Although Susanne and I have put ourselves to the task of making a baby for about 15 months now, we actually have only had two occasions during which the human procreative process could take place. We are thus not especially worried about anybody’s fertility, though we do have increasing concerns about our healthcare system.
Our first doctor had us on a protocol that wasn’t going to get anybody pregnant in this decade. In her defense she told us she wasn’t a fertility expert. But that’s like saying, “sure, I’ll build you the Empire State Building, just know that I’m a portrait painter,” and saying it’s not their fault that 1,800 feet of oil paints stacked up doesn’t work as a building. If you don’t “do” that specialty, then get the hell out of the situation. We wasted months and a lot of money trying to do things this doctor’s way. And the whole time, she meant well. I’m sure of it. It just doesn’t matter how she felt about it, as far as fetus creation is concerned.
She did hand us a referral so we could go to an actual fertility clinic, but as we were living in Walla Walla, this was as helpful as a ski pass in Miami. There are no fertility clinics even within an hour of Walla Walla, and the one in Spokane—a 3 hour drive away—has some practices with which we do not agree, so we weren’t inclined to work with them. We selected a practice up in Seattle, in the other corner of the state, because they have support for out of town people, like us, and oh, they know how to get people pregnant.
Now that we’re living in Seattle for the fall, and now that we’ve tried at home and failed twice, we can move on to the next, slightly more invasive treatment, the IUI. It glows on the screen in its palindromeness, doesn’t it? It even looks like a uterus with two fallopian tubes on either side. It must be like a beacon to conception!
We faced a new hurdle with intra-uterine insemination, however. Ever since Nadya Suleman had her unethical doctor let her carry eight fetuses to term (even typing that creeps me out), the FDA has gotten more involved in fertility care and now requires that we fill out more paperwork. Our clinic also now has couples seeking IUI to have a compulsory counseling session with a therapist on their staff.
We are not new to therapy, having gone to a few sessions together before moving out West. And I of course, made it through a dozen years of Catholic school, so therapy is a friend to me. We didn’t know what to expect, really, from this experience, but we went into it open-minded, assured that both of us are committed to having kids. Look out, Duggars, here we come!
Now that I think of it, the media has some odd criteria for which parents it fixates on. If I were an alien beaming down into the USA who had only watched TLC and Discovery, well, forget it, there would be a lot more wrong in that scenario than just knowing about Jon and Kate’s breakup.
We sat down with the therapist, who personified one category of Seattlite woman: flowing, earth-toned clothes, stylish but “on the go” hairdo, racing-inspired water bottle on her desk. She is the relaxed person that many Washington, DC professionals wish they could be. I liked her for her ease of presence, but after watching so many episodes of Lie to Me, in which every facial tic and segment of body language is hyperexplored for falsehoods and hidden emotion, I fretted about every moment of my posture and expression. I should hold Susanne’s hand. Holding her hand signals weakness. Or does it? We should have three inches between us to show we’re self-sufficient. We should abet each other like friendly countries. I was a triumph of overthinking.
She asked us in a low voice how we were doing. Not the running-into-old-friend-unexpectedly, “Hi! How are you doing!” way. This was the someone-ran-over-your-dog-yesterday version.
“So. How are you two doing through all of this?”
Now there is the jockeying for who should answer. She’d asked neither of us specifically in order to gauge our power dynamic, I guessed.
I let Susanne answer, since she wears the pants in this family. Not the actual pants, since we both have those, but when we’re talking about her lady parts, she gets to take charge.
We talked about some of our funny stories, but we also explained more seriously that we weren’t at a point of hopelessness or even frustration. We would have liked to have reached the place we were in now more quickly, yes. As a couple though, we also felt that acknowledging what was within and outside of our control was important to keeping a positive outlook on the whole process.
Once again the Northwest person in the room didn’t entirely get my sense of humor. When she asked if our families were supportive and/or excited for us—because clearly, her chart told her we were an untraditional very most extremely gay and transgender couple—I remarked that hell, I thought my mother-in-law was stocking up a whole room back at her house with baby things for us. To this the therapist responded with a “Oh, that sounds like a lot of pressure.”
