Only Rich People Should Reproduce

Find that statement hard to stomach? Yeah, me too. But the further into this journey we go, the more I see that this system is designed in a way that really doesn’t equally support all hopeful parents. If you are queer, the cost is astronomical. It’s expensive for ANY person who doesn’t get pregnant without assistance. If you are a woman struggling with fertility, for any reason, it’s not fully-funded (in Canada), like other illnesses or conditions. Fertility is seen as an elective procedure.

It’s not really a ‘choice.’ It’s not my choice not to be pregnant – if it were I’d be pregnant right now. Some people (idiots) talk about ‘choosing’ to be gay… if that were true, I’d quickly be choosing some healthy stud to knock me up. Crass, I’m sorry. But when it comes to this: elective is a slippery word, because it isn’t about choice, it’s about need.

Yes, it should be ‘elective’ to have children. You should choose it (whether you wanted to become pregnant or not), you should know on some level as you carry the child to term, that you want to create a human being (or a few). But not being able to have children as simply as some shouldn’t mean that you have to choose between that… and rent.

Don’t even get started on the price of baby THINGS once you have them. As soon as you put ‘baby’ on the label it’s 50x more expensive. Sort of like a terrible sequel to the consumer blockbuster “The WEDDING,” where everything is way more expensive than it should be because it’s someone’s ‘big day’. That means the beer costs more, the venue costs more, the dress costs more, the cake… which obviously knows it’s ‘wedding cake’ …costs more.

I’m getting off topic. Two days ago, I got a lovely note in the mail from a friend, thanking us for hosting an amazing weekend away in Ontario’s wine country. We had a fab time. I didn’t drink. I was conspicuously booze free. They were invited in on our secret. So, when the card came and I spoke to the sender they said, ‘Good! It arrived!’ and I felt compelled to mention what else had arrived:

My period.

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Inside my body, it’s total assault time. But it’s also an assault on our wallets, at our most vulnerable, unpreventable moment. No, I’m not talking about the 17% hst (tax) on essential ‘feminine hygiene products,’ I’m talking about the failure of our government to provide access to subsidized IUI and IVF. But Viagra is covered, fully, by my work’s drug plan.

Which brings me back to a system that is systemically designed to privilege some, not others. Today, at the clinic Nurse N, always the beacon of joy and pleasant updates was there when I went in for my blood work, external and transvaginal ultrasound (the one where with a full-bladder they press the jelly-lubed wand agains your pelvis, then after you pee they put it inside and stir it up, all while on day three of your period)…

She lets me know: they are closed for the Labour Day (ironic, no?) weekend… AND… wait for it…additionally…

They’ve changed their policy on subsidized IUI. The cost of the subsidized procedure is currently $500 (plus drugs and the cost of the sperm $750).

Now, she says, all patients will only have 3 partially-funded IUIs.

So, I asked, ‘how much is the procedure without the subsidy?’

‘$1200’.

Deep breath. But, she tells me (cause remember it’s all about the bright side here), ‘I have some patients who have been here forever and they’ve had like 5 cycles and now we have to tell them they are out of subsidized ones.’

Great. That really puts it into perspective. And, she continues, ‘You’re coming up in October for your subsidized IVF cycle’. That’s awesome… except that even with the subsidy we could be looking at $10,000 for that. The ambiguous enormity of that pricetag looms over us…

To be fair, they are limiting it to 3 per patient. That is fair, but it isn’t equitable. Some people have a way harder time than others. Some of us have our significant other come and ‘cum’ in a cup, for free… while others have to buy, ship, store, freeze, thaw and test the sperm.  And others have seemingly insurmountable difficulties… none of it is fair. This funding change happened when we didn’t see it coming.

And yes, I hear some of the eye-rolling internal narrative: at least you have health care. At least you have a government that subsidizes any of it. At least as a lesbian couple you are allowed to have a marriage and babies. At least this isn’t Trump-land.

Yes, but stop there; it is possible that way worse things are happening right here, and far away, in perpetuity. But are we really going to content ourselves by aiming for the lowest common denominator as a goal?

