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Home Insemination – the things we learn pt. 1

Here are a few things we have learned from our home insemination attempts thus far….

1) More often than not this will be a thoroughly unromantic process. This is ok.

This is not always the case by any means. We have managed to inject (no pun intended) some romance into insemination and the more adept I get with a syringe the better this will get. However, as with many couples trying to conceive (gay or straight), sometimes the process is going to be quick and functional. This is ok. The end result is the main thing and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if it occurs via a business-like insemination while the dinner is cooking or if it is a wonderful romantic evening with candles and music. All that matters is that it creates a baby.

2) Speculums – more trouble than they are worth

I have come to dislike speculums. To be fair, the years of having smear tests haven’t exactly enamoured me towards them but now I truly dislike them. They are fiddly. They make the whole thing a lot more detached and clinical and also, in my experience, contribute to way more spillage that if we don’t use them. I don’t know if it’s a case of angles and getting the syringe in the right place but every time we use a speculum we end up making more of a mess than if we don’t. I appreciate that there is always going to be some leakage (gravity etc) but I’d like to give the wee swimmers as much chance as possible to do their job and it’s disheartening to feel like a lot of the semen has been lost whilst trapped in the speculum. Syringe and extender seems to work much better.

3) There are things you need a lot of and things you can reuse

We ordered a deluxe insemination kit from Pride Angel. In it we got lots and lots of eminently washable and reusable items – syringes, sample pots etc but only three measures of the lubricant which aids conception. Most lubricant is actually quite bad for sperm and if you are going the speculum route you definitely want to be using some. It’s also reasonably tricky to get hold of (special order from our local Boots) so it baffles me as to why we had six syringes and sample pots (seriously, these can be rewashed/sterilised and re-used) and only three vials of lube. My advice – spend money on the lube and re-use the plasticware.

4) Ovulation predictor kits can be inconclusive

Don’t panic. This doesn’t mean you aren’t ovulating. It might just be that the kits are sensitive enough to pick up your hormone levels. If you are charting in times of days since last period and you feel it’s the right time, it probably is. Use the kits by all means but also listen to your body.

5) Towels and cushions are your friends

This is not always a comfortable process. Towels mean if there is any leakage you’re not fretting about the cushion covers and that the clean-up is quick and easy afterwards. Cushions make everything more comfortable, especially in terms of keeping the pelvis tilted to help the swimmers. Extreme angles are uncomfortable and probably not necessary.

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Fun with speculums

I know biomum has been waiting for this post for a while. The first attempt aka what not to do. I say that but it wasn’t that bad. We have agreed with donor to try to inseminate several times a month but so far it has been difficult to pin down the optimum point using ovulation predictor kits – the nice clear digital ones are expensive and the cheap and cheerful (and medically used) ones with the pink lines are difficult. Is that second pink line darker the first or not? Who knows. It all seems like a bit of a dark art.

Having agreed the contract in principle (though not yet signed and witnessed) we realised it was probably, maybe, just about the right time and given we had received a large box of goodies from Pride Angel that needed trying out we thought we’d give it a go. This was amusingly referred to as a dry run. Oh, what a misnomer.

This has also been referred to as the most unromatic night of ‘passion’ that we’ve ever had. Firstly we have instructions. My favourite part of these instructions in terms of the insemination process is that I am to be ‘careful not to place the end of the tip too close to the cervix’ and also to ‘not direct the semen directly at the cervix’. There are several issues with this – the main one being it’s dark and it terms of ‘directing’ once there’s a speculum and a syringe in there you can’t see a damn thing never mind what to aim at or in this case not. I refuse to wear a headtorch (flashbacks to a very awkward and ill-advised coil insertion where my former GP chatted to me about her upcoming caving holiday whilst wearing a headtorch and inserting said coil – really, just, no) and the only other way of seeing what the hell is going on in there would be some kind of elaborate fibre optic camera set up. Again, no.

