Let me ask y’all a question. When you know nothing about a subject where do you begin your research? That’s right! The internet! After a few weeks, Carol and I knew our first big step would be to find a doctor and then a sperm bank where, yes, we’d be purchasing the sperm to create our new bundle of joy. If only it was that easy though. See, we lived in a smaller, Southern city. Even though we had a military base, a medical college and a nuclear facility, our city was still a bit behind the times. Regardless, I was determined to work with in those frameworks to make it happen. It was then we had just met another lesbian couple who were pregnant. We asked them about their experience and they told us they had gone to the two main infertility doctors in our town but were denied treatment. One doctor was known for his strong religious views so he was no surprise. I was shocked about the state run facility. I’m not sure why I was. Looking back, I really was naive when it came to the magnitude of bigotry that existed. I really wanted to believe the good in everyone.
OK, so during this time of trying to figure out what we were going to do, I so happened to have met a few single women who had to use an infertility facility to get pregnant. Amazing how people are presented to you when you need them. Anyway, while talking to each of them I discovered they had used the two local infertility clinics. In my mind I got to thinking. The local infertility clinic would treat a single woman but not an out lesbian couple. I’m not sure if y’all have seen Despicable Me but there is a part where the main character, Gru, says, “Light bulb!” Well, that was me at this point. “LIGHT BULB!” I knew what we had to do. I had to go as a single woman. Listen, I knew it wasn’t ideal. I also knew that I’d have to convince Carol and we swore we’d never again live in hiding. Five years of that was enough. However, we couldn’t risk going as a couple and then being denied. Then, we would have had to go to a larger city which could mean traveling as far as 2 hours. The bottom line was we just couldn’t afford it and even if we could have afforded it that would have been too problematic to travel so far away once I needed to be inseminated (which you will see why in another chapter).
The first step was presenting my idea to Carol. Oy, was I nervous. I knew if she didn’t like my idea her reasoning would have been justified. I understood it. Meanwhile, it wasn’t as if I wanted to do the process without her either but with just enough money for the process, we just couldn’t afford any other option. And lets face it the local facilities really put us in a position where we had no other choice. When I did talk to Carol about my idea she was not happy at all. She wanted to be part of the entire process. She wanted to support me and to hold my hand. She wanted to be involved every step of the way and I of course wanted her to be as well. But, I knew if we really wanted to have a baby it was what we’d have to do. It was so maddening! We had sworn to never hide again and yet there we were doing just that once again. But, our hands were tied. Carol finally agreed to the plan if I promised to do two things. First, she wanted me to get the opinion of our OB/GYN who we both highly respected and the other was to ask the infertility doctor if I could have a “friend” with me during the insemination.
The next day I contacted my OB/GYN who I loved and trusted. By this point both Carol and I had been her patients for a number of years and she had always been wonderful to us. As it turned out my yearly exam was two weeks so my timing couldn’t have been any better. When that day came I remember being so nervous as I waited in the waiting room. I wasn’t sure how to ask my questions with out putting her in an awkward position. It wasn’t as if I had discussed being a lesbian to her or about any of the bigotries we had experienced as a result. I didn’t want to sound like, “Whoa is lesbian me…” I knew I just needed to stick to the subject at hand and go for it. I just needed to tell her my concern and ask for her opinion. But then I got to thinking what if she tells me I have no business having a child? Then what? OY! My thinking often took me places I hated going. BUT, I had promised Carol I would talk to her so I had to do it.
During my examination I kept putting it off. I wanted to ask her but I couldn’t seem to get the words out. When I knew my doctor was almost done I knew I had to go for it. And so I blurted out, “Carol and I want to have a baby.” Oh lord folks…I cannot imagine what she must had been thinking. We had been talking about the weather and there I blurt out I want to have a baby. OK, so my timing has never been great but at least I finally said it. I was relieved when she said, “And I think you and Carol would be fabulous parents.” WOW! Did she just say what I think she said? Did someone else give us affirmation and tell us we could do it? Why yes she did and it made me feel more relaxed to talk to her about our concerns. I will be forever grateful to her for it. OK, so I know I said I’d be open and honest about every aspect of my baby adventure but the conversation I had with my doctor that day I will keep to myself for very obvious reasons. However, I will tell you the advice and support she gave me that day was beyond words. I truly believe her guidance was what steered us in the correct direction and kept us believing we could have a child one day.
