How to Thaw Your Unborn Children, Part 12

When Lynn and I first got together, we had sex constantly. We’d do it before we went to sleep. We’d wake each other up in the middle of the night and then do it again first thing in the morning and continue on through the morning and early afternoon. By four o’clock in the afternoon we’d limp out of the studio, starving and exhausted.

“Let’s get a hamburger,” she’d say. I’d nod, coughing up a little blood.

Part of the reason we had sex so often had to do with the recent circumstances of our lives. Lynn was dealing with coming out late in life and finally having access to the kind of intimacy she’d been longing for and avoiding for years. She had to make up for lost time. After the trauma of being with Moira, I needed to be loved and understood, to be wanted. Sometimes the intersection of these vulnerabilities worked to our advantage, but often there would be a panoply of misunderstandings and misplaced sensitivities, and so we would fight. The arguments were never about whatever it was we were arguing about. We’d have an extended dialectic about which hamburger place to go to, but the fight was really about her being too embarrassed to hold my hand in public. A fiery argument about why Tootsie is not a feminist picture actually had everything to do with why I’d forced her to hide under the covers when Moira paid my studio a surprise visit.

Sometimes we would actually fight while we were having sex.

“Don’t call my dogs yappers,” she’d say, lifting up my blouse and sliding her hands around my back to undo my brassiere.  “They’re all I have right now.”

“I can’t hear you when I telephone,” I’d say, wiggling out of my underwear and throwing them on the Boston Terrier, who was snoring away in the corner.  “They’re so freaking loud.  Can’t you get rid of one?”

She’d throw up her hands and say I didn’t respect her if I didn’t care about her stupid dogs, and look what I’ve done, now the moment is ruined. She’s start to sit up and look around for her t-shirt.

“Get back here,” I’d say, pushing her back down on the bed. Then I’d flaunt some body part which, to a person who has recently come out, is seriously distracting.

“You don’t love me if you don’t love Rudy,” she’d whisper furiously, lying on top of me and pressing her lips against my ear.

“I hate Rudy,” I’d whisper back, putting a hand on the back of her neck and running my fingers down the sides of her body.

“You’re horrible.”

“I want you really bad.”

So it went.

The thing we fought about more than any other thing, more than Moira or coming out or the dogs or which diner we’d eat in, was the fact that I wanted to be pregnant, and I wanted to be pregnant as soon as possible. As I wrote about in Part 1, I’ve wanted to have children from the time that I was very young, and becoming a homosexual and hooking up with a woman who extradited me from parenting was a major setback. I was thirty-four when I met Lynn, and I’d read the statistics on the internet and looked at the little bar charts and line graphs and felt the quickening in my veins.

“If you don’t want children,” I told her, on our third date, “then don’t even bother with me.”

We trudged along St. Johns Place in Park Slope.

“Can’t you give me a few years, at least,” she said, after a moment.  “Before you whack me over the head with talk of a baby. I’m not even out of the closet yet. Let me get through therapy.”

I didn’t tell her that the three months leading up to our first meeting I had been working with a pair of gay men from Prospect Heights who were interested in having a baby with a woman.  A friend had introduced me to them, and they were in their fifties, well-established and incredibly Jewish.

“We would want to have some relationship with the child,” Matthew said, “but we’d be open to a variety of different possibilities. “

“Yes,” his partner, Aaron, agreed.  “The main things that are most important to us is that we be able to see the child on a regular basis, and that he grow up with a love of Israel.”

Matthew and Aaron were very welcoming and familiar, even if I wasn’t sure how I was going to tell them that if we had a boy there was no way I was going to be able to go through with a circumcision. Or that I sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians.

I didn’t tell Lynn that I’d been getting together for dinner and for brunches on weekends for a few months before I’d even met her, and that I’d even introduced them to my mother, who thought they were adorable.  They were pushy in an indirect kind of way, though, which made me uncomfortable. After about two or three months of extended conversations and restaurant meals, Aaron said, “So, I’m thinking December for getting pregnant.”

I thought it was strange that he was deciding when I should get impregnated. Wasn’t that my decision? I was still thinking about how Aaron offered me and our potential child the upstairs apartment in their brownstone. I wouldn’t be paying toward the mortgage, he said, but we could work out a rental agreement. The conversation felt weird, like I would be oddly beholden to them, perhaps even dependent upon them as a single parent in a three-parent arrangement. Aaron and Matthew were warm-hearted, but I don’t think they were keen on the more nuanced complexities inherent in building an alternative family structure, and this made me nervous. Because they were more financially secure, I would always be subordinate. Perhaps they were the ones who felt vulnerable, however. After all, they had worked with another woman before me who dropped them like two little potato pancakes the moment she met a woman from Cleveland.

Which is pretty much what happened when I met Lynn. I hid the existence of each party from the other, hoping to figure out a way to make it work with the four of us so I wouldn’t have to bail out on two nice guys. I hoped that Lynn would be open to the arrangement, but when I told her about it she looked distressed.

“We’ve had four dates,” she said.  “You only figured out my last name the day before yesterday.”  She observed me with renewed anxiety.

We talked about it for a while, the whole weird idea of it, but it seemed too complicated, even for someone like me, a person willing to traverse new depths and landscapes for the sake of a good story.

