For two-and-a-half years I walked through life like a ghost, waiting for my baby. Then I discovered I could not conceive a child with my partner. Suddenly, that hope and suspense was gone. A simple biological fact I had assumed was my birthright vaporized before my eyes.
One day I was kvetching to my best friend — who is gay — about this shocking news, and he stopped me and said. “Listen: this is new to you, but it’s not new to me. So don’t you walk in my door talking about doom and gloom. You have to understand, this is just our life. It’s been our life, and now it’s yours, too.”
I had found an unlikely community willing to welcome me with open arms… well, once I stopped crying and feeling sorry for myself. Unsurprisingly that community was not my fellow hetero married couples. My gay BFFs have had my back since the third grade, but who knew that as we all approached 30, we’d be joking and narrowing our eyes at those couples who could just have a child totally by accident? Who would have guessed I’d be there, too, bantering about buying our “Expensive Science Baby?”
Granted, I am still legally married to my partner in all 50 states, and that alone strips me of any concept of a level playing field. But knowing my friends, who love me and have always been here for me, can sympathize 100% on the child-bearing front makes this new reality feel far gentler.
I can’t stand the idea of delivering that sense of awkward pity to the conversation while I watch everyone avert their eyes, so I just don’t.
Among straight couples, we’re an anomaly. People ask about babies — rather, the potential for babies — so carelessly when you’re a man and a woman wearing rings. Babies are expected. I almost always opt to keep my mouth shut in these situations to avoid clarifying that Oh, well, you see… it’s not exactly that simple. I can’t stand the idea of delivering that sense of awkward pity to the conversation while I watch everyone avert their eyes, so I just don’t.
Baby talk with people who can’t just have babies is such a relief because the starting point for conversation becomes getting babies. When getting babies precedes having babies, the whole picture changes. Different topics crop up: how will we afford our baby? Will we be able to have more than one? Maybe we should try for twins so our child has a sibling even if we don’t have the funds or the physical capacity to go through the process again.
Not only that, there is a significant issue of planning. And not as in family planning, which amounts to the choice to use or not use birth control. No, getting a baby differs from having a baby because the getting is difficult. There are expenses. Legal documents. Genetic tests. Infectious disease panels. Countless consultations, lab visits, doctor’s appointments. Psychological evaluations. A wealth of statistical data. Ethical dilemmas.
The jungle we wade through to get our babies gives us pause. It puts tasks on our calendars and introduces a complex decision-making process to our partnership. We have plenty of time to ask ourselves: am I ready? Is this the right time?
And as we contemplate our readiness, each and every one of us learns: if you think too much about getting your baby, you’ll always discover you’re not ready. You’ll always discover the logistics aren’t quite right. Your vacation was already booked, or it wouldn’t be a great time to be away from work. Maybe you should save up to buy a house first. Because guess what: it’s never 100% practical to have a baby. You are never emotionally ready. That’s why you just have to dive in and do it. But diving in head first is so much easier when all you have to do is get a little drunk and decide to stop using birth control.
Those of us who can’t breed, though, have to make our own chance. We have to spend months or even years reading documentation, making follow-up appointments, and hoping the whole thing doesn’t fall through. We have to persevere through all the stress and anxiety and tears before we can even get to the social norm’s starting line. For all of us, there comes a moment when we fear it just won’t end up happening. Because these things don’t just end up happening. They take hard work, money, heartbreak, time, and a keen mind for logistics. The price of admission is higher, and like that fancy theater on the other side of town, part of us fears we’ll never get around to buying our ticket and getting our nice clothes dry cleaned.
As I wrestle with these complex realities, my gay friends get it. They give me a strength I may not have had on my own.
Maybe there is an element of novelty here, of finally being able to cross one of those invisible lines between us. Something has finally given me a visitor pass to the clubhouse after all these years. Most of all, though, I’m glad that these dear friends can provide not only the love, laughter, and support they always have, but something else, too. On the cusp of this most important, most terrifying and most complex transition in our lives, they not only get it, they’ve been getting it for way longer than I have. They’ve learned that the best way to approach life is with wit and cynicism and delight. Because, sweetheart, life isn’t getting any easier. We can’t take a single thing for granted, but that’s no reason to stay at home and wallow in self-pity. Life is all about keeping your chin up and taking things one fabulous day at a time.
And as I make yet another round of appointments and write a check for yet another bill, that’s exactly what I plan to do.