The first week of January 2003 I was 5 weeks pregnant. Carol and I had an appointment with our OB/GYN to have a vaginal sonogram. We were going to be able to see our baby or babies for the first time. Because we had been dealing with the infertility clinic up to that point, we had been accustomed to always having to worry. But all of that went away that very day. The first thing the nurse said to us was, “Congratulations! I’m excited for y’all.” I’d like to point out she congratulated both of us. For the first time in all of those few weeks Carol and I finally felt like a couple again. A couple proudly preparing to have a baby together. AND it felt awesome! When we got to the examining room the nurse told me to undress from the waist down, sit on the table and then cover myself with what looked like a paper sheet. I can’t even explain the anticipation we were feeling while waiting for the doctor to come. Speaking for myself, I felt as if I was going to jump out of my skin. I was so excited. Yes, I was nervous but they were good nerves this time. I was so happy to finally have Carol with me. That alone made me feel better. There was a knock on the door. It was our doctor. While she came into the room she said, “Hey guys! How are you? Congratulations! I am so excited for y’all!” Carol and I couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our face. And I loved it that our doctor could be excited for us.
As my doctor was preparing for my vaginal sonogram she assured me it was going to be OK. I knew this experience would be different. For one because Carol was with me and the other because I trusted my doctor entirely. She asked me if I was ready and unlike the infertility doctor, my OB/GYN told me she was about to start. She told me to relax and take some deep breaths. She moved the wand very slowly up into me until she reached where she could see our “baby”. I was uncomfortable but NOTHING like my past experience. When the doctor could see our baby she turned to sonogram monitor towards us. She then began pointing out what was on the screen. She pointed out our baby’s heartbeat which was the most awesome thing. We couldn’t believe it. There it was! It was so surreal and yet real. Our doctor did not see another heartbeat so it was clear we were having only one child. I think Carol was a bit disappointed. She would joke that we could have gotten two for the price of one. At any rate the doctor made images of what she showed us and handed them to Carol for us to take home. We were ecstatic and couldn’t stop staring at the photos. Even though our baby was just a blob it was the cutest blob we had ever seen.
As we left our OB/GYN’s office that day we were on cloud nine. We were pregnant! We were happy about it and I wanted to tell all of our friends and family. Yes, we knew of the risks of losing the baby and yes, we knew it was customary to wait about 3 months before announcing it. But, no one could take away the fact we were pregnant at that moment. We saw our beautiful blob’s heartbeat as proof and we wanted to share our happiness. Why not? Meanwhile, if we were going to lose the baby at any point we would have wanted the support of our family and friends anyway. So, why not tell them from the beginning? Thye’d find out one way or the other. Meanwhile, between you and me, I felt confident I was going to have that blob- I mean baby.
My first trimester was OK but it certainly wasn’t my favorite. One reason was because I was always feeling sick. Ginger ale and crackers had become my staple. But, the other reason I didn’t like it was because no one could tell I was pregnant. If I was pregnant, dammit I wanted to show. But that would come soon enough. I was excited for our next doctor’s visit. This time we were going to have a regular sonogram where we’d be able to see our baby who at this point had arms and legs and all of the parts of a baby. It no longer was a blob (as we had seen previously). We could also find out if we were having a girl or a boy. There was no doubt I wanted to know. Now Carol on the other hand didn’t want to know. She wanted it to be a surprise. But, I was a bit concerned with waiting. As I mentioned Carol had a daughter. She felt she knew how to raise a girl. Carol expressed being nervous if we were going to have a boy. I know many parents go through those fears. It wasn’t just a lesbian thing. And if I had a husband who had expressed the same fears I would have also suggested we go ahead and find out early. That way the idea could sink in and mentally we could be prepared. And so, that was what I suggested to Carol. Listen, bottom line was neither of us cared what it was as long as the baby was healthy.
Now, aside from Carol’s nervousness about having a boy, there was another reason I had to know what we were having. See, a couple of weeks before I was to have the sonogram I had a dream. In that dream was my mom who told me my pregnancy was going to go well and our baby was going to be healthy. My mom also told me we were going to have a boy and he was going to be smart and talented. Lastly, she spoke about his eyes. Here was the thing. My mom was very mystical. So when she mentioned my son’s eyes she was referring to how they were the window to the awesome soul he would have. It was incredibly special to see her and to have her comfort me. But more than anything it was special to have her voice guiding me during that time. I hoped she’d do the same for our son once he was born. OK, so that was all in my dream. But, did I really talk to my mom? I believed I had but one always doubts. I needed the confirmation. If we found out the sex of the baby during our next doctor’s visit and if we were told it was a boy then that would be the confirmation I needed. Well, folks, it wasn’t as if Carol could argue with me on this one. Nothing like having a story like that to convince my partner to find out what we were having. Seriously, though, it was the truth.
