Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby


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burying the lede

We discovered a problem with baby-plan-your-birth blog.

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty that I’m completely comfortable sharing with the world (like the excessive use of pregnancy tests way before a positive result would be possible).

Then there’s that weird time of uncertainty when you think you might know something, but you’re not sure if you know something. And if you’re right, that’s great, but a bit anti-climactic because it builds up slowly from such small place of hope. And if you’re wrong, you look like an idiot who can’t read a pregnancy test.

Which is why our blog has been so very, very silent.  Spoilers! It’s good news!
We also did some backward induction, which many of you also may have done. If we were not successful in making a tiny human, then there should be a disappointed (yet hopeful) post about a few days after our last one.  Then maybe another post about how we’re really crossing our fingers really hard, or else we have to figure out how to ship even more sperm to Bangkok.  Maybe some hilarious antics would ensue.  None of those posts have appeared.

Of course, there’s also the chance that the whole things was a bust, but that we were too crushed to report it to the world. Or that I decided I wanted more public/private boundaries.  These would also be reasonable guesses, though wrong.

Here comes the actual lede… (I was never much of a news reporter)

So we are delighted to report that so far, we have been amazingly successful at coaxing a tiny human into my person. It grows! It has a heartbeat! It hasn’t self-destructed yet!

Convoluted? Yes.  The word “pregnant” still gets stuck in my throat and backed up in my fingers.  Sounds very adult. Or something I need to be very, very careful to avoid so I don’t end up a homeless teen living on the street, selling my organs to pay for diapers.

In Bangkok, H provided many  necessary reassurances  that “of course there’s a good chance it will work.” She was, like a good wife, lying to my face to help me feel better. She later confessed that she was expecting a minimum of three physically upsetting and financially costly procedures, and probably close to five.  I have proved her wrong! Champions!

Proving the existence of tiny parasite was no small endeavor.  Within a few hours of my last post – yes, I waited several hours before taking another test-  the pregnancy tests looks just the tiniest, faintest bit purple when you sort of held it up against the light and squinted..  H thought I was crazy. I blame poor FaceTime resolution (she’s off on a book project at the moment, so she can only obsess remotely).  So of course I took a few more tests.  And bought some other brands.  And I may have taken… fourteen … in total before they were all, resoundingly, purple and positive and pregnant, completely exhausting my bulk pack of tests.

My doctor later scolded me for wasting so many tests; she reminded me that there are other, needy people could have used them.  I didn’t realize that pregnancy test access was an issue in Singapore, but I remain duly chastised.

Things have since been confirmed visually (there’s a heartbeat! in my stomach! wtf! I am a timelord!), and with a lovely host of symptoms.  Did you know that french fries cure nausea?  They do.  Wonderful.

I’m not sure what direction our blog will take next; I’m loathe to report all my unique and special snowflake pregnancy experiences. (Oh look, now I’m vomity.  Oh, but now I’m a nature goddess coaxing new life into the world.  Oh!  Now I can’t fit in standard size cars.  What will parasite do next? Hint: the same things all parasites do – bust out!). However, I’m hopeful that our experiences as queer expats in Singapore making a human might provide some interesting insights, or at least a few good stories, in the coming months.

For example, my first prenatal visit with our kind but reserved ob-gyn:

Doctor:  Congratulations. I’m going to put you at 6 weeks as of today. Now I’m going list symptoms you may have. Please don’t interrupt me.
Me: Okay…
Doctor:  You may feel tired, nauseated, vomiting, gas like cramping, boobs hurt, emotions up and down, dizzy, muscles hurt, indigestion, heartburn….
Me: ….
Doctor: ….. Don’t drink alcohol, or smoke. Don’t get too fat. You are not eating for two.
Me: …..
Doctor: See you in three weeks.

Efficient.

 

– E


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Very patiently waiting with much patience quite patiently

I’m not a particularly patient person.

