Sunday, February 25, 2007

Following Up

Looking back to the end of last week's entry, I see a grocery list of things I've been meaning to write about. So here goes:

My Appointments with the Therapist:

I've been twice to see this woman, and probably will not go back. Not that she wasn't knowledgeable and wise, not that she didn't have a perfect voice for late-night soft-rock radio (think: earthy, new-age Delilah), but because I could barely squeeze in a word edgewise between all the smooth-voiced wisdom and knowledge. And frankly, I had a hard time taking her seriously. The truth is, I really did get something out of seeing her, and she did have some very useful things to say, which is why I went back for a second dose. I may go again at some point, after exploring other venues for my psychological development, but it won't be anytime soon.

More on step-mothering, and How I Felt on Parent-Teacher Conference Night:

There is a trick to being a happy and effective step-parent, when what you really want is to be a full-fledged parent, starting from scratch. Well, actually, there are many tricks, many challenges, but the one at the top of the list for me is this: making room for the full spectrum of feelings that such a situation evokes. For instance, when J~ came home from parent-teacher conferences, his heart brimming with how much his son's teachers liked his son, it hit me. "You've been a parent for almost thirteen years," I said, struck by all the commitment, the work, the thoughtfulness that such a role requires. I felt glad for him, proud of him, for being such a solid father, and told him as much. And then I burst into tears. It took me a minute to figure out that my sadness was due to the possibility that I will never have a child of my own, let alone the affirming experience of having my child loved and respected in the world.

It never ceases to amaze me how effective a few tears can be for clearing the mind. The more I allow myself to express whatever feeling comes up about what I don't have, the more present I can be to enjoy what I do.

My night out with the girls.

I won't go too much into this one except to say: we didn't do much beyond talking and nursing drinks and eating garlic fries, but I had fun. I stayed up way too late - I'm still recovering. But it feels good to be finding a circle of friends in and around my new home.

Abortion and the Not-So-Simple Choice Between Surgical and Medical (meaning with pills) Procedures:

I won't go too far into this one either. It never felt like the right time to write about this subject, and it certainly doesn't feel right now either, but in case this is of use to a woman planning to have an abortion but agonizing over what method to choose, I want to get this down: It really is a matter of personal preference.

Also, let me be clear: a medical abortion and "the morning after pill" are different things. "The morning after pill" is really a high-dose birth control pill whichprevents a pregnancy from starting after unprotected sex. Medical abortion is basically an induced miscarriage.

In my brief time as an abortion counselor, I spoke to many women (other abortion counselors, that is) who were very clear about which method they would choose, and let me tell you, there is no consensus. Some are more comfortable with the surgery, which is quicker, not necessarily more painful, and involves having a doctor present. Some were more comfortable with aborting medically. In fact, one woman who'd actually experienced both methods, and found medical abortion to be more physically difficult, still insisted she would choose it over surgery if ever she had to choose again, for the privacy it affords, and because it is less invasive.

As far as safety goes, both are reputedly safe, though of course, nothing is foolproof. Actually, I don't know what the state of affairs is these days about medical abortion. A year ago, as I was moving away from that line of work, there was a scare after several deaths due to infections following medical abortions. This had happened once before in California, but this time it was happening elsewhere. It was unclear what was to blame for these deaths, though an obscure soil bacteria seemed to be involved. Here's some more information, if you're interested.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mind Sweeping

I have become a devotee of David Allen, organization guru to the stars. Okay, not the stars, more like shiny sparkly high-power CEOs. I heard an interview with him on New Dimensions maybe two years ago, where he talked about what it's like to constantly feel like there's something important you should be doing but you're not sure what, or which of too many whats. He talked about focus, about how you either feel terrible about all the things you're not doing, or perfect about the one thing you are doing, and that in order to engage in the present, you must be clear and resolved about everything else. He says that a crisis is actually, in a way, less stressful than when there isn't a crisis, because, for instance, when you blow a tire on the highway, all the appointments and projects and decisions that need making go away. Suddenly, you can focus because there is clearly only one thing to focus on.

This was exactly what I needed to understand. At the time, I was still married to A~, between miscarriages, and torn between looking for full-time work (which I didn't want but felt guilty for not having, since A~ was working non-stop), writing (which I desperately DID want, but felt too depressed and too guilty to really apply my full attention), cleaning the kitchen (to please A~, since this was the one actual complaint about me that he could articulate), researching infertility (because supposedly this was the ultimate goal: to have a baby), and attending to my own mental and physical health. Strangely, this last one was also more for A~ than for myself. He seemed so put off by my unhappiness, and I was hyper-aware that he was not all that into me. No wonder I was miserable and unable to focus.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, Allen advocates what he calls "mind sweeping," or getting all the "open loops" or incompletions in your life out of your head and onto paper, a separate sheet for each thought, without any attempt to group things or prioritize until you've swept out every cobweb and corner. I tried it at the time, but got overwhelmed by the growing tower of paper. I ended up throwing out the whole stack.