I was hopeful after my OB/GYN visit. I contacted one of our local infertility clinics and three weeks later I was sitting in their waiting room. I was so nervous and excited. I hated to be there by myself but there was nothing I could do. It was what it was. Now here was the funny thing, folks. Even though I went to my appointments alone my insurance was under Carol’s name. And no one asked me my relationship to the insurer, so don’t you think they had to know? Seemed so strange that as long as I didn’t verbalize who I was it was ok. At any rate after about 45 minutes of waiting I was called to the back. They first took my weight, blood pressure and did all of the usual preliminary stuff a doctor does initially. Then, I was taken to a room where I had to wait for the doctor. It seemed as if it was an eternity waiting for him. When the doctor finally came into the room I was relieved. He sat down in front of me with a note pad. The information he gave me that day was overwhelming but he was certainly accustomed to that because he wrote down everything for me and gave me a copy. He told me there were two processes to start. They were IC or IUI. He explained IC was where the sperm is injected into the vaginal canal which means the sperm has to be prepared a certain way for that process. The sperm has to have the ejaculate for the sperm to be able to swim up the canal to the cervix. He told me the statistics of how many women get pregnant from that procedure. There weren’t a lot of successful pregnancies with that one. It tended to take about a year (which meant going through 12 ovulation cycles which is when you would be inseminated). That meant one would have to have twelve vials of sperm. The doctor then explained the IUI procedure where the sperm is injected into the actual cervix. With that procedure the ejaculate has to be removed from the sperm. The success rate was higher but it still meant at the least 6 months of trying and having 6 vials of sperm according to the doctor. My head was spinning at the end of that visit and I suddenly didn’t feel so confident about us getting pregnant. Hell, I was originally happy we had enough money to try for one insemination, maybe two. AND the doctor was telling me we would have to do a lot more than that? Holy shit! There just was no way. Now, I knew Carol and I were lucky because our insurance would pay for all of the preliminary tests and any tests needed during the process. However, we had to pay for the insemination procedure which was $500 a pop at that time. And that’s not including the cost of the sperm (per vial) which I will tell you about that part in a bit. SO if we went with the doctor’s recommendation of just the 6 months of doing the inseminations it would have cost $3,000. Listen, I understand the doctor knows what he was doing but one does get suspicious when one knows most of the costs are out of pocket. It almost felt like up selling. It was weird.
Carol and I spent about a week discussing what the doctor had said and what we could afford to do. We had the mind set that I was only infertile because I didn’t have a man, not because I had any problems. But, the doctor seemed to only see me as someone who couldn’t get pregnant even though I had never even tried. Anyway after choosing a sperm bank and deciding on a donor (which I will get to later. I promise) we knew we could only afford two vials of sperm which at the time they were $250 per vial. That meant we could only go through two ovulation periods ( which meant two months of trying). Because we only had two attempts to get pregnant it was really important we decided which procedure would give us the greatest chance of pregnancy…basically, which procedure would give us more bang for our buck. And so we decided on doing the IUI procedure. Once we made that decision, I was ready to rock and roll. I was ready to be inseminated my very next ovulation period. HOWEVER, that was not what the infertility doctor had planned. Again, I understand he was experienced and had every reason to do things in the manner he did. But there again, he saw me as someone who had a history of infertility issues instead of someone who was just simply missing the male counterpart to make a baby. And yet I also understood I wanted to have the highest opportunities to get pregnant. It was a fine balance.
