Category Archives: Family Member

Project Pomegranate: Midafternoon phone call

In the mechanical room of a hockey rink where I was working on the lighting controls... Thick layers of ice were growing everywhere!

Midafternoon phone call: ZOMG!

No, it wasn’t the provincial electrical authority offering me a job…Though wouldn’t that be funny right now? It’s been over a year since the interview!

It was the local fertility centre:  We got an intake appointment!

I was working when the call came in, and so couldn’t answer. I listened to the message on the sly when my foreman sent me out to the van to get a ladder, and it just asked me to call them back, because they had a date ready.  I spent the remaining couple hours of my work day fretting over this, cuz I’m nothing if not an over-thinker. My big concern was that this appointment was going to be like next week or sometime really soon, and all I could think was: “BUT I’M NOT READY YET!!!”

Luckily, it’s in June. WHEW. June 14th, to be exact… A month before my 31st birthday, which feels like great timing.

The only crappy thing is that they really really want a medical referral for Oats, too. This was a different administrator I spoke with, from the last time, and she was quite firm. Regardless of our intentions for who will be doing what in this adventure in queer babymaking, the centre’s policy is that partnered clients will each have a regular physician’s referral.

It’s such total bullshit, and a huge waste of resources… I already think it’s silly that I needed a referral, considering that I’m not infertile, just queer.  So why should Oats have to get one, when her job is to hold my hand while I get poked and prodded and swabbed and inseminated?  I mean, Oats is going to be very busy in her role as Chief Gestational Support Coordinator, but I’m pretty certain she’ll get to keep her clothes on throughout.

(Er… At the clinic, I mean. I certainly hope she’ll remove them at other junctures…)

I know, I know… It’ll be easy enough for her to simply pop into the same walk-in clinic I did, and see the same doc, and just tell him she’s my partner and needs the same referral. I bet it’d be fun for all of us, him included. It’s more the principle of the thing that’s bothering me… I don’t like the American health care system by any means, but am rather envious of how many options there are for getting pregnant down there. Not only do they have fertility clinics, but there’s also midwives and naturopaths who perform inseminations, and you can even get home delivery from sperm banks and then do it yourself! Ah, how nice that would be.

So anyway, yeah. Halfway through June, we’re meeting the doc at the fertility centre for a getting-to-know-you session, and then they’re immediately whisking me off for a transvaginal ultrasound. Which is probably about as rad as it sounds, and likely the beginning of a time in my life when the number of people who’ve seen my genitalia rapidly increases… Perhaps exponentially.

Update on the grand scheme of things

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How could I choose to move away from this...?

An update on the grand scheme of things: We’re no longer planning on moving to someplace cheaper, and Oats is no longer applying to graduate school for her MFA. I like to think that both of these  goals will again be on the table in the future, but for now neither of them are the focus of our life plan. Instead, we’re staying here and having a baby.

When I write it like that, it makes it sound so easy and tidy, so maybe I’ll rephrase: We’re staying here and trying to make a kid in a biological fashion of some sort, though also thinking that our kid(s) may potentially come to us through other legal means instead, and we’re not certain how any of this will happen, only that we’re committing to working on it.

Oats and I have been discussing this change-in-focus for the past couple months, and our decision was so gradual, that I’ve been forgetting to tell my friends… Until they ask for an update on Oats’ university applications, and I’m all like: “Huh?”

Why the change?  It’s so pragmatic, it hurts.  I mean, I’m excited and eager and all that, but my romantic nature is still off in la-la land while big decisions are being made.  The main points are: We both have secure unionized jobs, we have a 3 bedroom apartment that is owned by our closest friends, and we have the family-style support of said closest friends plus Jag, who is also only a stone’s throw from our door, not to mention a bevy of other excellent friends and chosen family.  To top it off, I’m 30 years old and if my reproductive system is gonna do anything useful, now is a good time to start asking.

Anyway.  Yeah.  So that’s what’s been on my mind lately.  I don’t really have much else to say about it, except all the boring details: Any pregnancy would be carried by me, not Oats; we would use an anonymous donor via a sperm bank, not a known donor; we haven’t yet chosen a bank or donors, or looked into getting a home study for adoption, or consulted a lawyer, or really many of the other little tasks we’re going to take on.  And no, we don’t really have a spare $2000 each month, but are certainly closer to being financially stable than ever before. All we’ve actually *done* is read through the info from the local fertility clinic, a couple books, and researched a little in an attempt to understand the insanity of Health Canada regulations around sperm. (They consider it a drug.  I KID YOU NOT.)

