I talk to my mother on my way to the gym. “I’m late for my period,” I tell her. “I don’t want to get my hopes up but I’m just saying, I’m late. Do you think it’s OK for me to work out?”
If I was looking for a way out of the gym -- and I am -- asking my mother is a guaranteed free pass to turn around and head home, perhaps picking up a pint of Chunky Monkey at the store along the way.
My Ma is a worrier. If anything can go wrong, my Mother knows about it. She’s already been worring about it. The fact that she is a nurse does not help the situation. Not only does she know, as a mother and a nervous person, all that can go wrong with a body, she knows it as a nurse. She’s got the facts to back her up.
When Madeline was in labor with Olivia, my mother was losing her mind with distress. “It’s not the 1800s,” I said. “She’s a first world woman with great health insurance having a baby at Cedar Sinai. She’s fine.”
“Oh, you don’t know,” Our Mom stressed on the other end of the phone. “You don’t know all the things that can go wrong in childbirth. I wish I didn’t know.” I could hear her stress-smoking. It’s not the only time she smokes. She happy-smokes, relaxes-smokes, morning-smokes and night-time smokes. She coffee-smokes and boredom-smokes. She smoke-break-smokes and watches-TV-smokes. This smoking business is a huge blind spot in her I-Worry-About-Every-Dangerous-Thing-That-Can-Go-Wrong-In-A-Body lifestyle.
My mother is a complex woman. Though she truly does worry about everything, she has another, polarized setting, which is ‘They don’t really know what’s gonna kill ya.’ This setting is deeply skeptical about things like organic foods and the true harmfulness of various carcinogens.
Anyway, I was glad I didn’t know all the risks my sister was facing during her endless childbirth which ended in a C-Section she should have gotten right at the start. I just lit my magical orange childbirth candle and arranged all the magical childbirth rocks and stones I’d bought at the Lesbian Witch Store, and then returned to the ridiculous affair I was having with a Swedish transsexual I stupidly had invited to stay with me for a week without realizing I didn’t actually like him. At all. Whoops!
Back to the future: My mother says that if I think I might be pregnant I should absolutely not be working out. She also has told me not to eat rice because it could have come from China where the rice has been poisoned with arsenic, and instructed me to take Imodium while sick with epic food poisoning. She has regarded the supplements I take with deep suspicion. But she really is a nurse. She has good advice and information, too. She knows that Dones back pain medicine is "a crock," and she slips me awesome foot fungus cream whenever one of her patients at the nursing home dies. I should listen to her.
I double-check on my smart phone, and learn that pregnant women can have light work-outs. What the fuck is a light workout? Not even what is the point of it, though yeah that too, what is the point of a light workout, but what would one even be? Workouts are by definition grueling tangos with barbaric weight machines. They are doing crunches til your stomach hurts. They are hogging the elliptical machine until you can’t see what’s happening on Bravo! because the sweat is obscuring your vision and the line of gay men waiting for their turn has grown so long and possibly dangerous that you must call it quits. THAT is a workout. Go hard or go home.
I decided to go home. I couldn’t risk it. I stopped at the drug store and bought a pint of Chunky Monkey and a box of pregnancy tests.
My period is now two days late. If I count the 5 days of spotting I have been experiencing before my actual period, it is seven days late. A whole week of no menstrual activity. My pregnancy tests keep coming up negative. Me and Dashiell go dancing at the afternoon soul dance party, which has started up again after taking a break for the rainy season. I wear my favorite new neon green dress I got, amazingly, at H & M.
We mostly lean against the wall and talk to people because the outdoor dance floor is so wild and crazy it’s hard to find a space to do the twist. Once twisting, it’s hard not to get a cocktail spilled on you, or find yourself trapped in a cloud of cigarette smoke. Still, it’s a great party. The joie de vivre is high. At the bar, getting beer for Dashiell and a Coke for myself (deciding against a miscarriage-inducing Red Bull), I refer to myself as "the mother of your child." I did it in sort of a campy way, like a joke, but it really isn’t a joke! It’s serious!
