The Every Person Polka
I admit that until I sat down to write this, I was not exactly sure how my sperm was washed. The sometimes twisted part of my brain might have envisioned a microscopic Silkwood shower where each, tiny, HIV exposed spermatozoon was subject to a brutally painful scrub down in a desperate attempt to eradicate the hazardous toxin. You see my job at the time of impregnation was simply to produce the sample – a fairly well-practiced procedure if I am being honest – and then to pass the procurement along to the semen cleansing professionals. According to aidsmeds.com, however, it turns out that the washing of my sperm actually involved placing the collected semen in a test tube and mixing it with a solution denser than the seminal fluid but less dense than sperm. The test tube was then placed in a centrifuge and spun at a high speed, causing the seminal fluid – in which any existing virus would reside – to rise to the top and the sperm to sink to the bottom. The seminal fluid was then skimmed off the top leaving a test tube full of sparkling clean swimmers.
The fact that I was not clearly educated in the technicalities of the sperm cleansing process does not mean that I was not integrally involved in the ferretting out of someone, or someplace, to do the job. Like most fact finding missions these days, my initial quest to find a reputable and effective sperm washer started with a Google search – “HIV+ sperm washing.” The first glimmer of hope I came across was in the guise of SPAR (Special Program of Assisted Reproduction) . As acronyms go, this one maybe seemed better suited for a self-defense strategy workshop of some kind – Sucker Punch and Run, perhaps? At any rate, SPAR was located in Boston, Massachusetts at the Bedford Research Foundation Clinical Laboratory. What they had to offer was a fairly complex, cost prohibitive, FedEx-ing back and forth of chemically frozen spermsicles. In addition to the inconvenience and the expense, this option would require that the thawed specimen be used only with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization); the process by which a harvested egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body and then reintroduced into the uterus.
SPAR also proved to be a far less than ideal option because there was a strong desire on the part of the biological mommy that the successful sperm be the one that actually swam the best time. This would require that we find a clinic or a lab that would agree to wash my sperm and then use an IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) method to introduce the sperm into the vagina, which would allow – to a much greater extent – for nature to determine which swimmer actually deserved gold in the highly competitive fallopian freestyle. So I was back on the internet where Google regurgitated the name of a reproductive fertility center in Beverly Hills. Their website boasted the following claim, “Unlike many other clinics we will not turn away patients based on age, sexual orientation, marital status or any other factor. It is our philosophy that every person should have the opportunity to achieve pregnancy.” I took that last sentence not to mean literally that they believed “every person should have the opportunity to achieve pregnancy,” because that would presumably include men as well. No, rather I assumed the intended gist of the sentiment was that all people should be afforded a path toward procreation. With that in mind the two mamas and I made an appointment to discuss our options. We were – after all – every persons too.
In fairly short order the three of us found ourselves sitting in a mundane little office hanging over Wilshire Boulevard. Across the desk from us was a dark-haired woman who glanced across the intake paperwork that we had filled out – paperwork by the way that offered very few boxes to check for two love-struck lesbians and one HIV+ gay guy. Nevertheless, she asked us questions and listened as we very truthfully laid out our story. Almost immediately she began asking us questions like, “What will happen to the child if one or more of you decides that you want out of the situation?” Honestly I paraphrase here, but the idea is that very quickly the general line of questioning became bizarrely accusatory and highly judgmental. There was obviously some presumption on the part of the dark-haired woman that we had somehow not thought this through, nor had we considered the seriousness of the commitment. As she continued it became abundantly clear that these questions were not part of the regular intake protocol – this was not procedure for “every person” – this inquisition was just for us.
In the end we managed to keep our composure in the face of an interrogation that any heterosexual couple would never have been subjected to, and eventually the dark-haired woman assured us that she wanted to help. To that end, she kindly suggested that only the biological mommy and I proceed to the next step – the consultation with the physician. Furthermore, when facing the doctor, we were encouraged by our new – and unlikely – Dark Angel to focus only on the hurdle of HIV and to refrain from any discussion with him about sexual preference or family structure. The Dark Angel left us alone to consider our next move. As a unified trio we decided that in the grand scheme of things this recommended dance of deceit was a small price to pay, so while mama made a stealthy exit from the waiting room – mommy and I were ushered into a much nicer office in another part of the suite. The two of us sat there facing a large wooden desk waiting for a man in a white coat to waltz in who could potentially change all of our lives forever.