It is only after exercising considerable restraint that I managed to take only three pregnancy tests in the past week.  They’re all negative, of course, because it turns out there was a reason the clinic said to wait two weeks before taking a test.  Pregnancy tests detect levels of human chorionic gonadotropic (hCG) in your urine, which don’t show up in detectable levels until somewhere between 10 and 14 days past ovulation, depending on the sensitivity of your test (I have no idea what mine is; the “bulk pack”  didn’t include those sorts of superfluous details) and your own body’s response to harboring a tiny parasite.  Which is why it is so important that I test, just to be sure, at 6, 8, and 10 days.  Just in case all of medicine is wrong and my heart science is right.

Thankfully, I anticipated my tendency to do this, which is why we bought a bulk pack of pregnancy tests way back in December.  I love diagnostics!  (Thanks, Amazon!)

H asked that I share with the group my pregnancy testing ritual, I suspect because she enjoys it when I embarrass myself publicly.

1.  Try to convince myself that there is no point in testing something that will come out negative with 95% certainty.

2.  Figure, hey, let’s just give it a go, wouldn’t it be nice if it were positive?  After all, I have so many tests in my drawer.  Also, I’m bored.

3.  Procure the “pregnancy testing cup.”  These tests need to be dipped, which requires a cup. After great consideration, I settled upon the Hendrick’s teacup that came free when we bought some fancy gin at duty free.  It’s just the right size, with a nice wide mouth, but more importantly, it makes me feel like classy English royalty when I use it.  As you do.

Breakfast of champions, pregnancy test of queens

Breakfast of champions, pregnancy test of queens

4.  Fill the pregnancy testing cup.

5.  Dip cheap-o pregnancy strip in cup for 5 seconds.  (The instructions say 3.  I’m an overachiever.)

6.  Watch all the colors move around.  Oh god!  Could it be positive?!

7.  Watch all the colors vanish.  Nope, never mind.

8.  Wander away for the 5 minutes you’re supposed to wait for a result.  It will only change to positive if you don’t look at it.

9.  Nope.

10.  Obsessively check the internet for reasons there might still be a negative test at day X but ultimately positive results, even though my heart feels like I should be able to tell by now.

11.  Repeat.

Closing note regarding perspective.  I realize waiting two weeks to find out whether you’re pregnant is an amazingly common occurrence, and surely at least some of you are laughing, remembering the first go, and then the second, and then the third, and then the thirtieth … I fully acknowledge that in the world of all hardships requiring patience and perseverance, this is somewhere above “waiting for dinner despite being very hungry” and below “saving up for a nice vacation that won’t come for six months.”  I just like sharing.

-E


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Where do babies come from?

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Where do babies come from? Bangkok, of course!

Babies come from Bangkok! We hope.

After a whirlwind of emotions, we set off for Bangkok on Tuesday night.  By the time we boarded, we were both pretty much done with everything – we spent the flight basking in the emotional turmoil of gloriously bad ABC family dramas.  Perfect.

Of course, I break that sweet, television-induced sedation by spending the rest of our evening scouring academic articles for everything known about IUI, trigger shot-to-ovulation timing, and whether 24 hrs vs. 30 hrs vs. 36 hrs matters at all.  Confirmation bias abounds.  Everything will be okay.

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Swanky clinic – image from their brochure, as they reasonably asked we not take pictures.

Bright and early Wednesday, we headed to our clinic, which turned out to be about 300% more swanky than we expected.  We huddled in our padded furniture pod alongside 30+ other families and waited to meet with the doctor. Despite everyone’s disappointment that I had not done things “properly,” the doctor (and her army of ultrasound technicians) seemed reasonably optimistic.

We broke for lunch, I tried not to eat too much street food (so hard!), and reconvened in the afternoon.  We donned our baby-making costumes – sexy sterile crocs and hospital caps and gowns for both of us.

crocs

After prepping very, very slowly, to help delay the insemination time as much as possible, it was time to make some babies.  The doctor brought out our washed, processed, and ready for action sperm, which came in a lovely shade of pink.  I got all situated, and then the team got to work.

