Retro Post #3: The Pendulum Swing

When you’re depressed, where does it hurt? Everywhere.

Just after our first insemination I fell into a deep, dark hole of depression that would put that little cartoon Cymbalta bean to shame. And just in case you were wondering – yes, this post is going to be strictly about a sad little weekend I experienced a few months back. So you may as well put on an appropriately depressing album like Bright Eyes circa 2000, curl up under your nana’s afghan, and brace yourself for this sad Little Lesbian tale. It’s OK, we’re in this together. And, look, there’s a butterfly at the end of the tunnel.

It shouldn’t surprise you that Meredith and I were talking about babies long before we ever got married, or bought a house, or moved to New England, or even lived without roommates. It shouldn’t surprise you because, as lesbians, if we’re not sorting out our feelings in a three-hour-long post coital sob fest, then we’re probably making untimely plans for our future. Moving in, buying puppies, getting a joint checking account, deciding names for future children: full speed ahead like a goddamn rainbow freight train. It’s just how we do.

I don’t even think Meredith broached the subject of babies originally for any other reason than to get me to quit smoking. Being older and in greater danger of my eggs shriveling up and puttering out, Meredith used this against me and gave me the following ultimatum:

I won’t have kids with someone who smokes.

It was a cruel trick really, my biological clock already starting to deafen in my own ears. But she was a sly minx even at 21, and she knew that I would respond to the threat. In the end, and although I still miss my little ciggies from time to time, it was a fruitful manipulation that has made me healthier and happier in the long run. OK smoking cessation PSA over. All that foolish business from our youth aside, the more serious talk of baby-making logistics has been at the forefront of our relationship for nearly two years. Which is why, when a heavy cloak of despair settled over me one week after insemination, it caught me off-guard and knocked me soundly on my ass.

Those coping mechanisms we develop during childhood to deal with the particularly shitty curve balls in life like having a bad parent, or a broken home, or just trying to navigate being a kid, can be pretty concrete. And maybe if I’d developed a habit of cutting or puking and keeping it in bags in my closet, I’d work a little harder at trying to break those mechanisms as an adult. But my coping is silence, and my mother will tell you it’s been that way my whole life. I literally clam up and find it physically impossible to let words fall out of my mouth. My mom will also probably tell you it took great restraint not to shake me or strangle me during the hours we would spend sitting in complete silence on her bed. I’ve said it several times before: I remember precious little from my life in Michigan, but those quiet moments with my mom are very crystal.

Meredith was a bit jarred by my sudden change in mood, and with good reason. I think it speaks to our relationship, but maybe mostly to her specifically, that in our six years together, she hadn’t ever experienced this sort of draining, unbreakable, silent depression that hit me that weekend. It’s hard to be upset around someone who is always joking, or singing, or imitating TV commercials, or doing interpretive dance. Meredith is almost always up, always goofing, always trying to make me laugh, and that can be rather infectious. My depression often works in reverse. I feel it crash into me like a tidal wave and then, as it settles, I start to sort out why the hell it surged in the first place. I’m actually not entirely certain if that is backwards and will have to consult my very smart doctor friend who studies crazy brains for a living.

OK fine, I’m friends with Lorraine Bracco. Secret’s out.

I spent most of Saturday by myself at my desk in our addition. The room is full of windows, and the afternoon sun that fills the space makes it a really lovely room in our house for reading or writing or sitting in a pile of blackened sadness that makes your limbs feel like weights. At some point during the day I realized Meredith was avoiding me. She waited a long time before asking me: What’s wrong? But I couldn’t tell her what was wrong because I didn’t really know. As the day passed, the look on her face changed to: I’m worried for your sanity, which was probably warranted. I was feeling a little bananas and I’ve always painted my emotions all over my face. Eventually I recognized the insemination, the possibility of being pregnant and all the repercussions attached, as the root cause. But then, the realization made me feel even worse. I wasn’t some irresponsible teenager, dreading the phone call to my boyfriend or anxious about the conversation with my parents to tell them: I slutted it up and might have gotten myself pregnant. I was someone who paid a lot of money to come in contact with sperm, in fact. And someone who should have been thinking: I hope I’m pregnant and not: oh god, what if I’m pregnant? To be honest, I felt a little like the guy who knocks up the girl who then has to wrap his head around the idea that his entire life is about to change irrevocably. Except, I wasn’t that guy, obviously. I was the girl who worked with her wife to read and research and scrimp and save, who sought out the advice of professionals just for the slimmest of chances of getting pregnant.

Yep, me on the right.

