Friday, March 31, 2006

Progress Report

A~ and I are very close to settled. Finished, except for a few niggling details, with negotiating our financial and physical separation. It feels good, though scary. And surprisingly, even though I have to work hard to explain why what I ask of him financially is fair, there is no hostility. Even so, I choose to let him off the hook in some ways in favor of the much greater value of being done.

I told A~ about my first visit to Family Court the other day. I was braced for a horrible experience, since our recently divorced friend, E~, warned me that it was a horrible place, that he'd rather spend three days at the DMV then three hours there. But the clerk was friendly and informative and I was on my way out in less than ten minutes. As I strode toward the door, divorce papers triumphantly in hand, I was struck by a surprise jolt of happiness. I am so fucking happy to be done with this marriage, I thought. As I recounted my experience to A~, he burst out in appreciative laughter, and so did I. Wait a minute, I found myself thinking as we quieted, It's been only two months. How is it possible that there's no resentment here?

But then again, when I think of A~ in the context of my ticking biological clock, anger and grief rise in me. No one forced me to stay with him, or to believe him when he said he truly wanted to be with me. But those were a lot of years slogging through anguished relationship limbo. If I never have children, I will blame myself, but I will also blame him.

Meanwhile, there is J~, and continued tentative steps into a future together. Yes, relationship limbo it is, yet again, but in such a much much better way. These steps are not heavy. Even the work is a pleasure, and we're so often exactly on the same page. It's like dancing. I don't lose track of that ticking clock, which I'm not saying isn't hard, but I'm okay with it. I'll tell you why:

If J~ and I get too old or if we go our separate ways or if we stay together but rule against baby-making entirely, it will be because we've decide a child would subtract more than it would add. There will be no great tide of anger or grief. A little sadness at never having been a parent, perhaps, but a much more palatable reason for it: I was having too much fun.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Tower

One of my favorite cards in the tarot is The Tower, which, in traditional decks, depicts a graphic scene of death and destruction: a crumbling tower struck by lightening, fires raging within, bodies tumbling head-first from the ruins.

According to, The Tower card "denotes abrupt changes in life." The message being: "The structure upon which you have built your ideals, beliefs, values or pride has become outdated, challenged and consumed by changes in its structure from the foundation on up. The tower you have built around your beliefs has no choice but to fall down, crumbling before your eyes."

What could be more appropriate for me these days?

When I began this blog, I was thirty-five, an abortion counselor, and a wife. I would even go so far as to say that I was happily married. I was also depressed, but didn't realize it. I suppose I should've known I wouldn't stay thirty-five forever, but I didn't realize how quickly and thoroughly everything can change.

I love how this card reminds me that what can seem like tremendous loss can also be a precursor to tremendous gain. The Tower card's message of calamity is couched in hopefulness. It reminds me that, though there is great insecurity in times of such revolutionary upheaval, there is also new and precious freedom to reinvent.

What does this mean for Babies or Not? I know for sure that I'll keep writing, that the blog will go on. There will be some reinvention, some expansion. It will change, necessarily, and, I think, for the better.

I'll write once or maybe even twice more before leaving for Mexico next Monday, and resume again when I return the following week, a new woman. (Or at least a tan and well-rested woman.)

And believe me, people, I'll have plenty to say.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Ride

A week from today at this time, J~ and I will be on a plane, on our way to Mexico, while B~, his son, is on a bus, beginning a week-long field trip with his school. We planned this vacation a month ago, and I keep meaning to mention it to you, dear readers, but more pressing topics have always come to mind.

At this point, nothing seems more pressing than a few days on the beach.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about recent events in the near future, but for now, my thoughts are these:

We are all learning. We all have blind spots. I am no exception.

Everyone deserves to be treated with discretion and respect.

Honesty is, by far, the best policy.

I am grateful for every piece of honest feedback I ever receive, even when the message is difficult to hear.

Life, and everything that it entails, makes for a very wild ride. Sometimes thrilling, sometimes nauseating, and thankfully, not over yet.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Only two things, aside from illness, have ever caused me to lose my appetite for longer than ten minutes: having my heart broken, and falling head over heels in love. Every other emotion on the spectrum of happy-sad-angry-scared seems to take me to the same place: anxiously nibbling on anything not nailed down.

There have been moments in my life where I felt completely out of control. Like the alcoholic, drunk off his ass but still turning to cough medicine in desperate late nights, I concocted disgusting and elaborate midnight treats from baking chocolate and old bread. This, on an already uncomfortably full stomach.