I was more than a bit nervous because most experiences I’ve had with doctors poking my insides have been negative.  I researched other folks’ IUI experiences, which, of course, were all over the place.  Usually, the range was from “didn’t notice” to “it was uncomfortable.”  So I shouldn’t worry?  Wrong.  Always beware the use of “uncomfortable” in a medical setting.

In non-medical settings, the phrase “uncomfortable” refers to anything from a chair with insufficient padding to an awkward social situation.  Maybe the over-full feeling you get after too much pizza.  Uncomfortable.  In medical land, “uncomfortable” is everything short of getting your arm cut off or passing a kidney stone.  It’s more like how spraining your wrist is “uncomfortable” or getting a bronchoscopy is “uncomfortable.”  HA.  It is “bad.”  Simply bad.

Despite the “uncomfortable” nature of the procedure, of course, I was a champ.  That is, if by “champ,” you mean that I hyperventilated, experienced an extreme blood pressure drop, and nearly passed out.  I went through those smelling salts like a champ, that’s for sure.  Aced it.

Then it was over.  I rested for an hour with my book, leaning on my right side as I was told to to help direct the little swimmers toward the good egg (still waiting for an academic paper on that) then we headed out for lunch and a relaxing evening.

And now we wait.

-E


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Countdown?

Alternate title: Dr. C and the tournament of the … doctors. 

Rose bright and early for our daily visit to Dr. C  to be probed and photographed (on the inside! eek! it hasn’t gotten old yet).  Dr. C asked if I was “feeling ovulatory today.”  Yes! I have been directing good, pro-ovulation thoughts all day.  It’s hard work, too.

A brief panic when Dr. C adds “Oh, the follicle is collapsing.”  What?  Collapsing?  Buildings collapse. Civilizations collapse.  Tiny follicles do not collapse.  Turns out it was her fun way of saying that it had an oval shape rather than circle shape.  Really?  Word choice.  Please.  My heart.

At the risk of way too much gross detail, the now oval-shaped follicle is big and strong, and it was ready to be injected with magic hormones.  These magic hormones ensure that it is released in a timely fashion, ideally during business hours.  I hear it’s more effective than our other option, pro-ovulation thoughts + prayer (probably not the best strategy for two atheists).

I survive my jabs (like a champ, no less), we celebrate by buying tickets to Thailand for tonight and eating CPK. (Yes, there is California Pizza Kitchen in Singapore. Globalization is magic.)

Then, problems.

IUI planning is a bit of a math equation, but everyone has a different equation and very strong opinions that theirs is the only correct equation.

 

Bangkok clinic’s equation:   20+mm follicle + 11pm shot + 36 hours + IUI = BABY!

Dr C’s equation: 20+mm follicle + 8am shot + 24-48 hours + IUI = BABY!

 

These are different.  See the differences?  We got the 8am shot, so Bangkok clinic is not pleased.  They have so far suggested that we (a) wait 50 hours to do IUI (not in anyone’s equations), or (b) cancel the entire thing.  Checked back with Dr. C and she said that we could (a) wait 24 hours, (b) wait 36 hours, (c) wait 50 hours, and it wouldn’t matter. We tried to get the two parties to duke it out, but with no luck. Apparently they have other patients, or something.

Then there’s Google.  Everyone on Google also has their own equation. 24 hours is the best!  Oh, well you should do two IUIs, one at 12 hours and one at 36.  You should have sex, then have an IUI, then have sex again. You should get your IUI while standing on your head and reading Shakespeare (okay, maybe not exactly that last one). Pages and pages of very specific anecdotes, which are especially unhelpful because not only is every person is different, only some people are going through the same procedure as us, and even fewer are going through the exact same procedure with unknown fertility background and no fertility drugs. So we have no idea.

