Getting Pregnant With Michelle Tea: Did You Know That Stress Can Cause Miscarriages? YEAH, ME NEITHER.

When you start typing ‘Can Stress’ on Google, the phrase ‘Can Stress Cause Miscarriage’ pops right up.

Oh my god, Dashiell is Pakistani! Genetic testing is so cool! I mean, it is definitely not cool that she carries a very very very very obscure gene for cystic fibrosis, but it is cool that it is a gene seen only in people of Pakistani heritage, because -- well, I don’t know, I just think it’s cool to suddenly learn you’ve got a bit of an ethnicity in you that you previously had no idea about! It makes the world, and your tiny place within it, seem suddenly, magically large, yet connected.

Like, Dashiell is here because at some point way back in history a Pakistani person hooked up with a Russian Jew and they had a baby. And though their love (let’s just say it was love, why not) and their offspring are lost to history, a tiny piece of these lives exists in Dashiell. In the form of a gene for cystic fibrosis. Which BTW, sucks to have.

“So, now they have to do an additional test on Quentin,” Dashiell explains, “to make sure he doesn’t have it. Because it’s only bad if two parents have it. And chances are he doesn’t have it, because, as it is, it’s totally bizarre that I have it, but we have to check. So, we can do the first test that is $300 that gets most of the genes but can’t guarantee all, or we can get the second one which gets thousands of them and costs $1,800.”

Goddammit. I hate this part of having a test tube baby. File it under I Think I Can Control Everything, Especially If I Have The Money. The clinics totally reinforce this illusion by offering you $1,800 genetic testing options. When faced with the awful specter of Cystic Fibrosis aren’t you supposed to be totally Money Is No Object! about it? Isn’t that the only way for a Truly Good Parent to be?

But money is an object. And $1,800 is a lot of money to tell us what the clinic says a $300 can probably tell us. Probably but not definitely. What sort of monstrous parents-in-waiting would gamble with their child’s health like this?

We talk it over and decide on the $300 genetic test, knowing that there is but a 0.0000000000001% chance that Quentin shares Dashiell’s rogue gene, and just a 0.000000000001 chance that it wouldn’t be picked up by the cheaper test. I just made up those odds right here right now but you get it.

Meanwhile, I get a note from our nurse:

Hello Michelle,

Met with Quentin this morning after his medical exam & FDA screen. He has been sweet and has been flexible with his schedule.

Per our FDA Manager, both you and Ann will have to sign/submit the attached FDA Ineligible Donor Waiver (because he is intimate w/same sex partners).

I like our nurse –- okay, I haven’t actually met her, but I had no reason NOT to like her, and I WANT to like her, but this note is frankly making me hate her, and hate everyone. I know she is just doing her job. If the form came down from the clinic’s FDA Manager it is clearly tied to homophobic federal regulations, but still.

If everyone just honors homophobic protocol and doesn’t call it out as bullshit, nothing changes. I’m having a serious You’re Either Part Of The Problem Or You’re Part Of The Solution moment. Meanwhile I get a text from Quentin letting me know that the "donation rooms" have Miro prints on the wall and no gay porn in the porn stash. (Also, even though Dashiell goes by Dashiell –- a name I had chosen to shield her in this very blog -– all the time now, because it suits her so perfectly for she is dashing and handsome and full of the charm of another era -– at the clinic she’s the name in all her legal documents, Ann.)

This shit is so stressful to me! And speaking of stress, Dashiell has a check-in with me about mine. I’m on deadline for not one, not two, but three books –- two more mermaid YA fantasy books for McSweeney’s and memoir-type book for Penguin. I’m going to be going off my beloved Citalopram, the pills that keep me from being a crazy bitch. And I’ll be pregnant.

Dashiell is worried that such stress could cause a miscarriage, which I dispute. I think if you’re going to have a miscarriage, you’re going to have a miscarriage, and that has more to do with the condition of the embryo and your uterus. If all you needed was stress to end a pregnancy, we wouldn’t have an abortion issue in this country. Right? Aren’t stressed-out women popping out kids everywhere? I decide to Google it.

When you start typing "Can Stress," the phrase "Can Stress Cause Miscarriage" pops right up. And if you click it, the very first link is to a WebMD article titled "How" -– not can, or if, or could -- "How Stress Causes Miscarriages." In fact, when a lady is stressed out she secretes corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), and ladies who stress-leak that shit in their early pregnancy or even right before conception are at a higher risk of miscarriage. That CRH gets down in the uterus and starts just vandalizing it. Great, another thing to not-stress about. It turns out Dashiell’s concerns are correct.

But the thing is, I really like my work. I like writing books, and I’m always in the middle of one, on my own motivation. This is the first time that I’ve sold a book "on spec" as they say, meaning before the thing is written. So this is actually the best book writing situation I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’m stressed about it, I just think I have a lot of work to do. And this book writing work doesn’t stress me out.

Managing my non-profit does stress me out. Being responsible for an organization that was basically me running a reading series is one thing, but in the past decade that has grown to me running an organization with two employees, a handful of interns, and numerous programs.

But more than managing people (they’re most likely to be managing me, actually) it’s the constant hustle for money that makes me want to run myself up a flagpole. It’s like large-scale spare-changing all the time. Having to convince the world that we’re awesome, which always makes me feel (and, I fear, sound) desperate.

RADAR has been super fortunate -– our good work has been mostly recognized and we’ve gotten the financial support to grow. But we’re coming into a tough year. We have to sit out of some funding cycles we’ve utilized in the past. Another foundation got a new director who doesn’t seem to understand how rad we are. Our funding sources have dipped at a time when our programs and staff have surged. This is stressful. CRH-producing stressful.

I decide to back down from my position as Executive Director. It’s never been something I wanted, more like something that happened, something I tried to rise to the occasion of. What I really am is the Artistic Director. I inform my co-workers that I need out, and we figure out an escape plan for me.

I figure I’ll need a bigger stress plan than reducing my responsibilities at the job. Coming off meds is for sure an intimidating prospect. There’s the unknown of how the detox will affect me, and the known of what I was like before I started popping the good pills: defensive, on the verge of tears, obsessive, hypo-manic. Irritable. Distracted.

It seems a therapist would be in order, someone for me to take all this bullshit to. It also wouldn’t be bad for me to return to my Buddhist practice, always on the shabby side but at least I used to make an effort to go to the Saturday morning dharma talks at the Zen Center, or check out some meditation sittings and even meditate at home. Since moving into my apartment a mere four blocks away from the monastery, I’ve hardly participated at all.

Then there’s AA meetings, and Al-Anon meetings, free therapy I can pop into every single day, all day freaking long if I wanted to (and I have). And the yoga that comes with my gym membership. I realize that partaking off all these self-care options is sort of going to be my JOB, and I’m into it!

Back when I was newly sober I was also in the precarious, unstable place where self-care had to be my #1 priority, and it was so great! It totally removes all the guilt about what a first world white woman you’re being when it feels like life and death. Plus, I’m so busy, I need it to seem that critical for me to make sure I weave it into my schedule. So, it’s a plan. Therapy, AA, Al-Anon, Zen Center and Yoga. Totally no big deal.