The Dream Work
Seven months before your fortieth birthday, decide that you want to have a baby. Tell your wife. She is optimistic and spontaneous, ten years older than you, and very healthy. She goes to therapy and acupuncture and takes care of her body by running twenty miles a week. She loves the idea.
Tell your gynecologist what you’re thinking of doing. He asks about your periods and reminds you that you are almost forty years old, as if you need reminding. You mostly want to know if you have enough eggs and if they are any good. He sends you to an obstetrician who won’t care that you are gay. You live in Arkansas.
The obstetrician is a lesbian too, or at least you think she is.“You’re almost forty,” she says while she examines the paperwork you filled out in the waiting room. “Have you been trying to get pregnant?” Tell her that your husband is a lady and that you’ve been trying a lot, with no luck. The doctor calls you at work three days later and says that the blood tests she ordered show that you have a decent amount of eggs left. Ask her, on a scale from A to F, how your eggs rate. B+, she says.
“Have you been trying to get pregnant?” Tell her that your husband is a lady and that you’ve been trying a lot, with no luck.
Stop taking antidepressants. Tell yourself that you feel fine for the first two weeks. After that, privately admit that most things feel hard: taking a shower, putting gas in your car, ordering food at a restaurant. Remind yourself that you’re only doing this for a little while, and that you can start taking the pills again after the baby is born. You want to nurse the baby for as long as possible, so you can take antidepressants again in three years. Console yourself with the fantasy that the pregnancy hormones cascading through your serotonin-starved brain and the little baby you will be responsible for looking after will fix your depression. Push away the fear that you will feel even worse than you do now: needy and hungry and sluggish. Buy three thick books about pregnancy and breastfeeding and put them on your nightstand. Plan to read them cover-to-cover once you know that you are pregnant.
Call upon every bit of spiritual and magical juju you know. This will keep your fears at bay. Your fears: having a miscarriage, getting postpartum depression, failing at breast-feeding, having a baby with Down Syndrome because you’re over forty, having a baby who never sleeps, having a child who turns out to be a holy terror. And on and on and on.
Call upon every bit of spiritual and magical juju you know. This will keep your fears at bay.
Pay a woman in San Francisco two hundred dollars to read your astrological chart to you over the phone. She says that the alignment of planets in your chart indicates that you are a person who needs a lot of sleep, and that this need conflicts with parenthood. Agree with her. Yes, you need a lot of sleep.
Call the Carmelites.
Get some energy work. Pay a woman in your hometown two hundred dollars to press your feet and shoulders and hips and forehead while she chants in what sounds like a made-up language. Get excited when she says that she can feel someone, that someone is right there. Your baby. Your baby is right there.
Look for sperm. Hurry. Your just-okay eggs aren’t getting any younger. Ask three other lesbian couples who have children where they got their sperm. They name a cryobank in California and you and your wife spend hours paging through possible donors. Choose a theater professor with a squeaky-clean bill of health and none of the red flags that exist in your own family history: addiction, obesity, depression. Ignore the unease you feel about having a stranger’s baby.
Look for sperm. Hurry. Your just-okay eggs aren’t getting any younger.
Plan the artificial insemination so that the baby arrives at a convenient time for you and your wife. December is the best time for the baby to be born; you will both be off work for part of December. You are positive you will get pregnant on the first try.
Agonize over what to wear to get pregnant. Decide on Levi’s and a black T-shirt with a cowgirl printed on the front. Put on a cardigan and some makeup and a pair of moccasins. Imprint these choices in your mind. They will be part of the story you’ll tell your child about this day.
The insemination is simple. A long tube attached to a syringe full of sperm is threaded through your cervix into your uterus. As the cool fluid rushes in, look at the doctor at the foot of the table and make a weak joke about how many women it takes to get a lesbian pregnant. Don’t roll your eyes when she says, “Hey, teamwork makes the dream work.” Close them and think baby-making thoughts. Lie on the table with your hips elevated for twenty minutes. In two weeks you will know if you are pregnant. Your wife holds your hand and distracts you with conversation about what she will make for dinner. Spaghetti. Promise to pick up a couple bell peppers on your way home.
Agonize over what to wear to get pregnant. Decide on Levi’s and a black T-shirt with a cowgirl printed on the front.
Assume that you are pregnant. Your body is still puffy from fertility drugs and hormones, and you are sleepy all the time and grouchier than ever. In two weeks, your period starts and it is brutal: great, cramping avalanches of thin, bright red blood mixed in with some brownish sludge you haven’t seen before. The muddy discharge is proof of the conception’s failure, the literal dregs of the party that tentatively lined your uterus.
Try again right away. Promise yourself that you will be a model of restraint and drink zero cups of coffee a day instead of two and raise your voice never. You will avoid standing in front of the microwave when you use it for leftovers or water for tea. On second thought, you won’t use it at all. Or drink tea. The caffeine.
Jane V. Blunschi holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Arkansas. Her Pushcart-nominated work has appeared in Cactus Heart Literary Magazine, and Gaslight, an anthology of writing by Lambda Literary Fellows. Originally from Lafayette, Louisiana, Jane lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Illustrated by Keit Osadchuk