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Double Pregnant, a true love story about family and fate

When life gets weird, and you happen to be a writer, it’s time to get non-fiction.

On April 10, Mount Royal University Associate Professor of English Natalie Meisner, PhD, released her first work of non-fiction, Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family to a receptive audience at the University’s faculty centre.

Meisner is already a well-known playwright and actor who has both defined and defied her own roles. She began writing for the stage because the characters she was being handed as a female ingénue were, well, somewhat less than emotionally intriguing.

“I can’t cry because my husband didn’t like the curtains,” Meisner says in reference to the traditional Neil Simon-esque type production.

“The stakes are just not high enough for me.”

Her plays run the gamut from symbolic observations on the western gaze in Burning In to a look at the international organ trade in Pink Sugar

Some of the events that resulted in Double Pregnant are featured in her newest work for the stage, Speed Dating for Sperm Donors.

Want to have a baby with me?

Written more like a novel than your standard work of non-fiction, what makes Double Pregnant a rare treat is that every bit of it is true. Meisner tells her own story through an active and witty narrative woven through with moments of reflection, quick and clever dialogue, and a sense of humour so disarmingly honest the people in the story immediately seem familiar and life’s bitter and beautiful ironies never so tangible and clear.

It begins when Meisner’s wife Viviën proposes that they have children together. Although deliriously happy with their decision, they wonder how on earth they are going to go about it. They both agree they want the father to be more than mere donor, they would like him to be a part of the child’s life. Meisner comes up with an initial candidate that seems the obvious choice. One of their best friends and the perfect potential sperm-donor … funny, smart and a world-traveller who, she believes, doesn’t want kids of his own.

Associate Professor of English Natalie Meisner, PhD, recently released her first work of non-fiction, Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family.

“I sort of had him in my pocket, I thought,” she says. “But when I popped the question he said ‘no.’”

Thinking it to be a rather small favour to ask for something so meaningful to Meisner and her wife, and feeling a bit, “hurt in a weird way that you don’t think you could be,” the couple realizes that perhaps their request is a more complicated question than they originally expected.

Meisner writes in her book, “Aha moment. Too bad I didn’t have it then. If I’d had it then, I might not have felt like the only strike-out at some bizarre reproductive Sadie Hawkins dance.”

Meisner and Viviën see that bringing friends into the situation could get very complicated. The solution seems to be a stranger, someone neither of them knows, and the relationship should be not a co-parenting situation, but a more like that of an uncle or extra adult that could become important or special.

After putting out ads on websites such as coparents.com and diy-baby.com, the search for Mr. Stranger began.

“We started calling it speed-dating for sperm donors,” says Meisner, and she begins to feel as though she is cruising every guy she sees.

The process takes the couple through a number of strange, hilarious situations, into an immediately intimate terrain with, yes, a stranger.

“You’re asking them to give you body fluids and go get STD testing,” Meisner says. “Throwing yourself into the lives of strangers is something we don’t do.”

Lives intersect…and create

Laughter and perspective, love and luck are themes running throughout Double Pregnant. It takes the couple two years to find their donor, with several ups and downs and moments of frustration. And once he is found and the paperwork completed, it is time to get pregnant.

“Because we were a little bit older, what the fertility doctor did is terrified us,” she says. “They basically say that your eggs are getting old, which makes you feel like a chicken.”

They’re told that if they really want to have children, they should improve their odds by both trying to get pregnant at the same time. The doctor informs them that they will be lucky if one of them is successful.

And … now they have two boys. They are three and almost three, and they are growing up together as “best buddies,” Meisner says.

The book has been incredibly well-received thus far. All copies sold out at the launch, and the subject matter is revealing itself to be something people want to know about. In fact, Meisner thinks this book could be one of her most successful works to date.

“When we started on this process I wanted to read about it and there was almost nothing,” she says.

“There was no book that I could find about two women going through this process and especially not at the same time. There is definitely a need for it.”

Reviewer Beth Everest, PhD, English professor at MRU, writes that Double Pregnant is, “A passionate and engaging account of a lesbian couple’s struggle to have a family. The book is not about sexuality or gender identity — it’s about love.”

More information about Meisner and her repertoire can also be found on her personal website.

Double Pregnant is available through Fernwood Publishers, and Chapters. Meisner will also be appearing for a book launch and reading at The Owl's Nest Book Store on Tuesday, May 13, from 7pm to 8pm. The event is hosted by the Calgary Dyke March and the LEZ Get Together Meet Up Group in Calgary, and is being billed DIY Baby. Everyone is welcome!

Double Pregnant has been featured by various local media outlets including the Calgary Herald's Swerve magazine, CBC Radio and CBC TV.

Michelle Bodnar — May 1, 2014