Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: ACTIVISM! And Therapist Shopping
While filling out the waiver paperwork for the clinic, the one that says I totally know that my sperm donor engages in SEX WITH MEN and still I’m allowing his forbidden man juice to impregnate me, I get so mad!
I underline the word "ineligible" on the form and then ink a little asterisk by it, and replicate the asterisk at the bottom of the page and scrawl the phrase he’s gay, so it looks like this: *’HE’S GAY!!!!!’ , and I look crazy.
There are many circumstances I don’t mind looking crazy in, because this world will drive a bitch crazy, and displaying how I’ve been forced into lunacy by homophobic FDA paperwork is, I believe, the surest way to assure the office worker who receives this of my sanity.
Scrawling a protest at the bottom of my form is the only sane response. This is like the year I was incredibly poor and still somehow wound up owing the government $75 come tax time, and I was so shaking with rage and survival terror when I made out my check that in the "memo" part I scribbled WAR really big.
Maybe homophobia, too. ‘Cause that’s what my tax dollars were funding, am I right? They sure aren’t funding universal health care and cash dollars for queer artists. ANYWAY.
Dashiell suggested that perhaps my little piece of activism actually looked like the bizarre scrawl of a homophobic woman with fertility issues. Or an infertile woman with homophobia issues. It’s not like I had penned a calm, intelligent paragraph calling to attention this slight in a dignified and respectful manner. No, I’d gouged *HE’S GAY!!!!!!! into the paperwork, with no added context.
It had seemed so clear to me at the time but now, looking at it through Dashiell’s rational and balanced (and also dazzlingly, otherworldly blue) eyes, I could see her point. I printed out a fresh one from my computer, and crumpled my act of civil disobedience into a ball and flung it in the recycling.
Meanwhile, we are rich in birth control pills over here. I’ve been on the Loestrin 24 that my gynecologist Dr. Wendy put me on after my fibroid surgery, and I get the call from the pharmacist every month when my new little pill-kit comes in. Same for Dashiell, who went on them a while ago to gain weight and stayed on them when they took her dreaded period away forever.
So we already have some, but the fertility clinic hasn’t gotten that memo so now they’ve called in another batch of pills for the both of us and the pharmacist is calling us in total confusion, asking us to come down and pick up four batches of birth control pills, all different brands.
I kind of want to stay on the pills Dr. Wendy gave me, even though they cost $40 a month and the ones the clinic prescribed are covered by insurance. I guess I am harboring a fear of my moods going haywire, what with my upcoming hormone shots and tapering psych meds.
I just think, Hey this Loestrin24 hasn’t put me on wild crying jags, it doesn’t have me trying to kill people I love while they sleep, maybe I should just stick with it.
And so I do, but I bring home all the freebies too, for no good reason save a plethora of pharmaceuticals gives me a strange thrill. Even plain old birth control pills. I make sure it’s okay with the clinic if we stay on our preferred brand, and then throw the extras away.
The cheapie clinic brand is called Reclipsen, which I keep calling either Eclipsen or Relapsen. Also, I’m instructed to take them straight through, no placebos. No period for me. If this goes well, I won’t have my period for, like, a year and a half or something! Probably all the pregnancy grotesqueries I’ll have to deal with will make my period look like no bigs, but still. I feel like I’m getting over on mother nature by avoiding Aunt Flo for a while.
The clinic wants to make us our calendars and set Dashiell up with a baseline ultrasound, but Dashiell doesn’t want to go forward with all of it until we find out if Quentin is clean on the cystic fibrosis front. So, we wait.
I do some Googling to see if birth control pills make you gain weight and what I find is evidence of how women are still not considered the experts of their bodies. There are just a million threads of women asking, Um, are these pills making me gain hella weight or what? And then lots of responses along the lines of, You can’t blame the pills, fatty! Quit eating so much ice cream!
Truth be told, I am eating tons of ice cream, and just bought a new size 8 swimsuit to wear in Mexico at the writing retreat I run each summer. My last swimsuit was a size XS. Ice cream, birth control, or both? Who cares, it’s a super cute one-piece from Madewell, navy blue (the new black) with little white hearts all over it. I think about how Dashiell took the pills to gain some weight in the first place, and wonder how it’s not just basic info that these things make you chub up a bit.
I have coffee with my friend Isis, who has a kid at home, and a man. She talks all about how straight and white and middle class the whole baby world is, even in the free-thinking East Bay, where she lives. Isis has a man, but she’s not white and she’s not middle-class and she doesn’t have a very heterosexual world view, despite the man.
She complains about how her prenatal yoga class refers to everyone’s partners as "husbands." It makes me wonder, actually, what I’m going to call Dashiell once we’re married. I rather like husband, frankly. There’s something debonair about it, and it actually does suit his gender, even if it might make me invisible as a queer when he’s not around and I’m all, "My husband this, my husband that."
But, one of the really good things to come out of having been with a trans man for a while is having to let go of what the world thinks of you. Saying good bye to the fantasy that it could ever understand you properly in the first place. That life lesson coincided with getting sober, where I learned the phrase, "What other people think of you is none of your business," a life-saving sentence if I’ve ever heard one.
