Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Starting Line

"It can't be that bad," the cyclist hollered as he passed me, smiling.

"...fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck...," I continued, not breaking my mantra or my lopsided stride.

"Seriously, though, are you OK?," he asked over his shoulder, sounding mildly concerned.

"...fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck..." I didn't look up.

Dehydrated, painfully hot, vaguely delirious and covered in a dry salty rime, I was jog-limping toward Tiburon. I was no longer sweating and could barely swallow; my eyelids felt gritty when I blinked. I had clearly failed to drink enough and it was too late now. I was almost done.

It was 1998, and, in a fit of ambition, I had signed up with the Leukemia Society of America's Team in Training program to run the San Francisco Marathon. On this day, five months into the intensive training, two hundred of us set out at dawn from the Marina in San Francisco for the second-to-last group run: 18.5 miles, start to finish; more if you ran crooked.

When I think back to that gorgeous, sunny day, I remember my early optimism, and my elation in the prospect of doing something I'd never done before; something I never thought I would do--I had surprised myself by getting to this point. And it reminds me of another glorious, sunny day just last summer, when, full of that selfsame optimism and elation, I was sure that I was, unexpectedly, pregnant. (Which I'll get back to at some point in this entry, I promise.)

I had never liked running. The sheer repetition of it was tortuous to me, and my asthma and allergies didn't make it any easier. But, then again, I never expected to actually like it; I figured I might get to the point where I didn't mind it too much, and that would be a personal victory. But, early that morning as I saw the sunrise over the Bay from the Golden Gate Bridge at mile three, listening to Annie Lennox on my walkman, I was filled with strength and lightness and an unexpected joy. The breeze, the beauty--free as a bird! I could just keep going, never stop.

Every couple of miles, J. would find me as I ran by and hand me Gatorade and Fig Newtons--that week's magic food; the only thing I could eat while running that didn't make me retch. (The previous week it had been peanut butter and chocolate chip Clif Bars. Before that, raisin bagels.)

J. had intended to run with me, but an incident the month before involving darkness and a gopher hole had left him with a magenta-and-blue, ham-sized ankle that effectively ended his distance running dreams at twelve miles. And, to be honest, they were more my dreams than his anyway, and he rather liked the role of domestique.

So on this day, I ran--I flew!--and felt...wonderful. My lungs were clear, my legs strong, my rhythm smooth. I've got it! I've got it!, I rejoiced as the scenery sped by. Quickly, effortlessly through the Marin Headlands, down the hill, through Sausalito, then more of the Bay, and egrets and geese and people taking helicopter rides and the roar of Highway 101. Five miles! Six! Seven! Nine!

Nine? Has it already been nine?! Yes!, the runners around me answer, shiny and strong.

I must recheck my watch: has it stopped? No? I must recheck my math: is it wrong? No? My god! I've been running 9.15's--I have never before run better than 11.30's over anything greater than six miles. How did that happen? And I set off again, thinking, Yes!, I will make it, no problem!

Ten miles, eleven, still feeling pretty good. But I haven't seen J. for a few miles, and I am starting to get thirsty, and there isn't another water station till mile thirteen. Oh, and what's this? A slight pain in my knee? I will ignore it. I am strong and full of joy! I will fly!

And here's mile thirteen, and the water station, and I grab a Gatorade and a packet of lime-flavored calorie gel, and I set off again, with more difficulty, yes, but still light of heart. Nat King Cole is singing in my ears.

Thirteen and change. Still no Jeff. And now I'm being passed. And someone knocks my bottle of Gatorade from my hand and it goes over the guard rail and into the reeds. I toss the vile calorie gel; nothing to wash it down with. But I will see J. soon, I am sure, and he will give me Gatorade and Fig Newtons and I will be strong, and though my knee is really starting to hurt, and, what's that, a blister?, still, I will fly!

Ah, there's someone there, by the side of the road, I'll bet that's J. No? He's old and waving a Team flag. He has a water in his hand but doesn't offer it to me. Oh, well.

Oh, w...uh oh.

I am starting down a short, steep street and a searing pain shoots out from my right knee. I hop a few feet, look around, and do not know what to do. Should I stop? Go? Stretching! I remember now, the coaches said to stretch when something tightens up during a long run. That must be it. It's just tight. I'll stretch it. Yes. I'm sure that will help. Tra la la. My mouth is too dry to whistle, but I am whistling in my head, ignoring the voices that are telling me, no, it is not tight, it is damaged, and you should stop. Do not be foolish, you fool.