That is where we tend to go, when things get tough. (Skip this part if you aren’t interested in a little rant about the parallels between the past teacher strike action and lack of funding for fertility): I remember the mentality that was swirling around a few years ago, with all the vitriol and teacher-hating, when we challenged the Ontario government who imposed a contract on us and took away our right (protected by law) to negotiate our contract. People immediately started the sing-song of ‘lazy teachers/summers off/paid too high already/look at their benefits/they only work ’til 3/I knew a totally terrible teacher once/I work a real ‘hard’ job’/how dare you take away your voluntary after school coaching and extra-curriculars when my kids needs them to get into university? … and the like; mostly what people failed to realize was that they remember what their adolescent self remembers about teachers (and since everyone went to school, they think they know with some accuracy what that job entails). What they didn’t realize is that we weren’t fighting for more pay, we were protesting slashes to our contracts and to protect collective bargaining (a right that future generations will enjoy unless the government erodes our ability to stand up for these gains). What kind of laws do we have, and what do they mean, if the government can choose to disregard those laws when it suits them? We were protesting the stripping of our contracts, the devaluing of the job we get paid to do and work very hard to do well, often in conditions that are adverse and made more difficult by policy makers who have no idea what we actually do. The biggest complaint I heard was: teachers have a cushy job with great pay, vacations, amazing benefits and retirement plans. We should stop whining and take a pay cut/benefit cut/pension cut… because lots of other people have none of these ‘good things’. But… Rather than begrudge many hard-working (99 percent of the people I work with are passionate and do this job so well) people the things you don’t have, why don’t we strive to ameliorate the systems that prevent ALL of us from having these things? Shouldn’t the goal be to avoid raking back the policies, pay and benefits that maintain a stable middle-class, and healthy and well-supported professionals doing their jobs well? All of us should have retirement security, health care, time off when we are sick, bereavement leave, mat leave, access to a fair income to be able to create stability for ourselves and families. That is what progress looks like. P.S. The Supreme Court found the Government GUILTY in the suit against them for the very the actions we were striking over. When you get pushed, sometimes the only way to not lose any more ground is to push back.

Government cuts to fertility mean that my clinic, the 4th my wife and I have been to, now has a new policy, unceremoniously dropped on us today, that limits our access from a previous ‘no-limit’ to a ‘for fairness sake’ limit of 3. This leaves us to ask: what will we do when the money runs out? By ‘we’ I mean my wife and I, a dual-income household. I have three degrees and have worked for almost ten years in my field; my wife has 13 years in her industry and just took a contract position in the face of massive layoffs in the media sphere. We own a house, purchased before the huge skyrocket in prices in the GTA, which we will be paying off for 27 more years. If we, the people who should fall squarely into the middle class, are struggling – how on earth could we do it as single or low-income earners? As people with student debt? If we were also faced with precarious employment?

On one hand, yes, I was sad for myself when I found out I wasn’t pregnant this past Monday. But I know we can scrape together money for a few more tries. I’m saddened for the whole process, which is so much less crucial or vital than the crushing and immense problems occurring globally; I talk about that in real life, in my newsfeed, at art and activism events, in my classroom. But this is my real. This is where I talk about how hard it is to still muster the optimism that everyone thinks I have. Because on the outside I do seem to be taking it in stride. But part of me is indignant about the injustice of putting myself into debt in order to do what others can do for free. When an arbitrary decision about three tries, might mean ‘three strikes and you’re out.’

But we are all grownups and know: life isn’t fair.

HSG

HSG. Holy Shit Guys.

Also the name of the procedure where they fill your insides with liquids to make sure it’s smooth sailing for the little travellers to make their voyage to your egg. This fun experience happens in hospital and I cannot wait.

But with all these appointments and hurdles, we routinely have the ‘we still want to do this, right?’ conversation. Which is sometimes just a look. We think about how much effort this is all taking and, rightly, whether this effort is still what we want for the life we have together.

Think of all the things that might happen if we don’t have kids: we’d be rich (comparatively), we would save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the lifespan of the future offspring; we wouldn’t have to move and our current home would feel like a palace… and keep being a spacious, tidy, often immaculate and tranquil abode; we could just be really amazing aunts; we could travel whenever we wanted; we could get a whole whack of pets (if we decided living spotlessly was no longer our thing); we could keep our pre-pregnancy bodies; we could eat for two for fun, then go work out vigorously without worry of upsetting a budding babe-in-the-making.

All of these are the fantasies I lubricate my brain with – mostly because I like to imagine I have choices – likely the self-preserving kind of self-talk that helps me feel in control when so much is out of our control. I can hardly imagine how any autonomous person hands over their body to tiny aliens that just get bigger and bigger then absorb your entire life, heart and savings. Except that we see this as the norm. Some do it better than others. Some people even make it look easy. Instagram helps. But I really do love those ‘Asshole Parent’ posts, because I feel that there must be a happy medium  – between heavily curated ‘I make my own homemade organic baby food on my hobby farm where my organic produce grows in the rose-smelling shit of my Angora rabbits’ and the ‘I am being terrorized by my toddlers and held-hostage by my entitled, social media zombie teen’ posts.