I think as a practice, I should train everyone from the Northwest to do the following when someone from the East Coast says something very direct, potentially exaggerated, or otherwise impossible to implement:
Ask, with a little ice-breaking chuckle, “Are you serious?”
I’m not kidding about this. I think it would really help. It’s something that, thinking back on my youth, we did all the time, because we too had to learn what to listen to and acknowledge, and what to filter out and disregard. And it tells the East Coaster (quite unlike the Great Space Coaster, FYI) to stop with the sillypants and just communicate, before each person in the conversation no longer has any idea what the other one means.
Having not received such helpful instruction from yours truly, the therapist did not know to ask this, thus she responded with her off the mark question about pressure. I clarified, saying I was just kidding.
We moved on, me now regretting entering into this whole transaction. When it comes to therapy, I prefer the long-term, get to know each other, build a house of trust and then dump your crap on them kind of relationship, instead of this quick-hit 50-minute one-time session stuff. It doesn’t really work for me.
This is to say that I wasn’t prepared for her next question.
“So do you have a Plan B,” she asked. While I was thinking of how to respond—she could be asking about adopting a kid from Romania, fostering a child, going through public adoption, surrogate mothers, anything, and in any case we just weren’t giving up on our own ability to conceive yet—she followed up her question on her own.
“I mean, if I read this chart right, there are two uteruses between you.”
Uh. What did she just say? In that split second, I heard Susanne and I both take in air, small gasps, both. Presumably for our uteruses.
First of all, it’s uteri as a term, following the Latin model for plurals. But whatever. How did she know I hadn’t had a hysterectomy, for god’s sake? Maybe I was barren for some reason and in despondency that led to my transformation into manhood, or some cockamamie story, and now she’d just triggered me?
I suppose I don’t need to create an outlier situation. I have one. Just being transgender is pretty freaking outlier. So how does she think I won’t get rattled from the suggestion that all testosterone and surgical procedures and life upside-downing later, I’d be just hunky-dory with knocking myself up? Seriously? If she’d read the chart before we walked in the room, could she not have found a little Trans 101 FAQ online and read up on what not to ask?
As an aside, it’s a little smile-inducing that there are FAQs for me. Like a short “care and feeding” guide one gets at the tree nursery. Because I’m a flower.
To carry her point further, she pointed out that there was that guy on Oprah. Which made me want to beat Thomas Beattie with a hedgehog, except he’s a father of two and well, it’s not the hedgehog’s fault. But ugh. If I had $10 for every time he was thrown in my face, I wouldn’t spend so much time building my online presence.
I said something like well, we just don’t feel like we need to consider any Plan B just yet, and sure, transmen have done this before, and I’m not 100 percent against it, but it seems unnecessary. And then I said, “also, I’m 40.”
Now then, I said this because as Plan B is far, far away in the distance, I’d be something like 43 before we’d be ready to cave in and give my rusty old gear a try. Picture an out of shape middle-aged guy trying to squeeze back into his high school football uniform, and you get the idea. But the therapist wasn’t thinking three years ahead.
“Oh, you’re 40,” she said, “that’s a dealbreaker.”
I’ll pause while everyone reading this does a little double take.
Back with me? Okay. Let’s see:
- If my gender identity is in the chart, I presume my age also is in the chart. Just to square that away.
- It totally, utterly kills any “safe space” or construction of understanding to throw out a flippant term like “dealbreaker.” Wasn’t that a running joke on 30 Rock?
Yes. Yes, it was. So I think it’s time to take the term out of the parlance of social workers, therapists, and counselors. Call it “too crude to use.”
Somehow we carried on the conversation after that, Susanne and I being two sturdy individuals. I noticed we had moved closer to each other during the session, shoring each other up. And I love her for that.
But Nadya may very well get a nastygram from me for making me go through all of this crap. Wannabe parents of the US, we need to band together against other people’s stupidity!