God Please Give Me My Period
When I was 21, my mother took me to a specialist, because up until this point my period only came once or twice a year since age 14. Until then, I had excused my lack of a period to my competitive athletics. Training and competing multiple times a day, traveling up and down eastern Canada and the USA, going from Hockey, to Basketball, to Volleyball — even competing at a high level in Badminton. If it was a sport, I played it — and I played it well. That is one area that my body always excelled.
Throughout my teenage years it was almost not surprising that I would get my period so infrequently. But, by 21, and still with such infrequency, it seemed clear there were other powers at play. My body was not behaving as it should, and after I “retired” from elite hockey, sports were no longer a good excuse. After a few tests, I was diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. On one hand, it was nice to have answers, but in the end, it didn’t really tell me much. There really was no resolution other than needing to go on birth control to make sure I got my period more regularly.
The one question I had for the doctor at the time, was if I could still have kids. She looked at me, and told me to worry about that when the time came. I asked her a few times the same question, hoping for more of a firm answer, but was met with the same kind of ambiguity. I filled in the blanks for myself. Between her response, and too much googling, I took it as, maybe I could have kids, but probably not. And if maybe, definitely not easily.
When asked by a friend at age 17 if I wanted kids, without hesitation, I said yes, two, and by 27. After that appointment, my whole perspective on having kids shifted. Just four years later, that same question, I would answer, maybe, probably not, or maybe I will adopt, I don’t know, I don’t think I will have kids. I guess with such unknown prognosis, I skipped right ahead to the worst case scenario. I figured it was unlikely that kids were in my future. I went on a mission to convince myself that that was ok, and I didn’t really want or need kids anyway. Maybe I was being dramatic, or maybe science has since caught up and PCOS is less of a hurdle than it was 13 years ago. What I did know was that my body up until that point had failed to do as it should — give me a period every month, so in any event, it seemed like a reasonable conclusion.
I have always had an unhealthy relationship with my period. My first menstruation came at 14 when I was on vacation with my best friends family. I was so embarrassed that I snuck a tampon without any instruction. They aren’t super complicated, but I somehow managed to fuck it up and went on using them in pain that whole trip. I hovered over their car seats afraid to touch ass to cloth, and went to the bathroom constantly.
I got my period at 17 at an overnight leadership camp. I was too embarrassed to ask any of the girls for a tampon, so I carried out a covert mission in the middle of the night, stealing a couple from a few different girls bags when they were sleeping, hoping that by hitting up a few of them, they wouldn’t notice any missing. Asking for and giving tampons is embedded in girl code, it’s one of the most basic transactions. Like giving a high five to a teammate, if you raise your hand a high five is expected. Tampons are to be shared, as we all get our periods (sort of).
At 17 I went on birth control — despite rarely getting my period, I was strangely paranoid about getting pregnant. My body had been so devoid of hormones, that as soon as I started on the Pill, my boobs grew overnight. I went from a B cup to a D cup so quickly that my co-workers thought I had gotten a boob job. The last thing I wanted was big boobs. I wanted to be a flat chested, yet frequently menstruating woman.
As a young girl, as all my girlfriends around me got their period, and then continued to get their period month after month, I lay in bed at night praying that I would get the same. That I could be just like all the rest of my friends — cramping and bleeding, every 28 days. I’m not even a religious person. I was different enough as it was, often being mistaken as a boy from age 10 until present day. It is fairly frequent that someone will call me Sir. With the exception of my high school years, during those days I looked surprisingly feminine, but still kind of like a Hanson brother. Some people correct themselves afterwards, and others don’t even realize they have made an error. I shrug it off now, but when I was younger, a large part of me just wanted to be reassured that I was a girl just like any other girl, and for whatever reason, getting my period seemed like the ultimate validation.
When I came out to my mom at 24, she was admittedly a little heart broken, and searching for answers. I came from a city where there weren’t many lesbians. My mom feared that a gay life, would equal a harder life, and like most mom’s she just wanted the best for me and for me to be safe. She has come so far in the last 10 years, and it wasn’t long before she was totally normal with me being gay. But, at one point in a quest for answers, she thought it could be my PCOS, and that my slight hormonal imbalances were turning me gay. I knew then, what I still know now, which is that is completely not the case. I’m gay, because I am gay, hormones or no hormones, period or no period. Having since gone through a round of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), taking dozens of shots of female hormones daily, I can safely put that hypothesis to rest. I am in fact, just as gay after IVF as I was before. Pregnant = still gay. I don’t blame her for wondering either, I questioned it myself after the suggestion, however briefly. “Was I just a birth control pill away from dating men again?” No, the answer is definitely, no. The first time I kissed a girl was in NYC, at Henrietta’s — a gay bar in the West Village. I knew from that very moment two things. 1. Girls have really small lips. 2. I was definitely gay.
