would stroke her arm and Stacy would wipe her brow while Stephanie offered whispered encouragement.
At some point I must have made an announcement that the baby’s head was showing and that birth was imminent. Stacy let out a loud scream and I wiggled the spatula around under her fanny with the spatula and the tongs until Shashi popped out from beneath Stacy’s jeans, her bald nectarine head a little flattened but none the worse for wear. I lay Shashi down on Stacy’s chest, and there she was, her mouth twisted into a silent scream, but as alive as a newborn doll could possibly be in the world. There was a long sigh and a silence. Stacy opened her eyes and looked up at me.
“That felt good,” she said. “Let’s do it again.”
Lynn just walked into the room and looked over my shoulder as I was finishing up this post. When Lynn was a child she was on the swim team. She played little league and tennis and basketball.
“Worst game ever,” she said, and left.
Sometimes Julie Levine gave birth and other times it was Stephanie, but when it was my turn I could never get into it as dramatically as my friends. Unlike my friends, having a baby wasn’t a soap opera episode, nor was it a game.
For me, giving birth was a calling. I wanted to have a baby more than anything in the world, and I knew this for sure by the time I turned eight. Dramatizing birth felt a little bit like making fun, and I was not in the business, at nine years old, of making fun of my life’s calling. So I gave birth quietly, and with reverence.
I realize that it is not exactly the dream of every feminist to grow up and make babies, but for me there was something otherworldly about bringing a small human out of your body and into the world, and I wanted to be a part of that magic. At nine, my career plan was to get pregnant right out of high school.
Naturally, breaking up with my husband on the cusp of our trying to get pregnant on account of realizing that I was a homosexual came as quite a shock. It threw an ugly wrench into my baby making plans. I was thirty-one. By the time I had gone through several extremely unhealthy and unpleasant relationships with other women and then figured it all out in therapy afterward I felt about seventy years old, which is to say that I was thirty-seven.
Which is why, when I met Lynn and knew after the second date that we would end up together, it was hard not to constantly have a panic attack about my biological clock. It was all I could do to drag her to the sperm bank for monthly inseminations, two visits per cycle, a little shot in the derriere to induce ovulation, thank you very much…
(This is the first part of a series that tell the story of how I navigated my way through choosing an appropriate sperm donor and getting pregnant with all three of my children. It’s an unconventional way to make a family, but hundreds of thousands of people are doing it this way, whether they are suffering from infertility, single womanhood, or an acute case of lesbianism.
It’s not a how-to. It’s also not about the Medical Establishment. It’s just a bunch of awkward posts about how I began the process of defrosting my family. It’s something I wish I’d had to read when I was going through it.
Stay tuned! I’ll be writing Part 2 in between everything else I’m already writing about.)