Also, me being me, I’ve become addicted to lurking on a message board where baby-making queers from around the world are chatting about their current tries at conception.  And of course, I’m also charting my basal body temperature every day… Just like I used to years ago, when I had a male, sperm-producing partner, and was trying to avoid pregnancy!  Except back then it was crazy stressful, and now I’m just really stoked about the fun science-experiment-aspect of it.  I recently spat onto a scrap of glass, let it dry, then looked at it through my microscope and was able to predict my upcoming ovulation based on the crystalized patterns of my estrogen-enriched saliva… Science!

The main thing is, we’re off on a bit of an adventure here, different from what we’ve done in the past and from what we’d thought we might be doing.  It’s exciting, and a little crazy, and I guess that’s probably a totally excellent place to be.

It all comes bubbling out

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We got a big dump of snow over night, and as always around here, no one was prepared. No winter tires, no plows, not even any salt or sand to throw on the driveway. Driving was out of the question, but I slid and shuffled out to the bus stop with my tools just before dawn. By the time I got there, my foreman texted to say we were canceling work. So I returned home, and spent the rest of the day trying to resolve some UFOs (“unfinished objects”), mostly sewing-related, and watching the latest season of Saturday Night Live. Kristen Wiig slays me.

My mom was visiting this past weekend, which was wonderful in so many ways… We spent a lot of time just talking, and driving around the city and surrounding countryside to all my favourite places.  Her visit also brought up some unexpected thoughts and feelings. I ended up talking about her for the entirety of my therapy session last night, which totally surprised me. That’s been one of the weirdest things about getting my head shrunk each week: Often, I have no idea what’s on my mind until I’m sitting there, and it all comes bubbling out.

Which is the point, I suppose… I mean, if I had it all planned out, maybe I wouldn’t get as much from the sessions, you know?  Though sometimes I do know what I need to discuss: Case in point, it was pretty obvious to me that I needed to talk about how I avoid maintaining contact with a lot of people from my past, from exes to high school friends.  I didn’t know when exactly it was going to come up, but it was on my “list”… The mental list of personal issues I’ve only just realized I’ve been keeping in my head.

My mother said that she doesn’t read blogs because she doesn’t like all the navel-gazing, all the boring dramatic details about peoples’ neurotic little lives.  I laughed, and explained that that’s pretty much my favourite thing.  Sure, I follow lots of topical blogs (mostly food nerds and sewing peeps), but I’ve got a huge affection for a well-written train-wreck, and often chide myself for not revealing enough, for not writing the sort of posts that’d hold my attention.  Of course, it’s fine, in the grander scheme, because writing here is something I do for myself, and I’m perfectly content with a limited audience.

I think about audience a lot these days.  Not just in blogland, but in living my life. Therapy is making me think about the concept of my “life song”, the melody I’m creating with my existence, the story I tell myself and tell others about myself.  (Yes, my shrink is an excellently earthy-type individual.) Using this to frame my daily choices, I’m feeling less stressed than I have in the past.  It’s easier to call out a coworker on some ugly bullshit comment, and to make time for a quick visit with a friend.  It’s also easier to let go: To forgive myself when I don’t live up to my ideals, and to get rid of items I’d thought I’d need to keep because they once meant something to me.  Today I tossed out a box of photos, letters, and artwork by ex-lovers, ex-friends, and people I’m simply not close to any more.  I didn’t even look at them, and I don’t regret it.  In my story, they’re still there, and I’m okay with that… But in my apartment, that junk was taking up valuable space, which simply wouldn’t do.

And a spot opened up.

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Or rather, the surgeons made one: They decided to fit my stepmom into their schedules for Monday or possibly Tuesday of this upcoming week. She had less than a day’s notice for her last day of working at her job, because the hospital needes to run a lot more tests before the surgery: It caused a total scramble, but she says it’s preferable to the waiting. Also, this way she’ll be avoiding holiday stress, simply by being too drugged and busy recovering to really worry about anything.

My dad said it’s strange to prepare for major surgery when you’re feeling totally fine… Surreal, to try to imagine the pain you’ll be in after it happens. I’m reminded of when Oats had her gallbladder removed, and how she said the post-surgery punched-in-the-gut feeling was still preferable to the gallstone attacks that had her crying in agony. My stepmom has no symptoms, no discomfort, nothing.

The doctors assume it’s cancer. Which is weird to deal with, for my stepmom, because there’s been no diagnosis, no gentle revelation in a private office with an empathetic health professional and a box of tissues. Instead, the discussions have simply and organically morphed, among the many busy surgeons, nurses, and technicians. One minute they was all about a routine colonoscopy, the next they were all about various findings and possible meanings, and eventually the c-word is casually taking up space midway between thoughts on surgery options and recovery times. If it were me, I’d like to think I’d yell, “HOLD UP! SINCE WHEN DO I HAVE CANCER?!!!”

But of course it isn’t me, and my stepmom is a rather reserved person who isn’t exactly given to loud outbursts.

