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.
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.