And how I would love to stop, if only I didn't also want so much to finish. People passing. May not fly, but must finish. Must. Finish. Must. Finish. Must...

Mile fourteen...mile fourteen-and-a-half...I am now jog-lurching slowly, unsteadily toward Belvedere, taking a stutter step with my right leg, the left holding me up. More people pass. I look drunk or palsied. One asks if I'm OK. I glance enviously at her water-filled Camel Pack. I am too shy to say, No, I am not OK and can I have some water? Instead I nod my head and give a tight, pained smile.

I was sure J. would be at mile fifteen, waiting for me. Holding out the Gatorade. And I know there's a water station there, so even if he's missed me again, I can get some...

Oh. No. Can't be. There's no J. There's nobody at all. The water station is out of everything except packets of Advil and course maps. Where is the water? The Gatorade? The people? I take two Advil, stuff them down the back of my throat, hoping they dissolve. The don't. I cough them out like a furball.

Mile sixteen...and a half...I start the mantra. Every other step. Fuck.

Seventeen. Almost over. The cyclist goes by. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I keep going. I will see J. soon. I will have water soon. I will pack my knee with ice.

Eighteen. Where are the supporters, cheering people on? Oh, well. Almost there. Almost. There. Almost...

There's the banner! I pick up my jog-limp pace, want to finish strong. Want J. to hug me at the finish, pick me up, twirl me around. Yay! Almost there!

But, where is everybody? I see four people packing up a cooler, a few stragglers chatting and stretching--one shouts a greeting to me--litter strewn around the small park. The ice packs are gone. The Gatorade is gone. The bottles of water are gone. There are some sun-warmed orange slices in a bowl; I take three and suck on them. There is a discarded water bottle on a picnic table with an ounce of backwash in the bottom. I drink it. I roll awkwardly to the grass and sit there, dry-crying. I want some water, even the ice runoff, from that cooler. Desperately. But I can't bring myself to ask. I know they wouldn't mind, but I just can't get up the nerve. I want J. I want J.! Where is J.? Where is he?

I stop, look around, confirm. There is no friendly blue Volvo, no bespectacled young man clutching Newtons. I am in a strange place, hurt, thirsty and alone. I do not know what has happened to me: I started so strong! I felt so good! I do not know what has happened to my knee. Most importantly, I do not know what has happened to J. I overhear a woman saying that a pedestrian had been injured on the course; hit by a car. I imagine J. as the pedestrian, then as the driver.

No, no, no. There has to be some other explanation. I get up, start jog-lurching toward downtown, to the ferry building. Maybe he didn't look at the map. Maybe he doesn't know where the finish line is. Maybe he thinks it's by the water. I know these to be false--J. lives by maps since he has no sense of direction--but I go anyway.

I am beginning to panic, which somehow dulls the pain in my knee. I keep running. The tony tourists in Tiburon look at me curiously and with some disgust; look at my salt-streaked face and shoulders and back and belly, my red-glazed eyes, my forlorn expression, my limp. One asks if I'm hurt; I grunt.

J. is not in Tiburon.

I do not have any money on my person; I do not even have a pocket. I cannot buy a bottle of water or use a pay phone. There are no fountains. Could ask for water at a food stand but am not thinking straight. More panic, more self-pity. I run back to the park. No one is there. Yet more panic. Nobody left in park. Run haphazardly back toward the ferry--could I have missed him? He is still not there.

My burst of desperate panic-energy is now gone, and I feel small and lost. I limp slowly, pathetically, back to the park. I am sure J. has been in that accident. What other explanation? I despair.

And then, at that very low moment, I see a distant figure waving slowly in my direction, behind him the ancient blue Volvo, and I am overcome once again with the joy and lightness that had hit me with such force four hours earlier on the bridge: I can do this. And I run to him, and he picks me up and twirls me around and tells me how he thought I was still on the course and how had I possibly gotten so far ahead of him by mile 10 and he had waited for a long time and started to worry and retraced his path and thought I had been hit by a car and was he ever sorry and was he ever proud of me and did I want some Gatorade and Fig Newtons?


