This is the box. A similar box has arrived at our doorstep on two other occasions, but this is the box that arrived today. It contains, frozen into stillness, some 122.5 million sperm, around 95% of which were motile upon freezing. These numbers come from two pieces of paper that were included among the box’s contents. I have no way of verifying them, but I trust that they are accurate. In terms of fertility, these are very, very good numbers. They are dream numbers.
And so this box might contain, among the many, a single sperm that will provide half of the genetic material for our first child. This is a difficult concept to grasp. I think it would be so even if we were trying to conceive via more traditional means – if the sperm belonged to my partner, if it didn’t have to be donated and frozen and purchased and injected into my cervix – as I think the reality of conception itself is so incredible as to seem more akin to magic than to science. But if that is miraculous, this seems almost fantastical, that possibility residing inside of a cryotank, which sits inside of a box, which sits, right now, on my living room floor.
The sense of wonder that all of this produces in me is well timed. J and I have been feeling pretty down lately about our chances of ever receiving our full share of civil liberties here in the United States. Even when rights come (as they have this week: the striking down of Florida’s gay parenting ban, the federal ruling to reinstate a lesbian flight nurse who was discharged from the Air Force for her sexuality), they are accompanied by setbacks (the senate’s rejection of a bill that would overthrow DADT), and backlashes (an indoctrinated far right that becomes increasingly hostile with each small LGBT victory). I imagined that more of this would have changed by the time J and I had children. I didn’t expect to be filled with this much fear about what they will face. It’s easy to get wrapped up in these feelings of frustration.
Still, here we are, reading and writing on a Saturday morning in our little cottage with our sweet, sleepy cats and a box of frozen sperm on the floor beside us. And though it took some time to see the beauty of this way of doing things – to get over the narrative that we should be able to do this ourselves, that it shouldn’t cost so much, that it shouldn’t require so much work and trust and surrendering – this is a beautiful place to be. There are people out there, a vocal and ignorant and hateful group of people – who harbor terrible feelings about families like us. But there are people who fought for our right to be here, too, and I hate how easy it is to forget their courage. People who came out before us, generations and generations before us, and lost their families, and their friends, and their jobs, and sometimes their lives. People who fought for us to have basic rights: the right not to be fired or denied housing. People who fought for us our rights to marry in Massachusetts (which we did) or a handful of other states that grant such equality. Activists and parents and lawyers and judges and brave, brave men and women who are willing to risk everything for another small step towards equality. I’m glad that this looks this way for us. I’m proud of our hard-earned box of frozen sperm. And if the success of my family is a little fuck you to the people who would deny me the right to have one, then I guess I’m proud of that, too.
I’m also, finally (and this has been a long road), happy about the communal reality of our attempts to conceive. At first I hated how many people had to be involved, hated that it couldn’t just be J and me, in our bedroom, alone. Now I think it’s lovely. It took a lot of surrendering, but it was worth it. In addition for the people who have waged (and continue to wage) war on bigotry to get us here, we also rely upon: a man generous enough to give up any chance of knowing his genetic offspring, a sperm bank devoted to helping women build families, and where no policies exist to distinguish us from more “traditional” couples, the FedEx lady who carefully carries our “biological shipper” to our doorstep (and seems only vaguely uncomfortable to do so), a nurse practitioner who lets J participate in nearly every step of the insemination without even being asked, and a circle of family and friends who have given us exactly the support we’ve needed, at the exact moment we’ve needed it. Many of these people are strangers. I love this odd community that has become so necessary to me. I love how many participants there are in our journey. And I love the vulnerable beauty of surrendering to my need of them.