Baby, plan your birth!

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


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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.

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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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Bull semen!

In Singapore, a doctor may not inseminate anyone but a married woman in a stable, heterosexual relationship. Even then, the sperm must be her husband’s or, if and only if they have demonstrated fertility problems, a donor’s.

We do not qualify. For so many reasons. This left two options: Inseminate E in another country, or play doctor in our apartment in Singapore. We began with the responsible option.

Enter, Google. One of the first hits in our search for fertility clinics in Asia was ivfmiraclebaby.com, a site that sometimes works. We exchanged a few incomprehensible emails with their international representative, and then dismissed them and moved on. This was March.

We spent weeks trawling through sites, ringing up clinics, and researching the laws of every country in Asia, and later, every country within ten hours of Singapore by plane. We made spreadsheets. We despaired. I will save you the details and summarize: there is no country in Asia (except Thailand – more on that in a minute) that will allow its doctors to inseminate a same-sex couple. We might have had more luck in one or two countries if we’d represented E as a single woman, but we hadn’t done that, and I don’t regret that decision. In farther flung countries (Australia, New Zealand, several countries in Europe), it is the importation of anonymous sperm that is not permitted.

In the midst of this search, we began to reconsider home insemination. We’d need to get the sperm shipped to Singapore, through Customs, and to our apartment. Singapore’s Customs website lists all kinds of prospective shipments with their regulations and duties. We learned that we can import bull semen, sheep semen, and goat semen. Human semen is not mentioned.

I emailed Singapore’s Customs Authority and Health Sciences Authority. The HSA wrote back first: “The importation of donor human sperm is not under the purview of Health Sciences Authority.”

Customs disagreed: “The import of human sperm under HS Heading 3001, may be regulated by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).” They added: “In addition, please be informed that, in general, all goods (including human sperm) imported into Singapore are subject to Goods and Services Tax (GST) levied at 7% of the CIF value (Cost, Insurance and Freight).

In short, no one seemed to know. It’s possible that no one’s tried this before. We abandoned this angle.

Thailand’s laws were more amenable to both the importation of anonymous sperm and the insemination of same-sex couples. Individual hospitals, however, we less eager to help. We were turned away from one after another.

In April, we revisited ivfmiraclebaby.com, which has its clinic in Bangkok, then the site of some relatively small-scale anti-government protests. We arranged a phone conversation with the international representative and made a list of questions. As it turned out, they were more than willing to import our baby-making juice and inseminate E, and the only barrier was language.

Shortly after, we transferred a few thousand dollars into a Thai bank account and crossed our fingers that we hadn’t fallen for some novel variation of the Nigerian prince scam. A few weeks later, we got an email saying that our sperm had arrived at the clinic in Thailand. A month after that, the political unrest became a full-fledged military coup. Martial law was imposed. Foreign embassies discouraged their citizens from traveling to Thailand. We stayed put.

The political situation in Thailand has since been resolved for now. The clinic still stands and is operating normally. If we can find a doctor here to do the ultrasounds required to line up the timing of insemination, we’ll fly to Bangkok in the next few months, meet the staff of ivfmiraclebaby.com, and start making this miracle baby.

-H