I hatched the plan for my sperm heist with my accomplice, James. I really wanted a baby and I had the uterus for it. But the only artificial insemination center in Mississippi had a rule. I needed an infertile husband before they would do me the honor of selling me three minutes of another man’s time.
I only had one chance. It took me five years to scrape together $5000. I just couldn’t give up on my students for a higher-paying job. So, my best friend James agreed to come with me to sign the papers certifying me as a genuine, institutionally-bound heterosexual, then I could be artificially inseminated.
The sterile exam room for making babies was small, harshly white, and smelled like antiseptic. The doctor wore gloves, a hair covering, and a facemask to shield herself. She also had a light strapped to her head like she was a coal miner. The procedure only took a few minutes. It only took a few minutes for my cousin to get pregnant too, but she was in a bathroom stall at a concert, which was much less expensive and questionably less invasive. It certainly involved less paperwork and talking.
I put my hand on my stomach, over my thin paper gown, and tried to decide if I felt any different. I had heard so often that artificial insemination was unnatural, strange, the route to take when all else failed. My partner Sarah wasn’t even allowed to come to the insemination appointment with me. She couldn’t be my wife here. After all, there weren’t female pairs of animals on Noah’s Ark. Unfortunately, I was reminded of this fact by a wooden Ark carving over the sink.
“Are you okay?” asked James.
“I feel weird. It was less artificial than I expected,” I said. “They couldn’t remove squelches or smells.”
My gown rustled uncomfortably but I kept my feet up like the doctor said. I didn’t think the position was scientifically sound, but I’d buy a lot more snake oil than that if it meant I could get pregnant.
“When are you going to tell your family you’re having a baby?” said James.
“When the stork flutters down from heaven and gently delivers it.”
He sighed. “You can’t hide who you are from them forever.”
“I’ll just bring you with me to family functions forever. You’ll be my beard,” I said.
He smiled at me. “That’s your plan?”
“Well, what’s your brilliant plan for keeping your parents happy?”
I blushed. I felt much differently about him than about Sarah. When I saw Sarah for the first time it felt like someone had crushed me with a sack of bricks. I couldn’t breathe or think. I finally tore my gaze away so she wouldn’t think I was having a medical emergency. When she held my hand for the first time, I felt like every part of me was on fire.
I reached out to James and held his hand. He was warm and comfortable.
“Love’s enough for me, if it is for you,” he said. “We’d be great together. I know we would.”
“It’s hardly fair to you, though. It wouldn’t be real,” I said.
Yet I allowed myself to imagine it. Being with James. Having a baby the old-fashioned way, with unlimited free sperm. To everyone else, our new little family would be unquestionably real, forever. Our status wouldn’t be swayed by state laws or public opinion or religious exemptions.
“I can’t believe I’m considering it. I would be failing lesbians everywhere,” I said. “Whatever would Ellen say?”
Right then, Sarah called. I picked up the phone and just hearing her voice melted me into a puddle of guilt and longing. All I could think about was her touch and her hair and how much I loved her.
I met James’ gaze and he just smiled at me. I knew he’d understand. The lure of the comfort and acceptance that came with heterosexuality was strong, and I was tempted to experiment with a man. But I didn’t want to have to fake it.