Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: A Little Girl Named Maple?
Can you believe I’m still on the phone with Stella, our fertility clinic nurse? This is three columns now. It’s a really long conversation.
Currently, Stella is assuring me that they use the cheapest pharmacy, MDR in Encino, so that we can get the most for our dollar. She asks if I’ve had a conversation with financial -– nope, not since the summer. Do I even want to speak with financial?
At the risk of sounding like I’ve imbued my unhealthy money-aversion with delusional magical thinking, the best things I’ve ever done I’ve done without really comprehending how much they’d cost. Because if I understood, I never would have done it. The first Sister Spit tour I put together in 1997 wound up costing about $10,000 -– we learned this years later when, gingerly approaching the world of grant funding, we had to cobble together a budget.
That number made my heart ache -- $10,000? I only made $12,000 a year. If I had understood what our idealistic endeavor -– taking two vans filled with queer writers and performance poets and a single stand-up comedian on a month-long performance road trip across the USA –- would have cost us, I never would have done it. I would have believed it was not possible, and that trying to make it possible would be stressful enough to suck all the joy out of it.
Same with the Mexican writers’ retreat I’m not on. We did the math after we pledged to make it happen, and somehow, every year, it happens. We look at the budget out of the corner of out eyes, work really hard and just expect it to work out. And it does.
Dashiell and I are super fortunate. She’s got a good job, and I’ve managed to finally sell a book to a commercial press -– now, at the most expensive moment in my life. We’re going to hit our savings hard, but at least we have savings to be hit, and the means to fill it back up again. Even still, I don’t want to talk to the financial person. Dashiell has the same oddly evasive way of dealing with the expense of our test tube baby. We’re just going to take it as it comes, one charge at a time.
Stella is rattling off a bunch of drugs, all with creepy drug-names, like euphemisms for something sinister. Follistem and Medrol and Vivelle and Lupron and Menopur. And Progesterone and Valium, but I know those guys. I ask Olga about side effects without even knowing which drug I’m asking about. How about all of them? Are there side effects from taking, like, all this shit or what?
Hot flashes, breast tenderness, headaches, Stella says. “It’s going to be worse for Anne. She’s going to have a lot of weight gain and mood swings.”
I make a note so as not to forget to deliver the GOOD NEWS to Dashiell, who our fertility team knows as Anne. At her workplace she has a whole other nickname that everyone calls her, and when she was in her 20s she had a moment, working at a clothes store on Haight Street, where she tried going by Strix, a genus of owls, one of which is tattooed upon her shoulder.
I love thinking about him taking cigarette breaks outside, people walking by and going, "Hey, Strix," and Dashiell giving a head-nod. So cute! Dashiell has had so many names! And we still don’t even know what the baby will be calling her! Or my niece and nephew. My sister has been asking about it, since after the wedding Dashiell will be transformed into Uncle or Aunt or whatever obscure olde folk name we find on Google.
When Dashiell gets home from work that night, I have so much to tell him.
“Olga told me you’ll have weight gain and mood swings,” I tell her. “And that you’re a candidate to stimulate a LOT of follicles!”
I think this is good news, and it is, but it inspires in Dashiell a paranoid fantasy. “What if I make so many,” she asks, “And they sell some of them? I wouldn’t even know.” She chews her lip. “Should we ask them? Should we ask them if they ever take our eggs an ddo anything with them?”
“Should we ask them if they plan on raping us while we’re under, as well?” I ask. “Because all of that is totally illegal.”
“Don’t be fresh.” I love how Dashiell uses the word "fresh." The only other people who use it in such a way, to connote brattiness, are like, my mother. But I can see that Dashiell is actually worried, and maybe annoyed at me for making fun of her fears.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I’m not trying to be fresh, just funny. I mean, it would be so illegal for them to do anything with our eggs. I don’t think we need to be concerned about that.” I worry so little, and Dashiell worries so much, that we sometimes clunk against each other.
“You don’t know what people do,” she says ominously. But I’m pretty sure the clinic won’t be selling our eggs on the black market. And if they do I’ll never know about it, so who cares. Unless I find out about it years later and then sue them for a million fucking dollars, in which case –- awesome. The best thing that could happen to us financially is that the clinic steal some of Dashiell’s primo eggs.
I call my mom and tell her everything. Now that I got the calendar I can say that we’ll be getting that embryo up in me at the beginning of July. I do the astrological math.
“We’re going to have a fucking Aries,” I say, so shocked and distressed that I use the F-word while on the phone with my very own mother. Something I do often enough I suppose but I’m really trying to rein it in. My mother cracks up.
“Aries are very generous, and friendly,” she said. “They’re leaders. They’re good with science.”
Everything she says is true. I may know a larger-than-average amount of self-centered, narcissistic Aries drug addicts, but I happen to know a larger-than-average amount of self-centered, narcissistic drug addicts, period.
I console myself with the good, even great Aries that I know -– my friend Weezie, one of my favorite people. My ex Normandy, who is super smart and together. The teen I mentor. And . . . I’m done. The faces of spoiled rotten Aries who live off the kindness of strangers bob in my mind like an Aries Chamber of Horror.
Oh well. I’ve learned my lesson about astrological signs I supposedly don’t click with. After a traumatic relationship with a Virgo I swore off virgins for the rest of my life, only to find that date after date had a Virgo moon, a Virgo rising. And now, Dashiell. A Virgo with a Virgo rising, and my most compatible partner, ever. So what do I know? Baby Aries (well, that would be Baby squared, wouldn’t it?) -– bring it on.
“I can’t go to Mexico,” I tell my mother. “And I already bought my ticket and everything.”
“It’s just the beginning of your sacrifices,” she says knowingly.
When I hang up with mom, I go back to Dashiell, and we review the calendars. Dashiell is breathing in such a way that I know her heart is probably fluttering and her pulse is surely racing. She turns to me. “We are ready for this,” she affirms. “We are so ready for this.”
“We are!” I concur as she grabs her phone and starts Googling the side effects of every medication.
“Vivelle? What is Vivelle?”
“It’s estrogen,” I say, “But wouldn’t it be a great name for a girl? Vivelle Bitman?” We’ve decided that we’re all going to keep Dashiell’s last name. I’ll keep writing under Tea, but that’s never been my legal name. My real last name is my step-father’s, not even my biological father’s. And I really don’t want either of those guys’ names.
Dashiell is attached to her last name, and I love it, because it’s hers. When I think of taking her name, it’s like her name is a big cozy sweater giving my name a cuddle. It’s romantic and I love it.
I do sort of think Vivelle would be a pretty name if it wasn’t already the brand name for a synthetic hormone. I also am really feeling the name Maple.
“No way,” Dashiell says. “Hard no.”
“Why not?” I ask. “Think about it. Maple. A little girl named Maple.”
“Nope. I don’t even like maple, we don’t even eat maple.”
“Yes we do. All the time. There was maple syrup in our salad dressing tonight. Basically whenever I cook out of that ‘Clean Food’ cookbook you’re eating maple. But, never mind.” Dashiell is a California kid, born and raised in Sacramento. She can’t relate to maple. I drop it before she counters by suggesting we name our son Tamari.
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