WARNING: If you find conversations about the reproductive system of women’s bodies uncomfortable, this will likely fall under the TMI category for you. The following post reveals some pretty personal information.
Lucien and I have finally started actively trying to have a baby. For a lesbian couple, there is a bit more to it than creating a miracle in an act of passion with the one you love. It is far more clinical and we have received a number of questions from our friends and colleagues about the process.
So here it is.
In preparation for artificial insemination, and working with a fertility clinic, both Lucien and I were required to be tested for infectious diseases. Almost a dozen of them. I had to go in two different sessions for the sheer number of vials of blood they had to take from me. For those of you who don’t know, I do not handle needles well. We also had to have an interview with a counsellor to make sure we were mentally prepared and on the same page. She had asked us questions that we hadn’t quite discussed in depth. It was pretty emotional.
On some level, I get it. They are trying to cover their own assed and make sure everyone is safe and lawsuit-free. On the other hand, it feels like this industry capitalizes on those who are unable to conceive “naturally”. It is also a very specialized field of practice and hence, very expensive. However, it alleviates any potential uncomfortable and legal implications that could arise with using a known donor. Needless to say, we had weighed the pros and cons of each scenario and decided that going with an anonymous donor was the best decision for us. We chose an open donor, so when our child (or children) come of age, they will have access to who their biological father is.
Thanksgiving Day 2016
On October 10th, 2016, I peed on an ovulation prediction test. It was positive! I ran into the bedroom and showed the pee-stick to Lucien with excitement to let her know the good news. She was thrilled! Not about a urine-soaked stick hovering over her face though. I called our fertility clinic and made an appointment for the same day. I had been tracking my ovulations and started taking pre-natal vitamins for months in preparation.
We had taken time off work in Alberta to drive home to Vancouver for this. We couldn’t keep it a secret from our work colleagues, especially when we needed to be accessible to the clinic on ovulation day.
I’m very lucky my boss has been so supportive (and only slightly uncomfortable) about this too. People (mostly men) aren’t exactly used to knowing about a woman’s cycle… let alone their conception methods. Let’s just say the conversations have been on a need-to-know basis.
We went into the clinic, signed in with the receptionist, and waited.
The nurse called my name and led Lue and me to a small examination room and left to let me undress. Lue pretended to drink the semen. No, honey, that is not how we…. HOLY SHIT, I had no idea the amount of “washed” donor sperm was so TINY! Seriously, it was only 0.5mL.
The nurse came back in once I was ready, and we double checked the information on all the labels and made sure the donor specimen ID was correct. I signed off, indicating everything was good. I watched as she sucked the miniscule amount of sperm up out of the little tube with the catheter thinking, “you better get all of it, that shit ain’t cheap!”
I laid back, Lue held my hand, and held back from making jokes. I would expect nothing less.
That was fast. I didn’t feel a thing. The nurse gave me instructions with two blood test requisitions. The first one, in a week’s time, to test my Progesterone level to make sure I did, in fact, ovulate. The second one, in two weeks, to test my HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) level to determine whether or not we succeeded.
October 18th, 2016
Progesterone blood test: ovulation confirmed.
October 23rd, 2016
I peed on a pregnancy test after work. There was a faint line. I assumed that it was the same as the ovulation tests where the test line had to be the same intensity or darker than the example line. I peed on another one in the evening. It showed another faint line. Just for shits and giggles, I read the instructional insert form the box before throwing it away.
“Wait, what? I’m pregnant? LUE!”
She reacted with sheer excitement saying “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
“I didn’t know.” Was all I could respond.
“Pee on another one.”
“I don’t have anymore… you want to go get some?”
“Get in the truck.”
We drove to Safeway at 10pm so we could get more tests. I drank so much water my pee was too diluted to determine anything.
The next morning, I peed on 3 more tests. By this time we were pretty certain that I was pregnant. The following day I went to the lab for the definitive blood test. It too, was positive.
My First Trimester
Most of the time my hands and feet feel cold. But in my first trimester I was fucking freezing. I didn’t experience any morning sickness, just a bit of nausea. The most prominent “symptom” I experienced was my swollen breasts. They were so sore, felt like they were going to explode. Lue wasn’t even allowed to look at them.
My first craving was a pepperoni and cheese dog from Orange Julius. I saw someone eating a chili cheese dog on TV and I HAD to have one, or at least something similar. After that I craved fresh orange peppers dipped in ranch dressing. Also cantaloupe and honeydew melons. I had never liked melons before though so that was new.
Then it Took a Turn
On December 1st, I started spotting. I had read that it was a common thing to happen so I didn’t pay it any attention. Then it got heavier and I started to experience cramping. On Wednesday, December 7th, I woke up at 6:00am to serious abdominal pain. I went to the washroom and bled. A lot. For hours. I knew this was the end.
I had never felt anything so excruciatingly heartbreaking before. I laid in bed in severe pain and every time I went to the bathroom and passed blood, all I could think, “was that my baby?”. I sat on the toilet and cried uncontrollably. I didn’t think I would be so sad. In my head, I knew that miscarriage was a possibility. I had never been pregnant before. But rationality didn’t help in this moment. The blood kept coming until 2:00pm.
The next morning I was still in pain. How long was this supposed to last? I was advised to go to the hospital by my fertility clinic and doula/sister-in-law. Lue drove me as I writhed in waves of pain. We arrived at the hospital at 8:00am. Lue was by my side the whole time. It was 2:00pm by the time we got to see a doctor and by then, the pain had subsided. They subjected me to an ultrasound and a blood test. It was 4:00pm by the time we were able to leave. We hadn’t eaten or had any coffee all day. Needless to say, we were a bit on edge.
So What Does it All Mean?
IUI (Intrauterine Insemination): is a form of assisted human reproduction. During IUI, your doctor will place washed, prepared sperm into your uterus (womb) and near to your egg at your time of ovulation. This procedure is often combined with fertility drugs to increase your chances of conceiving.
I chose to not take any fertility drugs.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): is the process by which eggs are removed from your ovaries and mixed with sperm in a laboratory culture dish. Fertilization takes place in this dish, “in vitro”, which means “in glass”.
From what I am told, women are required to take a hormone which causes her to hyper ovulate. Each month, generally speaking, only one egg is released for possible fertilization. With the use of hyper ovulation treatment, more eggs are released for possible fertilization.
We will try again when we are ready, and the process will be repeated all over again. We don’t give up so easily.