We’d had it pencilled in the diary for three months. Our first insemination. In fact we hadn’t pencilled it in at all: there was just an ominous unmarked weekend on the calendar; a question mark by Days 11 and 13 on my chart; a pair of affectionate parentheses in my diary, embracing nothing. There’s an element of trying to be discreet – when I jot down the time of my next dental appointment, I don’t want Brenda on the surgery reception to glance across and see…well, what? What would you write? “Man we met on internet coming to masturbate into cup 6.30pm”. Clearly that’s far too convoluted, but the five-syllable “Insemination” doesn’t seem much shorter – “Insem 6.30pm perhaps? At least its obscurity would tick the box for discretion – it sounds like a business meeting with a software company.
It was fortunate I’d been at work during the designated day. Despite occasional surges of excited panic, my mind had been distracted from the evening ahead. My partner, however, had been at home, which was useful in the sense that she was able to review the instructions and put together a checklist, scatter a few candles about in our bedroom for ambience, and place a specimen cup in the spare room (with a bottle of water and a tube of Smarties as light refreshments). Meanwhile without the distraction of work, her brain had been free to muse on our plans. “What are we doing?!” she asked, on my return from work and I felt the bile of panic rise.
There were two things going on here.
1. We return to that ‘man we met on Internet coming to masturbate into cup 6.30pm’, but with the added entry of ‘Insert product of said masturbation into me.’
2. To continue in diary entry style, ‘Sacrifice next 20 years of life to child/ren
At that moment, an hour before our donor was due to arrive, it all felt so rushed. It felt like we had just decided on a whim, to have a baby, and having recently read that your nine months start from the first day of your last period, I realised that I was feasibly already two weeks pregnant, and we hadn’t even done it yet. I had to remind myself that we’d talked about this. For, ominously, nine months, we’d talked about this. We had to rely on the fact that whatever panic we felt in this moment, we’d made a careful, considered decision.
The familiarity of the sound of the doorbell was strangely comforting, amid the chaos of my mind and the impending awkwardness of “when he arrives”. Unfamiliar with the etiquette of receiving a sperm donor, since we’re English, we resorted to the offer of a cup of tea, which, to our relief, was gratefully accepted. Thence an hour of polite conversation before he suggested perhaps it was time he got on with it.
Meanwhile, leaving him in privacy upstairs, the two of us headed down to the kitchen and nervously completed a week’s worth of housework in about fifteen minutes (‘nesting ‘, I’ve decided, is actually just a fevered release of nervous energy encountered by expectant parents).
Anyway, just as we got the iron board folded back up, he popped his head round the door and was ready to get off home; we all knew it was advisable not to leave the stuff lying around cooling down for long. My partner put the sample bottle down her bra for warmth while I prepared to be bedbound for an hour or two, by gathering personal possessions like someone about to be deposited on a desert island for ten years. I arranged myself on the bed, with my hips propped up on a pile of pillows in a position which I very much doubt is listed in the Kama Sutra, and my partner used my tummy as a handy table for her list of instructions. I closed my eyes and waited to feel the squirt of the syringe, but when it happened, I felt nothing. I opened my eyes and we smiled at each other in nervous collusion. After twenty minutes lying on my back, I rolled over and did five minutes on each side, and then on my front, like an obedient sausage turning itself on the grill.
Then, nicely browned on all sides, I watched as my partner snuffed out the candles and, exhausted, we settled down to sleep. Somewhere very nearby, a million or so little beings had just woken up and were starting to have a look around…
Winning article: by Lindsey, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom 2012