Sister Sledge Reprised
“Hey, will you knock me up?”
“Ah go on, knock me up.”
“If you want my jism that badly I suggest you steal one of my used Kleenex and salvage what you can.”
My young dyke friend and I round a corner and encounter a young het couple engaged in what I – after fifteen years in Canada – still think of as snogging. Snogging, like knickers, is one of the few words from the old country to which I still cling. We cut short our banter as we continue to walk our dogs in London’s off-leash park.
She later asks me to think about it, I say I will.
Entering my early forties and having been out to myself as gay since fourteen I have had plenty of opportunity to consider parenting. As a teenager, it was with deep regret that I contemplated life with no children of my own in it. As I grew older, I became somewhat more sophisticated and aware of diverse families. I hoped that after establishing a stable relationship – say five years – my partner and I could adopt. This was a good theory and I spent my twenties and thirties looking for that elusive partner. After several false starts (eighteen months seemed to be the hump I couldn’t quite get past) I resigned myself to a life where I would not get to be a Dad. I grieved this reality in private. Living in a community where “breeders” were openly derided, I did not experience a lot of support for my closeted desire.
I think about it. I imagine a child. The child puts its hand in mine. It calls me Daddy. I start to cry. I don’t think about it anymore.
And then I find myself in another of those, “Yes, this is my life!” moments. Wanking in front of cheesy porn, veterinary syringe in hand, conscious of my friend – waiting – in the next room. Her comments on my speed are not helpful as I stumble in holding the (air bubble removed) aforementioned syringe in one hand and pulling up my shorts with the other to preserve what is left of my rapidly fading dignity. “Cowboys?” She asks. “Oh shut up!” I reply. “Um, want some tea?” Rack my brains as I may, I cannot remember what Miss Manners recommends in terms of the appropriate etiquette for this situation. But you can’t go wrong with tea, my heritage informs me.
2:00 am. Who the hell is calling at this time? I pick-up simultaneously with the machine that records the following:
Stunned, “I think I’m pregnant…”
Bolder, “I think I’m pregnant, I took a test.”
Disbelief turning to joyousness, “That’s great. Ohmigod. Um, do you want to come over?”
Laughing and dancing, “Then come on over!”
Now come the weeks of concern – don’t attach too deeply, miscarriage rates are high. Get excited at three months. How can I not attach?
Teasing midwives is a whole new experience. They have not worked with this queer configuration before. I insist on putting the fun back in fundus. My efforts are met with benign tolerance. But Honey, this is how I take things seriously!
And without the absurd humour of the utterly bizarre reality I am co-creating I am left with the voice of fear and dread. “What the hell are you doing?” I don’t know. “This isn’t a game, this is a life.” I know. “How dare you do this? How dare you arbitrarily co-create life under these circumstances?” I don’t know how to answer that.
I need to know the gender. My catastrophic expectations soar higher when I imagine (project) my boy-child’s shame about a fag dad: his rejection. My daughter (so my gremlins tell me) conversely will delight in outings to musical theatre in Toronto… until the rug is pulled and I am informed I will probably have a baby butch, aghast at my passionate disinterest in all things sporty and mechanical.
Time (as it tends to do) moves onward. The Doppler – my child’s heartbeat. The ultrasound – she has my feet. I move into a more uncomfortably intimate relationship with my friend than I had anticipated. She has demands of me – I feel controlled. I pull away, she feels abandoned.
Labour. We’re out for brunch twelve days past due date: mild contractions start. Forty unbelievably exhausting hours later we agree on the midwife’s advice to go to hospital – the baby is not progressing, still only six cm dilation. I am in total awe of the birthing process… the stamina of my friend as she experiences excruciating pain for which I do not have (and hope never to have) a frame of reference.
This is what mother’s experience? This is what has always and everywhere been true? And we men talk about our courage as we wage our wars and deride women?
A part of me is vaguely aware it is Halloween. I look between my friend’s legs. Oddly calm I notice there is a rat lying on her thigh. I decide not to tell her and assume the midwives will deal with it but I am a bit surprised to see such a thing in a hospital room. Funny-looking rat. In the middle of its body there appears to be an ear. What? Oh, that’s my daughter’s head.
The surreal interlude breaks as I hear the midwives talking about one more push – as they manipulate further with their Minnie Mouse gloves. Then she slides out, alien and blue. I scream – the sound of air spontaneously rushing from my lungs in response to a new Soul entering the planet. We meet not for the first time.
She is put on my former friend’s belly (now and forever my co-parent and Mother to my child) and they share their first endorphin enriched communion. This moment is messy, bloody, smelly and sacred. Everything has changed.
Now come more months of waiting. Waiting for my baby to acknowledge me. To see me. To be aware of more than her need to sleep and nurse.
Eventually that hand does slip into mine and I hear a little voice call me Daddy.
I don’t cry.
~ Derek Scott, Ontario