On the other hand, this feeling of stress and uncertainty is familiar. We’re back at the place where we usually are – having absolutely no clue what is going on, wishing we had taken more biology/anatomy classes in college, and strongly desiring an authoritative pamphlet.  There should be a pamphlet.  (More on the general lack of pamphlets to follow, I promise.)

– E


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Dr. C and the tournament of follicles

On Tuesday, we had our first appointment with our new queer-friendly OB/GYN at Mt. Elizabeth Hospital!

Dr. C is efficient and respectful and doesn’t seem at all bothered that we’re gay. (I don’t think much fazes Dr. C.) When we walked in together and E introduced me as her wife, Dr. C looked at me and asked, “Are you getting pregnant, too?” After I said no, she pretty much lost interest in me, but in a normal I-don’t-have-much-bedside-manner-and-you’re-not-my-concern kind of way that my dad-friends say they’ve also experienced as the non-baby-carrying parents.

Fair enough. As long as I’m allowed to support E when/where she wants my support. I wasn’t sure quite what to do with myself during ultrasound time, though. Dr. C pulled the curtain, so I hung out awkwardly and tried to get a look at the screen.

And creepily took this picture…

IMG_5401Anyway, the result of the appointment was that E’s follicles were still duking it out to see which one is going to be Egg of the Month. We have another appointment Monday to see if a champion has been crowned. If so, and if it’s achieved a certain level of growth, then Dr. C will give E the trigger shot (some kind of hormone cocktail that makes her ovulate according to a predictable schedule) and we’ll be off to Bangkok two days later for an insemination jamboree!

Things are finally coming together!

-H


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Updates on all the things (with a special guest appearance by Radiohead)

We’ve been enjoying answering your questions lately, but we also want to keep you up to speed on the process. So here are some updates!

On the topic of doctors

We have one! A gay-friendly one! In fact, she delivered our (gay) friends’ baby last year, so we know she’s comfortable with our crowd. At a minimum, she can do the follicle ultrasound thingy we need for the insemination, and if we like her, she’ll be E’s pregnancy and delivery doc. And if we don’t, we’ll have nine months to find someone else from our list.

On the topic of insurance

Yup, still have it. There’s a ten-month waiting period from the time we got insurance until the time the insurance starts covering any kind of maternity care or delivery (except complications to the delivery, which are covered anytime). The ten-month countdown started in early July, so an on-time delivery would now be covered even if we got pregnant today, which isn’t in the cards since we’re going to be really busy tonight watching Masters of Sex and eating tacos. (Also, we’d know if we were getting pregnant today because we’d be in Bangkok in a cold, sterile exam room.) The delivery is the main reason we bought the insurance: cost of uninsured delivery – cost of insurance = ~$5000. Maternity care is pretty inexpensive here anyway, so having the insurance cover any portion of that would just be bonus. So… baby-making can commence soon.

On the topic of my visa status

This didn’t really get resolved, but it did get less dire.

I’m still on the three-month tourist visa just as I have been for the last year, coming and going. When we applied for the Long Term Visit Pass, it was on a new passport since my old one was about to expire. On the plus side, the new one isn’t full of Singapore entry and exit stamps. But we were also worried that my failed application might have put a flag on my new passport such that I’d have trouble getting in again.

To find out before we got E pregnant, we went to Thailand for the weekend a few weeks back. On the way out, we discovered that Singapore Immigration doesn’t have my two passports linked. This was a problem because, in order to leave, you have to show that you came, and I didn’t have my old, voided passport on me. I’d assumed they’d be linked, especially since Singapore is a super high-tech country, but I actually had to go to a special desk and spent 15 minutes explaining the situation to an official who wanted my old passport number and the ticket I flew in on. That was a good discovery because it means my previous entries on the old passport won’t be visible electronically to future immigration officials. (Even an attempt to put my new passport through their photo recognition software only brought up the passport of an elderly Chinese man.)

