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November 23, 2004
In six months I'm going to be a father, and I can't wait to celebrate with the moms. Yes, moms, as in plural, as in two. My child will have two moms — one biological, one adopted, Kristen and Bess, good people. And this, dear reader, is the story of how and why a straight guy and two lesbians went about making a baby.
There comes a moment in most people's lives when Dr. Spock stops signifying one thing and starts signifying something completely different. The new Vulcan mind-meld is trying to wrap your head around the fact that you're going to be a parent. It's said to be an amazing thing: the miracle of birth. And most of the time, from what I've heard, it begins with a man who is very much in love with a woman; he puts a certain part of himself in her and finds it very pleasurable; she receives his part and its offering and may or may not find it pleasurable; there is much throwing up; a belly swells; nine months pass; a stork flies over; and out pops little Jack or Jill.
Not in my case. For me, it started almost a year ago, when Kristin, one of my dearest friends from high school, asked me if I'd consider being the birth father for a child with her and her long-term lesbian partner, Bess. It's a very flattering thing to be asked, to be desired for your genetic matter, like being the one guy in town the aliens decide to pull up with their tractor beam. The only difference is that, unlike with the tractor beam, I was asked — asked in earnest by two really, really nice people. How do you even begin to make that kind of a decision? Yes, the sultan in me was saying, Populate the village in your image. Sure, great, but I'm no sultan; I'm pretty much a shiftless, single, thirty-five-year-old adolescent hoping to have a wife and children of my own someday (or at least a girlfriend). Was I ready to have a child? To look into a little face and recognize my own? What would my family say? What would would-be girlfriends or wife say? What if I wanted to keep the child for my own?
It took me six months to decide to give it a try. My rationale was this: I have a surfeit of love to give and too few outlets. Any future wife would have to recognize there was enough left over for her and for any children we might have. And the conditions we agreed to sounded great. Kristin and Bess wanted me to play as active a part as I could (though free of financial responsibility), and we agreed I'd get a weekend a month, plus two weeks a year, of visitation privilege. As for my family, they would have to just deal. If they wanted another grandkid, they could have one, if not, they could pretend it wasn't there. And me, could I live with just a partial place in the life of my own offspring? Loud and clear came the message: it's better than nothing.
Every man I know asked if Kristin and I "did it." Only one woman asked me, and she confessed she's kind of a guy. Broadcast to men everywhere: you do not sleep with the lesbian birth mom of your baby, no way. She doesn't want to sleep with you, her partner would be completely left out, and there'd be all the emotional complications of sleeping with friends that we men always forget about. No, Howard Stern has no place here. And, as we decided to do it, neither did any High-Q sperm bank or OB/GYN. We decided to do it at home, and I'll never look at a 10cc syringe the same way again.
In a way, it was a like a date. The three of us had dinner and chatted about everything under the sun but babymaking. We even drank a little wine, if memory serves. When the time came, Kristin and Bess nervously wished me luck as I went upstairs with a sterilized syringe and a plastic, half-quart food container.
Maybe it's like riding a bike, because I really didn't feel any performance anxiety going about my business. Call me neanderthal, but I was probably thinking less about potentially creating a life and more, Yes, Jenna, yes. So about eight minutes later, I came back downstairs, holding the syringe at arm's length to give to Bess. "You're done already?" they shrieked in unison. "We were just about to take the dog for a walk." Yes, I said, I'm a guy.
Truth be told, I kind of botched the first attempt. I was supposed to get the vital material into the half-quart container, then suck it up with the syringe. Unfortunately, in my exuberance, the first part of the transfer didn't go quite as planned, and what I could recover barely passed the first of the cc gradations. When I came back down with all my manhood so minimally measurable, I must have looked a little sheepish. In fact, I was convinced that Bess gave me a "That's all?" death glare when I handed her the vial, but to this day she claims she didn't. The two of them took what there was of it upstairs for stage two of the rocketing. I would have lit a celebratory post-coital cigarette, but Nutmeg still needed to go on her walk. By the time I returned, Kristin had been lying in her room with her pelvis raised for ten minutes. Like a ham-stuffed Chicken Cordon Bleu, she still needed twenty minutes on each side before she was done.
It turns out they kind of botched their end too: they didn't aim the syringe correctly, and the sperm didn't make it past the mouth of the cervix. (One advantage to having professionals do it in a hospital is that they can place things in the ideal spot. At home, it's a little dicier.) At the time, Kristin and Bess didn't realize it hadn't gone so well, and when they emerged from their room, we all felt pretty optimistic. There was more wine, and a little toasting to the four of us. Then we held our communal breath for the better part of two weeks before it became clear that Take One hadn't taken. I was out of town during the high season of the next month, so we had to wait until June to try again.
As to the modifications I made to the process — which resulted in a syringe volume I could be proud of (and no derisive looks from Bess) — I will only say that a plastic broccoli bag from the supermarket was never recycled so productively. Take bag, place over palm and package, proceed predictably, take care not to lose any, puddle it in a corner of the bag, soak it up in syringe. This time, I made it past mark four. I delivered the weighted cylinder, and Bess and Kristin went upstairs to the bedroom like smiling Hasidic newlyweds, ready to procreate.
Either we got lucky, or I have Mark Spitzes swimming on my squad, or Bess really knows how to deliver it, or something, because two weeks passed and, this time, no monthly curse. Kristin wet the stick; the color said "yes," and all of a sudden, the hypothetical had become very, very real. Maybe I was supposed to panic, but instead I realized how much I'd wanted this all along. I'm going to be a dad, and I'm not sure anything has ever made me happier. The three of us started counting down the weeks until we were out of the first trimester, then the days, then the hours.
We're past that critical point now, and the reality hits me more and more every day. I got the courage to tell my mom, and she said she supported me in everything I do — just don't tell the grandparents. And there do seem to be cultural changes afoot: not too long ago Spike Lee made a movie about a guy who impregnates lesbians for a living, and an article about growing up with lesbian moms recently made the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Maybe it's gotten trendy — or is about to get trendy — but for me, it's still just about love. The love I have for my friends, their love for me, and our sense that loving parents, regardless of whether the number is even or odd, are really what a child needs. So much for the nu-cu-lar family — right, Mr. President? n°
©2004 Jack Murnighan and Nerve.com
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR:|
|Jack Murnighan's stories appeared in the Best American Erotica editions of 1999, 2000 and 2001. His weekly column for Nerve, Jack's Naughty Bits, was collected and released as two books. He was the editor-in-chief of Nerve from 1999 to 2001, before retiring to write full time and take seriously the quest for love.|