I'm trying it again now. Though the tower is twice as high, it feels good this time.

I've been going through the pages one at a time, entering items in my calendar, filing others for future reference. Every reminder for a phone call, for instance, goes into a file I keep directly underneath my phone, so that when I sit down at my desk I can browse through and make the appropriate calls. Random errands go in the "errands" file, grouped with paperclips according to where I have to go. Now, when I leave the house, I peruse that file to see if I can complete any of those tasks along the way. There is another file for chores to do online, others for books I want to read, things I want to do someday/maybe, and another for topics I've been meaning to discuss with J~.

We cuddled up on the couch the other night with that file, and it was actually fun. We made small but important progress, some of which was mundane (like, When is your appointment with the urologist?) some not so simple (Would we rather see a Reproductive Endocrinologist?) and some light-hearted (Let's try on the ice skates I bought you! and What do we want to do next weekend, when B~ is away with his Mom?) All in all, it feels great to be getting all this underbrush cleared away.

In the file of possible upcoming blog topics: A report about my appointment with the therapist (I've been twice now). More on step-mothering, and how I felt on parent-teacher conference night. My night out with the girls. And, this may seem off topic for the direction the blog has taken, but I've been meaning to write about abortion again, and the not-so-simple choice between surgical and medical (meaning with a pill) procedures. Oh, yes, and sending out a thank you to all of you who've left supportive comments over the past weeks. I don't always make time to say so, but I do truly appreciate it. And so does J~.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Calling All Fortune Tellers!

Internet research is a wonderful, horrible thing. For instance, I now understand that semen coagulates, in other words, gets thick, shortly after ejaculation. More or less a half hour later, it becomes liquid again. Biologically speaking, the value of this seems to be to keep the sperm from falling out when you (or I) jump up after sex to go pee. But the important thing is that the sperm are all bound up in the semen until liquification (or liquifaction, if you really want to sound sciencey). Until then, the sperm don't enter the cervical fluid, and they won't be swimming upstream like the eager little salmon/tadpoles we all imagine them to be.

It's wonderful to know all that. But it's also horrible. Because what does it mean that my husband's semen liquification was "INCOMPLETE"? (I'm not adding the caps here. This is how it's written on the test.) Is that another way of saying the little buggers are trapped? Is that what that means?

Herein lies the issue: You can type a yes or no question into a search engine as many times as you want and you'll never get a straight answer.

"Dear Google... Am I gonna win the lottery?"

"Dear Amy... No."

Like that. Never gonna happen.

Okay, the Internet can't predict the future. Bad example.

Here's a better one: According to the World Health Organization, sperm are graded for motility thusly: "Grade A sperm are those that swim forward fast in a straight line. Grade B sperm swim forward, but either in a curved or crooked line, or slowly. Grade C sperm move their tails, but do not move forward. Grade D sperm do not move at all. Sperm of grade C and D are considered poor." (I got this information here.)

But what about J~'s sperm, which received a motility score of... get this, 44. According to the lab, normal is between 150 and 400. So what does that translate to, an F? It certainly sounds like an F. So far, I have been unable to get a grade A, straight-swimming answer from the Internet.

Eventually, hopefully, we'll sit down in an office with a doctor who knows his or her stuff. In the meantime, we're making making appointments, and breathing through that most agonizing and unavoidable of chores: waiting.

Because here's the thing. Internet research can only take you so far. But the same is true with doctors. We may get some answers, but my ultimate question, of whether or not I will ever be a mother, will only be answered by time.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Results Are In...

...and it isn't pretty.

J~'s sperm count is good but other factors are questionable. Normal sperm motility is between 40 and 100% and J~'s is just 26. Viscosity is much too high, pH is also a bit high. His doctor drew circles and question marks on the lab results, but the only actual information he offered were the names and phone numbers of specialists. J~ will make an appointment today, and we'll take it from there.

Strangely, I'm not upset. Maybe it's because we have so little real information. Maybe because, in a way, nothing's changed. I already felt like it would take a miracle. Sometimes I've been more confident in that miracle, sometimes less. Hell, look back just three weeks ago I was all about believing in miracles. (see Hope?) And just last week I tried on the post-menopausal never-had-kids possible future. Though I cried when I did so, I found it was not a bad fit. I'm accepting more and more that my baby-quest story may not have a Hollywood ending. On one hand, I'm still hopeful. On the other, ready to let go.

J~ suggested we put in another year of concerted effort and attention before deciding it probably won't happen and moving on. I'm all for it, especially the part about him putting in concerted effort and attention. (It's so nice to have a real partner!) The deadline feels sad, but right. There are no rules about what we do or don't do after, but we can begin to talk about it. And who knows what might happen between now and then.