Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ambivalence, Revisited

I'm busier than I want to be lately, which is not exactly why I didn't write yesterday, though it was half of the two-part excuse I gave myself. The other half was that I didn't want to bore you with what felt like yet another redundant, tedious, repetitive rant on how unsure I am that I really want kids at all. This always happens to me when the possibility of pregnancy exists. And this month, the first of J~ and I actually and officially trying to make that possibility a reality, the doubt-demons are especially ferocious.

What if I'm pregnant now?
I can't help wonder. I don't get excited when I think this - I've learned to keep that heart-opening hopefulness tamped way down. Foreboding, on the other hand, runs rampant in its place. I imagine a snotty, whining, ugly baby, crying and clinging to me while I feel far too alone and overburdened, overweight, unhappy, longing to run away. Good-bye freedom, I find myself thinking in a grim monotone. Good-bye sleep.

But then again, last night, lying in bed in the dark, the what-ifs took an unexpected turn. What if my body actually could support a pregnancy now, but J~'s sperm are no good? I know I've said a million times that I'll be happy either way. J~ and I have said as much to each other on more than several occasions. But that was before I considered the possibility that his body mightn't be up to the task. Whoa Nellie, hold up just a second here!

Okay, so maybe the real reason I didn't want to write about this again is that I didn't want to admit - to you, to myself - just how much I want a child. But here it is in all it's undeniable glory: I want it to happen! Despite loss of sleep and freedom and moments (and I'm sure there will be plenty) when I'll feel like running away. Despite a million precious but boring hours of baths and laundry and chauffering and feeding and not chopping wood or playing tennis or losing myself in my writing, I still want it to happen and I want it to happen now.

Right this minute.


Monday, August 28, 2006

My Very Own Beloved Plan B

I feel I should write about the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, now available over the counter (with some caveats). But today I am preoccupied with my self-absorbed little self, and the Plan B that is my life at the moment.

This afternoon I will pack my stereo, my yoga mat, a last few dishes and kitchen appliances, shampoo, the contents of my refrigerator, and a shopping bag full of gift wrapping supplies, among other sundries that still litter my old apartment. I will slip a letter into my landlord's mailbox stating my intention to vacate the premises, fully and completely, by the end of the month (of September, that is).

I am dismantling the home I made with the man who was my husband, and moving into the home I'm making with the man who will be my second husband.

When I ask myself how I'm feeling about this transition, the answer comes back pure and simple: I'm happy. But it's a strange, almost embarrassing happiness, and now and then, not so pure and simple.

Chopping wood yesterday, I was hit by yet another wave of grief and anger about A~ (the cheating pathetic ex, whom I realize now, on some level, always kept an emergency exit plan in the back of his mind). Luckily I was holding a maul and standing over a very useful outlet for my emotion.

The thing that gets me is that I can't quite shake the need for an emergency exit plan of my own this time around. I don't anticipate needing or wanting out, but when I consider dumping my duplicate drinking glasses and inferior toaster oven, I feel a subtle wave of panic, picturing myself bereft and starting over without even the means for a glass of water and a slice of toast. When J~ says I needn't push past these feelings, or part with my junk ("Put them in boxes," he says, "and store them in the basement. Forever.") I laugh, and I immediately want to cry for thankfulness, and for grief that it took so long to find the person I now consider the love of my life.

Life is too damned short.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Not for Naught

For two days I've been tearing my hair out trying to figure out what's up with my computer that is doesn't have enough memory to crop a single unspectacular photograph to a measly 2090 pixels. And now I understand. Inadvertently, I was trying to crop to a gargantuan 2090 inches.

So I've been backing up files and transferring and cleaning my hard drive for naught, or at least for naught much.

Naught only that, but I was doing this photo thing because I didn't have time or inclination to write for my blog!

Well, now I have less time, so inclination is a moot point. Guess that goes to show me, life has its own agenda sometimes, and maybe its agenda is to remind us of this: You have more time than you think.

Some things, in fact, take care of themselves. See Exhibit A, B, and C above: three shots of my garden, from three nonsensically differing angles, but you get the idea: before, in-between, and now.

Want some vegetables? I've got too many patty-pan squash, and cherry tomatoes. We're practically swimming in them. Somebody, anybody, please!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Roller Coaster

I'm not a thrill-seeker. I don't ride roller coasters, never have. I'm perfectly happy on the ground. And I'm perfectly happy with the life I have right now, with my romance, my work, everything. So when I think about the steep peeks and valleys, the risks and dangers of taking on parenthood with a man I've known for seven months, not to mention all the hard work and sleep deprivation and worry and stress, why do I get such a thrill? Why am I going ahead in pursuit of it?

When I was nineteen, I had a life changing moment eight feet above the ground. I hadn't bothered stabilizing a ladder before climbing. Why take ten minutes fussing when I'll only be up there for five? I thought. I was brazen, cavalier. But when I felt the ladder slip, adrenaline surged through my limbs. Thoughts of paralysis, death, sprained ankles, coursed through my mind. I got back to the ground quick. There and then I made a pact I've lived by ever since: Never again will I gamble anything I'm not willing to lose.

