I meet an artist who is still beaming over the arrival of her test tube baby.
“IVF really fucks up your body,” she says frankly. I shoot an email to my AA sponsor to ask her about the adoption program she snagged her awesome son through, but she’s currently trekking through Cambodia with him in tow. "Being a Mom is the BEST!" she emails. I make an appointment with Dr. Wendy in the Marina, to talk to her about my fibroids.
"I love to do surgery," Dr. Wendy tells me happily in the exam room. That Time Magazine where the mom is breastfeeding her three-year-old son is in a magazine rack on the wall, watching us. Dr. Wendy tells me all about the robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery that will remove all the fibroids I’m riddled with. I imagine a colony of mushrooms have popped up inside me. I hate mushrooms. Just that morning, running for the bus, I swear I could feel them -- something heavy inside me that weighed down my jog. Gross.
And I had another question about them. "Could they be interfering with my bowel movements?" I ask sheepishly.
I make a lot of jokes about being a laxative bulimic because I don’t know if I am or not, but if I am I’m not going to stop, so it might as well be a joke. I know that this attitude buys you a little bit of time while engaging in dysfunctional behaviors. But the truth is, I’m not going to stop because I swear something is up with my bowel movements, and I really think I need the extra help. Like all situations that require me to check in with my body, it makes me a little confused and anxious, like: do I REALLY need a cup of Get Regular (or, as I like to call it, Get Regs) a few times a week? And do I really need to double up the tea bags? By the end of the Sister Spit tour, my vanmates were calling me Michelle "Smooth Move" Tea.
When people get sober, secondary addictions often raise their head, because you’re still an addict and the way you do anything is the way you do everything. My first AA sponsor had a shopping problem. People become sex addicts. You can’t flick an AA chip at a meeting and not hit someone who has given up sugar or is on a raw food diet or otherwise obsessing on their food intake. And my secondary addiction is LAXATIVE BULIMIA? Figures.
But maybe not. Maybe there’s been a boulder blocking the exit, by which I mean a fibroid on my rectum.
Dr. Wendy knows what I mean. She has me recline on the paper-covered exam table so she can pop her finger up my butt. She wiggles it around a bit, says, “Okay, enough with the torture,” and removes it. Me and Dr. Wendy are closer now than ever before! It is totally possible, she tells me, that the fibroids are interfering with #2. I’m thrilled that I might be more psychologically healthy than I thought, even if that means I am, in fact, physically unhealthy.
We talk a bit about the surgery, which will be done via little slits made in my abdomen. “You’ll have scars," she sort of warns me, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I also tell her about the news I got from Dr. Waller, that I’ll never get pregnant on my own and my ovaries are impoverished. The fertility clinic and its high-priced poking and prodding, beckons.
“Make up your mind and don’t look back,” Dr. Wendy says. The advice rings in my head. Make up your mind and don’t look back.
Have I mentioned that Dr. Wendy’s office is right around the corner from Marc by Marc Jacobs? Do you know how hard it is to pass the flashy abundance of its gleaming windows and not go inside, especially since I’m always in some sort of state when I leave the doctor’s office, the kind of state that has been actually PROVEN by research to be alleviated, albeit temporarily, by shopping? But as hard as it can be to spend money on fancy things on a regular day, on a day where I am considering falling down the pricey test-tube rabbit hole it feels totally forbidden.
It’s hard to imagine what life will be like if me and Dashiell head down that path. I mean financially. I try to stay even and just think it will work out, just trust it and take it a procedure at a time. But my mind is prone to extremes and so I also imagine selling all my clothes and never having anything nice ever again. But I’ll have a BABY! It’s actually not a terrible toss-up. I spent most of my life without, say, splurging on Kiehl’s products (also around the corner from Dr. Wendy’s) and I was fine!