Over the years, I've devoted huge blocks of energy, reams of journal paper and gallons of ink, not to mention tears, to my angst over this issue and all its attendant concerns. It wasn't in vain. Insights have come, and, for the most part, food has slipped back into a more appropriate place in my life. It is fuel. Usually a pleasure, sometimes a temptation, occasionally a comfort I've allowed myself on a limited basis, but not central, not reason for living, and no longer the enemy.

There have been moments, however.

Like when I was a full-time student not too long ago, burning the candle at both ends in my determination to be uber-student. Sometimes the only way to quiet that little voice inside me crying out for a break was to give it chocolate. (No, I did not consider actually taking a break!) Then one day, a professors observed, in front of the entire attentive class, that I had gained weight. "You should exercise," he concluded. Out loud.

"Fuck you," I replied. Not out loud.

When I was done fuming over the insult and crying over the humiliation and analyzing my body in front of the mirror (this took several weeks), I began to face facts. I was still like an alcoholic, I realized, only this time not the desperate all out late-night-binge kind, but like the slow and steady drink-or-two-after-work kind. Just enough of a habit to keep some deep-seated boat-rocking feelings at bay. So I gave my ear to that little voice inside. I took a break, relaxed a little. And the overeating subsided.

That is, until the next big deadline came along and I was back to status quo.

Thanks to a double shot of heartbreak and new romance, there hasn't been a status quo in my life since the beginning of January. My deeply ingrained habit has received a good shake up. But it is creeping back. I see the signs, especially when I'm at work, or home alone with feelings and no one to call, or with deadlines hanging over my head.

But I'm not going back to status quo. I refuse. As much as I like smooth sailing, I know: this boat is not done rocking. There are more changes to come.

These days, I have an appetite for change.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I got my period Saturday, way too soon. I don't know what to make of a twenty day cycle. My usual cycle, lately anyway, is twenty-five or twenty-six days. Ten years ago, it was consistently twenty-nine or thirty.

This change scares me, because I've heard about menopause starting this way, with periods coming closer and closer together, and then further and further apart, until they stop altogether.

The clock is ticking louder than ever.

As much as I wasn't happy to see red so soon, and fantasized I wouldn't see it at all for another nine months, I'm also glad I'm not pregnant yet. J~ and I are doing so well together. Still, we can't rush this. We can't force it. If it takes longer to get solid in our relationship than we have on the clock, well, that settles it. No baby. I have to keep allowing childlessness to be a possibility, keep being open to it, whatever feelings it might conjure.

It definitely brings up some difficult feelings.

On the bright side, this new relationship is getting pretty darn solid. More solid in so many ways than the old one ever was. And without a baby, there is more time to revel in each other.

Not a bad deal.

Friday, March 17, 2006


"Are you there?" J~ asked me on the phone yesterday. I had fallen into a deep and sudden silence, in the midst of humorous and hypothetical prenuptual deliberations. Lately we've been talking about furniture. My bed or yours? (His frame, because it's nicer; my mattress, because it's almost brand new.) Your couch or mine? (Maybe a new one altogether.)

Even as we work through the very practical nitty gritty, we've been carefully noncommittal, keeping a watch out for the moment when the shine of "so much better than the ex" begins to wear thin. But we feel more solid every day, so neither of us really believe that's going to happen.

But still, it might.

There are also moments when the uncertainty makes us want to jump in blind, get pregnant, lock this thing down so that we don't have to face the lonely alternative any longer. Rushing has an unmistakable, unpleasant vibe, so we resist.

For a brief moment on the phone yesterday, for the first time, it didn't feel like rushing, nor did I want to resist. I'm ready, I wanted to say, Let's do this.

The thought brought me up short.

To those of you wondering if my last blog entry meant I'd given up on having children, let me say this: The possibility of throwing caution to the wind very much exists. And if the wind gets strong enough, it might be soon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I'm back to the original question that spawned this blog: Will I, or wont I, ever have a baby? I'm back to that familiar tension between two fears, one: waiting too long for the right time, finding that the opportunity has passed me by, and two: taking the plunge too soon into water too deep.

On my run yesterday I thought about a story Thich Nhat Hanh relates, of the Buddha sitting in the woods with a group of monks. A distraught farmer happens by, in search of his missing cows. "I am the most miserable person on Earth," the farmer says. After the farmer leaves, the Buddha turns to the monks with a smile, saying, "Dear friends, do you know that you are the happiest people on Earth? You have no cows to lose."

