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Archive for January, 2009

boom timesPerusing the sperm donor gallery this morning, just for fun, I was hit with an unavoidable observation. There’s a ton more of it than last time I checked. I can only assume there are two forces at work here: every boy on file is coming in to fill their coffers (and his), and the girls aren’t buying. Typically in this business demand exceeds supply. So here we are with yet another astonishing – if predictable – sign of these wide-reaching belt-tightening (or, in this case, unfastening) times.

Understandably some people will put off this choice until the uncertainty simmers down… or up and out, however it goes. I’ve been thinking about choice as it relates to becoming a parent, particularly since a conversation with my health insurance company that dead-ended with the limited imagination of the IRS.

I never put money into a Flexible Spending Account before, so it was a big mystery. I actually downloaded and read and highlighted the 26-page list of what does and doesn’t apply, a huge investment in Stuff I’m Deeply Bored Reading About and Instantly Forget but slog through in order to Act Like A Grown-Up. Band-aids, yes. Lotion, no. Contact solution, yes. Mascara, no. Knee surgery, yes. Cosmetic surgery, no. So the theme is, if it’s related to something wrong, it’s on the list of stuff you can buy with this pre-tax fund.

The reason it’s important to think it through is – and this is critical to why the following conversation occurred – you must designate how much money to put into the account at the start of the year. And if you don’t use it all up, you lose it. So if my $250 visits with a nurse once a month to inseminate are covered, I put in an extra $1000. If not, I don’t.

And as for this list, there is a grey area. Lotion actually yes, if your doctor prescribes it for a special reason. Cosmetic surgery possibly, if connected to something outside your choosing. And that’s where it gets interesting. Choice seems to be an underlying factor in whether something is included or not. You don’t choose to have a headache or cut your finger, so remedies are covered. But you do choose to make yourself look a certain way or have softer skin or have clean hair, so none of that stuff is covered. It’s classified as General Maintenance.

And then this rule fails. Sperm storage is on the list. So is in vitro insemination. And a vasectomy. And an abortion. All choices. I’ll assert that having a child is a choice, just as not having one is. So infertility, while a medical condition, is related to a choice. A huge and important choice, but a choice just the same. Meanwhile, this list does classify pregnancy as a “medical condition” so while maternity clothes are not covered, prenatal health classes are.

So I called the insurance company to ask, is the nurse who’s coming to administer intra-uterine insemination for me next month covered? He sent me to the IRS to look at this list and I realized it’s the same list I’d been reading from my healthcare provider. Written by the IRS. The buck stops here. He read “sperm storage” and “in vitro” and said, “well, it’s coverage for people who aren’t able to get pregnant naturally…” and then he stopped himself.

Not surprisingly, there’s a bias. I’d already realized as I read this that my $75 storage fee for donor sperm doesn’t fit the bill. It’s sperm storage if you’re having a vasectomy and want to store sperm for later use. And in vitro’s covered because you’re having fertility issues.

I’d already explained my situation in a lot of detail, and being a thoughtful listener, this insurance man realized he was wandering into murky territory with a word like “natural”.

He continued, “well, it’s a choice to inseminate this way, isn’t it?” I said, “not if you’re not inclined to have sex with men. Then it’s one of the only ways. And anyway, having a child is a choice.”

Here’s the upshot of what I think about this, and here’s what I said: “The IRS simply hasn’t thought through all the scenarios. Clearly what I have to do in this case is contact the nurse I’ll be working with and ask her if other clients have been able to apply it. And typically what I do is talk with other women in my community and find out what loopholes they’re taking advantage of. But it’s not right that we have to resort to being sneaky. I don’t think the IRS is being intentionally thoughtless here, and I also don’t want to be put in a position of breaking rules simply due to the somewhat unique nature of my situation. Diversity is the norm, not the exception. The rules should be drafted with this in mind.”

He was perplexed, concerned that he couldn’t come up with an answer, and said, “I’m writing a case report. I will call you myself if I come across a solution.”

Meanwhile, I called my nurse and discovered that generally her services are accepted, after an initial letter that she – as a licensed care provider – sends to the health insurance company. So I upped my limit and carried on.

First insemination… next month!

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babydaddy redux

I don’t really know what ‘donor’ means,” I finally got around to saying as I pulled on my gloves. We were standing by his front door, having spent 5 hours catching up about everything else that’s happened in our lives since Halloween.

He replied too quickly, “that’s okay.”

“No, what I mean is, this isn’t about you… I don’t know what the role of a donor looks like, in the flesh. As a real man in a real child’s life – as the actual man who made up half of the kid, and a man I deeply care for. It makes sense in the abstract, and maybe it makes sense for other people, but I wouldn’t know how to explain to a child that you’re not daddy – even though you technically are… or would be… if we did.”

But we aren’t. This was a bookend to a conversation that’s been evolving between us for three years. Maybe longer. We used to adore hunkering down between the plush benches of the oldest gay bar in town – the one without windows, cozy and discrete – and dreaming about what our kid would be like, shyly venturing into unknown territory. A storybook, a Weetzie Bat of a dream we’d share a piece at a time, two unpartnered people passionate about being parents.

In the past year the conversations got less dreamy and more practical – still fun, but with goals. “What’s your view on religion?” he’d ask out of the blue. We’d share a duplex. Would he move to my coast? My child won’t be traveling between parents the way I did, I’d say. That would break my heart. “What would break your heart?” I’d ask. And then I’d go back to my coast and read more and take another step forward on my diy journey…

Last time we caught up, he suggested that he could be a donor. Fatherhood was slipping out of the picture, too many risks, unknowns. He’d stay in his town and contribute from afar, visit when he could, maybe move some day. I was excited for a few hours – and then drew a blank. It didn’t gel with everything else I know of him. He wants to be a dad, plain and simple.

“So dad or uncle, those are pretty much your options, as I see it.” A big smile spread across his face, clarity. He reminded me of my cavalier offer earlier in the night to throw caution to the wind and grab that turkey baster – here I am, on a business trip, away from frozen vials, ovulating. Why let it go to waste? “That would be big.” He grinned, “I’d probably move… we’d be having a kid!”

We hugged, he promised to make a trek out to my coast some day soon, and knowing I have an insemination coming up next month he declared, “Hey, maybe you’ll be pregnant next time I see you!”

So there he is, a perfect dad-to-be… Some day, I hope, with or without me.

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Cramps Carved From The Sub-Basement Of Hell kept me up half the night and I lay there wondering if labor will suck this much. Maybe not, if those magic mommy hormones kick in…

And what am I even talking about? Ever notice how you can conjure an idea like this – some crazy detail about “labor” or “walking on the moon” or “poisoning unfriendly relatives” – and it feels imminent enough that you start to wonder what shoes you should wear for the occasion.

Meanwhile, the other half of the time it feels entirely fictional. Clearly I’m not pregnant and never have been. So there’s a snide gloating part of me that maintains hard-headed proof that it’s not possible. I think I’ve met people like that on planes. They’re usually Republicans and really hard to argue with.

Or maybe I’m actually superstitious. I keep catching myself describing my intentions in a somewhat removed, highly structured hypothetical.

(unless, of course, your cat groks abstract spatial division)

(unless, of course, your cat groks abstract spatial division)

Something like this… “if I put up a baby gate, the cats can get over it to get to the litter box, but a kid won’t be able to.”

A kid.

Riiiiight.

Completely fooled the pregnancy goblins that time!

Well whatever. It beats astrology any day – I’m already bored of people telling me what an intense pain in the ass my Scorpio kid is going to be.

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