I’m not going to visit. I did look into tickets, but everything between now and the New Year is crazy expensive, and then in January my mother’s coming out here for a week… And also I don’t really want to. Will I regret it? Maybe, but most likely in the way I regret the few misgivings I carry with me: With a healthy dose of resignation, and acceptance that it was the way it was. Or in this case, is the wayt it is. Certainly, if my stepmom gets sick I’ll make an effort to go, and hope to do so anyway in the early summer. For now though, I’m trying to be diligent with phone calls. Also, a special gift… I’m thinking of a subscription to a foodie magazine, one of the more offbeat ones, the kind with articles by hipster chefs who run foodcarts, and instructions for DIY cheesemaking. My stepmom and I are very different when it comes to many things, but a love for culinary writing is something she successfully instilled in me a long time ago.

‘Tis the season for therapy

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Coldframe in the winter rain, rows of tiny lettuces growing

Truth be told, I’m doing much much better with my mental health compared to how I usually feel this time of year.  And maybe that’s why I’ve started going to therapy: Yeah, I’m feeling shitty, but still have enough energy to try to get help.

I’ve gotten counselling in moments of crisis in the past, but this is the first time I’ve sought out some serious head shrinking as part of a general self-care regimen.  Which is scary.  When in crisis, it’s pretty easy for me to go into someone’s office and just wail about whatever specific trauma has me all fucked up.

But going in there when I’m holding it all together?  Tricky, tricky, tricky.

I found my therapist the usual way: Asked a lot of friends.  Fuck, I love the West Coast!  OF COURSE, everyone has several recommendations, because we heart therapy, hardcore.

I chose mine based on the fact that she’s a pagan, and also because she specifically made mention of respecting “all genders” several times throughout her website, which was a relief from the usual “we welcome clients of different sexualities” or whatever, that I read on other websites.  Just a little nod to those of us who don’t subscribe to the gender binary, but enough to make me feel like I could do this.

And I am, I am doing this:  I’ve only had two sessions, and I won’t pretend that it’s radically changed my life, but it’s… Nice.

Insipid, I know, but I’m not feeling terribly eloquent.

Okay, here’s one thing I will tell you about, that came from therapy:  I realized that I’m not that worried about my stepmom, despite her health scare… I mean, she’s getting the best healthcare in the country, and she’s youngish, and they caught the polyp early.  Selfish person that I am, what’s really stressing me about the whole situation is what it’s bringing up about my place in our family.

Of course I want to go visit during the couple months that my stepmom will be recuperating, but then I really don’t, because I don’t want to set a precedent.  I don’t want them to rely on me, to be that sort of daughter who’ll fly in at a moment’s notice and take care of them. Because this is only the beginning, the start of my four parents’ decline in health… And I love them so much, but I also love my life here on the other side of the country.  If I go, it’s giving fuel to the idea that that’s where I belong, that I’m supposed to spend my life with this family-of-origin as opposed to my family-of-choice. (An idea, I might add, that is most vocally supported by my father and my older sister, and more quietly by others in Ontario.)

Le sigh.

How has therapy changed my experience of this revelation?  Well, in the past I’d get really anxious about such things, so full of angst that I’d get insomnia, fretting over my choices late into the night.  Instead, I just feel sad.  There’s a lot of grief in my heart, grief for the things my family and I haven’t shared since I moved away over ten years ago.

And yet I’m so damn confident that I’m where I need to be, that I spent those ten years doing what I needed to do, that I can’t really get all ramped up and stressed about it.  Instead, I kinda just want to cry.  Which is actually a huge improvement, because crying is something I can do, and afterwards I feel better.

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View inside the coldframe: Tiny little lettuces, so far surviving the nightly frosts

6 weeks, or sooner if a spot opens up

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Ladder to a roof, which I've climbed too many times to count.

After a short week of looooooooong shifts, I got today off from work. So far I’ve spent most of it cooking and cleaning: Things that get neglected when I’m working a lot. Okay, to be honest, Oats does most of the cleaning around here, so I really was more organizing. The cooking was much needed though, because we’ve been quickly eating through all the stuff I made and froze in the summer. Local carrots and leeks are crazy cheap this week, so soup it is!

My dad texted me at work on Wednesday, asking me to call. Since I was on lunch, I called right away, and learned that my stepmom needs surgery to have some polyps removed from her colon. We barely had any time to talk and it was so loud where I was… When I got home that night, it was too late to call them again, so instead I spent an hour on the internet researching colon polyps.

You know what’s a bad idea? Consulting Dr. Google when you’re trying not to freak out over a health issue.

Anyway, I called my parents last night, when it was only a little past their bedtime, and got the full story. I’m actually glad I’d done some research, because I knew more than a little about everything my stepmom mentioned. The polyp is too big to be removed via colonoscopy, and though an initial biopsy revealed it to be benign, they could only sample a small portion of it so it’s still a concern. Especially since her grandmother died from colon cancer. So, in 6 weeks, or sooner if a spot opens up, the surgeon will remove my stepmom’s polyp laparoscopicly. It’s looking good, all things considered.