The use of instructions does tend to kill any semblance of this being a romantic endeavour (though with practice the instruction can be left to one side) and it does feel a bit like a Blue Peter ‘make’ just without the yoghurt pot and washing up liquid bottle. Home insemination – you will need 1 pot of semen, 1 speculum, 1 syringe with optional syringe extender, 1 measure of sperm-friendly lubricant, cushions and an old towel.

Alas we did not know about the towel in advance. For optimal chance of success our instructions advised keeping biomum’s pelvis tilted using cushions for half an hour after insemination. It also helps the person doing the insemination (i.e me) to see what she’s doing during insemination so we dutifully stacked cushions under biomum. Here’s the thing, there is a degree of mess created in this process when things are removed post insemination. I suspect this is worse if you use a speculum and as such there was a least one cushion cover which needed a damn good clean. Old towels people, use ’em.

We did laugh a lot during this first attempt. Not least at me with a syringe in one hand and instructions in the other trying to read what to do next by candlelight – hey at least we tried to make this slightly romantic.

Nothing came of our first attempt in terms of pregnancy – though we have a suspicion that egg and sperm did indeed meet. I’m ever-so-slightly relieved that I don’t have to tell my son or daughter that whilst they were definitely wanted and planned for (it’s not like biomum can accidentally fall on a speculum and a syringe of spunk), they were in fact the ‘dry run’.

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Not the daddy

I know biomum is desperate for me to impart the wisdom (and hilarity) of our first insemination attempt but I actually feel like exploring some of the feelings I have about not only not expecting a child (yet) but being the prospective nonbiomum around pregnant women.

Short version – it sucks. Not only do you have the we’re not yet expecting a child jealousy but as a woman who isn’t going to carry her child it is so, so hard to be around pregnant women.

This is in no way meant to be a negative reflection on my female friends and relatives who are or have been pregnant. Even ones whose conversations have revolved around pregnancy for 9 months. It’s a huge thing in their lives and totally fair that they should want to share it with others. However, as someone wanting a child but not being the one to carry that child it’s hard, really hard. There is the usual jealousy, mixed with being overjoyed for pregnant friend of course, but jealous that it is not you that is about to become a parent. This is even worse around first-time mums as every experience is new and whilst sharing in that is great, a small part of me (sometimes a large part) weeps inside at every shared pregnancy joy.

Add to that the fact that when it is our turn to be expecting a wee one (hopefully soon) I still won’t be experiencing the same things. I won’t be pregnant. I won’t be the father. I will have no genetic or biological link to the child my wife will be carrying. What does that make me in the pregnancy? A birth partner? A helper? I will be a mother without any of the experiences that go into that as the foetus grows. Some people have said it is like being the father – the father doesn’t experience pregnancy first-hand. But unlike a father, I have no input into making the baby – other than inseminating biomum with the aid of syringes and speculums. I know it sounds like I’m hung up on genetics but it feels like it matters, and at the point of preparing to be nonbiomum around pregnant friends, it feels like it really matters.

You could say it is no different to adopting a child but for the most part that is at least a shared experience with your partner. Neither of you go through pregnancy and neither of you are biologically the parent.

It feels isolating to be in the situation of being nonbiomum. biomum has pregnant friends and friends who are biological mothers to share experiences with – this is not her sharing her experiences but having ‘the shared experience’ of being a biological mother. Fathers have other dads and dads-to-be to have that shared experience with. That ‘you can only truly know it if you have lived it’ thing. I don’t know anyone in my situation to share it with. I don’t have anyone who has been through this to give me advice and to bounce thoughts and ideas off. This is why I started this blog – so that anyone coming after me might find some ‘shared experience’ to cling to.

So. Some statements. I am nonbiomum and I am jealous of pregnant women. I find them hard to be around even if I love them dearly. I am scared of being forgotten about during the pregnancy. I don’t yet know what role I have in the coming journey. I am frustrated that this all has to be so hard.