Sunday, January 15, 2012

11-11-11 and 11.

So here’s what happened. Ben.

Laser and I had bought her brother a ticket for the express train from DC when we figured out I was due to ovulate sometime near November 11th.

It is unlike me not to extensively research the universal meaning of such an obviously cool date before hand. Not to say I didn’t hear some rumors from my number of hippie friends. But this being the first try after the miscarriage… I guess I was in close my eyes and just jump mode.

I don’t know how long you’ve been following this blog- so I will recap, when Laser and I first talked about having kids, we talked about her brother Ben being the donor. I guess that was more than two years ago. There seemed to be a block, he was between jobs, and therefore between insurance plans and so getting the tests he needed seemed almost as unfairly impossible as Laser and I having a baby on our own.

Wanting to move forward, I convinced myself that it would be too logistically complicated getting back and forth between NYC and DC on the schedule of my ovulation. Laser convinced herself maybe there were too many health problems in her family anyway. We agreed to start the process with an anonymous donor. Eight cycles later we were totally broke, and pregnant… but only for 6 and a half weeks.

After the miscarriage I told Laser I didn’t want to talk about trying again for at least a month. But not talking about it doesn’t mean not thinking about it. In fact thinking about trying again was making me feel better. I’d already come back to the website of our sperm bank, hoping for some lighthouse in the ocean of doubt. I discovered both our first (the Jewish carpenter) and second (the black intellectual) choice donors were sold out. The incredibly big question of who came forefront once again.

Finally one night when we were in bed, I said it out loud, “I’ve been thinking about Ben.”
Laser smiled, she said “Me too!”

After talking to him about it, Ben agreed to the undertaking of figuring out the tests again. This time his insurance was in place to cover everything. And my favorite detail, he has a gay primary care doctor who didn't question why he would want to take a CMV test, get a sperm analysis, etc... in order to be a donor. Every time Ben checked in with us about the results, it was good news. Something just finally clicked into place.

Do you remember there was a full moon on 11-11-11?
The night he came, Laser, Ben and I had squished together by the small dining room window to look at it.

When you live in New York City, you have to wait for the moon to find you. And it always does at some point in the night. This is how I imagine it anyway. After steadily wandering the halls between high-rises, tenements, and brownstones, the moon will find at least one of your windows and shine. Hope you are lucky enough to be looking when it does.

When I saw that moon I thought, Baby, I bet that’s what you look like. A perfect glowing circle inside me.

Guess what, I am eleven weeks pregnant today!!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hold a Baby. Go On a Trip By Yourself.

Three days before she conceived her son, Kayla held a baby.

It happened at one of the several kids’ birthday parties she’d been invited to. Her being thirty-four at the time, nearly all of her friends seemed to be mothers already-- although somewhere in the miscarriage years, which were before the years she couldn’t conceive at all, she had decided to avoid these parties, along with baby showers. She even went so far as to off her account with facebook now that it was a minefield of baby pictures, ultrasound pictures, positive pee sticks. "I had to take care of myself," she said, "It took me a long time to realize it was okay to do that." I don’t know why she decided to go to this one, this particular kid’s birthday party. But she did tell me that someone handed her a baby, and it was the first time she’d held one in a very long time.
Someone took a picture.

Kayla says, Hold a baby.

Years ago, my dad told me days before I was conceived, my mother had returned from an epic bike trip she had taken by herself. I never actually heard any details about this from her. But sometimes here comes mom at twenty-three riding that bike through my daydreams. It’s a road that goes on for miles through nothing but amber sun and fire red leaves. It is my favorite picture of her.

Dad says, Go on a trip by yourself.

I am considering this question: What does a women do in those precious days before everything changes, before nature clicks and sparks a conception?

Should it be a triumphant activity, reflect an unapologetic freedom like my mother’s bike ride? Or should it be more mother-like, the foreshadow moment in a storybook, like Kayla holding that baby?

Because we can never really know when our time will be, there will always be something arbitrary and accidental about it. Still this is how my brain works.