. . .



In the end, that was my last distance run. I had a meniscal tear and a badly inflamed nerve where the knee joint meets the shin. There wasn't enough time to rehab for the Marathon; in fact, despite three months of intensive physical therapy, it never healed completely. I would never get that participant's jersey or the little faux-gold finisher's medal. I would have to call my friends and tell them not to come. I had failed.

But I had tried. I had tried my hardest. Done my best.

That day last summer--when I was certain I was pregnant--was my first taste of the coming struggles with infertility. By evening, the cramps had set in and I was lying huddled in a hotel room bed, crying. But I was also determined, and strangely optimistic: This is painful, yes, but I'll run through it! Stretch a bit. Keep going. I'll get there in the end.

And, each month, the next mile is harder, I'm limping a little more, my mantra is filthier, I have a harder time finding J. when I'm thirsty. But I am determined: I will finish this training run, even if I know deep down it doesn't count, know it's not the real event.

And, if I train hard enough, try a different pair of shoes, give it my best, maybe next time I'll find myself at that starting line when the gun goes off for the big race.

Or not. Or maybe I'll start but never find a way to finish. Maybe my infertility cannot be rehabbed. But I will have tried, and in the trying so far I have at least learned something: that I am fragile, that I will make mistakes, and that I may be stubborn enough to persevere. That J. can't always be there, won't always know how to support me. And that, when I need help, I should ask for it; that there are kind, concerned, giving people who want me to succeed and who have water to spare.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Feel like I've arrived

Finally have one of my own: a troll, that is. Feel as if I've arrived. She's not the most articulate or thorough troll, but bloggers can't be choosers and I won't look a gift troll in the mouth.

Sure did get a kick out of her assumption that I was trying to be "godly". Boy, we atheists don't really get chided for our religious fervor too often. Quite a novelty. What I didn't get a kick out of was Bingo's impugning of Ankaisa's comment that "it is all so different when the baby is your own." That, somehow, a woman whom I have never met--a woman who has gone to great lengths to achieve her dream of a child, and continues to go through hell in hopes of another--wants to pressure me into motherhood because having a child has made her miserable and she wants company.

To be fair, perhaps Bingo just didn't realize whom she was addressing. That my blog is about infertility, and that most of the readers are also suffering from IF. I think, I hope, that she simply skimmed the last entry and made some grossly wrong assumptions--like, perhaps, that I was a young, dim-witted and naive girl bending to the pressures of my authoritarian, demanding family or shallow fertile friends. That I would be impressionable enough to be swayed by her simplistic "child free" rhetoric of gourmet meals and sex toys. She could, clearly, have avoided making an ass of herself if she'd taken the time to read more, but, hey, I'm sure she's busy. Takes a lot of time and effort to come up with subtle phrases like "Breedmoo", after all.

I received another comment on that post from a woman who feels that she made the wrong choice in deciding to have a child--that they are moody, grueling, expensive and draining, and she would have lived child-free if she had known how much hard work was involved. I'm impressed with her honesty, and hope that, one day, she finds herself glad to be a mother. I think, however, that she missed the mark in advising me to think harder about why I want a baby: as longer-term readers of this blog know, I have been thinking of little else for more than a year.

There are several reasons that I waited till I was thirty-three to begin trying to conceive. The most important was that I knew how much work and how much pain it would be, having seen the enormous struggles of my sister with her two kids, and I wanted to be certain that I was ready for the challenge, and that J. was ready as well. Till that point, I assumed that I would never be a mother, that I didn't have enough desire and strength to balance out the costs. And when that scale tipped a year ago July, it was clear. Sudden, but very, very clear. Diapers and snotty noses be damned, sleepless nights be damned, exhaustion be damned: I am burning with desire to be a mother, and will deal with each hurdle as it arrives. I am strong enough for that.

I want to be a mother. And my ideas of motherhood don't end with a smiling, soft baby in my arms. I want to be a mother to nurture and help my child grow and cope, to be there when she develops her own ideas and interests, to support her when she's down, to laugh with her when she's happy, to let go when she's ready, to pull her in when she needs me. No, my vision doesn't end when she's a baby, or when she's twelve, or when she's twenty. It continues till the very end.