But in my head, for those three days, all I could think about was how everything I knew about myself and my life was possibly ending. Or if not ending, then changing immensely for the rest of time. The prospect of being knocked up was daunting. I was no longer bubbly and excited about tiny hands, tiny feet or tiny shoes and tiny vintage caps for my tiny hipster newborn. I was scared shitless. I sat in that room feeling consumed with the idea that maybe we had forged ahead with this crazy baby scheme too quickly. That what Meredith and I had together was so good, adding a baby to the picture would throw off the balance of our dynamic. Just to make myself feel even worse – because what good is a pity party if you’re not throwing out all the stops – I reflected on my carefree 20s. I thought about the months just after Meredith and I started dating, when it was all spontaneous weekend visits, lavish dinners on the town, and drunken nights at college bars. I mean, let it be said, that if I’m going to be depressed about something, it’s not going to be half-assed. I let myself emulsify with that depression.

Later that night we went out in search of dinner. I thought a fresh atmosphere would snap me out of it. The fact that it was St. Patrick’s Day had escaped us until we were smack in the middle of of boisterous drunk people having the time of their lives. Poor planning. By the end of the night, I was face-deep in a triple chocolate cake and apologizing profusely to Meredith for being so broken.

The thing is, it is really easy to get swept up in all the baby-making crazy. It takes a ton of forethought and planning for gals like me and the wife, and I think it’s easy to get lost in all the steps that take you from how-the-hell-do-we-do-this to oh-look-it’s-a-baby! You get so wrapped up in the process, you forget that the end result will hopefully be a screaming, pooping, drooling, pink-faced tiny human. I put all my concentration on the momentum of the upswing and didn’t consider the possibility of a backlash when the pendulum swung back into place. A week or so after that dark time, I got my period. I can’t say I was happy, but I can’t say I was devastated either. What I can say, is that I’m glad I got my mind sorted on that first try, so that from here on out I can resume being the girl who, more than anything, wants to grow her Little Lesbian family. Besides, being depressed is far more exhausting than Googling hipster babies.


  1. Thank you for this post. We’re up for attempt 3 this month, and I feel like I’m treading dread in the middle of “all those steps” to get there. Thanks for reminding me about the real end goal (not that I could really forget, you know, except I kind of do). Best of luck to you both going forward.

    1. Glad you found the content relatable and not all entirely gloomy. Good luck on your #3!

  2. I googled hipster babies.

    Good post, buddy.

    1. I googled murder.

  3. This post was so fantastic. Not because of depression, which sucks, but because it articulates so many of the things that I’m thinking/feeling right now. And we haven’t even started trying yet. See, I’m the one in my relationship obsessed with babies. And I’ve dragged my (sometimes reluctant) partner along for the ride.

    Being the one insisting on babies, I was totally unprepared for the doubts and uncertainties that have cropped up as our initial consultations with the fertility clinics approach. Do I want my life to change? Our life together to change? Maybe my role is supporting other people’s children?

    Confusing and terrifying, but I’m glad not to be alone in the doubt.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing a bit of your own story. I think it perfectly normal to be both baby-crazy and still feel an attachment to the life you already have. Babies can be loud and smelly, but then again, so can wives. Good luck going forward!

  4. Baby-making-crazy puts it really well. Instead of a deep depression, mine manifested by my having major anxiety attacks. Literally, the day our daughter was conceived I almost threw up at brunch, actually did at Target (while my possibly barely pregnant wife looked at baby stuff) and spent the entire morning at work holding onto a bucket praying I could just make it home. This continued through the entire pregnancy.
    Weirdly enough, the moment she was born and the nurse handed her to me, I felt most of the anxiety slip away and I was just overwhelmed by the existence of this squishy little human being. I’ve had no major anxiety attacks since she was born (2 months ago) and the few times I’ve felt them start, my medication actually held them back (which it was not able to do consistently during the pregnancy).
    Maybe I am one of the lucky ones, but I’ll just let you know, it was worth it to push through the emotional roller coaster, at least for me.
    Good luck!

  5. I love your blog! I am a newbie to the blog world, reading and writing them. I came across yours as my partner and I started researching the effects of donor insemination on the children it produces. I was getting freaked out and just googled lesbians using anonymous donors to find you! For the
    Last two days I have been reading and laughing out loud at your posts! Thanks for sharing…I hope to start journalist our process as well in my own blog.

  6. Holy cow! What an insightful and funny and sweet blog! Me and my wife are starting the process in January 2013 and it’s already an emotional roller coaster. So glad to see that our feelings are universal and normal-thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Thanks for sharing your story. I have put you on our Firm’s blogroll because I think a great number of other folks will identify with your journey. Sharing in the joy and frustration helps. We work closely with Fenway and assist clients using AI/IVF to start a family, and it would be an honor if you’d include us in your links.

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