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Kids are hard. Period. If you think this is going to be a feelgood boast of queer parenting, you’ve come to the wrong place. Here are some links if you’re seeking examples of highly filtered and unrealistic standards of living: Pinterest.com, LDS.org, and my cousin Tara’s Facebook page. For same-sex parents, bringing children into this world is often complicated. We have to deal with courts, fertility monitoring, cryobanks, and sperm — lots and lots of sperm. That’s the easy part. Don’t think for a second that once our kids are here, the struggle is over.
The original deal was that my wife, Megan, and I would each carry a baby using the same donor. (Isn’t that the GREATEST perk of having two uteruses in the family?). Our kids would be biologically connected to each other, and my wife and I could each experience pregnancy. I’m older, which meant I would go first.
Choosing a donor was easier than we thought. We had close personal friends who offered to donate for us. It was flattering, but we decided against it. We didn’t want to know our donor, so we chose our donor from a cryobank in California. This way, when the inevitable moment of adolescence comes, our child won’t scream, “I’m calling my dad!” An unknown donor would leave no question that we were the parents. As it is, she has enough loving grandparents, aunts, and uncles to run to when she hits puberty.
We like cryobanks: no lawyers, no fuss. And the children can still make connections to biological family through donor siblings with sibling registries. We call Quinn’s donor siblings “dibblings.” We’ve met two of her dibblings so far, and we love them with a love that could most closely be compared to first cousins.
After paying the cryobank the registration fee, we picked the cutest damn picture we’ve ever seen of a little boy. He looked like the perfect mix of my wife and I: light squinty eyes, dimples, and brown scraggly hair. (His profile didn’t disclose that he was a homicidal maniac, but obviously all #TheQuinn’s less favorable traits come from him.) Anyway, in an ironic twist for any lesbian, my wife and I spent our life savings on 15 vials of sperm and prepared for a home insemination.
We never expected it to work on the first try.
Megan did the insemination. In most cases, she pretends she is a professional at everything, but even after reading all the information she could find, I could tell she had no idea what to do. She didn’t want to waste one of the million dollar vials of sperm so she nervously practiced with fruit juice. Let’s be clear here — as much as I like the idea of being inseminated with fruit juice, she was only practicing with getting the “sperm” into the syringe. She poured the juice carefully into the back of the syringe while keeping her thumb over the tip so as to not lose a drop of the precious elixir. As she replaced the rubber plunger, the pressure inside began to build… She removed her thumb, and the practice spermshot up and splattered across the ceiling. I screamed, “My babies!”
That night, Megan had nightmares of making the same mistake with our real insemination. Despite her sleepless night, we decided to proceed with our plan to do the insemination without a doctor because we could create a magical, romantic moment. But, as soon as we lifted the lid of the cryotank and saw the plume of nitrogen fog spill out, the romance was gone. We dropped the tiny vial into body temperature water and watched it wiz, pop, and crackle until a tiny drop of pink liquid pooled at the bottom. I’ll spare you the actual details and suffice to say that somehow, in an act of pure luck and coincidence, Megan actually managed to get the sperm to its destination.
Two weeks later, she hugged me and my breasts felt so tender I almost cried. We rushed out to buy a pregnancy test and stood gape-mouthed in absolute shock when the smiley face appeared. It was Christmas Day 2012. Today, Quinn is a happy, active, 17-month-old bundle of sass. Since her conception, every day has felt like an action movie. She has us running and cleaning and crying more than we ever imagined. We thought her conception was a miracle? Ha! The real miracle is that we’re all still in one piece.
Recently Megan and I went to our weekly Sunday dinner at my in-laws. It’s good cooking and company if you ignore the overt attempts at religious conversion. “The Quinn,” as we sometimes call her, seemed to be innocently laying on her tummy reaching for something under the couch. The adults were in the living room avoiding taboo topics when there was a loud pop and piercing scream. The lights flashed, and we looked down to see that Quinn’s hair stood perfectly on end. Her eyes were wide with terror — and glee.
A partially-broken outlet hidden in the carpet was to blame. No one had remembered it was there. Leave it to Quinn’s grubby little hands to find a loose wire in the carpet and electrocute herself.
