Feature image by Malte Mueller via Getty Images
In my favorite film of the year, Cmon, Cmon, we see the nine-year-old kid the movie centers around speaking a stream of consciousness into his journalist uncle’s recording gear. He imitates his uncle (played by Joaquin Phoenix) by lowering his voice and asking the question: “Have you ever thought about the future?”
The kid responds: “Yeah. Whatever you plan on happening, never happens. Stuff you would never think of happens. So you just have to, you have to come on, come on, come on, come on, come onnnnnnnnn.”
That sums up what the hellscape of unexplained infertility has been for me. I never thought I would have to hand over a credit card for an Intrauterine Insemination. I didn’t even know what a IUI was. Why would I? You’re told that you grow up and have kids or don’t. There is nothing said about the gray area.
My life is a million times better than I ever thought it would be, but of course, I’m a writer, I’m a questioner, and the moment you choose one thing, you are not choosing something else.
In the depths of infertility— which almost one in six couples experience— you have constant responsibilities like tracking ovulation, peeing on a stick almost every day, getting vaginal ultrasounds and bloodwork once a week. On my drives to and from the fertility clinic, I began fantasizing in a way I never had before.
I fantasized about high school; zero responsibilities and driving around in cars smoking weed with friends and CDs.
I fantasized about an easier, carefree, alternative life. Infertility had stolen my joy. The deeper into it I got, the more my mind dreamed of another life. A life where I didn’t have this heteronormative desire to create life.
I fantasized about my twenties when fertility and babies were an abstract and unimaginable concept.
And then I fantasized about if I had ended up living life with a queer, gay, or nonbinary person. What if I’d ended up with someone like Finn—a gorgeous butch with swagger—from my book Women? My life could have easily gone that way. Then I wouldn’t have to be in this stupid position. Like Michelle Tea says in her article, Having A Baby Meant Making Friends With Straight People: “Who wanted to be like dumb, boring straight people who lived pre-scripted, unimaginative lives?”
Wait a minute, though.
Why was I equating a queer relationship with being free from the desire to have kids? It dawned on me that even if I was in a partnership with someone who identified as a lesbian or nonbinary, living my best queer life full of queer friends and art and culture, my desire for children would not just disappear.
I’d still be doing infertility treatments. I still wouldn’t have gotten pregnant the “old fashioned” way. I would still want a baby. And be “trying” with that person. The desire would have crept in no matter who I ended up with. So where would that leave me?
Exactly where I am now.
When I realized this, I felt a surge of queerness, something I had not felt in a while.
I was bitter about having to do IUI. Why me? Not fair. Unjust. Infertility will do a number on your mind, heart, and spirit. It robs you of your time, your energy, and your personality.
Over the years, I’ve turned to Reddit groups; Reddit is the best thing about the internet. I’ve specifically been reading r/TryingForABaby (83.3k members). Most people who post in the group are straight couples trying to get pregnant. One day as I was scrolling, someone mentioned r/Queerception (7.2k members). I was asking about IUI, and a r/TryingForABaby person directed me over there, because there was an abundance of knowledge around IUI in that space. I won’t say the r/TryingForABaby people kicked me out, exactly, but, you know.
So I left the hetero r/TryingForABaby group where everyone referenced doing the BD (baby dance — puke) with their DH (dear husband — I just gagged). Most of the women in r/TryingForABaby were doing IVF. They often shit on IUI for its low success rates. But for my husband and I, IUI was a fantastic option, especially because success rates were slightly higher for people experiencing unexplained fertility.
For queer people, there’s less of a choice. Queer couples are mandated to do twelve IUIS before they’re allowed to do IVF. So-called “straight” couples can “prove” they’ve tried for one year unsuccessfully through sex (but they could also lie about that if they wanted to, so this doesn’t seem fair, though none of this is fair).
I was sucked in. Here was my other life, gay couples trying to get pregnant with IUI. r/Queerception even said I belonged in their tagline: for queer people trying to start a family. In their list of “rules,” they include my situation: “bi people in opposite-sex relationships.” The IUI knowledge was abundant, and they weren’t doing baby dances with their dear husbands. They were struggling, like I was, frustrated and heartbroken like I was.
I’m aware of my privilege in being married to a man and presenting as a straight couple. We didn’t have to battle insurance companies or doctors to treat us respectfully. The horror of having to inject myself with a trigger shot of Ovadril was made a little easier by thinking about all of the people in r/Queerception who had to do this too, and as usual, paved the way. IUI has a slightly higher success rate for LGBTQ couples than the general population. When I asked my husband why he thought this was, he said, “Better sperm.”
Jen Winston, author of Greedy: Notes From A Bisexual Who Wants Too Much, has a quote I love: “Maybe confusion is as queer as it gets.”
For me, replace confusion with “infertility.”
Infertility is the most outsider I’ve ever felt, and I’ve got no choice but to embrace it. On the drive to my IUI with my husband, I felt queerer than ever, and I told him so. He understood immediately. These days, I often feel on the outside of my friends now. Left behind. At a standstill. Cast aside. Other. Unconventional. Misunderstood. For me, infertility is as queer as it gets.
So maybe I am a step “other.” Maybe I have “insequeerity” to quote Jen again. Maybe my family doesn’t look the way my friends’ do. Maybe the gray area I didn’t originally seek out, sought me out. And maybe it’s where I can become comfortable.
It’s tempting to look for silver linings in the face of darkness. I think I’ve found mine. Like the kid Jesse said in C’mon C’mon: “Whatever you plan on happening, never happens. Stuff you would never think of happens.” Some people go to a Tegan and Sara concert to remember who they are; some do IUI.