So, I guess I don’t care if the word "husband" as it leaves my lips conjures up a vision other than Dashiell. Who could imagine Dashiell anyway? She’s beyond my wildest dreams. I don’t know if I’ve settled on the h-word, but it’s certainly a more elegant, romantic choice than "spouse" or "partner."
I tell Isis that I’m afraid of childbirth, and she tells me about how she was, too. “It’s the kind of fear you can only deal with by going through it.” That’s such good advice. She’s just saved me from trying to rig up some sort of mental gymnastics that will spare me from unavoidable horror in the face of such particular physical pain. I just accept that I’m going to be super duper scared, and put off thinking about it til the contractions begin. Contractions she says feel like a cross between period cramps and gas pains. How bad can it be?
After coffee with Isis, I go home and do a bunch of Internet research, trying to find a therapist. First I go to Yelp and look for ones with great reviews that aren’t too far away from my home. I put in some calls; mostly they don’t take my insurance, or I have to pay out of network, whatever that is. It sounds stressful. Then I find this great chart that lists all of the local therapists that do take my insurance, and I open it up and get overwhelmed. There are so many of them! How do I make my choice?
In the past I was so broke and uninsured I didn’t have this world of helpers at my service. I took what I could get. Once that was an HMO woman I was allowed to see like three times, and who ignored all the notes I had made on my intake form about having disturbing sexual thoughts.
All the masochistic fantasies I’d been having my whole life suddenly seemed like a problem, mostly because I’d shared them with my boyfriend at the time and they freaked him out. That plus being on birth control pills that had me so wrecked I had to call in sick for a full week at a brand new job because I couldn’t stop crying -– these brought me to the HMO therapist.
I don’t remember her asking me anything good, and I sort of remember mumbling a bit and really hating my hair that day. And we were done. I wondered if I was a man who had marked down I was having disturbing sexual thoughts if the issue would have been addressed? I’ll never know, and I moved to San Francisco where I swiftly met perverted dykes who jerked off to advice columns in teen magazines, and came to understood I was normal.
My next therapist was F-R-E-E, because I’d told the free therapist office in San Francisco that I was going to hurt myself if they didn’t find me someone to talk to, quick. I was at the first of many alcoholic bottoms, and hoped that with the help of a professional I could stop drinking without having to crawl on my belly to an AA meeting.
AA seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person. Not to mention it was populated by people I had had drunken affairs with, who had then sobered up and judged my drinking. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing me fall! Instead, I went weekly to this sort of lousy therapist who talked way too much about her eight-year-old daughter and confided to me that she too once thought that marriage was strictly for a man and a woman but she’d since loosened up.
Good for her and everything, but -– this was my therapist? When you have a bit of a complex about being smarter than everyone, being smarter than your therapist isn’t good. I cried in her office until I was desperate enough to hit AA, and then I really got better.
I had another therapist, this one provided, sliding-scale, by a new age psychotherapy school in the city. I’ve gone to a couple of therapists who graduated from this place, and they are all specialists in the "Uh huh . . . . hmmm" school of talk therapy. Like they just look at you while you ramble on and are all, "Uh huh . . . hmmmmm" about it.
Even though I think this is total bullshit, I did love my therapist. Her name was Oona and I sought her out with my live-in boyfriend I couldn’t stop fighting with, for couples’ counseling. He insisted upon it after a scene on a beach in Florida, while visiting my parents, when I said, “All you do is spend my money and make me miserable!” I was proud of myself for speaking so boldly, but he was pissed and started calling potential therapists at the airport on the way home.
Oona had a sweet face and always looked really engaged, and when she spoke she had this darling voice that made me want to hug her to death. I had a whole story about Oona –- she actually lived in a forest, among her people, forest woodland sprite people. Normally she wore Elvin clothing, but when she had to come to work and help the humans she grabbed a pair of roomy slacks and pleather clogs from a hollowed-out log at the edge of the glen, and she changed into people-clothes, to walk amongst us unknown.
Even though Oona really did help me and my ex not fight quite as much, we still broke up and I got to keep Oona in the divorce. I went to her for a while, working through my pain at the breakup and exulting in her affirmation that yes, I had been abandoned. I knew it!
When I ceased caring and got happy again, I found myself trying to come up with problems to talk to Oona about, and it started feeling forced. She was a big fan of using therapy to talk about how rad your life is, too, but I got friends I can do that with. Friends who don’t charge me $30 an hour (cheap, right???). When Oona raised her rates to $60 I figured it was a sign from my higher power that I was done for a while.
Back to the present –- I look at my computer screen, glowing with so many helpful faces. I email the link to Tali and ask for her help. Tali is a therapy expert. She’s written a bunch about her misadventures in sliding scale therapy, and we once almost did an anthology of such stories together. She has the initials of a particularly good therapist tattooed on her arm. I ask for her advice.
“Don’t pick one that looks like a slut,” she tells me.