My friends react to news of Dashiell and I’s engagement in keeping with their character. Tali asks if it’s a blood diamond. Rhonda offers to do the flowers and immediately hops into Wedding Planning Mode, as does my sister. My ex Vito texts "I better be invited." My friend Brenda cries.
It turns out, others were in on my pending proposal. Dashiell had phoned both my Mom and my sister to give them a heads up and not exactly ask for my hand in marriage, but to get their blessing. Brenda too was in on it, because her husband Finn went with Dashiell to the diamond market to get the ring and make sure he didn’t get too drunk off the free champagne they ply your nerves with.
I like that people knew about it, and are at home waiting for my text, without me even knowing it. It’s such a special day! We decide to plan an engagement party, because I guess that is something people do when they get engaged.
I became briefed on my own lack of wedding know-how when my sister got engaged years ago and, as her Maid of Honor, I was charged with responsibilities I had no experience with. I guess lots of straight ladies have had wedding run-ins by the time they hit their mid-thirties, but in my mid-thirties I’d only gone to two weddings in my life:
One was m Uncle Charlie, who married a bimbo in the 70s. All I remember was I hated the ugly red-white-and-blue dresses me and my sister had to wear, and I was SO JEALOUS of the flower girls, the bride’s nieces. I wanted to wear a long white dress and throw flower petals around. That wedding was BULLSHIT. They also split up like three months later but never got officially divorced, which didn’t stop my Uncle from then marrying a rad stripper named Linda who sneaked me cigarettes and gave me my first leather jacket.
My second wedding was this woman I worked with at my first "real" job after high school. It was out in Rhode Island, on some sort of seaside land, and me and my punk boyfriend couldn’t relate to all the bonafied adults around us, all of them engaged or married and seemingly deeply disinterested in each other.
During the ceremony the groom stomped on a glass, which I thought was cool, and then the bride ran off to do cocaine with some friends. I’m still to this day shocked -– SHOCKED –- that people do cocaine at their weddings. Really! How uncouth!
Queer people just don’t have wedding traditions. It’s not common, especially in my more radical-queer neck of the woods where people are more likely to plan an anti-gay marriage protest than plan a wedding. So I was panicked at the thought of planning my sister’s bridal shower, especially because my sister has taste and standards.
She has always had taste and standards, whereas I have only just begun to acquire both. At the time of her wedding, I was a bit lost. It seemed outright ridiculous that a queer such as I be charged with planning anything wedding-related, but I love my sister and wanted to do my very best to help her down her path to her Big Day.
I found an amazing African American tea house in Los Angeles, Lady Effie’s Tea Parlor. The house used to belong to a doctor who opened it up as a free clinic for people in the neighborhood, and when he died he left it to his nurse, a Black woman who then kept it in her family for generations. Now her ancestors operate this tea room out of it, and it operates also as this sort of highly personal museum of one middle-class Black family in Los Angeles through the years, hung with photos and wedding dresses and what not.
We had tea and played that What’s-In-Your-Purse game I always loved on the Price is Right. For favors I had little Chinese food boxes stuffed with Jelly Bellies and gummy candy from my favorite candy shop, and little jars of lavender scrub from a lavender farm at the Farmer’s Market. It was cute and sweet and definitely the best I could do at the time, but I often wish I could give my sister a Bridal Shower do-over, now that my standards and taste have risen a bit.
So Dashiell and I plan an engagement brunch so her mother can come down, and her sister and her sister’s wife, and meet all out friends –- Tali and Bernadine and Mallory and Brenda and Finn and Sandwich. I hate that Rhonda is in Los Angeles. Sometimes it just feels like life is really busy and we haven’t seen each other, but then something happens like I’m throwing an engagement party and she can’t come because she doesn’t live here anymore and isn’t able to travel that weekend.
It’s time for my second saline sonogram. You may remember the first, when they couldn’t get the catheter through my cervix and I cried and it was a bloodbath.
Obviously I’m not totally psyched for the replay, but I am psyched that Dashiell is coming with me this time, and that I scored not one but two Valiums.
On the way to the doctor’s we bump into a woman named Lee. I know Lee because she was besties with a long-ago ex from the 90s. I never see her but I like her, and since she’s been reading this here blog she tells me all about her own IVF process, how her young genderqueer male person, Enzo, carried the baby and how all the nurses flirted with him and it was such a rad process that they did it again and have leftover meds if we need any.
It’s cool to run into another couple who did this, and had such a great experience they did it again. I feel that it bodes well for my appointment.
It’s the same cast of characters, Dr. Wendy and Dr. Dagger and her old-school Italian swagger. I sort of love that this is my team. The sonogram this time is awful, to be sure, but it works. My cervix stops being such a bitch about it and allows the catheter to pass through.
It is agonizing to have it up there, and part of the agony isn’t the agony of outright pain, but a squeamishness, a grotesqueness, that feels unbearable. But of course it isn’t unbearable. Most unbearable things aren’t. Like childbirth, right?
Again I wonder how I am going to deal with having a baby come through this passage when I can’t even handle a skinny little catheter going up there. Me and Dashiell recently watched some awful National Geographic baby program, "Science of Babies," where they follow a baby from conception through the first year of their life. We watched a beastly anthropologist holding a monkey pelvis in one hand and a baby monkey skull in the other bringing them together with ease. The baby monkey skull just slides through the momma monkey’s pelvis.
Then she took a human lady pelvis and a baby human head and tried to do the same. And it didn’t work. The baby just can’t come sliding out the pelvic gates and into the world like, oh, every single other mammal on the planet. Nope, the baby has to sort of twist and turn and rotate its way out of the poorly designed human pelvis. My stomach plummeted.
"Maybe we shouldn’t watch this," Dashiell said uneasily. Which meant, maybe YOU shouldn’t watch this, as Dashiell falls asleep fifteen minutes into any program, as a rule. But I want to know the TRUTH, no matter how miserable, so I continued to tune in as a baby gets born and can’t take it’s first breath.
Did you know how hard it is to take your first breath? That your lungs are born COLLAPSED and that first breath is what inflates them? Like takeoff in an airplane, this is one of the moments disaster is most likely to strike. I watch as the doctors jam tubes down the just-born baby’s throat, and my heart pangs every time they swing the camera back over to the mom, laid out in her hospital bed, peering through the bars of her bed to look at her not-breathing baby, like a traumatized animal in a cage, her big eyes full of feeling.
They got the baby to breath, don’t worry. And the rest of the program was mostly weird shots of babies on a dimly-lit theater stage trying to stand up.
I felt like I needed a mouthwash movie when I was done –- you know, when you watch something super harrowing and then need to watch "Pee Wee’s Big Adventure" or "Romy and Michelle" immediately after? I wished I had a copy of "Babies" to watch. That movie just makes you feel like everything is going to be fine.
Your baby can slither around chewing on dirt of sit in a goat’s water dish while the goat is drinking out of it and everything is just fine. In fact, the American and Japanese babies are the most boring in the film. It’s like you want your baby crawling naked in the mud and being babysat by sheep because they’re cuter that way, and will have more character.
Anyway, the whole point if this sonogram is to make sure my uterus is okay for gestating a baby, and it is. I leave the room shaky from the trauma and the Valium, but deeply relieved. Dashiell is dozing in the waiting room, we drive home together and I spend the rest of the night on the couch, feeling so weepy and emotional I cry at "Enlightened" and fall asleep.