“‘Dad, you were always there for me,’” I read. “Except when you weren’t,” I add out loud.
Rhonda tells me to start eating cheeseburgers. It’s not the first time -- years ago when I was having baby daydreams she told me the same thing. Basically, I am a little person.
If I skimp on food for a few days, it shows. Acquaintances will tell me I look great, other acquaintances will ask my friends if they should do an intervention, and my mother will tell me I’m looking like Nancy Reagan. (“You know, bobble-headed.”)
If I start consistently chowing down, I fill out a little more, which most people don’t notice unless they have been nervous that I have an eating disorder, and then they will tell me repeatedly that I look really good. I think I am more likely to eat less than eat more, partly because I am spacey about feeding myself and will let odd cravings direct my entire diet, like how I ate little more than Triscuits and Tillamook Cheddar for most of 2011.
Also, food makes me feel gross a lot. It just does. But know what an egg likes to get all hunkered down in? Fat!
Rhonda tells me about our friend Brenna, a trapeze artist who was wicked lanky and muscley with no body fat and couldn’t get pregnant. People told her that thing everyone snarkily says to skinny girls: Eat A Cheeseburger!, and she did, a bunch, and she got pregnant.
OK, I’ll do it. I eat a bacon cheeseburger from a BBQ joint. They ground all the bacon up in the hamburger, which is the way to do it, because a bunch of bacon heaped on a cheeseburger is a little much. There, I ate a bacon cheeseburger!
But you’re supposed to keep doing it. This is hard for me.
Another lady, a mom – a gorgeous, glamorous mother of two -- looks me up and down and says, “You got to eat ice cream every day.” She mentions a mutual friend of ours, currently way pregnant.
“I told her to eat ice cream every day, and she did, and then she got pregnant.” Wow, ice cream is magic!
I sort of already eat ice cream every day, only it’s Cherry Garcia Fro-Yo. I move over to full-fat Chunky Monkey.
“No more non-fat anything,” my sister tells me. “Drink full-fat milk.”
Do you know how hard it is to find a pint of full-fat milk? I can find a pint of strawberry milk, vanilla milk, no problem, but it’s all low-fat. I guess nobody drinks full fat milk anymore. I buy a half-gallon. I eat a giant container of honey-strawberry full-fat yogurt straight through.
After four days of this new regimen I hop a dress size; after a week and a half I hop another. I go to Barneys because they are having a sale and you always hope that that means things are actually affordable, but 40 percent off $500 is still a splurge.
Anyway, I rip not one but two Opening Ceremony dresses trying to get them over my shoulders. Is that where my milk fat is resting, my shoulders? I leave Barneys quickly.
On the bus home, an old woman tries to give me her seat. Do I look that old? I wonder. No, I look pregnant! She reaches out and rubs my dairy-bloated belly happily, and again offers me her seat. I’m Not Pregnant, I tell her, and we both finish the ride in quiet embarrassment.
This happened to me once before, when I was an alcoholic and my beer belly on my bony body alarmed a worker at Great America, who tried to get me off a roller coaster lest I have a miscarriage. A few people tell me I should go to acupuncture, so I do.
I go to San Francisco Community Acupuncture and meet with an acupuncturist. I have never had acupuncture before; I seem to believe that my body -- a body that once felt it could not experience "fun" without a bag of crystal meth and an endless supply of vodka -- is not sensitive enough to feel the subtle effects of such things
But acupuncture is supposedly great for fertility and I am determined to do everything I can.
I get to fill out a health questionnaire, something I love to do. Under how many cups of coffee I drink per week I write 35. Cause that’s how much I drink. Another question asks if I am thirsty but don’t want to drink anything, Oh my god! I am always dehydrated and I actively resist drinking water, all the time, forever! And yes I have put lemon in it. I just don’t like drinking water. I never knew it was a thing!
After analyzing my questionnaire, an acupuncturist tells me I am both dry and damp. This sort of contradiction is allowed for in esoteric Chinese Medicine, and it feels totally accurate. I have too much Yin or something. I feel like I have unlocked a deep mystery about myself and feel much more confident about this new health path.
Until the woman inquires about my coffee intake.
“35 cups a week?” She asks. “I’m not judging you. It’s just a lot. And you’re little. And I have seen it interfere with fertility.”
My heart sinks. I am nothing without coffee. It may look like I’m a fun, interesting and intelligent person with some good ideas, but it is all just coffee.
Knowing that I would have to cut down to a cup a day once pregnant, I had already been trolling pregnancy message boards, trying to find threads by Moms who had said "fuck it" and drank three cups of coffee throughout their entire pregnancy, and guess what? Their babies were fine. Not just fine, they had lots of energy and a better outlook on life and higher intelligence.
I searched high and low for the self-deluding, justifying threads of coffee addicts, but found none. I found threads by pot-smoking moms who insisted their babies were calmer; threads by moms who drank wine, threads by moms who smoked and posts from a particularly defiant German woman who would not give up cold cuts, but no one was giving me a sneaky heads-up to abuse coffee.
And so I made my peace with not being able to spend my pregnancy wired. But I had to cut back now? Before I was even knocked up? When I was only a budding member of the TTC Community (that is, Trying to Conceive Community for those of you who do not hang out on sad, desperate fertility message boards with horrible flower-and-magic-dust designs and names like "Baby Wishes").
Okay, fine. I cut back to three a day. That means I drink an entire French Press first thing in the morning (when I’m not sleeping at Dashiell’s, where I am awakened in the morning by a gentle nudge and a full cup of coffee by a dapperly dressed Dashiell who smiles at me tenderly and calls me baby and tells me what a great day it is I AM NOT KIDDING YOU) and that’s it, no more supplementary cups of coffee throughout the day. I accept this.
I understand that I am in fact an addict and drink coffee whenever I have a feeling and I can ask my Higher Power for help with this. Done.
The acupuncturists are horrified that I am eating ice cream every day and tell me to stop; it’s full of sugar! As it turns out, my friend who got pregnant on the ice cream diet also got inseminated by a doctor right into her cervix, so there was probably more going for her than the Ben and Jerry’s.
The acupuncturists tell me to eat meat, I need iron. A cheesesteak a day is just as exciting to me as ice cream. I mentally say goodbye to half of my wardrobe, and thank the goddess I am a compulsive thrift shopper. I am also encouraged to eat eggs (including caviar), seeds and nuts, bone marrow (I ate it once at a very fine restaurant and thought it was deeeeeee-sgusting), pig spine (really?), oysters (Dashiell takes me to an oyster brunch, pronto), sea weed, artichokes, nettles, oats and, if I must ingest so much dairy, raw milk.
One acupuncturist recommends I take Guaifenesin, the active ingredient in congestion-relieving drugs like Mucinex, around ovulation as it will help thin the sperm-repelling mucus around my egg. Feeling armed with a ton of info, I lay back on a reclining armchair and allow kind hearted people to stick me with pins.
I always imagined acupuncture needles to be really thin, like the spines of cactus, but no they are really needles and they sort of hurt but then it stops and I slink into this weird altered state that I have been in before, usually during super amazing massages.
I drift and try to make mental contact with my baby spirit, because that’s what my sister and her husband did and their daughter is exceptionally spectacular. When I’m done I make an appointment for the next week and go and eat a carne asada taco.
Next Week: Insemination!