For 13 years I had convinced myself that my body was unable to do as it should. My fertility was on a good day fleeting and on the worst days, non existent. At least in my mind. Looking back, it all seems a bit dramatic and uninformed, but it was also easier to plead the worst than get my hopes up. And to be fair, it wasn’t easy for me to get pregnant. As a lesbian I never got to try the old fashioned way, so I really have no idea if this is something that could have happened naturally. I went through two rounds of IUI (Intrauterine insemination) that were unsuccessful and one round of IVF with PGS (preimplantation genetic screening) to conceive. It was a year and a half process to get pregnant, and an expensive endeavor. Easy, is not really the words that come to mind to describe the whole process — but none the less successful.
Eight years ago, when I met my girlfriend and business partner Meagan, she was very clear from the get go, she did not want kids. I didn’t need any more convincing, I was fine taking her lead on never procreating, as that was already the road I was headed. I further convinced myself, that a life without kids was just as fulfilling and all that I needed. We would we happy just the two of us, living spontaneously. I would be the cool aunt to my friends and my sisters kids. We would focus on our careers, spa every weekend, explore deeply all our many interests, have cute dogs, and eat lavishly instead; focus on growing our business (a different kind of baby).
*I know there is more to a life without kids than the aforementioned. Meagan hates when I minimize it to just these things and I don’t mean to make it seem superficial, because it is deeper and richer than that. I’d like to also believe you can do these activities with or without kids, and I really hope to continue with all of them, but I do imagine it changes the dynamic and frequency. Kids are expensive little buggers, so I think it’s safe to say they are not without sacrifice.
For six years, I told the same story when questioned about kids and my future, to the point that even my friends and family had settled in on the fate that I would not be introducing new life into this world. There was no debate — as most of them knew, I was unsure if kids would even be possible for me even if I did want them. They were just as quick in some ways to default to the worst case scenario. Though, not a single person was shocked when I came out as gay, I imagine many more will be shocked to learn that I’m pregnant. I know my family was.
At 26, when Meagan and I started dating, kids weren’t even on my radar regardless. I was focused on building my career, finding my pace in life. A far cry from my 17 year old vision of being 27 with two kids. And that was fine. Then I grew older, my friends started having kids, and suddenly I was 32, with the career I always wanted, in the city I dreamed of conquering. I even had pugs — I always wanted a dog and specifically a pug, now I had two. In so many ways I had accomplished everything I had set out to accomplish when I moved to New York in 2007.
At the same time, through some weird twist, my periods started to come — not every 28 days, but pretty darn close. My doctor at Weill Cornell told me that that is a common occurrence, for women with abnormal periods to become more regular as they age. I half jokingly attributed it to the strength of Meagan’s hormones. Rubbing off on me, like an invisible potion. The irony of her being the source of my confidence in my own fertility, is that it was also what threatened the very existence of our relationship. As if my fertility was breaking above the surface, tempting me to take a closer look.
Then came one of the hardest choices I have made, to put the curiosity of figuring out if I can even have kids ahead of my then six year long relationship, to someone who I without waver consider to be the love of my life. I threw my entire life upside down to take a closer look, jeopardizing all that I had built. My relationship and my business are so intertwined — my whole plan for the rest of my life was put on hold.
I explored with a continued skepticism, but not devoid of promise. The first prognoses with my doctor seemed good — there was little standing in the way it seemed, though all just theory. I had a strong egg count, my fallopian tubes were not blocked, I had sperm from a sperm bank that would eliminate any male factors, and my hormones weren’t outside the norm. I did however have cysts on my ovaries and a polyp in my uterus that would need to be surgically removed. My doctor assured me these were not significant concerns and surely would not stand in the way of me conceiving with the help of some fertility drugs. I was optimistic for the first time.
To purchase my sperm I went with California Cryobank. You can search using a wide variety of criteria — hair color, height, religion, eye color; to name a few. I opted for the most amount of information on the donors you can get, which is basically a book of history on their own health and life, but also their entire family — siblings, parents and grandparents. I know that my donor is 6’3, has brown hair, hazel eyes, medium build, and likes steak and basketball. Some donors can go quickly, and once you start to whittle down your criteria there aren’t too many people to choose from. It is a little bizarre to know that my child already has at least one half sibling somewhere in the world this very second, but I chose this route to the alternative of having a known donor for legal reasons as well as not complicating the parental situation with a possible “maybe daddy”. This was a scientific transaction, and I will discuss it with my kid early on as exactly that.
At the same time that I was seemingly conquering the baby making part of my life, it was throwing a wrench into my relationship with Meagan. We moved out of our beautiful two bedroom apartment in downtown Manhattan, into separate apartments. I knew that pursuing having a child meant going at it alone as a single parent. It just wasn’t the life that Meagan envisioned for herself, and I can’t fault her for making that choice.
