Fertile – Like a sack of fresh compost

Our first insemination had taken place in mid-July. It had been a trial run. I was hoping to go on maternity leave around June, when my GCSE and A ‘level students’ exams would be over. So getting pregnant about September time would be ideal. We’d read a lot of books on the topic, some suggesting that it might take a year or more of inseminations before one was successful. Somewhere or other I’d read that each insemination has only a 6% chance of success. But then there were all the variables. I was thirty-four years old and was, like a supermarket on Shrove Tuesday, running rather low on eggs – well apparently, according to statistics. Nevertheless, I was healthy and not overweight; I had been taking pre-pregnancy vitamins for three months; my menstrual cycles were regular and I didn’t smoke. And, as a vet, my partner was both adept with a syringe and also very accustomed to poking around in various orifices. So we reckoned on ‘a few months’… maybe three? What when we got to five or six months? Get the sperm tested? Swap to the back-up uterus and egg supply? (The one obvious advantage a lesbian couple have in a quest for children.) We didn’t have a definite plan.
I’d said there would be no point in taking a pregnancy test until my period was late: it seemed like a waste. That is until two days before my period was due, when I was overcome with an overwhelming desire to wee on a stick. Aged ten, I had awaited Father Christmas with more patience than this. Would our lives be permanently transformed by a tiny, screaming bundle of chaos, or would they not? I weed on the stick, and it seemed they would not.

It had been a trial run and I whilst the statistics were confusing, I knew the chance of it working first time was unlikely. I hadn’t really wanted it to work this month. So the feeling of failure came as a surprise. The knowledge of a lonely, aging egg, taking its chance after thirty-four years of waiting, sighing at the devastating sight of carnage: a million sperm sprawled helplessly across my fallopian tube. Either my body had let me down, or I had let my body down, and we had both let everyone else down. Was I going to have to feel like this every month?

My period came with the school holidays: the start of six weeks off work and two weeks off insemination. Time for a glass of wine…

Two weeks later and we were returning from a short break in Paris for one day before setting off on a five-hour drive to the south coast to visit relatives. The one day back home was day fourteen, and another wee on a stick confirmed I had ovulated. So, between a hasty unpacking, washing, and repacking, we conveniently managed to fit in a visit from our donor (who was setting off the next day to northern France).

We then spent two weeks visiting various relatives around the country, offering a range of imaginative responses as to why I was refusing both alcohol and caffeinated tea. We hadn’t told even close family of the baby project: I didn’t like the idea of their curiosity hanging over us every month like a dead cat, and we knew from coming out four years ago, that they generally coped quite well with surprises. Nevertheless, we were sure they were on to us. After all, the owners of the bed and breakfast at which we’d stayed in Southampton had guessed when I’d asked for my eggs well done.

Ten days passed and it was weeing on stick time again. And again the feeling of failure. If I squinted a bit I could sort of see a hint of a blue line, but there was no doubt that it was negative. We hadn’t expected it to work first time, but now a pattern was emerging and the odds against me seemed to be rising. Next time we were to inseminate, I’d be almost thirty-five.

Four days later and my breasts were feeling tender. “Pre-menstrual,” I told my partner. “You don’t get that do you?”
“Yeah I do…I think I usually do.” But my period should have started today and it was now 11pm. “I think you should wee on a stick.”
I hopped back into bed, with the stick, and we watched as a feint blue line began to form. It wasn’t as bold as the control line, but I didn’t have to squint to see it this time. “What do you think?”

“I think it could be positive. You’d better do another test tomorrow.” For a good night’s sleep I’d recommend a warm, milky drink and a few pages of a good book. I would not recommend a semi-positive pregnancy test. I lay awake for most of the night and wondered what was happening to my body and why exactly we had decided to ambush the next twenty years of our lives. And, in case it wasn’t actually positive, I added in a chapter of wondering whether it would ever work.

The next morning unsurprisingly found me skulking along the medical aisle of the supermarket, like a thirteen-year-old checking out the condoms. I selected a posh one. Digital. Actually flashes up with the word ‘Pregnant’ for those who find judging between shades of blue a little challenging.

And, half an hour later back at home, that’s exactly what it did. Pregnant, it told me. And how odd it sounded to have that word describe me. Pregnant was mother, mummy, grown-up and prams. Not me at all. I took a photograph of the stick, for when the digital display had faded after 24 hours, and I didn’t believe it any more. We’d only tried twice. After thirty-four years of trying not to grow up, of confused sexuality and finding a lesbian identity, my body, apparently still as fertile as a sack of fresh compost, had just got straight on with what it had always been designed to do. I was pregnant.

Winning article: by Lindsey, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom 27th January 2013

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