Michelle Tea: Every Second, Sperm are Dying

I’m not positive, but I think that trying to get yourself knocked up is considered private business in the mainstream heterosexual universe, like money.
Publish date:
March 5, 2012
getting pregnant with michelle tea, childbirth, fertility, insemination, sperm

I’m asked to attend a fundraising dinner for a San Francisco art gallery, and guess what? It’s all straights. Usually I don’t care about that, being half-straight myself, but that was when I was single and would wander around making eyes at strange men. Now that I’ve finally found my true love, a big straight party where everyone sort of knows each other and seems slightly rich is borrrrrrring.

I wander around the art space alone, spacing out at the art, feeling invisible, until it’s time to be seated. I’m placed at a table with a man-woman couple who are, respectively, a software designer and a mom; an older lady who is living off the fortune she made in advertising, a sculptor who gets swiftly drunk, and a Belgian girl.

In no time I’m talking about how I’m trying to get pregnant. I can’t help it! It’s all I think about. I’m not positive, but I think that trying to get yourself knocked up is considered private business in the mainstream heterosexual universe, like money.

Whenever I’m not sure about the cultural rules, I err on the side of breaking them. It doesn’t exactly relieve my anxiety, but it does give me the sick illusion of being the master of my own destiny. If I’m going to be made a fool of here, goddammit I will be the one making the fool of MYSELF! It’s worked for years!

I talk a bit about my drag queen sperm donor, how I might be pregnant RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE, how my best friend and my girlfriend alternate shooting me up with the Stuff of Life. As it turns out, this is a great conversation starter! It reveals the blonde mom at my right to be a rad feminist who starts talking to me all about the challenges of raising two girls in a culture that fetishizes and despises wimmin!

“You just got to remind them how special they are, every day,” She says. “You gotta build up their self-esteem.”

This lady, who I will call Lady, tried for TWO YEARS before she got pregnant. Two years! She was working a very stressful job, she said. She is deeply positive about my impending pregnancy.

“You’ll get pregnant, don’t even worry about it.”

It is insane how excited I get to hear the random encouragement of strangers who know nothing about me.

“Really?” I chirp. “You think?”

“Absolutely. You’ll have a baby.”

After a little bit of this cheerleading, it is revealed that I am 40 years old.

“40!” Lady is shocked. “I thought you were, like, thirty-two!”

While I am beyond thrilled that my Sephora shopping sprees are paying off, my heart sinks. Does Lady still believe in my procreative powers now that I’m nearly a decade older than she’d thought? And why do I care? I do! I do care!

Lady doesn’t tell me again how totally pregnant I’m going to get, but when I wistfully mention how I’d love to have a C-section and just get the little beauty plucked from my womb without traumatizing my vagine or warping my darling’s cranium, she gasps. Lady had both her baby’s via C-section and it’s terrible. It’s terrible to be recovering from a surgery while caring for a newborn. Plus, your baby doesn’t get to get all smeared with your mucus, which is wicked good for it.

I don’t know . . . I mean, I don’t doubt that the vaginal mucus of a woman in childbirth is magical. I just feel like my baby would probably be fine without it. I know that with an attitude like this I’ll NEVER get my child into a Waldorf pre-school. My sister’s bestie just sat through an application process that involved very personal questions about your pregnancy diet and childbirth experience and breast-feeding process, as well as wealthy white hippie men in dashikis.

The Belgian Girl, however, can’t get over what I am telling her.

“You will get pregnant from a drag queen? You do this yourself? Oh my god!”

She says Oh My God a lot. I know I walked into this. I hold nothing against the Belgian girl, though I do wonder if her state of performative incredulity is the because she is Belgian, or drunk. Lady tells me to rent The Business of Being Born.

“Childbirth is being taken away from us, and we don’t even realize it!” she cries passionately. I totally LOVE how I’d initially pegged Lady as a bit of a square and she’s in fact more of a radical feminist than I am! While I know some queers bound for pregnancy who are terrified of finding themselves in community with "moms," I think it’s going to be really cool to meet smart feminist women from other walks of life.

Like getting sober in AA, having a baby will mean I have more in common with more of the planet, and as someone who spent a long time sealed off in my personal queer feminist bubble, I’m into it. That is, if I ever have a frickin baby.

When I learn that I’m not pregnant again, the main feeling I have is dread at having to start scheduling another round of inseminations. I continue to feel slightly bad about hitting up Quentin, like at any minute he is going to rebel and take back his body. Or I fear that he is SO over it but doesn’t know how to get out of it. Mostly I don’t like asking anyone for anything; it always feel uncomfortable.

I don’t know if he realized, when I asked him to be my donor, that this was something that could take a year. I didn’t! I send a group text to my team and we are on! Dashiell can’t make the first insemination of the month, but Rhonda shows up in a pair of sweats and raids my refrigerator for something she can eat. She scrambles some eggs and eats them on a rice cake.

I urge her to finish off a bottle of red wine left out from a party. I just learned that you can’t cork a bottle of wine and keep it around forever! How, at the age of 40, did I not know that? Well, back when I actually DRANK wine there was never any left over, because I drank it all. All of it, regardless of the size of the bottle, slurp, slurp, good night. On the rare times I did cork the bottle, I would drink it later, oblivious to its rotten taste. I never drank anything alcoholic for the taste!

So now here I am, a cultured and classy sober person who serves wine at her soirees, totally ignorant about what to do with the stuff. I guess I could dump it down the sink, but the alcoholic in me finds such an action painful. If I can’t drink it SOMEONE should, and so I force a goblet on Rhonda, to wash down her egg-and-rice-cake snack.

Quentin shows up, and Rhonda and I reveal ourselves to be the narcissists we fear ourselves to be by asking him absolutely nothing about his time in Mexico City. I push some wine on him as well, and we get started. “Isn’t this sort of early?” Quentin asks. “Did we do it this early last month?” We did not, but I am getting a bit fanatical about "covering the spread." I still don’t know what to think of the 5 days of spotting that lead up to my period, but this month I’m experimenting with regarding the first day of spotting as the first day of my period. Which means, 10 days in, that I’m actually still on my period a bit, enough to have a tampon in, a tampon I forget to take out when I lay back and spread my legs for Rhonda.

“Oh, um, what -- do you have a tampon in there?” She looks confused and perhaps disturbed.

“Oh jeez, oh, jeez, I’m sorry!”

Everything feels very frantic when the semen is there. Like, every second that passes, sperm die. I don’t think this is true, but that’s what it feels like. I don’t want poor Rhonda to watch me pull a tampon out of my vagina ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE , but she is a can-do helper and directs me on where to put it.

“In the bowl.” The sperm bowl, now empty of sperm, the sperm now up in the syringe that Rhonda can’t inseminate me with because of my tampon.

“Oh jeez, oh jeez,” I pull out the nub of cotton and toss it in the empty vintage sperm bowl, as directed. “I’m so embarrassed!”

After my team leaves I lay around with my vibrator, then pop a tampon in. I figure the tampon is good for keeping the sperm up there for as long as possible and have decided to start using them after insemination, instead of panty liners. I get out of bed and stay up til one in the morning prepping pork belly and hard boiled eggs for a Burmese Red Pork Stew recipe I found in an old Bon Appetit one of my neighbors left on the "free stuff stoop" in the hallway.

Tomorrow I’ll finish the stew and bring it to Dashiell’s for dinner. My home feels cozy and bright in the darkness, full of good vibes; and me in its center, also full, I hope hope hope hope, of good, growing vibes.

NEXT WEEK: Rhonda brutalizes my vagina!