Baby, plan your birth!

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


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Parental Honorifics, or a modest request to honor my gender identity by calling me a nonsense word I made up

Hey all, sorry we’ve been MIA. We’ve both been super busy with travel, baby prep, and trying to get as much work done as possible in our respective careers before there is so much poop everywhere. I won’t promise to fill in the backlog (because I’m writing poems about the pregnancy instead!) except to say that the wee one is healthy, male-bodied, and due June 4.

Actually, the reason I’m writing here today is that I want to share something baby-related in a larger space than a facebook post permits. If you wandered here from facebook, I’m glad you’re reading.

Okay, so this is about what my parental honorific is to be. But I should back up.

If you didn’t know this, I’m genderqueer. What does that mean? It’s a subset of transgender, and it means that a person is not exactly male or female. Maybe somewhere in the middle, or a little of both, or some third thing, or whatever. For me, it means that I don’t self-identify as female or male. Sometimes I joke that my gender is velociraptor. I’m not planning on transitioning from my female body to a male body because that won’t actually line me up right either. Instead, I just kind of dress like a teenage boy but use female pronouns and get on with my life because I don’t really notice my own gender that much.

So, since I don’t identify as female, I also don’t identify as girl, woman, lesbian, butch, wife, etc. But usually, I just let these things slide because I can’t be bothered, and I understand that it’s with love when a friend says, “Hey girl!” and with acceptance when someone in Singapore miraculously calls me my wife’s wife.

Do you see where this is going?

Our child has to call me something. I have to pick that something, and I have to get a reasonable number of people on board to call me that something.

We thought about this for a long time.

We considered variations of Mom, which all felt very wrong. I love moms. I love my mom. I aspire to be as awesome a parent as the many moms I know. But I am not a mom. Our child will not have two moms.

We considered variations of Dad, which felt somehow less wrong, but still not right. I love dads. I love my dad. I probably identify more with stay-at-home-dad culture than anything else, but I’m still not Dad.

We considered Baba, which is the go-to parent name for many butch and genderqueer parents in the US. But it actually means Dad here in Singapore. So that’s not going to work.

We considered culturally appropriating some word for parent in another language. Not only did that feel icky, but I didn’t like any of the choices.

I briefly championed “the AP” or “the aged P,” but my wife says that not everyone likes allusions to minor Dickensian characters when being introduced to their kid’s friend’s parent.

Finally, we picked something completely random. You will laugh. But I hope you will get on board.

Dabo.

It’s not a name, no. It’s a couple of syllables a baby can say. (Da rhymes with ba + bo like in bowtie.) It means “I will give” in Latin. (It also means “bread” in Amharic, and “gold” in Aramaic. For the Trekkies among you, yes, it’s also the Ferengi roulette game.)

Mainly, it feels good. We’ve been using it for a couple of months, and we like it.

For our kid’s teachers, we can be his moms, sure. Teachers have enough to deal with, and I’ll personally be happy if they just remember that we all go together. But for everyone else, we’ll be Mom and Dabo.

There will be some downsides.

He will be the only kid with a Dabo, and if he wants to tell the other kids something else, that’s cool. We’re not trying to make his life more complicated than necessary. (We’re also not going to be in Singapore by the time he starts school, which will help. Maybe. Depending on where in the States we land.)

Not picking one of the recognized Mom/Dad names may also mean that strangers won’t immediately realize I’m his parent. The fact that I often look like a 17-year-old boy may not help. But E is confident that the parental glow will surround me. Perhaps more realistically, we may have to accept that strangers won’t know what’s up right away. But if the people we care about get on the Dabo train, then it doesn’t matter that much what the others do. (Besides, I have around 26 years of experience in having awkward conversations about my gender, my sexual orientation, and what the hell I’m doing in the women’s room.)

Which is why I’m writing this post. To introduce myself, perhaps for the first time (though you may have suspected), as a genderqueer velociraptor who’s going to be a Dabo in a few short months.

I can’t wait.

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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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Where do babies come from?

IMG_3312

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.

safefer-1

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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Question Box Answers: second parent adoption

Here’s a question I’ve been putting off because we don’t really have a good answer for it:

“How will the legalities be handled with E having the baby and H being E’s spouse? (but not recognized as such everywhere) How does adoption work in such circumstances?”

Let’s start with this map, courtesy of wikipedia:

Screenshot 2014-08-28 01.04.47

 

Just before moving to Singapore, E and I lived in Michigan. We’re registered to vote in Michigan and have drivers licenses for Michigan. (For our non-American readers, Michigan is the one that looks like a mitten or, on this map, the red one in the north.) In theory, we could change our state since we don’t really live there anyway, but that’s complicated and usually involves demonstrating that we’ve set up a residence in our new state. Hard to do when, again, we don’t really live there. Realistically, we’re probably stuck with Michigan as our state until we move back to the US and take up residence elsewhere. (This isn’t strictly relevant to today’s topic, but for future reference, we were legally married in Illinois. Michigan does not recognize our marriage.)

So what does this map mean for us?

Assuming the situation is static (but hoping it’s not – c’mon SCOTUS!), it’s actually not clear what would happen in our situation. Michigan does not permit same-sex couples to adopt a child together, but there is no explicit prohibition on one partner adopting a child born to the other partner. Wikipedia calls this “stepparent adoption,” but it’s more commonly known as “second parent adoption,” even though these are technically different: stepparent adoption is for married couples, while second parent adoption is for a couple that isn’t married. But because some states are a little stingy with the marriage rights, a lot of co-parenting couples aren’t legally married, so second parent adoption is the more general term for everyone in that situation. (“Stepparent” also seems kind of misleading to me. I’m not adopting a child that E had as part of a previous relationship. I’m going to be there right from the start, as much a co-parent as E.)

Anyway, at present, Nessel & Kessel Law (no joke, that’s their name), the same firm that was part of Michigan’s DeBoer v. Snyder case back in March, is looking for same-sex Michigan couples who are legally married somewhere to file petitions for second parent adoptions to get the ball rolling on this issue.

As expats living in Asia, we’re obviously not ideal candidates, so we’re basically just waiting to see what happens, either with a Supreme Court ruling or a Michigan ruling. We’re confident that I’ll eventually be able to adopt our child, but it may be a little while.

In the meantime, we’re going to have some legal documents drawn up including a co-parenting agreement and a custody agreement. That way, everyone’s protected even if something bad happened to E or to our relationship. It’s not very romantic, and it’s definitely less joyful than signing my name to the birth certificate, but for the moment, it’s the closest we can have to an adoption.

I will leave you with the advice E was given last year by her former ob-gyn in Ann Arbor, MI: “Make sure you don’t put your girlfriend’s name on any legal paperwork. That way, if you break up, she won’t have any claim to your child.” Classy.

Send us more questions through our anonymous question box.

-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