“Jesus,” she said, after a get-together with Matthew and Aaron.  “What will our poor child do on Mother’s day. Or Father’s day?  The kid will get carpel tunnel from all the cards he has to make.”

There are gay parents who go for this sort of thing. I don’t know any personally, but I’ve read about children who have two sets of parents. The more parents the better, these mothers and fathers argue, but Lynn didn’t want to be the outside mother, and I don’t think I’d have gone for that if I were in her shoes, either. I knew deep down that I’d have to bid adieu to Matthew and Aaron, that once two women meet and fall in love they really don’t need another set of homosexuals to parent a child, but I felt bad about it.  They wanted a child, but they wanted their child to have a mother; whether this was to offset the burden of parenting themselves or they couldn’t fathom the expense of egg donation and surrogacy, I can’t know. Either way, we parted uncomfortably.

If they really want a child, Lynn said, trying to assuage my guilt, they have the means to do it.

It’s very easy for lesbians to have children in comparison to what gay men have to do to make a biological family. My friends Toby and Richard have twins, and going through invitro fertilization, egg donation and a surrogacy was lengthy, costly, and stressful to say the least. It cost them about a hundred-thousand dollars all told, and if a baby hadn’t materialized it would have cost them a hundred thousand dollars anyway.

I am sure that someday we’ll be able to grow a baby in a pickle jar on the kitchen counter, but until that day comes a uterus is a pretty handy trick.

I’m not sure how much self-awareness Matthew and Aaron actually possessed, or whether they could fathom the feelings I knew they would have when they took a long look at their Son of Abraham and listened to me tell them that I’d rather live in the San Francisco bay area.  I could imagine arguments.  Entanglements.  Lawsuits.

“They might want a lot more control than they realize,” my mother told me. She looked a little sad. I know she thought they were cute, and Matthew and my mother had been exchanging recipes.

“It’s an adventure,” Aaron had said many times, shrugging his shoulders.  He was open to whatever the universe had to offer, it seemed, whereas I’m a person who tries really hard to fight off the instinctive assumption that optimism is just another form of idiocy.

My brother and many other members of The Chosen do not agree with me on this, but I feel like any person of the Jewish persuasion is some kind of relative. When I met Matt and Aaron, I was suffering from a terrible breakup; I felt adrift in space and desperately sought to loosen the knot of isolation wedged deep in my gut.  Aaron and I went to Shul a few times; I felt part of a community (never mind that Aaron was orthodox and I had to sit on one side of the temple with the women while Aaron sat on the other) and an extended network of caring individuals who understood the importance of family.

Matthew and Aaron disappeared when I told them I couldn’t go through with it, and I am sorry we didn’t have any closure beyond a telephone call. I often thought of getting together one last time to apologize for raising their hopes. I wonder if they felt used; after all, we shared many meals and spent many weekends together, mostly at their Brownstone in Prospect Heights. In retrospect I think I was unwittingly desperate at the time, and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I’d have likely tried to make it work with the seven dwarves and a jarful of midget sperm if given the opportunity.

If I hadn’t met Lynn when I did, or if I hadn’t met anyone within a year or two of leaving Moira, I suspect I’d have sought to make a connection with a gay Dad, perhaps even two if the situation arose. One thing that continues to perplex me about Moira wanting to be a single parent was that financial obligations aside, the idea of having a baby by yourself seems bleak. Raising a child is such a protracted, celebratory event. Every day a minor miracle occurs and there is nothing nicer than looking over at your co-parent and saying, Little Johnny learned a new word today. Didn’t Moira miss the opportunity to share these tiny, joyful details? Why would anyone choose to do the single most difficult job in the world all by themselves?

I once worked with an assistant principal who was gay and looking to adopt a child. I asked him whether he would consider working with a lesbian and making a family and he said he would never do that.

“It’s like entering into a divorce agreement before you even get started,” he said.  “I know it works in certain circumstances, but I think it’s good for children to see that their parents love each other as much as they love the child. The whole thing feels insincere.”

Matthew and Aaron, if you are out there reading this, I’d like to say that I am sorry for raising your hopes. I didn’t mean to waste your time. And I was the one who ate more than half of that apple cake alone in the kitchen after that one Shabbat dinner and I did let Matthew take the heat for it. I wanted to give you boys a nice baby, but I envisioned a lonely life for myself, too, where you each had the other to share in the joy of bringing in new life whereas I would only be able to celebrate the joy of my new baby with an apple cake.

When I met Lynn, I realized I didn’t have to sacrifice the dream of a loving family, and I am sorry, Matthew and Aaron, if you felt abandoned once I met someone else.

I hope you can understand this.  I hope you forgive me.

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Comments

  1. Matt Wright says:

    Great part of the story! That was huge that you fessed up on date #4 and told Lynn that if she wasn’t ready to be a mom she should push the ejector seat button right now. I guess it was the right move! .

    • I was wondering what happened to you lately — hadn’t seen any comments. I like your observations and am always excited to see them. And yes, why be dishonest? Anybody with me needs to know that they’ll be in for a long and painful ride.

  2. Matt Wright says:

    But what’s joy without pain? My mother always told me that she knew something was wrong with her marriage to my bio-dad because they never argued. Sure enough, he turned out to be a bad apple. Based on my mom’s theory, I think Karen and I are in the clear.

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