Michelle Tea: This Fertility Clinic Costs As Much As A Half-Off Alexander Wang Bag!

It only takes a three-minute phone call outside my preferred, sweet queer bubble to come up against an attack of fierce self-protective hate and anger at being provoked to feel low-self-esteem at the hands of a fertility clinic receptionist.
Publish date:
February 28, 2012
pregnancy, fertility, insemination, queers

How, when I swore I would not resort to artificial baby-making means, did I come to be huddled in a doorway in the Marina on the phone with a fertility clinic?

OK, well how I came to be in the Marina is fairly simple, I was at an AA meeting. You would think that an AA meeting in the Marina in San Francisco would be full of ladies with blow-outs talking about how they bottomed out on white wine, and it is, but because the AA joint is this great space that runs meetings all day long PLUS has a little café and Internet, it’s also a hotspot for individuals celebrating 30 days clean from crack cocaine and other folks fresh out of a treatment program.

So it’s a real mix of people from divergent backgrounds, all cuddled together in a pale pink room bonding over how we used to be THAT CLOSE to dying or going crazy and now we’re all -- comparatively -- OK, and grateful.

A day earlier I sat on my front stoop on the phone with my sister, who was combing the internet for yet more information about these mysterious IUIs.

"You can do it,” She kept saying. “From what I’m seeing, I think you can afford it.”

As a formerly poor person who hails from endless brokedom, I have a schizoid understanding of what I can or can’t afford. I have savings, but aren’t you supposed to save them? Isn’t that why they’re called "savings" and not "spendings?" As for my "spendings," why am I comfortable dropping a cash bomb on eye cream and anti-aging face wash at Sephora, but balk at spending money on, say, the dentist? Or a fertility clinic?

And if you don’t crack into your savings for something as precious as a BABY, aren’t you just hoarding money? Not that I’m against hoarding money -- it sounds like something rich people do! After months of trying to investing in this eventual pregnancy, and the additional motivation of having a family with my true love Dashiell, I’ve become increasingly By Any Means Neccesary about it.

I used to think Fertility Clinics were for desperate yuppies who needed to accept that they are barren women and move on with their lives, perhaps traveling the world and buying couture, something I always thought was a fine substitute for a baby. But that was before I was part of the TTC Community. Once you set your mind on having a baby, an Alexander Wang bag is a cold consolation.

While browsing the designer clearance boutique around the corner from the AA hut I suddenly "come to" before a rack of somewhat discounted Philip Lim. My priorities are skewed! Or, at the very least, not helping me accomplish my Number One Goal, having a baby! I dash back out into the windy Marina, teetering on a pair of deeply discounted Mark and James platform pony pumps (see? see what I mean?) that I can’t actually walk in -- maybe because they were not made to be walked in, but to be worn whilst reclining in a throne held aloft on the shoulders of some big, strong, shirtless men -- and I huddle in a doorway and call the number for the Fertility Center.

A lady answers the phone.

“Hi, I’m interested . . . in your services . . ?”

Why do I feel like I’m calling a hooker? Because so many men ejaculate there?

“OK, would you like to come in for an appointment, or would you like a phone consultation?”

“Um . . . "

“A visit is $375 but includes initial ultrasounds, and the amount gets deducted from your fees if you continue on with us. A half-hour phone consultation is free.”

$375! That’s half of a half-off Alexander Wang bag I could maybe find on sale somewhere!

“I’ll take the phone consultation.”

“OK . . .Can I have your name? . . . OK, and your spouse’s name?”

My spouse? Fairly presumptuous for a San Franciscan sperm bank!

“Uh . . . Dashiell Kogan.”

“Do you have insurance?”


“And your spouse, does he?”

“It’s a she, Dashiell is a she,” I say feeling like I’m lying. I mean, Dashiell is basically a guy. But she’s not. But she is. But she’s not, and is. You know?

“And we’re not married,” I add. Oh god, I hate this so much already.

“OK, so you’ll be requiring sperm as well.”

“No, I have my own,” I say.

“You . . . have sperm?”

“I have my own donor, I don’t need additional sperm.”

“OK . . . I’m going to send you and Dashiell some online paperwork to set up and Dr. Evangelista will call you in two weeks at 9AM. Please have the paperwork completed in advance of your consultation.”


I hang up and stand there teetering in my heels in the Marina, a great place to have an attack of low-self-esteem, followed by an attack of fierce self-protective hate and anger at being provoked to feel low-self-esteem at the hands of a fertility clinic receptionist, or, rather, the larger cultural/social/political systems we are all entrenched in all the time.

It only takes a three-minute phone call outside my preferred, sweet queer bubble to come up against it. The feeling in my body is the same feeling I have felt, historically, while trying to get an apartment, a job, browsing at a high-end boutique, entering a fancy restaurant, meeting wealthy people whose money I want, meeting people’s parents, in close proximity to police officers, etc.

On most of these occasions I no longer get the creepy, dirty, imposter-ish I’m-Gonna-Get-Busted-For-Something, low-class blues. I hang out at Barney’s so much certain sales people recognize me. And since getting sober, I am pretty much never breaking any sort of law, so a nearby pig doesn’t make me sweat. But I guess I can add ‘Fertility Clinic’ to my list of experiences that make me feel shaky. I find my letter from the fertility clinic receptionist, who has listed Dashiell as Darryl. I sign on to their web site, try to answer a bunch of non-questions about the insurance I do not have, and whenever I try to save the information get fed into some version of The Matrix.

I stop trying and email Dashiell apologetically with the link. I’m still getting comfortable with the idea that she is really an equal partner in this whole situation. A couple things stand in my way -- firstly, an ongoing lack of belief about my extreme good fortune. Like, really? This marvelous person is really signing on to have a family with me? Me with her? Us, together, a family, one I have always wanted but have never let myself yearn for because --

Secondly, I tend to not partner with equal partners. I tend to partner with people on drugs or with borderline personality disorder or people going through suicidal life-crises, people who can’t always make their rent or people who have crushing disabilities, both physical and emotional. I’m kind of used to taking care of shit on my own.

It’s interesting to me that the whole fertility clinic set-up EXPECTS you to have a partner helping you. As if having a helpful partner is NORMAL. Also, I tend to partner with people who are easily overwhelmed, and when overwhelmed get stressed to the point of acting like a major jerk. I can feel that part of my hesitancy about sending the paperwork to Dashiell is it will stress her out and she’ll get upset at me and act weird and distant and passive aggressive, and then when I try to talk to her about it she’ll get defensive and turn the tables on me, accusing me of somehow doing something totally horrible and then I’ll wind up crying and apologizing for something I didn’t do. BUT WAIT! Those are my OLD relationships!

I feel bad for responding to Dashiell as if she is anyone but herself -- her generous, enthusiastic, helpful, caring self who wants to have a baby with me. I feel bad about it, but it can’t be helped. I HAVE BAD RELATIONSHIP PTSD. I email her the link.

At least this whole drama began and ended in the deranged privacy of my own mind, and she didn’t have to deal with any of it. That, my friends, is progress!

NEXT WEEK: Dinner with straight people!