Hanh says we should cultivate the art of releasing our cows by looking deeply at the things in life that we are unable to leave behind, things that we may feel are vital to our happiness and survival. These things, in reality, may be traps, obstacles to our truest happiness, because they cause us to suffer.

As I ran yesterday, I worried that a baby could be a trap for me. I certainly wouldn't be able to release that cow. Or perhaps my reluctance itself is the cow, my fear that I would not be able to figure out how to take good care of myself or be part of the larger world, to feel excited and fulfilled while changing diapers and folding laundry.

Worrying over the future rather than enjoying my present, the record-long run I was in the midst of, seemed a trap in its own right.

Running has not, traditionaly, been my thing. I never saw myself as someone who was capable of much in that regard. I remember how triumphant I felt at twenty, when I first ran one single mile without stopping, and here I was at thirty-six, running more than six. Talk about inflexible vision! I considered the possibility that I might run as many as eight miles in the not too distant future. I don't know if I'll ever do it, and in a way, I don't care. Just the thought made me happy.

Then it occurred to me: perhaps I've become too attached to the traditional white picket fence vision of happiness and fulfillment, in which, if I embrace parenthood, I must confine my life's focus to domesticity, or if parenthood doesn't pan out for me, that I must therefore be unhappy. Perhaps that is the cow, that inflexible vision of my own limitations.

This morning I opened Thich Nhat Hanh'sEssential Writings to the story of the Buddha and the cows, and read again, and finally understood the following:

"The key thing is to let go and free yourself..." Hanh says. "Each of us is caught in an idea of happiness. We believe we will be truly happy when certain conditions are fulfilled. We don't realize that this idea is an obstacle to our true happiness. If we can release our idea of happiness, true happiness is born in us right away."

I felt happy reading this.

Good bye cows.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Living Questions

I've been working in the clinic long enough now that some of the clients coming in for abortions are repeat customers that I've counseled in the past. The first time I knew of this, it was because a coworker, who counseled the repeat visitor, mentioned it in passing. At my request, she handed me the patient's file.

I read through the notes I'd made in what seemed like a completely unfamiliar chart, hoping to jog my memory or find some reassurance that I saw this coming and did my best to educate and encourage good thinking about birth control. After all, even then, it wasn't this particular woman's first abortion. In fact, it was her fourth. But there was nothing written to indicate my effort or concern beyond the routine "Jane says she is certain of her decision to terminate her pregnancy and that no one is forcing her to be here today. We discussed the procedure, risks, after-care precautions... She plans to use the pill for birth control..." I paged back to the photocopy of the client's driver's license. I did not remember her smiling grainy black and white face at all. I didn't remember her name. Nothing stood out in the details of her case. The only thing I recognized in that chart was my handwriting.

I handed back the file and fell into a chair, not moving for a full minute, feeling as if gravity had doubled. On some spirit-level, that woman and I are deeply connected. But the fact is, I spent a good half hour or more one-on-one with her, and not only had I not made a dent of impression on her life, as far as I could tell, she hadn't made any impression on mine either.

Until now.

How many women have I counseled similarly, without making any difference? Without being changed at all myself? And how often have I felt, as I realized I've felt on more than one occasion, like I was failing the woman I counseled because I wasn't arming her properly to go out into the big wide wild sexual world and take good, firm, conscious care of herself? And what was I going to do differently from here on out?

That's the thing about cycles in life, sometimes you have to live through the same thing over and over before the cycle itself makes an impression. And even then, when something cuts through the routine and the drab, it only raises questions. The answers may not be forthcoming.

I think of Rainer Marie Rilke, who wrote in 1903, in his book, Letters to a Young Poet:

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Life and Death

While on vacation in New York, I saw old friends, made new friends, had my mind expanded by art and music, ate good food, drank champagne, danced the night away, ran for miles on the Esplanade, took myself out shopping, savored my budding subway-savvy, the teaming miracle of humanity, and walked walked walked. It was a great time, enchanted and wonderful, and I felt high throughout.

I didn't want to leave, didn't want my peak experience to end. But in five days, I'd done just about everything I'd hoped to do, plus more. It was time to get on with the parts of my life which seem so tragically mundane: laundry, bills, work, correspondence, divorce. I actually cried as I drove out of town.

"Everything ends" J~ said to me back when we were bracing ourselves for pain and disappointment in our budding relationship. (See From Noank.) As I wiped away tears on the FDR Drive , he held my virtual hand while I drove, and I repeated his own wise words back to him into the phone. This is the aching beauty of life, I continued, that it is constantly changing, for better or worse. Either way, it's going to end. And the more we enjoy it, the more it hurts.