On the way back into Singapore, the official didn’t give my passport a second glance. So it seems that there’s no flag on it, and I’m probably about where I was a year ago, seemingly on my second social visit to Singapore as a tourist.

With that in mind, I’m still applying for jobs, but I can be a little less frantic about it. I’m also going to the States for a research/writing trip for about a month this autumn, and then back to the States again for Christmas, so I will genuinely look like a frequent visitor to Singapore rather than someone who lives here.

Wow. Bureaucracy is boring. I’m sorry. There really wasn’t a way to spice that up.

But here’s a cool upshot of our visa run to Thailand: we got our Open Water Diver SCUBA certifications!

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(Photos by Jay Chance)

 

Yeah, it might seem silly, but getting SCUBA certified was one of our top 5 reasons for moving to Singapore, and we had to do it before E gets pregnant. Apparently, fetuses don’t respond well to intense underwater pressure (…also, this).

That’s all for updates at the moment. We’ll return to questions in the next couple of days.

-H


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Question Box Answers: Names!

We’ve received some excellent questions through the Anonymous Question Box so far. I’ll be honest: some of them are hard. It’s going to take some time to figure out the legal stuff, for example, and it’s something we definitely need to do soon. We promise to let you know as soon as we wrap our heads around it ourselves.

In the meantime, I’d like to answer a pair of questions about names. No, not for our non-existent baby-being – for this blog and for E and me.

1) Where’d you get the name “Baby, Plan Your Birth”?

Whoa! Be so excited! I’m about to introduce you to the coolest baby board books ever. (Okay, tied with Go The F#@k to Sleep.) Lisa Brown’s Baby Be Of Use series is a set of six board books that suggest your baby start pulling his or her weight around the house. Titles include Baby, Do My Banking and Baby, Fix My Car. We thought we’d take it a step further and increase expectations for fetuses, too.

2) What will your child(ren?) call you? Is there a special name for genderqueer parents?

E is thinking “Mom” with an option for “Mama” when the wee one is at its most wee.

I don’t really self-identify as female, so you’re right that Mom/Mum/Mama/Mommy/Mumsy/Motherdearest are not quite right. But neither are the Dad set of monikers. And I’m not into having the kid call me by my first name.

We actually poked around the web awhile ago to see what the other female-bodied genderqueer parents do. We found that a lot of people (usually white people living in English-speaking households) go with “Baba” because it fits into that pattern of repeated baby sounds (e.g., Mama, Dada, Papa) but doesn’t necessarily connote a specific gender since it means “grandmother” in some languages and “father” in others. But those baba=father languages include Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), which is a problem in a country where much of the population speaks Chinese. It also sounds too much like “bubba,” which means “baby” in much of the Anglo-speaking world.

Other people intentionally used words that mean “father” in other languages, but that didn’t click for me. I don’t identify as a father, whether it’s in English or in Māori. We kept looking.

Eventually, we came across a blog post (that I can’t seem to find now) about a polyamorous family that included a man who was not genetically related to the child. His name was Daniel (I think), but the kid couldn’t pronounce that and called him Dabo instead. The name stuck.

My name isn’t Daniel. There is no context for calling me Dabo, but after E teasingly called me Dabo a few times, I started getting really fond of it. It has a pleasing sound. It feels good in my mouth. It means, variously, “bread,” “gold,” and “I give.”

I’m aware that Dabo would be a strange choice. It would probably just confuse people and anger the ones who get pissy when people make up names. But that’s the best we’ve got at the moment.

Or maybe I’ll just reverse-engineer the claim that the baby’s first word was my name by naming myself whatever the child’s first word is. (Fast forward to the kid’s 17th birthday, when he’s still calling me Duckduck.) What do you think? No, seriously. We don’t actually have an answer, and we’re open to suggestions.

-H