Things are moving right into TTC land, in that we have an initial appointment at Big Fertility Clinic on Tuesday. Sadly, Uno is likely not able to shuffle her schedule to make it with me, so I may go it alone – which feels weird. She’s sad about it, but the practical side of us knows that much work shuffling may be in our future, and she’d rather cancel appointments and things when we’re in IUI territory. My sweet Uno, by the way, has such a emotionally demanding, intensive job working with kids, and I never talk about it here, but seriously. Props to her.
So here I am, getting ready to fill out paperwork. It’s so strange to have the spotlight shining on my body this time. All these health history questions, scrutiny of my cycles, anticipating the drawing of blood and the inserting of instruments: surreal. I can’t help but feel like an impostor. Am I really the one doing this? I’m so used to it being Uno. I worried with her, was riveted by her basal body temperature, cried with each negative pregnancy test, paced the hallway while she got the HSG, tucked vials of sperm into my armpit to keep them warm, held her hand through the “dildo cam” ultrasounds. Oh, yes, I was in it. But it wasn’t my body. And at the end of the day, or the appointment, I could go get a drink or a latte, oblivious to my own body’s rhythms and twinges.
When she got pregnant, I was often relieved that it wasn’t me going through the nausea, the discomfort. I also relished being able to feed her protein shakes and to curve along her spine with my hands on her growing belly. I remember so well that astonishing sensation of Jaybird rolling beneath her skin. I honestly didn’t think much about what it’d be like for me to experience it in my own body. I took so much pleasure in being there beside her.
But I did feel left out by the medical system and the culture at large. I mean, I did. The pregnancy books were so alienating. The forms all said “mother” and “father.” Every checkup, ultrasound, and birth class I’d be anxious beforehand, and have to steel myself in case I was treated oddly. I was often ignored by medical staff. Fellow pregnant couples in waiting rooms thought I was the sister, the friend. The language and culture around natural birth, nursing, and attachment parenting, much as I agreed with it – embraced it! – was hard to navigate sometimes. I don’t quite know how to articulate it. I guess I’d say it’s all so biomom-baby centered that I felt left out of the equation. And kind of jerky for thinking that, because that focus is for a good reason, right? Women have had to endure so many asinine, patriarchal attitudes about birth and parenting. I was confused by own confusion, by my upset feelings. For the first time in my life I thought: “it’d be so much easier if I were a man.”
So, yep. It was during the pregnancy and lead-up to the birth that I felt most anxiety about my role. Not a dad. Not a mom. Wait, no! Yes, a mom! At its most basic, that’s what I struggled with. I wanted so badly to just be there for Uno, to be a complete fortress of strength and loving support, and I got frustrated with myself for the anxieties I hadn’t seen coming.
All of this floats through my mind as I check boxes about my cycles and my family health history. The receptionist, on the phone, gave me instructions about how to fill this all out. She told me, “There’s a form for your partner — I mean, I know it’s weird, it says father, but just ignore that. So, she could fill it out. It’s protocol. But actually, it doesn’t matter.”
Well, fair enough, it “doesn’t matter” in a biological sense, but I still wanted to yell: it DOES TOO! She MATTERS! F*!@ you!
The strength of my reaction surprised me. It has also surprised me to feel at once relieved to be in this “simpler” role — by that I mean, the culturally / medically sanctioned and understood role of gestational mother — and to also feel some loss of my “other mother” status. I have staked out this territory. I have worked hard to occupy my own parental space, to be confident in my mothering and navigate these new waters within our families. On top of that, I feel a little guilty. Like it’s unfair that I get to be in this easier role, this time around. I don’t know how to explain that, either, but it’s there.
I know it’s not really EASIER, of course. The physical demands of a new little creature growing in and feeding off of you, those are no joke.
I tell myself to take a breath. To embrace our decision. I wouldn’t want to take it back, after all. I am surprisingly (there’s that word again) eager to experience this in my body, more so than I would have thought previously. I am excited to go through this with Uno again and to see her hold that new baby with her great tenderness, whenever he/she decides to come. I am happy that I can take her advice about birth and nursing. We’re lucky bastards, I know, to have the option of sharing this role. Perhaps some of the guilt is about that.
As Uno would say, I think I need a session. Thank god for this space. Here I go, back to my fertility clinic PDF forms. First up: my name on the blank line where it says “patient.”