And if my sudden and excrutiating divorce is any indication, it is also true that the more we feel how much it hurts, the more open we become to the joy.

I plan to go laughing and crying all the way to my grave.

Won't you join me?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Plan B

Plan B is a contraceptive a woman can take up to three days after unprotected sex. Also known as Emergency Contraception, or "The Morning After Pill," it does nothing for you once a pregnancy is established. But if you take it within three days, the sooner the better, chances of averting pregnancy are up to 89%. It's not a drug to use on a regular basis; it's not without side effects. But if you missed a pill, or the patch or condom fell off, or the condom broke, or if you were raped, or under the influence of passion or any other stupidity-inducing chemical, this drug can save you from the hassle and potential anguish of an abortion.

I've been thinking about Plan B a lot the last couple days, because Tuesday, after leaving New York, I went to J~'s, and that night, the condom fell off. Chances are slim that we have anything to worry about, because we hadn't gotten to ejaculation (in fact still haven't, not during intercourse, anyway). But that doesn't mean there's absolutely no risk of pregnancy.

At work last night, during a brief period of down time when I could've approached someone to write me a prescription, I thought about how I'd felt in New York the previous week, so free and alive. I'd cried in the car as I drove out of town, sad to accept that such a peak experience was at its end, but also glad to know that I was sinking deeper into life, living more fully, ready for more deep experiences, whatever they may be. But was I really ready to take the leap into parenting? Did I have enough faith in the solidity of this still shiny-new relationship? "It's not how I want to do this," I had told J~, as we lay in bed, considering the possibility of pregnancy so soon, "I'd rather be ready, I'd rather decide before conception. But I've been clear for a long time that this is something I want to do, and I feel right about us." I took a minute to think, and then said what seemed true in the moment. "I wouldn't have an abortion, and I won't take Plan B."

"It's not how I want to do it either," J~ had replied, "but I don't doubt that we can do it, or that it would be fun. Hard but fun."

On the phone last night, when I once again reviewed my decision not to take Plan B, he told me about imagining learning that I was pregnant, watching himself react, and what he saw was himself embracing the next adventure. The words that rolled through his mind in positive anticipation were these: Here we go!

We both laughed, giddy, when he spoke them out loud.

Of course, chances are truly slim that I'm pregnant now. But the laughter that bubbled up in us, the thrill behind it, changed the meaning of Plan B for me forever.

I recall something my brother D~ said when I was struggling with miscarriages, something so wise I transcribed it into my journal:

Life is not about making plans and following them. It's about what you do when the plans don't work out.

Here's my take on it:

Plan A is what you strive for. Plan B is how you adjust your course when life inevitably throws you curves. Plan A is important. But Plan B is what life's all about.

Here's to Plan B.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hear Me

It's bare bones at the moment, and I'm on my way out to experience more NYC, so for now, allow this blog entry to my opportunity to serenade you from my new webpage at at Here's the link to hear me now!

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Let's talk about it, shall we?

Lately I've been thinking of sexual energy as life-force energy: we're all so magnetically charged to seek it out, to give into it, to procreate, even when we so often know rationally that we don't want to become parents, at least not now, or not with this person. But who are we fooling? That's what sex is about, ultimately, and the life force doesn't really care what we're thinking about the timing of our careers or the bring-home-to-mother worthiness of the person rubbing up on us.

There may be no other act that gets us so directly in touch with the awesome and mysterious drive behind existence. I might even go so far as to say sexual energy is divine. Even my beloved gay friend and brother ex-law, P~, says he feels his sexual energy attaching itself to thoughts about permanence in relationship, about family.

So strange how we equate sex with the devil.

But the same is true of anything that has great potential sway over us: fire, anger, money, love, chocolate cake... When sex or any of these influences are in abundance, good, clear-headed thinking often goes right out the window. Hell, even among abortion counselors who deal with the concrete evidence of this fact every day, who have good information and all kinds of contraceptive supplies at their fingertips, there are still no shortage of crossed-fingers pregnancy tests and hush-hush abortions. I've seen it happen. And I've only been working in this field a few months!

With J~, the sexual current between us can get so powerful I've been known to break into a spontaneous sweat, becoming so light-headed I feel like I might pass out. And that's just from kissing. It's like that for both of us. "Is it because we want to make a baby?" we speculate. There is no true answer, and no true conclusion as to whether or not we're going to take that particular leap, but the mere acknowledgement that we like the idea sends us both into a tizzy.

And still, the answer to A~'s repeated inquiry is not an unqualified yes. "So, have you done it yet?" is the way A~ put it several days ago on the phone.

