As the three of us moved forward in the baby making process, the mamas and I consciously worked to keep up a kind of quasi-dishonest appearance when dealing with the fertility clinic’s staff. The façade was fashioned and perpetuated because we knew that the clinic’s assistance was largely predicated on our dishonest assertion that mommy and I were currently involved in a sexually active relationship – with each other. Our initial aim was never deception. No. Our primary goal was always conception. And to that end we did what we felt was necessary.
We always made the early morning trek to the clinic together, the mamas and me. I would usually be headed off to work immediately after, so I was most often well dressed and the laptop computer bag slung over my shoulder didn’t look too strangely out of place. Once arrived, our subtle charade would commence.
Mamma would wait out of sight in the lobby downstairs, while mommy and me made our way up to the office. The two of us sat together in the waiting room with other couples. Eventually we would be summoned by a staff member.
Mommy and I would then be led inside to the laboratory window where a friendly technician provided us with a specimen cup. We would then be directed to one of the available privacy closets located in the adjacent hallway.
“You’re welcome to go in together if you’d like,” a smiling lab technician told us on one occasion.
Mommy and I laughed, and she assured the helpful technician that I could handle that particular part of the job on my own. We all laughed again.
Mommy would find a chair in the hallway and wait dutifully outside while I disappeared alone into the cramped self-love chamber.
Once inside, I would pull it out. My computer, that is. I’d prop open my MacBook on the edge of the small sink on bathroom type vanity containing a few drawers full of pornography. Straight pornography. I would then fish through my bag for the only adult CD that was still in my possession. It was a keepsake from my long and lonely grad school days (and nights) in New York. I was particularly fond of one of the disc’s bonus features. It was a rather poignant and pointed encounter between a pair of immensely patriotic sailors. Of course I had only held on to the retired disc for sentimental reasons (mostly), but now I was calling my hardworking seamen back into vital and active duty.
I want to go on record, as saying that I absolutely did not need the sailors’ assistance. I think, however, that there was something in my ill-informed, scientific subconscious that believed they could help. Perhaps the additional sensory input would help increase the quality of my slippery output. Since then I have found only one online reference to a highly questionable study that might help to support my flimsy hypothesis regarding a correlation between viewing porn and increased sperm counts.
My dubious theory aside, there was clearly a glut of pornography being made available by the clinic for their straight clients so – as a gay man – I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t cutting any crucial corners.
After my ménage à trios in the closet with the sweaty sailors was complete, I emerged with a freshly filled specimen cup in hand and my computer bag covertly slung back over my shoulder. Mommy and I then made our way back to the laboratory window where we reminded the friendly technician that my sperm needed to be triple-washed. We were then instructed to return a few hours later – when the cleansing was complete – to proceed with the actual insemination.
Mommy and I would then meet back up with mama in the lobby, and the three of us would all head over to Mimi’s for breakfast. Over coffee and omelets we would wonder out loud about what the future would hold for our unconventional family and how we might face some of the unforeseen challenges. When the time was right, we would head back to the clinic.
We all three always went upstairs for this part of the process. I think we felt that the original consulting physician – who would be the doctor performing the actual insemination – had been very understanding. In addition, I think mama clearly wanted to be holding mommy’s hand during this rather invasive, somewhat emotional, and relatively delicate step in the process.
I was always amazed when I saw the tiny, pink, measure of liquid in the small, plastic, disposable syringe. My specimen had been rendered down to only a tiny portion of all that I had given. And there it sat on a sterile tray waiting to be pushed through a narrow snaking tube into the cervix of my very dear friend. And I always took a moment to check the name on the label – you know, just to be sure there hadn’t been a mix up in the lab.
After the insemination we would stay in the room for a short while. Mommy would stay reclined on her back to allow the sperm to get good and going in the right direction. We would then head back to the car for the long ride back toward home, again sharing thoughts of how we envisioned our futures; tied together as they would hopefully be by a shared child.
Our experiences during the four or five months we spent trying to conceive were probably in many ways very similar to those of straight couples in the same circumstance. Our plans were ruled by mommy’s cycles, and my visits with Paul both in New York and Los Angeles were often hampered by necessary periods of calculated abstinence on my part to help build healthy sperm counts.
Our first insemination attempt produced a negative pregnancy test result, which mommy dealt with much on her own. After that, we agreed to be together after subsequent tries when the appropriate time came for mommy to pee on the test strip. This way we could share in the disappointment or the celebration.
After the second go-round mommy emerged from the bathroom looking defeated, but this time we were all three there to comfort and reassure each other.
Shortly after our third visit to the clinic, I left to go back east. I was combining a short holiday with Paul in New York and a visit to a friend in Niagara where I was going to guest teach a theatre class at the local university to help fluff up my lackluster CV.
The mamas and I had agreed that we would rendezvous the morning after my return for our communal urinating on the stick ritual. My plane arrived late into Burbank and my sister had agreed to pick me up at the airport. As soon as I landed, my Blackberry alerted me to a few new texts. One or two of the messages were from the mamas regarding our meeting the following morning, and another was from my sister with information about where she would be picking me up. As I reviewed the texts and made my way through the airport, I began to get the feeling that something was up.
As I exited the sliding glass doors to the baggage claim area, there were the mamas holding a large cardboard sign that read, “Congratulations Daddy.” My sister was standing behind them with a phone camera to capture my shock and joy for posterity. We all laughed and hugged. A number of strangers came over to share their well wishes while they waited for their luggage to arrive, and mama and I even smoked cigars – right there next to the baggage carousel. In all the excitement I of course forgave the mamas for not waiting for me to be there when the magic pee finally hit the stick. And the truth is that for the first time in my life I was just feeling ecstatically happy that a pending test result had come back positive.
In retrospect, it was a pathetically transparent façade that we created for our visits to the fertility clinic, but my guess is that we worked to maintain the false pretense for a couple of reasons. First, we perhaps wanted to provide just enough illusion so that the clinic would have some measure of plausible deniability if they were ever legally queried about why they had assisted a lesbian couple and their platonic, HIV-positive man-friend to conceive. Second, and more importantly, we must have believed that we were highly deserving of the right to give our special version of familial love to a child – our child – and any law or regulation that was in place to try and prevent the three of us from doing just that was highly deserving of our brazen circumvention.