It’s 10 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day when I get the call. Our fertility clinic has the results of my wife Krissy’s pregnancy test. Is this going to be our lucky day?
Nothing could prepare me for the cliché rush of sheer joy, disbelief, and terror I experienced as I realized that we were finally pregnant. Upon receiving our happy news, we tried to guard our secret until we felt it was safe to share, not wanting to jinx our chances at a healthy pregnancy. But now we are past the first trimester and can finally share our joy. Baby Bradbury will join our family in late November — perfect timing for lots of future Thanksgiving jokes and turkey puns. (Yes, these exist. Don’t tempt me.)
Krissy and I have done our research on “what to expect” as best as we can, but a pregnancy involving two ladies has definitely had its surprises. I would have never expected to be mixing and administering fertility shots in multiple parking lots around the Twin Cities. Nor would I ever have anticipated some of the hilarious awkward questions we’ve received from people who have never encountered a non-hetero pregnancy. But along the way, I’ve learned a great deal about the ins and outs of supporting a partner through the fertility process and first trimester. And in honor of our child’s Thanksgiving arrival, I’d like to share a cornucopia of lessons I’ve learned.
Finding a great fertility clinic is one of the most important steps to beginning the journey to motherhood. There are several great clinics around the cities that are welcoming to GLBT clients, but our temporary home in Central Minnesota made things a bit more difficult. After extensive research, we decided to try The Midwest Center for Reproductive Health in Maple Grove. Conveniently located on Krissy’s way to work, it would make getting to all the countless appointments a bit easier.
We were prepared to shop around a bit for a clinic, as both Krissy and I trust our gut reactions when it comes to big decisions. But when we met Dr. Corfman and heard his detailed fertility experience, we knew we had chosen the right clinic. Entrusting the future of your family into the hands of a doctor can be a very vulnerable feeling, but I felt good knowing Krissy was in good hands.
Even though we had science on our side, we quickly learned that the success of the fertility process is really out of our control. We had wrongly assumed that we would get pregnant on the first try because we were the happiest couple in the universe. But trying to conceive has a funny way of humbling you into realizing that the gift of a baby is not so simply acquired. It didn’t matter that we desperately wanted a child or that we had invested a great deal of time and money into making it happen. Pregnancy doesn’t just happen to couples based on their merit or their love for each other. Even having a fantastic medical team and the precision developed through the wonders of science can’t guarantee a successful pregnancy. It just happens.
Like many other couples who are trying to conceive, we became very familiar with the “Two Week Wait” period. We’d go in for the insemination (which honestly was like a glorified turkey baster situation), I’d joke with the nurses that we had to stop meeting this way, and then we’d go home to twiddle our thumbs for two weeks. We’d try not to get our hopes up too much, but each procedure made us more certain (and more desperate) that it would finally stick.
But on each “maybe baby” day, Krissy would receive a “not pregnant” voicemail that would make us feel completely helpless. I empathized for my beautiful partner, who was willingly pumping herself full of fertility drugs and experiencing all their not-so-pleasant side effects without any success. But I couldn’t fully comprehend what she was going through. As we geared up for our sixth and final try, I tried to be supportive and reassure her that she was doing everything right.
Our final insemination was bittersweet. We both felt an overwhelming desperation for the procedure to work, but we tried to balance our hopeful feelings with the reality of our past fertility failures. With so much at stake for this last attempt, the only acceptable way to approach it was with a sense of humor, so we goofed around and teased each other as we waited to be done.
Thanks to the luck-o-the-Irish (or maybe the Irish heritage of our anonymous donor?), March 17th was the day our “maybe baby” became a “definitely.” There’s still no rhyme or reason for why it finally worked for us, especially when so many lesbian couples have waited so much longer, but we are wholeheartedly grateful for our blessing.
Having our status switch to full-blown, officially pregnant mode made the research geek in me go searching for information on being a supportive partner, with very underwhelming results. Many pregnancy books acknowledge a non-hetero partner at some point with a tasteful aside, but the significant differences in, well, everything, make some information hard to swallow.
If we are to believe the pregnancy guides geared toward dads-to-be, most men have an insultingly low knowledge of basic sex education and how to interact with women. With advice along the lines of “you are going to have to do some housework, Dad,” and “Don’t touch her boobs if they hurt,” the suggestions for supporting a woman through her pregnancy seemed to be geared toward neanderthals with no common sense. Thanks, but no thanks.
As much as I would love a detailed instruction manual for being the best support for my pregnant wife, I’m never going to get it. That’s okay though, because I don’t really need it. I just need to continue to follow the vows I made on our wedding day: I promised to love her and cherish her presence in my life. I promised to respect and honor her life’s journey and support her as she grows. And I promised to welcome her each day with open arms and an open heart, no strings attached. Simply put, being a supportive partner during pregnancy means being present, open, and flexible. No special “advice for dudes” needed.
Even after the positive pregnancy test (and several follow-up tests to reassure my naturally cynical mind), I still had trouble accepting our pregnancy was real. It didn’t matter that Krissy was experiencing full-blown pregnancy symptoms; I could not be fully convinced that a baby was actually growing. Dozens of times each day, I asked Krissy if she still felt pregnant. Even after that question got a bit obsessive, Krissy always reassured me that this baby is here to stay.
Much to my surprise, many people struggle to fully accept their partner’s pregnancy until there is undeniable proof of life. When I talked to other non-bio moms, they also recalled feeling uncertain and overprotective in the early months. We can’t feel what’s going on inside our partners’ bodies, and the lack of visible evidence is unsettling.
For me, my mom-to-be status finally sunk in when we saw our first sonogram, a sight that instantly brought tears to my eyes. And even after hearing the heartbeat at subsequent check-ups, I’m still not prepared for how humbling and awesome it is to hear proof that our baby is doing well. Though I’m not the one giving birth, I feel more like a mother every single day.
No books or mommy blogs could prepare me for this wonderful adventure Krissy and I are on. No amount of advice could have helped me anticipate the range of emotions I feel as I watch my wife go through this timeless rite of passage. But the little moments that have surprised us have also brought us closer together, and we are honored to join the thousands of other queer parents in raising children who know they are fiercely wanted and so profoundly loved.