It’s really just a glorified cervical cap. Insistently unsexy, it’s a decided improvement on the penis which, I suppose, tries. It’s meant for intra-vaginal insemination, which sounds like regular insemination because it is. With specimen cup locked in and plunger in place, semen is deposited at the terminus of the cervix and kept corked for up to six hours, after which it is neatly pulled out of the vaginal canal like a tampon. Its precision and functionality do take a lot of the spontaneity out of an attempt at conception—not to mention some of the fun. Evidently, the female orgasm is as integral to the process as its male counterpart—truly shocking—but “The Stork” isn’t a sex toy. It’s all work and no play, and we are in the business of getting pregnant.
After two years of talking about it, parenthood feels more like an inevitability than a possibility. Like something we are falling into. I wouldn’t say we are careening, though at times it feels as fast. It feels more like diving. Falling with great purpose.
For a large chunk of whatever time it is normal to begin thinking about these things, I was certain I didn’t want to be a parent. As difficult as it was for me to imagine myself as a mom, it was even more difficult to imagine myself as a partner, girlfriend, or wife. My distaste for parenthood was nurtured by my increasing and not wholly unwelcome belief that I would spend my life alone. It was generally understood that to be gay was to be single; maybe “partnered,” but never “parent.” Ellen didn’t even have kids, for goodness’ sake. Then, at twenty-one, I fell in love. Being in love can change a lot of things about a person. For me, it softened me in ways I so desperately needed to be softened. It changed my lens completely. The magic of falling in love cracked open possibility. Gay? Whatever. In love? Nothing is off limits. After getting hooked on a YouTube channel and reading a few illuminating books on the matter, my wife and I decided we were up to the challenge of disrupting the parenting paradigm. Good luck to us.
(To be fair, our desire for parenthood is in itself a disruption. To some, we’re “playing god.” To others, we’re shamelessly conceding defeat to heteronormativity. Honestly, if someone is asking to spend the foreseeable future elbow-deep in feces and vomit, why stop them?)
In a fit of excitement, and with the loopy exhaustion of a visit to a black hole of internet reviews, I bought The Stork for my wife, for Christmas, one year ago. Since then, I’ve also bought: a basal body temperature thermometer, an ovulation tracking kit, six boxes of red raspberry leaf tea, and prenatal vitamins. For our donor, and dear friend: a Fertility Basket, including an at-home sperm test, male fertility vitamins, Ashwagandha tea, a water bottle, essential oil diffuser, and checklist of “good foods and habits for fertility.”
Will this confluence of conventional and natural wisdom procure for us a child? Will we conceive on the first try, or seventh, or at all? One gets the sense that we are somehow trying harder than most couples, though I know that isn’t true. The stakes aren’t any higher, nor are the chances any better. We are trying all the same, just with different tools.
For now, we are two months away from our first go at it—our first walk around the block while our friend ushers his raw genetic material into a cervical cap and leaves it on our kitchen counter; our first time loading the plunger, inserting, and releasing; our first time squealing with delight at the done deed, while I lay level with her midsection and imagine the cellular activity taking place; our first time waiting the perfunctory two weeks, while she feels every cramp and twitch like never before, both of us paying so much more attention to her body than anyone ought to their own; the first pregnancy test, or first disappointing period; and first time waiting two weeks to try it all again. Our donor is confident it will be one-and-done, but he has more confidence in his reproductive abilities than I do in mine. While a majority of the reviews bubble and exclaim about The Stork delivering on the first attempt, I can’t help but temper my expectations. I’m putting my faith—my future—in a non-reusable applicator device, a piece of $59.99 plastic on the shelf at CVS.
What will it mean to help someone conceive? I am filling a space rarely occupied—a third person in the room in which sperm and ovum meet. I will be the vessel through which the seed of life bursts open. I will carry the specimen cup with holy reverence up the stairs of our century-old colonial and prostrate before the life-giving altar, a supine woman on a bed. I will gently guide the applicator through a reverse trip into the birth canal, and I will plunge the petals open and deliver to the mighty cervix an offering, tens of millions of offerings. I will say a blessing as the journey commences and my work as interlocutor concludes: godspeed, boys.
This is the origin story of so many lives, and yet so few, and still entirely its own. Who am I to the life begun here? A middle man? Technically unnecessary? Just a big kid playing god with sperm and egg?—dare I say: a parent?
As the great work begins—in a uterine tube, in the body of a woman I love, maybe while sleeping, or running, or on an airplane—I will be ready for the labor. Used to plunging—feet first, cap erect, and with abandon—I will dive into this new life. If I was good enough to be god for a moment, I’ll be good enough for whatever is next.