Three.

When I was pregnant with Bingo, our donor retired.  At 24, he was done donating.  At 31, with no actual, out of the uterus babies on which to base our decision, Sea and I were left trying to decide how many babies we might want and how many vials of the now limited edition sperm it might take to conceive those potential babies.

I don’t remember the exact math that landed us there, but somehow we ended up with four vials of Lefty’s sperm in 2013.  They sat chilling at Clinic 3 until the beginning of 2016 when, after my period began on January 1st, one of those vials was used to conceive Powerball.

The incredible luck of conceiving Powerball on the first try meant that we had three vials left. In the hospital room, minutes after Powerball was born, I declared that we were done with two. Over time, Sea became more resolutely “two and through”.  I felt some feelings as we left babyhood behind, but also knew that I was at capacity: physically, financially, mentally, emotionally.  We were done. But were we done-done?  Done enough to part with those three vials of frozen-in-time ejaculate?

We hung on to them.

In 2018, my relationship with Sea was struggling in a big way. After a conversation where we seriously discussed the possibility of separating, we decided to try couple’s counselling.  “How will we pay for it?” Sea asked.  Without thinking about it, without hesitating, I replied: “We’ll sell the sperm.”

Sea agreed, and we posted to our Facebook group of donor sibling families offering up the sperm. Though nobody replied right away, a few weeks later a new member joined the group and asked if we still had vials to sell.

We did.

After about a million phone calls and e-mails to two fertility clinics, an in-person visit to Clinic 3, and more paperwork than I would have to fill out to transfer a house, a kidney, or an actual baby, one of those vials of sperm was packed up into liquid nitrogen and sent off into the world.  Though I know a little bit about what happened with it, the story of that vial is no longer mine.

Then there were two.

It seemed that nobody wanted those remaining two vials, which could have meant that they ended up flushed.  But a funny thing had happened in the process of selling the sperm: Sea had become less certain that we were done-done.  And when she wavered, I wavered. What if, one of us said, we used those vials?  IUIs, nothing fancy, just a fun game of fertility Russian Roulette.

Our relationship was still struggling.  We were still at capacity, in every way.  It was, in many ways, a terrible idea.  But we also knew that we would never look at a kid that this gamble might conceive with regret.  So, at the beginning of March, a year to the day after the injury that ended my dad’s life, we went back to Clinic 3 for an IUI.

I found out that I was pregnant on the day of the Spring Equinox. It felt meant to be.  But just because something feels a particular way, doesn’t mean it is.  And sometimes dates are just dates.  A second beta revealed that the pregnancy wouldn’t last, and a few days later I began to bleed.

Then there was one.

Our first response was to say that we had tried, that it hadn’t worked, and that we would move on with the two kids that we had.  But as I bled, I turned to Sea and said, “What if we used the last vial?”

The answer to that “what if” is currently rolling around in my uterus: I’m 20 weeks pregnant, with the third baby that I’ve been sure, at many times, we wouldn’t have.

I’m sorry for not sharing the story of those 20 weeks with you here, where I once counted every ultrasound.  The pregnancy has been my rockiest: including loss and risk, as well as the embodied knowledge that loss can happen, that my others just didn’t have. It has felt dangerous to name, even to the people closest to me.  It has also included moments of joy, plenty of humour at the hands of a new fertility doctor who managed to be unintentionally offensive at every turn, and growing excitement that maybe, just maybe, this story could end with three.

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Five.

Last weekend, ten five year olds tumbled into my house for a rainbow-unicorn-shooting-star party. There was dancing, laughter, a tear or two, and- of course- cake.  Bingo leaned over and blew out five candles in a single breath.  And just like that, the kid who made me a parent turned five.

I didn’t write about four at all, because the sum total of a one year old and a four year old was twenty-four hours of exhaustion per day.  I’m sorry now that I didn’t because, when I read back about three, there is such a huge leap between then and now, here and there, that I don’t know what I can write that will traverse that distance.

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Clothes are hard.

Clothes are hard.  They’re hard when you’re gender non-conforming.  They’re hard when you’re fat.  They’re hard when you’re eight months pregnant.  They’re hard when you’re required to be a little bit fancy.  They’re especially hard when you’re gender non-conforming, fat, eight months pregnant, and invited to a wedding where you have to be a little bit fancy.

But, thanks to a trip to the thrift store, some creative belt coverage, and a long tie to hide the gaps between buttons, I managed to dress myself with only a few small wardrobe crises.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my pants off and not put them back on for at least another month.

 

 

Daddy.

Bingo knows what “daddy” means.

She gleefully points to her friends’ fathers and shouts to them, “Daddy!”

Any guy carrying a kid on his shoulders: “Daddy!”

The stock photography guy on the air conditioner box (lying relaxed and, presumably, cool with his stock photography wife and kid): “Daddy!”

She’s even taken two of her friend’s fathers on as her own.  When either of them is around, it isn’t Henry’s daddy or Olivia’s daddy* that we’re talking about: it’s just daddy.  “Daddy push swing!  Silly daddy!”  Inevitably, this has led to uncomfortable public announcements such as, “Daddy at Olivia’s house.  Daddy go home.  Bye bye daddy!”

I have to admit: the unrestrained** enthusiasm for daddies made me a little nervous when it first came up.  “Oh no!”, I thought to myself.  “Bingo knows that she doesn’t have a daddy, and wants one!  What if she resents us?  What if she goes on a desperate and misguided search for father figures later in life?  What if the anti-gay conservative populace hears about this?!”

Then I paused (for the split second that parenting allows any pause to last) and remembered to breathe.

Do you know what else Bingo really wants?  She wants a dog.  She loves Henry’s dogs as much as she loves Henry’s daddy.  The highlight of her short life so far has been getting to hold one of those dog’s leashes on a short walk down the street.  She waves to every dog on the street.  She tells anybody who will listen that Grandma is bringing her a dog for her birthday.

But Grandma is not getting Bingo a dog, unless Grandma wants to be disowned.  Our house is a dog-free house, and will likely remain that way.  Bingo will grow up with a bunch of cats and whatever creatures might live in our walls, but no other furry friends.  And Bingo will be okay.

So, if anybody tells me that Bingo needs a daddy (Bingo included), I’ll explain that all all families are different.  That different people and things fit into our hearts and homes: moms, dads, cats, dogs, budgies, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, friends, entire villages.  I’ll explain that not having any of those things doesn’t mean that you’re missing them.  And I’ll explain that at the end of the day the only daddy in our house is still going to be the guy on the air conditioning box.

*Not her friends actual names, but the names of pretty much every two year old we meet.

**Really though, what is restrained when it comes to toddler?