Not to imply that I was thinking about ttc too much during what I had decided would be my summer of NOT trying to conceive. But I've been meaning tell you these last freakishly beautiful September days... I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while. I went on a trip by myself. I was holding a baby.

This post could be endless… how can I describe it with some economy?

I took the entire month of August off work, decided to take a three week writing retreat alone in Minnesota, the place I grew up.

There was no conference, or workshop, or organized artists anything. I called St. John’s abbey just outside of St. Cloud and reserved a small room with a desk. This decision was remarkably uncomplicated. Sometimes I think we writers rely too much on the formal, competitive residency. If we don't make the cut it doesn't have to mean another summer working our day job/night job trying to write between the race until the next season of applications. Options are all around us, affordable ones at that. For example St. Johns Abbey guest house offers suggested donation rates. It really was a God send. Pardon the pun.

I hadn’t written anything since I found out I was pregnant. And I was so busy keeping myself busy after the miscarriage. What a relief to have endless time and quiet to write. To swim in a lake, and walk in the woods on my breaks. Sometimes being back in Minnesota feels so good, like the chrysalis is still shaped for my body. Like the sunfish and the ferns were saying "Hey, Red. Long time no see, we miss you around here."

I got my period, once.. again.. three times and it didn’t break my heart. I knew why. And more than that, it seemed kind. A sign my body was figuring its way back to the body I know and recognize after the miscarriage.

After twenty years I saw Angie again, my very first friend in the world. I rented a car from the Abbey to some cornfields and butterflies. She and her sister Katie met me at a cabin way up north in what they call lake country on the radio stations up there. We went to lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi. We remembered being kids, asked about each other’s mothers. Later I met Angie’s two sons. From his bedroom, her youngest brought me broken toys, a light saber, a Mrs. potato head purse, a penny. I told him, thank you for such treasures!

Emily, whom I met in the eight grade... now a friend so dear we consider each other more like sisters, drove me back to Minneapolis for my last few days in MN. Like me, she is not a mother yet. So we stayed out late at the club, we drank, we smoked a cigarette in her back yard and talked shit. We spent an afternoon at a pool club in pretty bikini’s. We went out to brunch, to dinner. She showed me her favorite new clothes and we talked about love and sex and music and family and death. It was a surprise at first when from her perfect bed, late at night, she confided in me how she was reading this book, taking control of your fertility. She showed me her basel temperature chart. Amazed and outraged that no one had taught her this stuff before. She said whenever it might happen, she wanted to get more ready. She wanted to know her body.

The last part, San Francisco. I arrived to meet Kayla’s son at five weeks old. Kayla looked beautiful, devoted and determined. I took her face in first, though there he was in her arms. Raven black hair, a face like hers. Sleepy eyes that seemed focused in someway on the memory of another side. She was still learning how to swaddle him, how often to feed him. What to do when he cried.

His smell, his smile, his yawn.

I used to make fun of Kayla in college because she couldn’t sneeze just once, she always sneezed three times, like someone in rapture. Her son sneezes three times.

Several times a day I held him, calmed by this feeling of such a small being giving all his weight. Looking at her son from that little distance, Kayla would remember how beautiful he was. She told me the story again, about how just before he was born she went to a birthday party. She had held a baby. The first one in a long time. Someone took a picture.

I pretended she hadn’t already told me, maybe three times or more by now. I only smiled when she found the camera and took a picture.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Due For a Little Good News

Today, after six years trying Kayla and her partner (male partner) gave birth to their first son. I am flying to San Francisco at the end of August to meet him and hold him and kiss his face.

I hope enough time will have passed by then so I won't cry. But if it happens, Kayla will understand better than anybody.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mixtape for a Miscarriage

By now you know or guessed I lost the baby. The cramping and blood started probably a few hours after I wrote that last post. So what do I write now? All I want to post is pictures. Like one of a spark. Or a sprout of some plant in the desert.

I called Kayla from the toilet while it was happening. I was alone, hysterical and confused. She was around seven months pregnant at the time, but has suffered several devastating miscarriages on her journey toward becoming a mom. She told me I was going to be okay. That it wasn't my fault. That it was good I had become pregnant. She stayed on the phone with me until Laser came home to take me to the hospital.

