Expectations: The Next Round


Our first shot at artificial insemination was unsuccessful, but we remain optimistic. Charlie and Don are both young and healthy–we subjected Don to a barrage of tests before commencing–and we’re sure that in another month or two we’ll get a positive pregnancy test. Charlie is charting his fertility diligently, using an Android app and ovulation predictor kits (OPKs). The worst thing about this time period for me is occasionally walking into the bathroom to see a plastic cup of pee on the counter. Charlie leaves them sitting out to come to room temperature before testing for the increase in luteinizing hormone that means “Time to get pregnant!”

As an aside, I just did a quick search to see if all OPKs require room-temperature urine, and the first site I found advises that you have sex every two or three days to maximize your chances of getting pregnant. If only. (A note to all people giving fertility advice: Not everyone is in a reproductively compatible relationship.)

Buoyed by faith (or, in a less generous interpretation, naïveté), we begin planning for our future child’s living arrangements. Our guest bedroom is cluttered with random crap, in the way of all unused bedrooms, and it’s still the hideous beige color inexplicably chosen by the previous tenants. It’s time to turn the room from a depressing, off-brown Goodwill pile into a bright, cheerful baby room.

The default baby room color is, of course, sunshine yellow, for its amazing gender-neutral properties—we can all imagine the horrifying consequences of allowing a girl baby to live in a blue room. But we already have a yellow kitchen and a yellow living room, and there’s only so much I want to feel like I live inside a giant daffodil.

We decide on a shade of periwinkle that could read as blue or purple, depending on the light and what colors are nearby. I know that any color whose name is not included in the Roy G. Biv acronym is automatically suspect from the point of view of American masculinity, but I still think this is a viably gender-neutral color. We get a day bed from IKEA and do our best to sort through the accumulated detritus of a year and a half in this house.

By the time we’re done, it doesn’t exactly look like a child’s bedroom, but the color is dramatically improved and I can leave the door open without having an anxiety attack over all the junk. We’ll do more decorating when there’s officially a baby on the way. It will be a guest room just long enough for Charlie’s mom to visit for Christmas, and then assume its true destiny as the place our future child plays, sleeps, and wets itself.

In the meantime, our next round of insemination is coming up. Unfortunately, the day Charlie will probably ovulate happens to coincide with plans we’ve already made to spend a weekend in the mountains with some friends. Don the Donor is among the attendees, but we can’t decide whether or not that’s a good thing. Should we try to do an insemination in our hotel, while sharing rooms with several other people? Or do we skip this month and try again in October?

The first insemination was already awkward enough–making small talk with Don in our living room, trying to ignore the fact that he had just handed me a paper bag containing a jar of semen, is cringe-inducing to think about, even today. Charlie had to take over the unenviable job of filling the syringe from the jar because I couldn’t stop squealing in disgust. (Meaning no disrespect or body shame toward people who produce semen! It’s just that bodily fluids in a jar are horrifying, no matter how good the reason for them being there. I would also be screaming if someone handed me a jar of blood, or, like, toenails.) I’m not looking forward to repeating that experience, even at home with just the three of us–doing it in a hotel room with two other people present sounds nightmarish.

But Charlie doesn’t want to skip a perfectly good opportunity to get knocked up, so we broach the subject to Don.

“Does it have to be that day?” he asks, obviously not any happier about this than we are. “Couldn’t we do it before we go up?”

“Maybe,” says Charlie. “Hopefully I’ll ovulate early, or late. But if it’s on schedule, it will have to be Saturday night. Is that okay with you?”

Don shrugs. “I guess so,” he says. “If you’ll help make sure I can be alone in the room.”

While we’re packing for our trip, in addition to hiking boots and pajamas we also stock a clean jar, a clean syringe, a towel, and a vibrator–just to be on the safe side. (Orgasm after artificial insemination is supposed to increase the odds of conception.) Charlie hasn’t ovulated yet, so we’re still hoping this will be an irregularly long cycle and maybe we won’t have to go through some kind of wacky sitcom hijinks to get everyone out of the hotel room. But the day we leave, the OPK says it’s go time.

Now we have a decision to make. There’s another girl (let’s call her Amy) sharing our hotel room, and another guy (let’s call him Greg) across the hall rooming with Don. Do we tell them we’re trying to get pregnant, thus activating some vague but ominous jinx? Or do I come up with a distraction to keep them out of their rooms for 20 minutes–a distraction that also explains why Don and Charlie aren’t present?

Ultimately, because I’m not a sitcom character, I decide that explaining what’s up is the only way to go. After hiking, I summon the two roomies into the hotel lobby, where we perch in uncomfortable chairs as I explain to them that we’re trying to have a baby and Don is our sperm donor.

“Wow,” says Amy. “Congratulations. I hope it goes well.”

Greg says, “So Don is in there –”

“La la la la I can’t hear you,” I say like the mature adult I am. Then we sit there for another quarter hour making small talk of which I can’t remember a word, until Charlie texts me with the all-clear and we go back to our rooms.

“Lots of babies have been conceived in hotel rooms,” I say as we settle in for sleep. “This room is probably full of good pregnancy vibes. I bet this time it will work.”

Driving home the next day, as we pass through a tunnel, I hold my breath and wish: This time it will work.

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