I don't want to lose this happiness. I don't want to lose this life I have right now. So why am I still going ahead with this crazy baby-making scheme?

I'm thinking of that movie, Parenthood, did you ever see it? The story revolves around the Steve Martin character, a supremely stressed out dad whose panic-attack moment during a disastrous school play is scored to the roar and rattle of a roller coaster. Later, his batty old Grandmother says something to him, out of the blue, that has always stuck with me.

Thanks to the wonders of internet research, I can share with you exactly what she said:

"You know, when l was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. It was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together. Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it."

And thanks to the wonders of the internet, I have my answer.

I'm proceeding with this cockamamy baby-making scheme because, as pleasant as my life is now, it's the merry-go-round. I already know that ride. I love it. But it gets old. I want the roller coaster life, with all its ups and downs and all its challenges and breathtaking views. Because I'll put more of myself into it, and I'll get more out of it. Simple as that.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


All that suspense for this most mundane piece of news: Once again, I'm not pregnant. I got that old familiar monthly red flag a few hours after my last post.

But this is why I kept you waiting: My usual Wednesday morning writing time was taken over by a mad dash and a nervous stomach, on my way to interview for an adjunct faculty position at a certain not-so-local University. I thought it a longshot, as I have no graduate degree, but lo and behold, after meeting with both the department head and the assistant dean, I was offered the Friday morning web design class, beginning September first. Chalk it up to right place, right time -- I think they were a teensy bit desperate -- but now my foot's in the door, and maybe next semester, I'll put in an application with the school close to J~'s.

For the first time in my life, I feel legitimate, with a real grown-up career-path job that I actually like, with real grown-up pay. Although freelancing can be lucrative, I've never done it steadily enough to believe each assignment I received wasn't just a stroke of blind luck, and I never liked it enough to want to put real energy into promoting myself as a freelance designer. (Abortion counseling, by the way, does NOT meet the grown-up pay requirement, not even close, although the work was more real and heavy than any other I've ever done.)

I drove home in a heightened state of emotion. After a brief chat with J~ and leaving voicemails for the few others whose numbers I could remember (my cell phone recently broke, taking a slew of contacts down with it), the happy-dance feeling wore off and I started to feel supremely alone with my milestone, and sad.

Just goes to show me, I guess, that every high has its corresponding low.

But it's the in-between moments, I think, that really tell the most about how we're doing. Whether we're coasting or plodding or struggling along on all that plain old level ground, keeping an eye out for the next catchable wave, there is rhythm, there is pleasure in work, there is the potential for camaraderie and creative thought. So onward, life companions! Make of this day something memorable.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Biology Lesson

BBT, for those of you who've never wanted or needed to be intimately tuned-in to a woman's menstrual cycle, refers to basal body temperature, or the body temperature at its base, in other words, first thing in the morning, before getting up to pee, before sitting up, before anything. It seems like an obscure piece of information, but taken regularly, it means a lot. Taken regularly, by the way, if you are trying to conceive, it can also drive you crazy. I'll get into that later.

You see, the menstrual cycle is made of two phases: The first phase, called the follicular phase, begins with bleeding, shedding all that cushy extra uterine lining built up from the previous cycle. It is called follicular, because the follicles of the ovaries are stimulated to prepare eggs. Only one egg will make the cut, but it takes a couple of weeks or so for it to be ready.

The luteal phase begins with a surge of hormone (luteal hormone, that is) which causes not only the egg to be released, but the BBT to rise, and stay risen, until menstruation is on its way. That is, unless fertilization has occurred and menstruation is not on its way, in which case the BBT will rise even more.

I've begun my day by shoving a thermometer in my mouth more times than I care to count. I recommend it, as a get-to-know-your-body exercise, but with a prominently placed WARNING: It's very hard to shake that first thought of the day, whatever it happens to be. And when pregnancy is on your mind, there isn't room for much else. But then again, I'm glad I've done it as much as I have. And I'm glad I've done it lately. This morning might be a whole lot more tension-filled if I couldn't read those BBT-leaves.

You see, I'm not bleeding, and I thought I would be by now.

But my temperature is in steady decline, has been for the past four days, and my period, technically, is not yet late.

Bottom line, for those of you in suspense:

Am I pregnant, dear readers? I think not.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Flight Plan

I don't feel like blogging today. I don't feel like obsessing over the infamous and looming title question. In two days, either I'll start bleeding or I won't. In the meantime, there is life to be lived. There is yoga with J~ (a particularly sweaty session this morning - felt good), there is painting to do (the kitchen and living room are done, downstairs bathroom next), there is wood to be chopped (my maul should arrive this afternoon), a patio footing to be dug (oh boy), a wildly overgrown garden to weed, and a huge design assignment to sink my teeth into. It's enough to be present with this moment without speculating on tomorrow, or the next day, or nine months from now.

J~ and I have begun a new practice (or, in my case, resurrected an old one) of writing lists each night (one for him, one for me) of priority chores for the following day. I like launching into a new day with, if not a flight plan, then at least a map with a few landmarks circled, sights I want to hit before landing in bed at night.