Oh, wait –- I actually wasn’t fine! I was a crazy mixed-up alcoholic. The way it worked out for me is getting sober made my life get better AND I started making more money. I realize part of the reason I’m so freaked out about being broke is that I haven’t struggled since I quit drinking. When I think about having no money again, I’m also thinking about living in a roach-ridden punk house in a bedroom just shy of a Hoarders episode, with moldy half-drunk Odwalla containers among the cigarette-stuffed malt liquor bottles. Ugh. I’m never going to live like that again, regardless of how much money I’ve got in the bank.
I leave for a week to teach at a writers’ conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’ve got a phone call scheduled with Nancy, the woman who is sort of my case manager at the fertility clinic. She is the person who will sort of keep me on the path, letting me know which procedure comes next in the litany of procedures. I almost blow off the phone call and decide to go thrifting instead, but the thrifting in Lincoln wasn’t what I expected, so I trudged over to a Starbucks and made the call.
The first thing I have to do is take a battery of genetic tests. Some are optional and some aren’t. I get Nancy to go through the whole deal with me all over again -– what it all will cost, what all is entailed. I feel irrational despair that the information hasn’t changed since the last time I asked these questions. It’s still the same, still expensive, still not a guarantee.
Nancy tells me she’ll send me the lab requisites. I feel myself moving forward in this slow, squeamish way, without really deciding to move forward. I’m not going to do anything until I get these fibroids removed. The pending surgery has bought me a little time, but not much. Make up your mind and don’t look back.
Back at the Embassy Suites I’m being put up at -– which is sort of breathtakingly, grandly insane, with glass elevators and casino carpeting paisleying around a river that runs through the giant atrium –- I work out on the elliptical in the miniature gym, watching "Antiques Roadshow" on the television bolted to the wall. Man, I wish my grandparents had left me some random decorative sword that turned out to be worth ten thousand dollars! Segment after segment people’s eyes widen when they hear how much their junk is worth. And then they say fiercely, “I’d never sell it. It’s too precious to me.” They must all be rich, I figure.
After my workout, I am collapsed on the couch in my sweaty gym clothes, still watching "Antiques Roadshow" and talking on the phone to Dashiell.
“I feel inept,” she says. “I just don’t know what to say.” But she wants me to get those fibroids removed, ASAP.
I pick a tarot card about my conundrum. The Devil. A beer-bellied, winged devil perches on a block of stone; chained to it are some naked, enslaved human devils. That’s me. The fertility clinic feels larger than me, and like it has some sort of control over my life. I’m helplessly foundering at its feet.
I fumble with the tarot cards, wishing there was something else I could ask it. And there is! I’d drawn cards about adoption and IUI and Dashiell carrying our baby and they were all meh, or worse. But what about fertilizing one of Dashiell’s "infinitely healthier" eggs, and then I carry it?
I shuffle the deck, pondering the pros and cons. Pros –- a baby. I get to experience being pregnant. I get to have Dashiell’s baby, what a dream! To have the experience of seeing the person you love in the baby you pushed out of your body. We’d both be more physically involved in that scenario. Cons -– it’s the most expensive option. That’s really the only con I can think of.
I pick three cards off the top of the deck. Art, Virtue, Works. In the Crowley deck I’m reading with, the Art card is a marriage card. And it’s about two people creating something together. It’s a beautiful, strong card.
The Virtue card, which is three of wands, is always read as a YES card to me. I tell people it’s like the Universe patting you on the back and saying, Good job, you’re on the right track. It’s the Sun in Aries, maybe a little headstrong but totally positive. One mysterious read on it says, "Out of the two comes three."
The final card is four of disks, Mars in Capricorn, Works. Your Mars is your engine, your ambition, to have it in Capricorn means you have a goal, something to achieve, something you are pledged to work towards. Since Capricorns were built to work and achieve, it guarantees success -– if you work for it.
Not only is this the best reading of the bunch, it’s just a really great reading. If this were one of my clients, I’d say DO IT! I snap a picture of the spread with my phone so I can show it to Dashiell when I come home from Nebraska.