I don't truly believe that the fears and aversions I listed in my last post make me an inappropriate candidate for motherhood; I assumed that the humorous tone of the list was obvious. What those fears and aversions do mean to me is that my eyes are open to the fact that I have some personal hurdles to overcome, and that I'm willing to take them on.

I'm thirty-five now, and my struggles with infertility have only made my resolution to be a good mother stronger. I will value my child all the more for knowing how hard we had to work for her. And while I hope that she will value me, love me, that's not what it's about. It's about giving, and I have so much love to give.

Ankaisa, I know you're right: everything will be different--in both positive and negative ways--when we have one of our own. And whether she is born to me or to someone half a world away, I will be her mother, and J. will be her father, till we are dead.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Shhh, don't tell the authorities

If you've been reading for a few weeks, you may be aware that I have a little, erm, problem with embarrassment. But, dear readers, I must confess that I did not tell you the whole story. No. Not by half. I was, frankly, too embarrassed.

In the spirit of masochistic self-exposure, however, I thought it might be a good idea to get some more of that shame-laced embarrassment off my meager a-cup chest. And my embarrassment topic for today is that, quite frankly, I may be a dreadful mother. If I ever succeed in becoming one. Why, you ask? Well...


I have never changed a diaper.

Ever.

Not for my nieces, my nephew, my friends' countless progeny.

Never.

When at the dinner table with friends, I place myself at the farthest corner from their children.

I am grossed out by toddlers' slimy, snotty kisses.

I did not like my elder niece till she turned six and could amuse herself with a book.

I did not like her younger sister till she turned eight and stopped asking for Barbies for Christmas.

I never bought her Barbies for Christmas.

I let J. bear the entire burden of entertaining our hyperactive four-year-old nephew when we visit my brother.

My nipples are so ticklish that I panic at the mere thought of breastfeeding.

I would probably use formula.

I am horrified by the thought of baby weight.

Television would probably be my child's most constant babysitter.

I would not let any friends or family be in the delivery room because I wouldn't want them to see me naked from the waist down.

I might not even want J. in the delivery room.


And yet, here I am, putting all of my energy into getting pregnant. Into constant dreams of my own slimy little smelly-diapered creature. Go figure.

The news is in

Just a quick post to say that my dad's diagnosis is in, and it's Parkinson's. Found out a couple of nights ago.

He says he's not terribly distraught about it, that he was glad to be prepared for the diagnosis. He thinks he'll be able to live on his own for a while longer.

The medication that the neurologist discussed with him--he wasn't sure of the name--has side effects that include insomnia. Since that's been a life-long battle for him, he is holding off on treatment for now and will re-evaluate at his next meeting with the neurologist in January.

All in all, everyone's taking it pretty well--my siblings, my grandmother, and, most importantly, my father. There's still time, there are untried medications, and there's still hope that it will not be debilitating for him.

I guess I can't be greedy and ask for more.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Things I am Really Bad At

First, let me say that Soper added some excellent Things She Hates (see previous post's comments) and also has a tremendous Barren Bitch Brigade thread going on her blog. Orodemniades, thank you for giving me the justification I was lacking for my hatred of Gwynneth Paltrow. Julie, I'm with you, Tennison would totally kick Bill Moyers's sagging fanny. (I love ya, Bill, but you're an old softie and no match whatsoever for the badassssss lady Superintendent.) Mare, you are a sick, sick woman; what could possess you? Unless, of course, you actually look good in a suit. And Patricia, I'll be your friend! I'll be your friend! Yep, swimming laps is soggy repetitive torture, though I still do it twice a week as penance for sitting on my unemployed rump most of the time.

Second, I want to give an enormous thank you to everyone who has sent along their kind words on the situation with my Old Man. There is no news yet, except to say that he was sent back in for more tests as they could not get the answers they wanted from the last round. So he is still...waiting. As for my own little wait, I'm just having a hard time caring right now. For once it doesn't seem like that big a deal, though it probably will again soon.

However, I've reserved today's blogging time for announcing to the world in a loud, shrill voice that I am Really Bad at Many Things. Please note that this list is not comprehensive--not in the least. I find that I am bad a new things each and every day. But here's a start:


Feigning interest in requisite sex

Using slang effectively

Telling believable white lies

Cooking without burning

Single-tasking

Being alone in the house at night

Remembering to buy gifts for J.