Blogging was one of those landmarks for today.

Now, on to the next.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Women's Work

When I was working as an abortion counselor, every now and then I’d tell a woman struggling with her decision about how apple trees, left to their own devices, overgrow. Too many branches too close together choke off light and air circulation, leaving the entire tree prone to disease. In a particularly fertile season, so much fruit will set that the full-grown weight of it would tear branches. Therefore, the orchard keeper must thin the young fruit, breaking away every other, or every third, hard little undeveloped apple.

My point (and I wrote about this once before, see The Orcharder) was that we women have the awesome responsibility of being both the trunk sustaining our family trees, and the arborist, the arbiter of life. We embody both Mother Nature's mindless yearning to procreate, and the mindful parent's need to moderate, guarding space for rest, for breath, for growth, exercise, and pleasure. For our own health and survival, and that of the entire family, not to mention species, we must make sometimes extremely difficult decisions.

Funny that I should think of this now, as I sit at J~’s kitchen table amid the usual jumble of magazines and keys and dishes, plus the brand new chainsaw I bought and assembled two days ago. A maul (my favorite tool: half axe, half sledgehammer) is on its way via UPS. Just outside the house lie three felled trees, waiting to be transformed into firewood. The chore is mine, in part because I have time, but mostly because I want it. I love hard physical labor. And I love chopping wood.

But there are other, less pleasurable chores on the road to getting this house in shape. The list is sometimes overwhelming, rife with the tedious, delicate, and dirty tasks I abhor. Through no one’s fault, I’m on my own with it more often than I’d like.

Meanwhile, within me, potentially, grows a new limb to a brand new family tree.

“I’m scared,” I told J~ last night, before we fell asleep. As wonderful as he is, after work and his very sweet, but, let’s not kid ourselves, very high-maintenance son, there isn’t much left. Even without a baby, I want more of him than he has to give.

Mothering an infant is an all-consuming task, rife with tedious, delicate, messy responsibilities. I don't doubt that I can do it. I’m strong and I’m capable and whatever I don’t know, I can learn. One thing, however, remains unclear: Is this really what I want?

Monday, August 07, 2006


Here we go again.

For those of you who've never taken a ride on the am-I-am-I-not roller coaster, let me tell you, it's a pretty compelling ride. It's not an obsession strictly of the mind, either. The body keeps nudging you back to pay closer attention. For everyone living outside my body, however, this might be a whole lot of boring speculation, so I'll limit myself to one paragraph. Here goes:

My breasts are sore. Though they are rarely as sore as they are right now, it isn't the first time I've had sore breasts and thought it meant I was pregnant. Then again, looking back at all my monthly charts (which I've been keeping, more or less, since March 2005) this is the earliest I ever reported such a symptom (the fifteenth day of this cycle). Even during my last, ill-fated pregnancy, I didn't report breast tenderness until the nineteenth day.

My period isn't due until Sunday.

This is going to be a long week.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Yes, No, Maybe

There is a book I have from the library, now overdue, still barely opened, entitled Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives. It's a collection of essays from writers (women, mostly) who've faced the "to procreate or not to procreate" question and come up with a triad of answers: yes, no, and maybe. Aside from being too busy to read much of anything lately, I think I haven't tackled this one because I'm a bit discouraged by the cover copy, which implies that I won't find women like me inside, who've waffled on this question for years, who've come to a nervous yes, but whose bodies are potentially saying no.

I listened to an old radio program archived online the other day: Quirks and Quarks, put out by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). The subject was happiness, and the gist of it was this: Mother Nature doesn't care if we're happy, Mother Nature only cares if we procreate. Humans are not programmed to find happiness - happiness would render us far too complacent. We strive for things, we get them, and before we know it, we're itching for something else.

In spite of all this, there are things that actually do contribute to a sense of happiness. The two that stick in my mind are: social relationships and regular exercise. Children? No. In fact, studies show that people are happier when they first marry, and they are happier again when the kids leave the nest, but inbetween, not so much.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Just a few weeks ago, thinking about moving into J~'s house made me a little depressed. Although the place is sweet in (almost) every other way, it's dark and stagnant, somehow. My apartment, although in an ugly, crowded neighborhood, is bright and airy.

Then J~ became determined to get rid of some of the trees encroaching on the house, causing increasingly moldy, mildewy conditions. I was thrilled.

It would be several weeks, we thought, until our chosen contractor could do the work. But, as it happens, we received a last-minute call: he had an opening for Monday. Three days later, voila: Light. Air flow. And a much sunnier, suddenly larger yard.

"It feels like a gift from the gods that this happened before I move in," I told J~. We were strolling downtown, stretching our legs before dinner. I was talking excitedly, anticipating the moment when I'm fully moved in and can begin to focus on my art and writing. I plan to drop a hefty chunk of savings very soon on a good digital camera, a lens or two, lights, and a tripod, so that I might begin documenting my artwork. As we were walking, I noticed a tripod set out on the curb with someone's trash. And in an open trash bag: a brand new art set in a big wooden box.

Talk about gifts from the gods!

Guess I've got my work cut out for me.