Now before even beginning to think about doing the insemination, the doctor first wanted me to go through one ovulation cycle so he could do a vaginal sonogram to see if everything looked healthy. For those of you who don’t know our eggs are way too small to see. And even in a vaginal sonogram they can’t be seen but what can be seen are the follicles (the area where the egg was) and measure it. It gives the doctor a good idea how large the egg was and if it was viable for insemination. But there again that wasn’t even for sure. All of that can look great but there could still be other problems. It typically a place the doctor starts. The only way to find out if a women’s eggs are viable is to extract them which would have been a totally different and VERY expensive process. Usually that is done only after nothing else works because of the cost. I’ve gotta tell you folks, I don’t know of any insurance company who pays for any of these procedures. They are all out of pocket for the patient.
Once a vaginal sonogram was done and once everything looked good our infertility doctor told me he wanted me to go through two more ovulation periods to make sure I was ovulating at a consistent time each month. TWO MORE TIMES? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I already knew I ovulated on the 15th day of my cycle. Meanwhile, if I don’t ovulate then there is no insemination anyway so why would we waste two more months? Once again I had the all clear from my OB/GYN who said everything looked good so what was the problem? It just didn’t make since to me. Listen, I understood I wanted the egg to be at the right place at the right time when they injected the sperm into me. But, I have to admit it all seemed a bit much. All I could think about were those women who’s insurances didn’t pay for the tests. Holy shit how this infertility stuff was lucrative! Everything came in multiples! There never was a one shot thing. OY VEY!
Carol and I agreed IUI would be the best procedure for me since it had a higher success rate. We also agreed 6 months of trying was out of the question- we could do two months and that was it. There wasn’t just the cost of the procedure and the sperm but there was the cost for the shipping of the sperm and for storing it. Yes, you heard me correctly. Once you purchased it, it had to be stored either at the sperm bank you ordered it from or at the clinic where you were going to have the procedure done. Now let me explain to you the size of a vial of sperm. It is about the size of the average birdie finger and it had to be kept frozen at all times in a special tank that looked like an oxygen tank. That meant it had to be shipped over night. It was really quite comical because when you saw this huge tank that you paid $100 (per tank- per sperm), it was shocking to see the size of the actual vial. Anyway after adding it all up and then looking at our finances it was definite we could only afford to try two months of insemination. It totally worried me as I shared the statistics with Carol on what the doctor told me. Carol reminded me why we needed the infertility doctor…it wasn’t because I wasn’t healthy but because I needed that missing component. She also pointed out the infertility doctor mainly saw women who already had problems getting pregnant, so those were the patients he was used to seeing. I was healthy and had no problems which I kept telling myself over and over again. There was no reason for me not to get pregnant. Here was the thing. It has always been in my nature to worry. And even though I was very worried, there was something in my gut that knew it was going to happen. I’m not sure where that calm assurance came from but wherever it did, it kept me focused. I told Carol the next time I met with the infertility doctor I’d tell him what we could do..no more waiting once I had the vaginal sonogram. Even to the dismay of the doctor, he agreed. The doctor explained to me again how to figure out when in my cycle I was ovulating and more importantly when I was surging. Of course ovulation is when the egg comes down the fallopian tubes and released. The surge is when the egg is released and is waiting to be fertilized. Women can start ovulating between the 12th and 16th day of their cycle and a woman’s cycle begins on the first day she is bleeding. Beginning on the 12th day I was to use an ovulation kit (bought from the store) to tell me when my surge would hit. And when it did I was to contact his office and then go to the clinic the next day for the vaginal sonogram. Once that looked good we could actually do an insemination the month after that procedure. The doctor told me it was crucial to pick a donor and have the sperm shipped to the clinic since our insemination was just around the corner. I couldn’t believe how close we were. We were just two in a half months away for our first (and hopefully last) insemination.
We were relieved to finally have chosen the sperm bank. The one we chose did genetic testing on each of the donors which was important to us. Also, they were known to take great care in how they handled the sperm so each vial contained the largest possible number of viable sperm. Yes, folks, that was VERY important. Remember I needed more bang for my buck so this was crucial. However, the relief was short lived as little did we realize that choosing the bank was just half the battle. Carol and I had NO idea how arduous it was going to be to choose the one, the only sperm donor. But, that’s another chapter, folks.