I’m trying very hard to remain calm and logical about this.

My dad’s pretty upset, though… And my older sister is being too blase about it all for my taste. I’ll be talking with my younger sister this evening, and have no idea how she’s coping: This is her mother, my stepmom is I mean, and they’re very close.

Le sigh. We’ve been so lucky, my family, to have been relatively untouched by disease and disaster. I try not to take it for granted.

Funny, that this should happen, just when Oats and I have decided we’re definitely not moving to Ontario anytime soon and are most likely staying here for the next year at least… In part due to how damn trying Oats found it, to be visiting her own family there last week.

In other news, I found a dead mouse in the (empty) washing machine this morning. This did not upset me nearly as much as did the second dead mouse, which I found later amidst my clean laundry. It was in bad shape, and my laundry no longer seemed so… Clean. Fuck, I hate vermin.*

* I had a pet mouse as a kid, who was simply lovely… And a pet rat later on in high school, who was also sweet and friendly.  But since then I have lived in waaaaaay too many rodent-infested shitholes, and I draw a firm line between the sort that are pets and the sort that eat my stuff, shit and piss all over everything, and then die messy deaths in bad places. Ick ick ick.

Probably less alone than I’ve been in years and years

Oats is out of town, visiting our relatives back in Ontario, and I miss her like crazy. I’m resisting the urge to fill every moment of the next 5 days with social events, even as it’s a little compelling… But I used to spend so much time alone, and I want to remember what it feels like. Though, truthfully Oats and I don’t necessarily socialize with each other every day: We share meals and conversations, sure, but are both pretty focused on our own seperate projects and pass-times. It’s good, I mean. I’d go crazy if I had to always be “on”, and I like that we’re each up in our own heads a lot. Still, it feels lonely, without her here. I’m trying to savour the ache of it.

As I write this, of course, I can hear Sum and the Captain talking quietly upstairs in their apartment, and one of their nutty cats bouncing around. I also just got a text from Jag, who is only across the backyard, telling me that Mo and her spent the afternoon together. So, being “alone” is relative. My partner may not be here, but I’m still surrounded by our chosen family, probably less alone than I’ve been in years and years.

It would have been nice if both of us could have gone to see the folks back east, as we have each of the past two autumns.  However, with me only just a couple months into working at a job that pays a living wage (at last!), our budget’s still hella tight.  When it comes right down to it, my parents are more likely to make the trip out to visit us, than are Oats’, so we’ll probably see them in the next several months anyway.  Besides which, her brother and grandparents couldn’t even make it to our wedding last spring, due to health and finances.  So, it made more sense to send Oats on her own.

While in Ontario, Oats is going to Toronto for a day to see each of my sets of parents.  I suppose this is a normal sort of thing, for a daughter-in-law to visit her in-laws, but IT STILL FEELS SO WEIRD.  Not just cuz of the gay thing, though it is funny to think that its only in recent history that Oats’ relationship to my parents really is the boring ol’legal “in-law” (as opposed to outlaw!), but mostly because she’s literally the only person I’ve dated that my family really likes, and I can’t get over it.

Oh sure, they thought a couple of the others were rather nice, but the rest of them apparently have been remembered quite unfavourably, and overall every one of them was declared unsuitable. Sometimes my parents and sisters would wait until after the relationship ended to give me their evaluation. Or not.  Then they’d just make snide remarks, while it was still ongoing.  Thanks, famille.

To be clear, the gender of my dates never seemed to matter:  Instead, it was always their creativity, their social skills, their literary knowledge, their education, their life goals, their handyness… Or total lack thereof.  Yes, snobs! I am from a family of snobs, every single one of us.  Given her quiet nature and working-class background, Oats is a little taken aback, I think, by how much they all like her.  I kinda am too, though it’s also really lovely.  I try to be grateful, to not take it for granted, you know?  But I am also surprised to have a spouse so heartily claimed by my blood kin.

With the consumerist excitement of Oats splurging on a plane ticket, I confess that I did do a little shopping of my own… A congrats-to-myself-cuz-I’m-employed gift!

Heh heh… Okay, this pic is conjuring up Santa, but ignore that for a second!  Because those are new boots on the right, of the Australian variety!  Note my beloved ancient pair on the left, the ones bought secondhand-but-barely-worn in Australia… And how completely sole-less they’d become in the past year.  So, since they cost me $10 AU, and I now have a decent job, the $200 CAN or so for a new pair seemed not as bad as it did 6 months ago.  Especially since I wear them every day, and they go with everything.  Even red leggings and thick cotton socks, or so I thought when taking photos last week… I may now reconsider this.