A few days later a package from Kayla arrived in the mail including among other gifts, a mixtape. Like what we used to exchange when we were kids. In the card she wrote that the years it had happened to her she took comfort in finding out how many other women had been through it. Even famous women who we really admired, who seemed strong and perfect and beautiful. She said I was in good company.

Because it brought me a lot of comfort in those first hardest weeks (and still) I wanted to share her playlist with you. All the artists/women on it lost a pregnancy too. Kayla calls it--

"Songs for the Lost and Found"

Playboy Mommy- Tori Amos
O Sisters O Sisters - Yoko Ono (feat Le Tigre- is the best version)
J’ai deux Amours- Josephine Baker
I think it’s Going to Rain Today- Bette Midler
Whiter Shade of Pale- Annie Lennox
Vanishing- Mariah Carey
Spark- Tori Amos
The Ballad of Lucy Jordan- Marianne Faithful
Fuckin’ Perfect – Pink
Sorry- Foxy Brown
I Will Always Love You- Whitney Houston
Non, Je ne Regrette Rien- Edith Piaf
Chelsea Morning- Joni Mitchell
Storms of Troubled Times- Gladys Night

Friday, May 27, 2011

Six Weeks and Two Days

We wake up this morning as if at the heavy slow bottom of a lake. Laser’s arm, evidence of life, still exists when it moves out of my hand. When she gets dressed for work.

No trace of the baby yesterday on the sono. No black spot, no pole, or sac even
to hold a beating heart. Only my blue geared up womb.

Doctor said it may not be a good pregnancy. I should be far enough along to see something. He says don’t let our minds wander until the blood tests come back.

Somewhere above
where the bright May sun is,
another Laser and another me
touch toes
adrift in a boat on this lake

saying who will you
call Mama
and who will you
call Mommy?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A positive!

Finally the call comes in. Earliest trace of life located on a blood test. Landed right on the X I’ve been drawing up, Brooklyn. This body. I am amazed. I am terrified. I am amazed.

The whole world is rearranged.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

11 Million

This new place I’m going to counts the sperm in each vial. They have a system, I picture it like a grid. However many appear in one drop under a microscope multiplied until you get 1ml. I find this comforting, though I always hated math, I was made fun of as a kid for screaming through my math homework. But you know, math is something concrete. It has rules and can be counted on. There isn’t much else that can be counted on when you are trying to get pregnant. I have changed my mind about math.

By now exactly eight women have inseminated me. Of course the first one was Laser, then it was five Gyns, two RE’s. I think about them now like angels in different kinds of pants, who appear only when I’m ovulating and then are gone. Some are gentle and reassuring, some rougher –wham bam thank you ma’am. One told me she was gay, and had two children with her partner. She said people would laugh if they knew I was frustrated by only four tries. Another said it was good luck if Laser held the vial to keep it warm. A third liked to give us the opportunity to say a few words first, like cast a spell or something. That same one also liked to sing to the sperm while it thawed, Laser and I always laughed about her. It’s been a long time since we tried from home, just the two of us, before the IUI’s. But twice or so we had a doctor that allowed Laser to press it inside me at the clinic, once the catheter was set in my uterus.

The woman who inseminated me three days ago wore a gypsy green sweater and had auburn hair. I vaguely remember her wearing a decorative pin, like a flower or just some color. I don’t remember her name. She was friendly, but quick with the cold speculum. She told me to spread my legs wider.. because it moved my cervix to where she could see it better. To her assistant, she read the number given to our donor by the sperm bank, then she read a new number the lab gave the vial. She said the lab counted 11 million. That was good enough. Mathematics.

Laser’s eyes were open wide above me, pretty green planets, she was smiling and holding my hand. I thought to myself flat on the table, I thought- if this is the time, and if a few years from now we are walking down the street beside our child and this doctor passes us by, would I remember her face, or her mine? Would my child know somewhere in her or his original cell this woman had all our futures first in her latex gloved hand?

Middle as Palm Leaf

Middle as Palm Leaf