Making cervical fluid

Remaining calm in times of crisis

Calling people back

Cutting my toenails

Pulling up weeds without pulling up flowers

Staking the dahlias

Sightreading music

Exercising every day

Using up the greens and veggies before they mold

Taking care of other people's kids

Letting go of grudges

Not being jealous

Being optimistic

Public speaking

Remembering people's names

Remembering whom I've told what to

Not ending sentences with prepositions

Being objective about the Bush Administration

Maintaining my online address book

Making small talk

Conceiving


And the Prize Thing that I Was Very Bad At Today...

Being interviewed by telephone


Tomorrow I'm considering a list of Several Very Embarrassing Things About Me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Fun Facts for a Rainy Day

During this interminable Wait, which is no fun to write about and probably even less enjoyable to read, I thought I'd fill you in on random pieces of useless fluff, all about me me me me me. After all, I feel like I've slept with you on the first date: we haven't really gotten to know each other yet, but you've most definitely seen me naked. Or worse. Good god, please tell me you haven't heard me fart yet. That's not supposed to happen till much later.

Hmmmm, where to start? Ah, yes, maybe with Some Things I Hate. Here goes:

Karl Rove

"Nucular"

Stickers on fruit

Alanis Morissette

Gelatinous food items

Digging in hard earth

Vacuuming

Titanic

Talking on the phone

Almost everything by Mozart except the Requiem, symphonies 40 & 41, and Rondo alla Turca

My husband's gasping snores

My sister's excessive fertility

Getting out of the bathtub

Shopping for an interview suit

Being woken up by cramps

Gwynneth Paltrow (don't ask me why, I have no good answer)

Tucker Carlson

The little piles of pocket junk that J. leaves around the house

When our "Now Playing" list on TiVo is down to a choice of NOW With Bill Moyers and Huell Howser's California's Gold when what I want to see is Prime Suspect VI

The smug attitude of San Franciscans toward Los Angelenos

Eastern Montana

Most of Nevada

My lack of coordination

Shorts on my thighs

Sasha Cohen's grotesque hyperflexibility

Hypocritical U.S. positions on migrant workers from Latin America

My inability to learn the final movement of the Moonlight Sonata

Tapioca

The end of the tomato season

The NRA

Checking my godforsaken cervical fluid

Pants cut so that the waist is as big as the hips

The addition of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance fifty years ago

Explaining what the word "atheist" means

White people with dreadlocks

Patchouli

My voice on the answering machine

Early March in Boston

The crazy-eyed, slack-jawed look of astonishment worn by Shrub on those rare occasions when he's asked a tough question

The thought of living through Four More Years

Waiting


Perhaps tomorrow I'll compile a list of Things I'm Really Bad At.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Just waiting

The Old Man's diagnosis is still not in; he has been told the doctor will call him "early this week" for confirmation. There was no real explanation for the delay. But the confirmation seems like a formality, given his symptoms.

I spent the weekend earning my specialty in Parkinson's from Google University's Medical School. This will look good on the wall next to my certificate in Infertility Self-Diagnosis, also from Google U.

Parkinson's is thought to to be influenced by both environment (including, surprisingly, the consumption of iron supplements) and heredity. As I recently found out, my father's grandmother had Parkinson's. Somehow, this was never discussed in our family and my father himself was unaware of it till he broke down and told my grandmother of his likely diagnosis. She took it well--had feared that the problem was worse; a brain tumor, perhaps--and told him of his grandmother and how the disease had been difficult for her but not unmanageable, right to the end.

There are some aspects of Parkinson's that remind me of infertility--an inability to focus, depression--but what really gets to me is that my father and I both are largely swallowed up by Waiting. He's waiting for the worst, a formal diagnosis and the subsequent efforts to stave off his deterioration. His wait will not likely have a happy resolution, a promise of hope, though it may promise some comfort. My wait, on the other hand, is filled with possibilities, both good and bad: the possiblity of getting treatment, of finding out that there is no treatment, of being pregnant right now and not even knowing it, of having implantation fail right now--this very minute--and never having a clue.

I am filled with a desire to wrap myself in layers of buffering gauze, a warm, bland cocoon, and not come out till the Waiting is over.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Don't know what to do

(This post has nothing to do with TTC. It is about my dad and is morose and un-fun.)