Through all of this, I have had to balance the absolute joy of welcoming a new life into my world, while at the same time mourning the loss of the most important relationship in my life. My best friend. My soul mate. I wont get into the details of our complicated affairs, as it’s all too fresh and too painful and too long a story to tell.
Everyone tells me, that life will change when you have a kid; your priorities will shift, you will have a new most important person in your life. I know in so many ways this will be true, and I will love the shit out of this kid, but to be fair, kids are not replacements to adult romantic love. I can love and prioritize a child, while still loving a partner the same, and I am positive that my feelings for Meagan will never change — baby or no baby. There will forever be a hole in my heart at the loss of my relationship with Meagan. I will always love her. I will always wish for that relationship to go back to what it was. But for now, we are best friends and business partners, and each others greatest cheerleaders as we both focus on pursuing our dreams. Me and a baby and her moving to LA to continue on the dream we had planned for ourselves.
While all roads seemed to lead to baby, it was not so easily conceived. I started with IUI’s as they were cheaper and less invasive. With each step I was positive my body would fail me. Though, the first two IUI’s were not successful in getting me pregnant, I was surprised that my body even reacted at all to the drugs. I have a bad habit of perusing online fertility threads, where woman across the country, of all ages, share their worst case scenarios of trying to conceive. What I learned, is that in the end, most of them had little cause or answers to justify why it wasn’t working for them — unexplained infertility. I felt like I was right there with them — everything seemed to be fine, but still it didn’t work. In all fairness, the success rate of IUI is not much different than well timed sex with your partner — only 10–20% success rate per attempt.
At this point, I was looking for more answers and interested in IVF. I switched to NYU Fertility as my insurance finally had a doctor in network — up until this point despite it being a government mandated coverage, my insurance covered IUIs, but did not have a doctor within 100 miles of NYC in network. A bullshit loophole that I am sure is illegal in some way, as I was paying for literally everything out of pocket. I had spent $16K so far, to do what straight, fertile couples could do in a couple weekends, for free, between the sheets.
IVF scared the shit out of me. I was not super keen on sticking myself with needles on a daily basis, and the cost was also higher, as even in network IVF is not covered by insurance. But, I had already given up so much. I had two vials of sperm left in the cold bank, and nothing more to lose. Once I started IVF, I went all in. I wanted all the answers. I opted for PGS testing, which is where they test the embryo’s for genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. It was an added expense and lengthened my timeline, but it meant upwards of a 65% success rate (this rate depends on many factors like the specific clinic, and patients age to name a few) and reduced the risk of multiples, as we could confidently transfer only one embryo. A kind of fun bi-product of the testing is that you get to also find out the sex of the embryo, and depending on your doctor, choose which sex you want to transfer. I ended up with three normal embryo, two boys and one girl. Since they were all the same grading (they rate how nice your embryo looks on a scale), there was really nothing to say one was more viable than the other. I decided to transfer one boy for my first go.
The needles are not as bad as I expected, though no walk in the park either. The drugs are expensive (I realized for the first time that different pharmacies charge different rates for the same drugs, so you have to shop around to get the best rate) and you will be shooting yourself in the stomach or butt for around 10–12 weeks everyday.
But, in the end, on Dec 9th 2017, after a year and half of tests, two surgeries to remove polyps, and a nice chunk out of my savings, I got a call from my doctors office letting me know that the transfer was successful and I was pregnant. I was honestly shocked. I had prepared myself for it to be negative. On my previous IUIs I tested everyday during my Two Week Wait to see if it took, of course each time coming up negative. But, for this round, I refrained from this anxiety ridden practice and allowed the nurses to break the news. I did use a test at home after, just to finally see the double line for myself. In the end, it was successful. My body didn’t fail me.
As I write this I am almost 21 weeks along in my pregnancy. Just over half-way there. The worrying hasn’t stopped completely, and I’m sure will continue to some extent until this kid is born and off in college, or maybe as a parent you just always worry at least a little bit. But, at the very least, I have stopped obsessing over worst case scenarios and I am a lot more chill about what is happening with my body. I know that these nine months of pregnancy are only just the start of the journey. I will probably look back at this stage as being the easy part. I have four more months to prepare for this kid to rock my world (as everyone likes to tell me), and look forward to meeting him this Aug.
Estimated Overall Costs:
$5,320 Sperm (6 Vials) and Shipping to Doctor
$8,000 Surgery #1 (Out of Network)
$7,850 IUI #1 and IUI #2
$1,850 PGS Testing
$2,500 Frozen Embryo Transfer
$500 Genetic Testing (childhood diseases)
$2,535 Other Blood Tests and Ultrasounds
$100 Surgery #1 (In Network)
$3500 Fertility Drugs for IUI and IVF