When the “gayby boom” came for me

For years, being a lesbian meant I never had to explain why I didn't want children. Not anymore

Topics: Real Families, LGBT, Life stories, Motherhood,

When the "gayby boom" came for me

“Slide further down, right to the edge. Legs apart,” prompted Dr. Lee, the OB/GYN I’d seen annually for years. “You’re going to feel some pressure,” she warned before inserting her gloved fingers. Then, continuing casually, “So, how’s Melinda?”

“Six years in August.” I smiled.

“You know,” she said, peeking around my knees, “I recently helped another lesbian couple have a baby boy. Are you two thinking about kids?”

“Huh?” I propped myself up. I thought we were making small talk. For this, I needed eye contact. “That’s not something we want,” I said, hoping to leave it at that.

“OK, but know there are options,” Dr. Lee probed. “If you and Melinda ever change your minds.”

Sure. I laid back, nodding politely through a tight, clamped smile.

—–

I never wanted to be a mother. As a child, I tucked Barbie into bed — not baby dolls. Cuddling chubby infants didn’t interest me nearly as much as perfecting my woman’s dream home and sticking giant jewels in that hole in her hand. When Melinda and I got together, we saw our shared lack of interest in motherhood as a major compatibility point — on par with sexual orientation and religion. We’d both been coaxed by maternal ex-girlfriends to be the “dads,” but never — until Dr. Lee — had anyone nudged me to be the “mom.” Well, except, of course, for my mom.

Mom used to be incessant about wanting grandbabies. Even after my brother had a couple of boys, she didn’t miss a beat before starting up again with, “I want your grandbabies!”

“Mom, kids aren’t for me,” I said through my 20s.

“You’ll change your mind when your friends are doing it,” Mom insisted. Which was the exact opposite of what she said about peer pressure when I was in high school. Now she used it against me? Fruitlessly. My mind had been made up since 1991 when I baby-sat for the Hill family in Waukesha, Wis. They paid me $4 an hour — a dollar a kid — and left me dinner instructions, bedtime requirements (involving nightie lights, binkies and woobies), and laundry … if I got the chance. Riding home with a $16 check to cash, I knew that’d never be the life for me.



“You’ll change your mind when they’re yours,” Mom promised. “Or meet the right guy.” She continued to say this long after I started dating women, but I didn’t have the heart to correct her until I knew I was serious. The day I announced I was in love with the one-and-only I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, Mom’s face lit up in a full mother-of-the-bride beam. Until I said Melinda’s name and it fell sharply as if I had dropped her white-tiered wedding cake.

“But I want you to get married and have babies! I don’t want you to be homosexual!” she cried.

“Mom,” I reasoned with her, “that wouldn’t happen if I was with a man.”

“You don’t know that! At least there’s a chance!” she said.

For what: An accident?

However legal same-sex marriage might become, motherhood would never be an accident. I actually considered that a major perk to lesbian sex. Once we’d both been tested, boiled our dildos, and washed our hands, we could have all the sloppy, lapping, slapping sex we wanted without an Oops! Melinda and I would never find ourselves parents after sharing a six-pack and pizza. It’d be expensive and complicated with other women involved.

I knew our options. Though it was totally progressive of Dr. Lee to offer assistance, I had been kept oh so apprised by ex-girlfriends as well as other lesbians in my life who were busy family planning.

I could be inseminated at the Cryos International Sperm Bank downtown on Maiden Lane — seriously, 90 Maiden Lane! Its website listed a deep, studly roster of donors, but Melinda’s younger brother had already offered us his. He stacked up well: blond, blue eyes, strong jaw, captain of his high school football team — and bonus, related. Melinda and her brother bore such a strong resemblance to one another that they could’ve passed for fraternal twins; so I had a feeling that even after I carried it, the baby would look like them. My light brown hair, hazel eyes, soft teeth, and bad skin didn’t stand a chance at dominating their Midwestern, farm-stock genes.

At least I hoped. It’d be a relief when strangers cooed, “Who do you look like, mommy or daddy?” that I could answer honestly: Melinda.

Then there was the surrogacy option. If Melinda and I had our hearts set on hiring another woman to carry our child, we’d definitely take a cross-country trip to Growing Generations in Los Angeles. This revolutionary clinic has helped lesbians become moms for over two decades — with packages starting at $50,000. But here in New York, I knew of another opportunistic (aka illegal) option somewhere between surrogacy and adoption: baby buying. An old colleague of mine wrote a check to her pregnant cleaning lady for her fetus. A year later, she wrote another one for the baby brother.

Of course, one of us could legally adopt a child through a legit agency — as a single parent. My friend Rachel adopted two kids through Spence-Chapin. On paper Rachel was a lone LGBT mom, even though everyone knew her domestic partner, Amanda, and their story. They’d been together since the ’80s, suffered in-vitro failure through the ’90s, and joyfully adopted in 2000. In 2003, more New Jersey paperwork officially made them both guardians. Yet, the agency still periodically called Rachel asking if she’d share her experiences with “other single mothers.” The institution of adoption, like marriage, still had some evolving to do.

Even with all of these options, I still didn’t want to be a mother. Why not? And how could I explain it to Mom?

She had wanted me, badly. Back in the early ’70s, endometriosis destroyed most of her reproductive organs, causing doctors to shake their heads and insist on a hysterectomy. After eight years of trying — everything — my older brother was born. A little over a year later I came out bawling. My parents often quipped, “Took almost a decade to get the first one, but only one night to get Amy.” So I tried a joke of my own.

“Mom,” I sighed. “Are you sure you really want to be called the Significant [Grandm]Other?”

I felt her brooding.

I could tell she wanted to yell grown-up versions of what she screamed at me as a kid. Something like, “Go to your room and don’t come down until you can say you’re pregnant!” But instead she asked, “Was it something I did?”

Wrong. I filled in the last word: Was it something I did wrong?

The truth was, at 31, I was thriving. I had a career and ambitions and a really nice home. My happy, committed partnership was more than enough; it was bliss. Melinda and I went on dates. We read. We regularly traveled to destinations that most only dream of going once — on their honeymoons. I didn’t want kids, because I had finally become the woman I had always wanted to be.

—–

“OK,” Dr. Lee said, snapping me back to the doctor’s office by pulling off her rubber gloves. “Your uterus still tilts to the left, but that shouldn’t complicate things if, well … just remember you have options.”

She left me, sitting in rumpled paper covers with lube leaking on my thighs. You’re going to feel some pressure, I mocked, as I wiped myself off. Normally, I bolted out of her office, but that day I sat on the table, crossing and uncrossing my legs.

My mind was set, right? It had been a while since I’d thought about kids and my aging fertility. Melinda and I didn’t talk about it, and Mom had stopped bringing it up. These days, she seemed content to hear about my week instead of suggesting what my next steps should be. I gazed at the wall, until the gestation posters covering it came into sharp focus. My half-second of doubt disappeared. I jumped off the table and into my clothes.

Immediately upon leaving, I called Melinda.

“Dr. Lee just topped me,” I said, looking around for any pregnant women within earshot before telling her the whole story of my straight, Asian gyno trying to make a baby in me, while I was flat on my back with my legs up in stirrups.

“That’s sick,” Melinda said from her office overlooking the Chrysler Building.

“Totally cool of her to offer,” I said.

“Totally,” Melinda said. “But why would we choose that?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I’m not judging,” I said. “Some of my best friends are mothers.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>