At 12 weeks into my pregnancy Carol and I were excited to head to the doctor for our very first regular sonogram. This would be the first time we’d see our little baby’s arms, legs, tush, nose and any other part visible from the sonogram. This would be the day we would see if we were having a boy or a girl. For the first time it was so neat to be sitting in the OB/GYN office and be one of the pregnant women. When you’re the one who wants to be pregnant and aren’t, it is difficult to sit in an office filled with a large number of pregnant women. I can’t even begin to say how great it was to have Carol with me. When I was going to the infertility clinic it was so hard pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I hated pretending because it went against my philosophy. I loved who I was and I loved my partner. Listen, there are a good number of gay people who say if they could take a pill and no longer be gay, they would do it in a heartbeat. Me on the other hand? I’d NEVER in a million years change who I was. I loved my family and I’d never think of wanting a different one. I could careless if others approved or not. To be honest that’s their issue, not mine. However, when that mentality creeps into my life and forces me to be someone I’m not, it’s beyond maddening. I hated to have my hands tied. I hated to be forced to make that decision. My time at the infertility clinic had an effect on me that was life altering. That day at our OB/GYN’s office Carol and I made a pact we’d NEVER hide again no matter what. We got our baby and now it was important to teach that child about truly being proud of our family. We held each other’s hands and promised that when our child was born we would live our lives openly and honestly. No hiding under any circumstance. We agreed that it was important for our child to see we were not ashamed. And we, the parents, would be the example the child would hopefully immolate. We all have adversities in our lives but we understood completely they may come at a higher price for us and possibly our child. But once we had a child, we would become accountable for ourselves and show our child how we handled adversity.
Well, back at the OB/GYN’s office… we waited in the waiting room for a good 45 minutes before the sonographer called us to the back. The sonographer was a large woman who walked with a little limp. When we met her at the door and she said, “Please, walk this way” there was no way in hell I could even look at Carol. I just knew what she was going to do. And of course I wasn’t wrong. Carol started walking just like the woman including with a limp. We had a good laugh about that one for a number of years.
When we got to the sonography room, the lady asked me to lie down on the table. She took this jelly stuff, spread it over my belly and then pressed the very hard into my belly with a wand looking thing. The next thing we knew there was our baby on the monitor! Now folks, this was the old kind of sonogram where it took the sonographer to identify the baby’s different parts before we could make it out. We were thrilled when we saw the heart beat. It was so amazing! It made all of it a reality even though it still seemed a bit surreal. Carol and I were silent while the woman checked out our baby’s heart, lungs, head, brain, arms and legs. When she showed us the head there was no doubt the baby had my family’s nose. I wasn’t so sure I liked it when Carol pointed it out though. Noses are a sensitive topic in my family.
It took the sonographer a good 20 minutes to thouroughly look over our baby. She spent a lot of time measuring and documenting what she saw. We just watched. When she was done she told us the baby looked good and the growth was right on schedule. She then asked if we had any other questions and if there was anything else we wanted to know. I looked at Carol and she asked the sonographer if we could find out the sex of the baby. I could tell the sonographer seemed prepared for that question and without skipping a beat she told us to give her a moment as she looked for the correct end of the baby. While she was looking she warned us not always can the girl or boy parts be seen as it depends on how the babies are positioned. Even though I knew that was possible (as that happened to Carol’s sister in law) I felt confident we’d be able to see. We just had to be able to see. Folks, I understand I had way too much confidence here. I’m not sure why but I did.
I wouldn’t look at the monitor while the sonographer was looking for the sex of the baby. I’ve got to tell you. Having ADHD and then spending an entire pregnancy having to wait for this result and that result was a true test for me. But, hell, it wasn’t as if I had any other choice or could change it. As the sonographer was pressing right above my pubic bone I felt a strong urge to have to pee. She apologized for pressing so hard. And even though I needed to pee so badly (which y’all know how I am when I’ve got to pee) I was willing to wait and do all I could so she could find our baby’s girl or boy parts. As I was looking at the ceiling I started counting the tiles to keep my mind occupied. I was interrupted when Carol tapped my arm and whispered my name. I looked at her. She had the biggest smile on her face. It was the weirdest thing. She was talking to me but I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. I turned to look at the monitor. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was overwhelmed with emotion and tried really hard to hold back my tears. The sonographer nor Carol said a word. I wanted someone to tell me what I was seeing on the monitor even though it seemed very clear. That was when I asked the sonographer, “Is that a penis?” The sonographer said, “Yes, that is clearly a male part. He’s certainly not hiding.” And that was all I needed to hear to totally lose control of my emotions. The tears flooded down my cheek. While holding my hand Carol leaned over to me and said with the most confidence I had seen her have during our entire process,” MaLea, it’s a boy! Your mom was right! We’re having a boy! MaLea, your mom is with you!” It was an awesome and special moment that I will never forget. I was speechless. Meanwhile, my crying and Carol’s whispering seemed to have worried our sonographer. She seemed to have taken my crying as being upset we were having a boy. She even asked us, “Is that bad?” I remember