Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Magical Thinking

(I've been obsessed with designing patterns lately. See more here.)

I'm no longer sick. Thanks goodness.

My naturopath said I don't have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), just PCO (polycystic ovaries). What is the significance of this distinction? I can't say that I know. I arrived at her office on January 9th with J~ in tow, ready to get the lowdown, but the appointment was railroaded by a misunderstanding.

In a nutshell: Over the phone, while I was sick, she told me to eat only vegetables and broth. I did not understand that she meant this recommendation only until I felt better. She had also mentioned seeing my ultrasound report, and that I had PCOS, which hit me hard. I thought the food guidelines related to this diagnosis. I wanted to ask questions. She assured me we would talk about it at my appointment.

But we never got that far. Instead, after I confessed that I was unsure about what to eat, and feeling hungry and lightheaded, she gave me a brief lecture on how I need to "take responsibility" for my diet, eat every two hours, and have protein at every meal. She then proceeded to write out a food chart for me, right down to the breakast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner-snack detail. Just give me the guidelines, I tried to argue, I don't need a meal plan, but she was convinced this was necessary. In the end, there wasn't time to discuss the ultrasound.

I left that appointment feeling distressed and angry. I've been following a strictly limited diet for half a year now, and it has not been exactly easy. I've been proud of how well I've done. The last thing I want or need is a prescription for every morsel I put into my mouth. Or a doctor-patient relationship that feels like being sent to the principal's office.

I've been in a bit of a tailspin ever since.

It doesn't help that the freezer broke down at my local food co-op and they gave away all the ice cream - just as I arrived at the store.

In her moving memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion tells of how, after her husband's sudden death, she found refuge in the belief that he would one day return — if only she kept the way open for him. She held onto a single pair of his shoes, for instance, not for sentimental reasons, as she allowed others to think, but because he'd need them when he came back.

I can relate.

I've been thinking that if I am a very good girl and do exactly what the doctor tells me to do, if I eat exactly the right foods and get exactly the right amount of rest and exercise, if I do meaningful work and cross a few big projects off my lifetime To Do list, and then, finally, if I am so happy and fulfilled that I stopped trying altogether, I will get to have a baby after all.

I've been thinking this way for five years.

I always assumed, however, that if I still hadn't had a child by age 38, I would throw in the towel. I figured that by then I'd feel sick of all the disappointment, and ready to move on. What a relief it would be to quit wondering half of every month if I might be knocked up. Like right now, for instance - my breasts are uncommonly tender. I keep thinking I might be pregnant, but I need to wait another week before I can know for sure.

I hate the question mark lurking in the back of my mind, and yet I cling to it.

I turn 39 in six weeks.