In the end, the particular procedure that finally allowed me and the mamas to safely conceive was lubricated by a bit of slick deception. Yes, we lied, but our deceit was by no means rooted in any form of calculation or premeditation.
You see, when we entered the second fertility center, we started by telling the same truthful tale that we had shared with White Coat and the Dark Angel at the first clinic. We honestly explained our saga to the new doctor, who bore a striking resemblance to James Cromwell (JC). Specifically I am referring to the reassuring James Cromwell from Babe, more than I am the terrifying James Cromwell from American Horror Story. So, we told JC M.D. that we wanted to have a baby, and that our plan was to share the joys and challenges of child rearing as a sort of unique, three-headed, parental hybrid. We also explained the nature of my HIV status and our need to find a lab that could wash my sperm. In addition, we reiterated our desire to proceed with IUI (Intrauterine Insemination – where the sperm is placed into the vagina), rather than the more complicated and costly process of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization – which requires harvesting an egg, fertilizing it outside the body, and then reintroducing the zygote into the uterus.) We also went on to share with him the unfortunate reception that we had encountered at the previous facility: including our run through the ringer of immorality, and the less than stellar report on my sperm’s morphology.
In this new environment, our plight was met with a surprisingly authentic show of support. It was not overly effusive or markedly empathetic, but it was undeniably caring, and, more importantly, without judgment. In addition, we were told that this clinic had already helped other serodiscordant partners – that is HIV-negative and HIV-positive couples – to successfully conceive. Furthermore, JC M.D. assured us that his facility’s multiple lab structure was set-up and outfitted with the required equipment to safely and legally get the job done.
So, other than the hurdle of having to subject my semen to another round of microscopic scrutiny, everything seemed like a glorious go.
In fairly short order I made an appointment for my follow-up, provided the essential fluids, and once again found myself anxiously waiting for the results.
Surprisingly, this time the lowdown on my semen was all very good. According to JC M.D., the percentage of malformed swimmers in my sperm sample was well within the parameters of acceptability for us to proceed with IUI. When I questioned him about why the morphology results seemed to be so vastly improved, he had no clear or logical explanation. He passingly surmised that it may have been simply the difference in labs and/or how the results were quantified by the previous clinic.
I, of course, eventually came to believe that White Coat and the Dark Angel had established at their clinic certain analytical parameters that were skewed to push most clients toward the much more expensive IVF process. They were running a business after all. My other suspicious thought was that perhaps they eventually realized that the risk involved with having an HIV-positive client – without having a two-lab set-up to legally do so – was too ominous, and they were using the guise of a lackluster sperm analysis to drive our business elsewhere. The most innocent case scenario I could come up with was that their lab results were simply inaccurate. I will most likely never know the truth, but in the end I simply refused to pay the balance of their bill and turned my energy and focus to the very promising sperm analysis results provided me by JC M.D. and company.
We were told by the new clinic that the next step was to allow their office time to prepare the necessary paperwork. Once we were notified by the staff that the documents were ready, we then could go ahead and schedule an insemination appointment.
We were really moving now!
Yes, we waited.
And we waited.
They weren’t calling.
Eventually, we called them. After a number of inquiries on our part, and being told multiple times that the paperwork was still in process, we began to wonder if something had gone awry.
We were confused. After all, we had been completely up-front with JC M.D. and the entire fertility team regarding our unique situation and they had assured us at every turn that they were prepared to be of assistance. The mamas and I decided that a conference call to the clinic might help us get to the crux of the matter.
After a bit of holing and transferring, the three of us were on the phone with a very pleasant woman who we were told could explain the delay in preparing the needed documents.
This is relatively new for us, she said, our legal department has only prepared similar paperwork in one prior circumstance and the process required careful consideration and time.
Perplexed, we said that we were given the impression that they had dealt with HIV-positive situations in the past and the practice was not especially problematic.
She went on to explain that; yes, while they had assisted a number of sero-discordant couples in the past, those situations were different. The vast majority, all but one in fact, had been one man and one woman that were attempting to conceive a child in a more traditional type of family structure.
Ahh. Now we thought we understood. We asked if the process and paperwork was more streamlined for those couples because they were married?
No, she said. And then the pleasant woman went on to clarify. The wording in the clinic’s standard legal paperwork that those couples were required to sign made the assumption clear that they were engaged in on ongoing sexual relationship – with each other. Their only impediment to getting pregnant was the fact that the man was HIV-positive and the woman was negative, so they needed to adhere to safe sex practices. It was the assumption of a sexual relationship in the paperwork that somehow relieved the clinic of culpability in the off chance that the woman somehow became infected with HIV during or after the insemination process. She went on to finish her explanation by saying that the paperwork that needed to be specially drawn up for our particular situation had to somehow circumvent the assumption of sex, while still guaranteeing legal protection to the facility.
“Yes, then there would be no issue and we could move forward right away,” the nice woman responded. And then there was a slight pause before she continued. With a leading inflection that rose undeniably from beginning to end, she asked “Are you telling me that you two are having sex?”
Now there was a slightly longer pause. It clearly seemed that the woman was guiding us toward an expeditious loophole. With me and the mamas on separate phones and in multiple locations, however, we couldn’t even check each other’s expressions for a clue of how we might want to collectively proceed.
“Yes,” mommy blurted out. “We are having sex.”
Without hesitation, the women casually accepted the assertion of our intimate relationship, told us to go ahead and schedule an insemination appointment as soon as we were ready, and then we all hung up.
And just like that, we were through. Slick and quick. And the truth is that if we had not been willing to slip through that seductive loophole when it opened up to us, we might still be just one more HIV-positive gay man, and two love-struck lesbians.