“Did you just call yourself the mother of my child?” Dashiell asks, her eyes getting soft and dreamy. I nod my head, also suddenly dreamy. We make out at the bar, totally lost in the deep hotness of parenthood. Who knew?! Maybe millions of straight people. Maybe breeders who don’t have to plan out their pregnancies in this annoying and slightly (or totally) clinical way know how totally hot it is to have a baby with someone. I mean, it happens while your’re FUCKING.
But for lezzes and other queers, it’s logistics. And logistics are not hot. I get all swirly and hot in this sudden sweet moment of tender dirty baby mama-ness. We go home and have the sort of sex that can make a bitch bleed if she’s on the verge. But I don’t. No period. Afterward we hang out all spacey and grinning in the kitchen and talk about baby names. We order Chinese food and rent a movie from the television and Dashiell falls asleep before the glare of it, like she always does, with me all cuddled up on top of her.
The next day, sometime in the afternoon, I get my period. I wish it were just a couple of spots or drips, but it is my period, full-fledged, with cramps and everything.
I’m furious. I COULD HAVE GONE TO THE GYM! My body feels totally grotesque -- part menstruation devastation, part baby weight-gain weight, part the body dysmorphia that is my feminine birthright. I am so sick of this shit! This baby making/baby failing roller coaster! How do women deal with this?
And I think I have a pretty good handle on it -- I’m not experiencing routine devastation, I got a good attitude, I’m not stressed out all the time, I’m not dreaming of babies and feeling empty inside, I’m not mad at pregnant women, but still. My late period had nurtured some HOPES, and look! Here I sit on the shore of DASHED HOPES! I knew this would happen!
I decide to do some internet research. All I ever called was that one fertility clinic, after all. On Yelp! I see that they don’t even have the best reviews. Know what does? The big teaching hospital here in San Francisco. Where I had once gone to get discount dental work performed upon me by students. I guess you can get fertility work done on you, too! The discounts aren’t quite as deep as what you get for letting a newbie rip a tooth out of your head -- in fact, I wouldn’t call it "discount" at all, but again and again fertility consumers state that this is the cheapest place with the best reputation. I’m sold.
I also make an appointment at the same GYN office Dashiell goes to, and find a sensible lesbian GP.
About a month ago, when I started staying at her place so much I commandeered a drawer, a couple shelves of the medicine cabinet and got some bills redirected to her address so I wouldn’t miss them, Dashiell put me on her health insurance. I won’t say that I’ve NEVER had health insurance as an adult, because it’s not true. One year I taught at a prestigious college and had Kasier. Then I got the chance to do some reporting at Paris Fashion Week and I got the boot. Bye-bye health insurance!
In the 90s, I had a job for a year getting lead paint out of low-income housing, and that gave me health care. So that’s it. In the 23 years of my adulthood, I’ve spent 21 of them uninsured. Suddenly having health care is amazing, but also intimidating enough that it takes me a month to get it together, but this PERIOD business has gotten me back on top of things.
I call my new health insurance to see if they offer any kind of fertility benefits.
“You mean Infertility benefits?” The lady on the line corrects me. I guess so. But, I don’t KNOW that I’m infertile! I’m trying to find out! Oh, well. My new health insurance does not cover it. A consolation -- not many insurance agencies do. So, I am glad that I have health insurance at all, and can stop struggling within the free clinic system (which isn’t necessarily free).
A stranger on the Internet suggests I make these corn husk dolls that help women get pregnant. I’m totally going to do it! I go to the vegetarian co-op, but they’re out of corn husks. I wonder if I should get some energy work.
On a bus, I run into a girl who goes to psychic school who suggests I have a session with her
to find out why I am "blocking my pregnancy." That feels so shitty and victim-blamey it makes me hate her for a second, and I can’t get energy work from someone I hate, so that’s out. But I’m a little haunted by it. What if I AM blocking my own pregnancy? It’s too much to think about! Could life be that cruel?
I think about it. I really, really think about it. I talk to my Stevie Nicks HP and decide no, I don’t believe in a life so cruel that some sort of weird hidden psychic glitch could undermine all your true and vibrant efforts to knock yourself up. Jeez! I don’t need any more magic in my life, I think, I’ve got quite enough. What I need is some good, old-fashioned, dark-sided Western Medicine. I pull my foil-wrapped package of Clomid and pop one.
You can’t stop me!