Wednesday, November 28, 2007

what rough beast[s]

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I've wanted to write, but there was so much news I couldn't. When news is about someone else's body, they have the right to control when it comes out. However, sInce the body belongs to GF but she is finally blogging about it, I'm giving myself the green light.

The first time something sparked, it was a magical week. An old friend came to town and dragged GF and I out to a party in GF's old neighborhood. Inside the house were various couples; one older, childless couple really into wines; one couple with a young child; the guy whose house it was, who had two mischievous girls and a pretty wife who looked a little like Tori Amos; and us. I liked this last family a lot--he was a mechanic who had bought a house cheaply and slowly refinished his way to the top floor, and she had a mellow, earth-mother way of letting children crawl up and down her body while she sat or stood, calmly talking. We sat around all night, sprawled on the floor in the living room, drinking wine and eating pizza. Sometimes we talked about children; Tori Amos wanted more, she said, because once you start having them you just want more. GF and I wanted to get to the first part of that equation of desire: we were due to get inseminated for the first time the next morning. The old friend sat in a chair all night, drinking wine and smiling benignly down at us all. The full fat harvest moon floated low in the sky, the dusky orange of sweet potatoes and cream.

Two weeks later we were pregnant. Day after day GF ran to the bathroom to pee on the sticks of various pregnancy tests. She carefully lay them on the window sill, one under the other in rows, each marked with the number of days past ovulation. "11 dpo" showed nearly white, with the strong test line and just the faintest ghostly shadow next to it, flickering in and out of focus like a wish. "Is it positive?" I remember asking, sure I was imagining the second line, or tilting the stick under the light wrong to show the x-rays of its chemical composition and give myself the illusion of a companion line.

"There's no such thing as a false positive," she told me. "If it's negative, it's really solid white." Then she took a stick out to show me the smooth plastic of an all-white untested stick. It was true, then. We really were pregnant.

Another stick followed, and then another. Each day the line grew darker, moving towards us in the white mist. Pink lines. We stared at them, unbelieving. Then, believing. But as suddenly as something sparked, it flickered out, and by the end of the week, the HCG numbers were falling. GF was devastated. It had seemed too easy, then great good fortune, then--though we had only just started--tragic.

When we saw some of the people from that night again a few weeks later, at a pumpkin-carving party, we found out that it had been magical, indeed. Tori Amos was pregnant, her wish for a third child answered in the shadows of that harvest moon. GF counted the weeks she would have been pregnant and sighed. I carved a pumpkin for her at the party from a picture we found on the internet of Grendel shambling out of the slimy depths. GF picked it because she said it reminded her of her theory of writing, where you work and feel anguish and then, just at the brink of despair, you begin to see the first outlines of the beast emerging from the muck. She handed it to me, her eyes shining, and told me she had walked by this house, with its carved pumpkins all in a row, when she used to live in this neighborhood, and had wanted so badly to get invited to this party some day. I gazed at the picture with some trepidation. "It looks complicated," I said. She said, "You can do anything."

So I carved it, half-closing my eyes so I could imagine it on the curved surface of the pumpkin. We won two bottles of wine, so we took them home and left the pumpkin, gleaming in the darkness, on the porch of the lady who had thrown the party. We bought a different bottle of wine called Sinister Hand with a scary picture of a severed arm on it and next day we split it between us, for luck.

Medicine overmanaged our second try; Clomid and hormone shots and multiple eggs yielded nothing. GF ovulated on the weekend, so the second insemination was on a Saturday. The weekend nurse wouldn't look at me or talk to me even when I tried to address her, clearly freaked out by lesbians, or me. She was in such a hurry, in fact, that GF didn't even know when the catheter went in, which seemed more than a little disturbing. The up side, however, is that in her hurry to perform her drive-by insemination, nurse Rachit left behind the vial from the sperm sample, with the birthday of our donor typed on it: 1/1/1965. We had known his age before, guessing that he might be gay, donating into his forties. We chose him for this, and for his piano skills, and because he liked purple and could do long division at five. The Cinderella slipper she dropped in her homophobic haste gave us the added charming detail that he was born on the New Year, with all its promise of hope, smack in the middle of a decade where all good things seemed possible.

We smuggled the vial home, but there were no plastic sticks on the sill that month. GF shrugged, a little worried but not freaked out.

This month fell on the week. GF timed her own surge and went in to inseminate by herself, since I was in school. That night I drove home and we went in together the next morning. Two very nice women did the procedure, chatting and laughing with us. Afterwards one brought in pictures of her son. "This one's going to work," she told us. "I'm crossing my fingers for you both." Back in the house GF asked for a blessing. "A what?" I said. "Say something," she told me.

I put my hands on her abdomen and closed my eyes. I thought about my friend who can't father children because he is HIV-positive, but who was so excited when we told him we were trying that he wanted to buy sperm. I thought about my other friend who wanted children but never had the time in her life and her job for it. I thought about my friend who discovered total joy when her sister had a baby. I thought about my sister, who finally had the baby she always wanted at 39. I thought about GF, wanting children all her life but never having it be the right time, the right job, the right person. I thought about me, so sure I would have children when the time was right, watching that certainty pass away when I lost my job. And now, in a last wild chance, with no money and no certainty, we fling ourselves towards something we can't see, knowing that we have to make it real. GF is going to give herself over, and put her body through all this nonsense, and suffer pills and suppositories and morning sickness and childbirth. I'm going to run next to her the whole way. "Come to us," I told something hovering nearby. "We are waiting for you. There's a circle of people here, and they're all waiting, and they didn't know they were waiting until they thought of you." GF said she felt a jolt in her heart.

So now the windowsill is littered with white plastic sticks. "11dpo"; "12dpo"; "13dpo"; "14dpo" and so on. She only did one a day but the pile on the windowsill made me have a fantasy of pushing in the bathroom door only to find it unyielding, with thousands of white sticks spilling through the cracks out into the hall.

GF's HCG numbers soar, double, double again. On the sill the sticks show the history of lines growing stronger by the day and more solid. We pat GF's stomach and call it Mrs. Dalloway. We thought about "the little nipper," which is what the toxic couple call their imaginary son in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," but Mrs. Dalloway seems more cheerful. When she or he is born, if they are born, we may say "For there she was," even if it is a boy, but for now we are trying to wrap our heads around his or her coming, peering into the future cautiously, but eagerly, the way a person squints at a figure they think they know as it walks towards them in bright light.