Once the immediate panic wore off and we determined that she was all right, we rushed out to buy more plastic outlet covers. Apparently, 1,564 of them weren’t enough. FYI to new parents: there is always a cursed spinning wheel hiding somewhere. Adults are physically unable of finding these potential minefields. It is guaranteed that your walking, drooling danger detector of a child will be drawn to these toddler booby traps.
We’ve covered the outlets, taped the corners of tables, moved cords and toxic cleaning chemicals. Yet, she finds disasters before we can prevent them. We bought baby gates for the stairs, but didn’t count on her holding fast to the dog’s tail as we let him out. He dashed out and pulled her airborne to the bottom. We can no longer have dinner parties because she finds abandoned wine glasses, smashes them, and dances in the glass shards. Parents of toddlers are superheroes. We save lives daily.
The outlet covers haven’t helped much. Quinn has now felt the adrenaline rush of electrocution, and she wants more. Everywhere we go, if she sees an open outlet, she runs for it: restaurants, homes, stores. The only thing stopping her from being zapped again is my wife’s catlike reflexes. This may be the only time in this column that I am admittedly grateful for my wife’s soccer skills. Other than keeping my wife in a constant state of injury, Megan’s quick actions have saved our lunatic daughter on many occasions.
There are perks of queer parenting. When Quinn is tearing apart the local Target, women in passing don’t know which of us is more deserving of her judgemental glare. Sometimes she glares instead at the innocent, unknown gentleman standing unfortunately too close to us.
And yet, despite being witnesses to the terrors of toddlerhood with Thing #1, Megan and I are at it again trying for Thing #2. The best gift we can give our daughter is a sibling, right? As new parents, we’ve begun to master Quinn’s antics, so she needs a cohort: someone to pour nail polish on the carpet while the other is coloring the walls with a Sharpie.
Now we’re trying for baby #2. We wanted our kids to be close in age. Even though we were successful at home before, we cut out the chaotic home inseminations and went straight to our gynecologist. We tried shortly after Quinn was six months old, but this time with Megan as catcher. Seven catastrophic attempts later, we decided maybe Megan carrying our kid wasn’t in the cards.
Our OBGYN is a family friend, which might sound awkward, but really, how comfortable is anyone at their yearly checkup/violation? For the sake of this article, we’ll call our family doctor friend “Susan,” because that’s her name. She has been amazing in helping to get us knocked up. She comes into the office on nights, weekends, and anytime we ask. She also pretends not to mind as Quinn runs around her office shredding documents and kicking her in the shins.
Since it was Megan’s fault that we wasted 7 expensive vials of sperm, we went straight to getting me a IUI insemination performed by “Sue.” I’ve only had sperm in me twice in my life. The first time, Megan and I created #TheQuinn, so we are hopeful, sorta, that this one would work just as easily. We won’t stop trying until we have at least two suicidal maniacs at home to destroy the calm fabric of our marriage that we have fought to create in the midst of our conservative state of Utah.
It’s unbelievable all the hard work, emotions, and bureaucratic mess we’ve had to go through just to be legally married and have children. Things were so easy when it was just the two of us. We went out, we danced, and we stayed up late. We didn’t have to watch movies with cartoon tigers and ponies in them unless the recreational activity of the night called for them (…kidding). We didn’t trip on toys or have to wipe up puddles of pee or projectile poop stains.
But then, I have times like this one. In this moment, the three of us are together on the couch. Megan has Quinn wrapped in her arms. They’re whispering, tickling, and giggling together. Quinn is the only one who can turn my cocky wife into a mush puddle. She’s made us both come alive and aware in a whole new way. I can’t help but look down at my flat stomach and hope our next baby is already there growing.
Making babies, raising babies, and keeping them alive and happy is hard work. It isn’t for everyone, but if we want to do it, then no one can stop us. LGBT families are all beautiful. We don’t have children by mistake; we fight for them.
It’s funny. We have legal documents declaring our marriage valid in two different states. We’ve been together and in love for years. But it was the birth of our daughter this daredevil, this personality, that really made our home feel like family. Now, we want nothing more than to fill it with another little maniac — Lord help us.
Editor’s Note: Since writing this piece, Candice and Megan have welcomed another little person into their lives: Tucker! You can watch their lives unfold through their YouTube series, The Barretts. This video of Quinn meeting Tucker will probably make you cry, you’ve been warned.