Does everyone go through this range of emotions?

It reminds me of when I was a student at the National Ballet of Canada – the summer intensive – and they did psychological testing on all of us to see if we would be good candidates for the full time program, should we pass all the other barrage of tests; they asked us leading questions, like ‘What would you want to be if you couldn’t be a ballerina?’

The answer they wanted was ‘what do you mean? this is the only-thing-i’ve-ever-wanted and I would die if I couldn’t dance’ delivered through hysterical sobs, or saucer eyed bambi blinking lashes.

My answer: I’d be a vet. Or a teacher. Or I might design houses, or write a book. Can I still horseback  ride if I make it into the program? What about jazz? Will I have to just do ballet?

I didn’t make the cut.

But I feel like my answer is the same, at least in theory, here. If I can’t be a mom, will I be a shrivelled waste of human womb and potential? I hope not. I would never let myself be defined by one component of myself. I just wouldn’t. But, like anything, if someone tells me I can’t – I rebelliously challenge that idea, too. Then decide for myself it I want to be that thing: whether it’s ‘being sporty,’ ‘looking like a lesbian,’ ‘not looking like a lesbian’ or ‘being handy.’

Tell me what I am and what I’m capable of. I dare you.

But all of this, too, might be a coping mechanism for the doubt I have in my own capacity; to do it well, or to do it at all. There needs to be a trap door of doubt, so that if things don’t work out – I will know that I can overcome this, or fall down a passage way and claw myself out from under it (if we are going with that trap door analogy).

Either way, I don’t think that a healthy amount of questioning, or a screechy ‘I must be a mother’ reaction is a good fit for me – like my marriage, my career, my breakfast; every day is a choice and I want to do things because, yes, I still want and am committed to them every day, not simply because a while ago it seemed like a good idea or everyone thought it was a great plan.

For now, we are off to the hospital, for a bunch of stuff to go on up there, so that a bunch more stuff can go on up there… and that’s where we’re at. And if tomorrow the news is bad – we’ll go from there.

Does anyone always know, with certainty, what they want, without question?

Welcome to Us

I’ve been sharing my life with Allia for five plus years, and now she is joining me online for a new chapter of this blog. Here is our first instalment of smiley, silly, honest and colourful wife-talk – about love, making babies and, today: choosing sperm.

I’ll still be sharing my own thoughts and gripes via the written word, but occasionally we’ll be coming at you almost IRL as Asquared (Allia+Alison) MamaSquared (with two mamas, and possibly two pregnancies. We’ll see. More on that later). Welcome and talk soon.

It’s a Go

I took my first pre-natal multivitamin today. I’m on deck. I guess we’re doing this.

And here I thought I’d already have a two year old by the time I started thinking about trying. 

Stay tuned for our first vlog post. We will be coming to you live for an update on our baby process. 

Lighthouse

Sometimes when you get a call or text in the middle of the day, it’s a cute message from your partner. Others… it’s a text to tell you that she got her period. Meaning: we are not expecting. Still.

It has been hard. But talking about it helps. As if by fate, the first email I opened was a review, talking about the film “The Light Between Oceans.” Starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, the film and its central conflict, a woman’s multiple miscarriages, is dealt with so thoughtfully by Elizabeth Kiefer in her article “This Is What Happens When Miscarriage Plays A Starring Role In A Movie.”

The article can be found here, but I’ve also pasted it below, courtesy of Refinery 29.

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There are at least five good reasons to go see The Light Between Oceans when it hits theaters on September 2. First, the obvious: Michael Fassbender, who should be observed in high definition on a giant screen whenever possible. Second, the chemistry between Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who are great together. If you loved the book and you wanted the movie to live up to it, that’s your third reason, and fourth is that director Derek Cianfrance has done this love story gorgeous justice, and who couldn’t use a little more of that in their life.

To some, the fifth reason may seem a little particular. But, in my opinion, it’s one of the things that will stick with you long after the rolling credits. The Light Between Oceans pays homage to a female experience that often gets maligned and deserves its moment in the spotlight: the heartache and physical pain of miscarriage….The The Light Between Oceans is, at its heart, a story about a man who loves his wife so much that he will do almost anything to secure her happiness. Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender) has returned to Australia after fighting in World War I. Seeking solace and silence, he winds up with a job as a lighthouse keeper. Sherbourne meets a woman while on the mainland, Isabel (Vikander), who becomes his wife. They live together on their isolated island, content with one another’s company — but also hoping to start a family.