looking at her thinking why would she think that? Why in the world would she think it was bad? I was feeling nothing but elation. Surely, she had seen couples cry from happiness. Was it because we were two women and she assumed we were wanting a girl? I’m sure she had her fair share of parents who were disappointed about what they were having but by no means were we. We told her about my dream and my mom saying we were having a boy. The sonographer looked relieved and handed us our very first photos of our baby. Once that was over with, I ran to the restroom. Little did I know that was only the beginning to bladder issues. As our baby would get bigger, that would become more of an issue. Anyway, the sonographer then escorted us to another room where we waited for an examining room to open up. While sitting there I felt like I was in a dream world. I kept holding the photos of our precious little boy and I just couldn’t believe it. It was so hard to imagine this little boy was growing inside me and best of all that a little piece of my mom would be in this precious little being. Carol too was memorized by the photos. She was funny as she starting asking, “I wonder what color hair he’ll have and what his personality will be like.” I smiled at her questions because I was thinking the same thing. I looked at Carol and told her that we chose a smart and kind donor who was also strong. We knew we’d needed to have a child with a strong personality. After all the child would possibly have to deal with the hatred in the world with having two moms. Heck, growing up I was picked on for being Jewish and Carol was for wearing glasses. There’s always something. However when folks like us are able to choose a donor, it doesn’t hurt to find one with a strong personality. I told Carol I felt it would all be fine. I laughed and said, “After all if he had my family’s nose, there’s no doubt he’d have the family’s “balls” too.” Both figuratively and actually.
We hadn’t been waiting long in the room before a nurse came to get us to take us an examining room where we’d meet with our doctor. On the way to the room the nurse was as thrilled as we were to find out we were having a boy. She spoke to the both of us and treated us like any other couple. When she lead us into the next room she asked for me to sit on the examining table. She congratulated us one more time as she left. The doctor came into the room not too long afterwards and she too congratulated us. She had already had two boys and was telling us how much fun we were going to have. During that visit she measured my tummy and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. She told us everything was perfect and then she explained what would be happening during my doctor visits while I was pregnant. She took time to listen to us knowing as new moms we’d probably have lots of questions and concerns.
As we left the doctor’s office that day Carol and I were riding high. It was exciting (and scary) but all in a good way. Being new at this pregnancy thing I didn’t know when I should tell my employer. Here was the thing about where I worked. It was considered an exclusive, private dining club that had been in existence since the 1960’s. Not only were many of the city’s successful doctors, lawyers and politicians members but there were also members who still believed in a racially separate South. It was a strange mix. Even though minority groups were being accepted (well, sort of) there seemed to be pressure (from some) to not allow minority groups from joining. I could never figure out from where that came. Was it from the board who (from my understanding) at the time consisted of old retired white men? I never knew. As the membership director I accepted everyone who fit the financial qualifications (even to the dismay of the management). Meanwhile, the negative old ways of the 1960’s weren’t working for the place. It needed modernization and it needed to be brought into the new Century. I tried but that was an entirely different story to maybe be written at another time.
OK, so back to me being pregnant and working at this place. Before I started working there when I had my job interview, the manager looked at me, rolled his eyes up and down and asked, “Is there anything you want to tell me that could keep you from doing your job?” It was weird and creepy at the same time. However, folks, once again I felt my hands were tied. I needed the job. I needed a good job. We needed the money in order to have a baby. I thought I could work at that place and not only make some good money but also I had the illusion I could make a difference in the antiquated ways of the facility. Oh, the joys of being young! The crazy part was I got the job and they knew I had a partner. I made a promise to Carol and I kept it. In fact Carol often came to the facility to have lunch with me and attended the holiday party with me. Everyone who worked there seemed to not even think twice by me and Carol. Well, I say that but there was one person.The chef at the time. He told me flat out he was against homosexuality. He also said some very anti gay things and had no problem saying them to me. BUT, once again that was a totally different story for another time.
Now could you see why was I worried about telling them I was pregnant? For one it was because of that comment made by the manager during my interview. AND the other more clear reason was as an out lesbian who was working in a facility who had one foot (sort of) in modern times and the other foot in a time that took us back forty years, I knew that would present itself with some issues (from their side). Those two things alone made me feel my pregnancy would not have been well received. After all in their minds how would one explain their membership director was not married (and even possibly having to admit I was ….wait for it…… a lesbian) and pregnant (said in a whisper)? Oh no! And then the chef’s bigoted views on top of that all made me very nervous about telling my work. UGH! Life sucked sometimes. Here Carol and I were thrilled to be pregnant. Why did there have to be this negative thing hanging over my head? As much as I hated it and as much as I complained in my head (and to Carol) those things weren’t going to help me. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to bite the bullet and tell them so I could freely focus on my pregnancy and the joys it was to bring.