Well, I admitted, we haven't taken it to its full conclusion yet, if you get my meaning, but yes, we have had sex.

"Was it okay?" A~ asked next.

Was it okay? I struggled to sum it up. No, it was not okay. It was great. It was unbelievable. The truth is, I'm afraid we might explode if we go any further.

In fact, I think I should take a breather here.

Round two, next time.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Yup. It's my birthday.

I woke to it on the 33rd floor, in a room three-plus hours from home, overlooking lower Manhattan and the Hudson River. From my bleary-eyed bed, I watched the orange-pink sunrise reflected in the otherwise periwinkle windows of New Jersey, and though I was alone, or perhaps because I was alone, I was happy.

I'm in my father's apartment while he's out of town with his significant other. (There is no good word for "girlfriend", is there, when the "boyfriend" is eighty?) I've got the place to myself until Tuesday, and plan to milk it for all it's worth: taking myself out shopping for birthday presents today, dinner with friends tonight and tomorrow night, galleries, museums, cafes, dancing Saturday night, brunch with J~ and B~ on Sunday, who are driving in for the day, and to accompany me to my friend S~'s show Sunday evening. (Merciless plug for those of you in New York: the very talented and brilliant S~ will perform in a singer-songwriter series at The Living Room Sunday between 5 and 7 pm.) (Listen to her here.)

As a birthday present to myself, I plan to step away from the computer as soon as possible. I don't want to contemplate another year passed, my ticking biological clock, all the difficult but for-the-better changes in my life this year, or anything else for that matter. Not right now, anyway. I'll leave you with a quote that an old friend jotted down for me fifteen years ago, which to this day, guides my life:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
- Harold Whitman

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Marriage and Babies

A year and a half ago, A~ and I drove up to Vermont to spend a weekend with our old friends, P~ and M~ and their two children, partly because we love and miss them (we've known P~ for over a decade), but also to give A~ a vicarious glimpse into parenting. It had recently become clear to me that I wanted marriage and a child. At the time, he wasn't sure he wanted either, and the prospect of losing me scared him to death.

By the end of that visit, A~ was speculating about the fun aspects of parenthood, even considering that it might be better to have two children rather than an only. He was gearing up to propose marriage, though not quite off the fence yet. What little he said in this regard thrilled me to pieces. I tried not to think about my doubts.

This past Sunday I was back at P~ and M~'s place for the first time since the wedding, since two miscarriages, since A~ exited, stage left, and J~ entered, stage miracle. I wanted to share my old friends with my new love. I also wanted to play with their kids again, to feel the same heart-opening sureness that I could parent, could enjoy parenting, had the capacity for that kind of love.

As much as I was glad to introduce J~, was satisfied with the visit as it stood, I also found myself thinking about the anticipation I had felt in the past year for sharing wedding photos with P~ and M~, for reminiscing about the day they, in part, inspired. It still seems so special in my memory, somehow untarnished by recent events. I'm still proud of my wedding. And it hits me sideways: I still love A~.

What a strange mix of emotion.

At the outset of our late night return south again, J~ and I pulled into a rest area to talk, to think, to kiss, to bond for a minute before the long drive whitewashed our brains and bodies in preparation for sleep. In that street-lit conversation, J~ spoke with such tender conviction, saying not that he thought it "might be fun" to have another child, but that he actually wanted to do it, believed I would be an excellent mother, loved the idea of making a family with me. Instead of saying that he didn't know his own mind, fearing commitment but also fearing the loss of me, he said in no uncertain terms that unless I sprouted a second head in the next few weeks, he couldn't imagine feeling less sure of me as someone he wanted to share his life with, children or not.

It took me some time to let my guard down and actually hear this, to actually believe he wasn't just wishful thinking, intentionally blinding himself to all the flaws A~ so constantly noted in me. "You really don't know how amazing you are, do you?" J~ asked. I don't recall my response. I probably blinked, stared blankly, laughed. How do you answer a question like that?

In all the years with A~, I never allowed myself the dream of someone who unabashedly wanted me, wanted a family with me, someone who could hold up his end of the nest-building, emotional and physical support-giving bargain. It didn't look like something I could realistically expect out of life. Even now, I feel a certain trepidation in being so wide open, in putting my heart down on the page for all to see and judge, in admitting even to myself, as I did in the car that night, under streaky yellow neon, with tears streaming and my own second-head-sprouting disclaimer on the record, that I want this too, and that I believe in J~ also, and will not resist a dream come true.