This is where the rough waters kick up: Isabel conceives and appears to be months along in her pregnancy when one night, while a storm rages outside, she miscarries. The physical pain is searing; she is clearly terrified, unsure of what is happening within her body, and without anyone to turn to for help. The next day, they bury their child in a marked grave on the island. Isabel is inconsolable.

Not long after that, she becomes pregnant again. But this time around, she is wary of the precariousness of her condition and terrified of repeating the ordeal — which, inevitably, she does. The second miscarriage is even more painful. Not only because of the scene itself, which portrays a hopeful Isabel sitting at a piano — in one moment joyful and the next doubled over in pain, blood seeping through the back of her skirt — but because it so keenly reveals the hysteric emotionality behind what it means to lose your dream coupled with the death of hope. Twice.

What Vikander telegraphs in this scene is more than just the physical elements of how the early stage of miscarriage proceeds. Her performance also showcases a distinctly female form of failure at something that, as women, we are told for an entire lifetime is our destiny: the ability to bear a child.

For women who want to become mothers, the inability to bring a pregnancy to term — to literally deliver on a biological promise — is perhaps one of the more devastating experiences they will ever endure.

Still, despite the fact that up to one-fifth of all pregnancies result in miscarriage, it is something that does not receive a commensurate amount of discussion. The heartbreak of miscarriage is something that often gets minimized and belittled; we are ill-practiced with the language required to console someone who has gone through it, once, twice, or many times. For that reason, we often avoid talking about it altogether. But not talking about contributes to the feelings of isolation — of failure — that accompany losing a wanted pregnancy. And so the downward spiral spins.

… I have been on the other side of plenty of conversations with women — some who lost their pregnancies recently, others who lost them long ago, but still feel empty. Often, these friends have said they felt minimized. A colleague once told me she felt like her husband was living on Earth and she was living on planet “My Baby Died” — and there were no telephone lines between those two worlds.

And so here is my theory and one reason to go see The Light Between Oceans: If we talk about miscarriage more, it will not hurt any less when it happens, but it might make the aftermath a little easier to bear. It might make women feel less alone. It might be like erecting a lighthouse out in the ocean, so that people know there is hope when they are out in a storm.”

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Kiefer puts it so well. I worry that my wife feels like I’m on another planet, watching, carrying on with my life. I cannot imagine feeling worse about what we’ve gone through, except to be in her shoes. Watching someone you love suffer is brutal, but I hope that being in it together makes it bearable.

Investing in Omens

I had a dream that you held my hand

as we were following sleep

drifting

and when I woke up, I was sure it was a dream

In the morning, after falling back into my pillow,

I woke up, wondering.

I told you that I’d dreamed it

and you said, no

It was real.

And my hands and feet

have become loaded with meaning.

My fingers

empty without yours to curl inside them, around them.

Ring finger bare, for the stage, for performances where lights

will highlight difference and reflect where it shouldn’t…

is also bare for other reasons; barren.

so I’ve replaced our ring, with one from my father, just for today.

Until it makes sense again.

My father; a circle of strength.

I am chanelling that moment, when he saw something sparkle and thought of me; a man who always made me believe anything was possible if I wanted it.

I am hoping he is right.

And many things have been said of dreaming,

“It’s only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness

Like a heartbeat.. drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost…”

Voices, not mine, mine, yours, all echo here.

And while my head and hands are distracted, I will look down, to my ankle, where the fibers are wearing thin.

Just a few strands left on the ribbon,

attached with so much expectation and hope

now hanging by threads.

I refuse to believe in not believing.

I will hope, against odds, because I believe that odds are worth bettering.

 

I try to keep my tears to myself. The gravity 

Of this moment 

Isn’t lost on me. 

I imagine life without you

On my own 

How quickly will I try to spill my feeling into a new jar

Transparent in its longing to be filled 

I will conceive of pregnant pauses 

And read meaning in all the hands and looks not held. 

Rereading the way 

I had no idea 

Where I was

And how far 

From you.  

I was looking at the clouds

For sun 

For bluer skies

Trusting I would find them if I looked.  

Should I

Keep looking 

For you 

In the clouds

In the dust 

Swirling around me

Grit 

In my teeth 

Cutting those words 

From moments 

Chained together 

Like paper dolls 

Childlike in the emotion and intent

Destructive 

Like …

I don’t know what. 

And craft won’t work here 

No forced fix 

You have taken your ball and gone home 

Both hurt

But I’m with you 

Because I’m thinking of you

Almost every second that you’re not here 

Except when I force myself not to. 

Braced for anything. Trying not to think. Because if I do, the tears start again, and it’s back to the start.