Immaculate conception Shinto style

“It’s twins!”

I looked at the cheerful nurse on the other end of the ultrasound wand inserted in me, then turned to stare at the offending screen.  Two little fetuses floated innocently in black and white.  I glanced at my girlfriend H.  Her eyes were goggled in terror.  As I started giggling hysterically the image on the screen vibrated manically.

It’s hard to describe the terror that seizes your throat when you find out you are pregnant with twins.  Especially when there’s already a 17 month old toddler pinging off your walls at home.

“Then why did you put two embryos back?” people reasonably ask me when I describe the white lines pulsing in front of my eyes and the sweat running down my back.

But it’s also hard to describe trying to get pregnant for 3 years. I thought I had to pull out all the stops to have any chance of getting there again.  I never thought it possible they could BOTH stick around. And then at my initial check-up at the fertility clinic, before what I thought would be months of disgusting IVFness, my doctor casually dropped that we could try taking embryos off ice and putting them in me during a natural cycle if I liked. This week was perfect, she added as an afterthought.  Hikaru was out of the country and circumstances kind of slipped the leash.

Not long afterwards I was joking to my friend that I had gotten myself knocked up while H was in Japan when the explanation for my sudden hyper fertility hit me in the face. Japan! My mind rewound to a drunken night in 2011…


“Let’s go to Chiga’s bar”

H and I, childless and carefree, were weaving happily with our friends Kanna and Nachan through the Shinjuku ni-chome, Tokyo’s gay district. Kanna had just come up with a great idea.

Chiga is the lesbian godfather of the Tokyo gay scene.  A dashing ageless dandy butch she has been running the best lesbian parties and bars in Japan for more than 20 years, surrounded by her ‘Bond Girls’, a coterie of gorgeous femmes in hardly any clothes.


Chiga is the daddy

Kanna led us through back alleys to a dark doorway where a hatch lifted and eyes peered through at us. The door opened to a smoky hole in the wall bar, gorgeous stylish women from around the world propping it up.  Chiga herself came out from behind the bar to hug us.

There’s a Shinto tradition in Japan where you write your wishes for the New Year on a piece of wood or paper and hang it in the temple for the gods.  It was January and Chiga’s bar was her temple so she had left a calligraphy brush and ink and pile of paper on the bar.  All over the walls people had stuck up their hopes and wishes for the year, written in beautiful kanji characters.

H swept up to the bar and knocked out a single character in a flowing hand without a moment’s hesitation.  I followed suit with what looked more like someone’s dodgy home tattoo. I scrawled a word in English underneath to prove I wasn’t illiterate and we stuck them side by side on the wall.


The one on the right, mine, is the character for child, H’s on the left says… twins.


 As the memories of that night flooded back I realised that by the end of that year my wish had come true.  And that by the end of THIS year, so will have H’s. I also remembered how much we longed for children at that time and how we had almost lost hope.  For the first time the fear of twins started to fade into excitement…

But still – and this from an atheist – when you’re in Japan, DON’T mess with the Shinto gods.

It’s twins!

So I’m 13 weeks into my second pregnancy and its twins.  What a double blessing, right?  Time to spread the happy news!

But something’s different this time.  People are having strange reactions to my joyous announcement.   I know that look I’m getting… I’ve seen it before.  Its the ‘you’ve gone too far Maxx’ look. My currency is crashing, in one wave of the ultrasound wand I’ve been changed from alpha lesbian into Octomom.

The first sign of trouble came during the I’ve-got-news coffee with Stella*.  There’s a strange thing that happens between late 30’s-early 40’s women who have last minute kids, and the ones who don’t.  Up until now we’ve travelled along sharing our experiences of lovers, relationships, careers, creativity in a kind of parallel insanity, pushing each other along.  And then suddenly someone jumps off the baby cliff.

It doesn’t matter if they’ve chosen not to have kids and are doing something just as important and awesome with their lives.  Most women are hard-wired to feel something weird when the option to give birth to a child tick tocks down to a slim possibility as 40 passes, and then disappears.  And some women haven’t chosen it, it just happened thanks to flaky partners, overestimated fertility and career fast forward.  Seeing your friends have babies is bittersweet.  And I know this because I didn’t get pregnant until I was 40.

But since then I’ve watched almost all my childless friends go into overdrive when they hit 40 – major recognition, insane jobs, artistic triumph.  There’s a reason men run the world and these girls have evened the score and are getting their share.  And we, the lastminutedotcom mums, are not, at least not for sure, and not now.  Those late nights in bars where the fun and the deal-making happens and the insane hours of the successful career monster can’t compete with the impulse to go home and feed your baby dinner.  Not for most mums.  Not for me.  So the mums and the not-mums circle each other, eyeing off the grass on each other’s side of the fence.  Hoping like hell we made the right choice.

“Stella I’m pregnant.”

“OMG no way congratulations”

“With twins”

Silence.  Stella stares at me.  Her brain is clearly grappling for the right response.  And then relief crosses her face, she’s found it.

“Can you get an abortion?”

As I wandered off from coffee tugging at the waist band of my maternity jeans, already as tight as when i was 5 months pregnant last time, I decided that posting pregnancy news up on Facebook was a bit 2011.

* Names changed to protect the guilty.