I emailed my father a few days ago to say hello and check in; he has been depressed lately and his psychiatrist recommended that he increase his antidepressant dosage.

My father has always been a self-medicator. Instead of making changes to his routine or surroundings, such as exercising or replacing his broken-down 30-year-old bed, he simply takes a nightly sleeping pill to combat his insomnia. But, never a man of excess, he insisted on limiting himself to half a Halcyon, even when he needed more. When faced with his most recent diagnosis, after a twenty year depression hiatus, he immediately accepted the idea of medication instead of attempting any other form of therapy, but insisted that he only take the lowest possible dose.

When he grudgingly doubled the dose without improvement--and then tripled it--he finally realized that something else might be going on. And it is.

Though initially told by the lab technician two months ago that his CAT scan results were fine, his psychiatrist--upon seeing the ineffectiveness of the stronger antidepressant regimen--thought to check back through the results, just in case.

And there it was: a lesion.

The psychiatrist believes that there are two possible diagnoses, and my father should know which it is later today or tomorrow, when some additional results come back. The first, and least frightening, possibility is that he has had a small stroke; the second, and more probable, is that he has Parkinson's.

It all makes sense now. My sister and I had been deeply concerned by his stiff, often shaky left hand, which seemed to be getting much worse, and by the shuffling gate he had assumed in recent months. Not seeing him every week or even every month, the changes were particularly obvious to me when I was down recently for a visit. There seemed to be an invisible wall between him and the world; he didn't laugh or joke or smile or even talk much, just watched things going by. He had trouble driving, trouble using his utensils. We asked, very gingerly, whether all of his tests had been OK, and had they checked him out thoroughly. He assured us that he was fine, the tests came back fine, he was just an old man and that's all there was to it.

The Old Man--he occasionally goes by "O.M.", though also likes "O.W.", for "Old Warrior"--has been retired for the better part of thirteen years, having walked away from a lucrative corporate communications job as soon as he qualified for the pension. He is now seventy and lives alone; never remarried after The Divorce in 1979, though he had plenty of opportunities.

In fact, he has always believed himself to be much older than he truly is. His musical taste is firmly entrenched in the two decades before he was born: Dixieland jazz, ragtime, novelty songs. When a lovely middle-aged woman, whom he had vociferously admired, made it clear to him that she was interested, he refused to acknowledge it, believing her to be "humoring an old man." The age difference was all of twelve years.

He has been calling himself "elderly" since he turned sixty--taking comfort, I suppose, in preparing early for the real thing. Now, much earlier than the rest of us had imagined, it's here. He will almost certainly need help with daily chores: he suddenly is not comfortable driving, has trouble buttoning his shirt, can't lift anything heavier than a load of wash. It is an effort for him to get up and down the stairs of his house, the house I grew up in.

His mother, who, at ninety, is a mental dynamo but as physically frail as a living person can be, relies on him: he helps process her bills, drives her to appointments, is her link to the outside world. He is dreading telling her, moreso than my siblings, because "at least they have their own lives."

I just don't know what to do. I feel an overwhelming need to talk with my sister and brother, but the Old Man would not want me to say anything till there's a sure diagnosis. He has promised to call me as soon as the doctor calls him, and I am sick with the worry of waiting.

I have been so focused on having a baby, so self-absorbed, that I feel ashamed for not having worried about him enough before. Thank god his psychiatrist double-checked, or he might have waited additional months or years before seeking help.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Signs

Today, I am looking for signs that I have ovulated. Two days ago, I was looking for signs that I was about to ovulate. Three weeks ago, I looked for signs that I was pregnant. A week from now, I will be looking for signs of implantation.

Every day, I am examining some new signal, some new twinge, some new piece of information. I have become a seeker of signs, of talismans that the future will play out as I would wish. (But I am not a believer. I do not seek signs in the metaphysical, in astrology, in god; the signs I look for are more straightforward and simple.)

Tonight, after the debate, I will look for signs that John Kerry will win. I will look to the polls, the op/ed pieces, the expert arguments for signs.

Speaking of which, my allotted ten minutes are up--a definite sign that I should get back to calling the swing state volunteers. You know the most common question I get from them?

"I placed a request weeks ago: where are my signs?"

Monday, October 11, 2004

O-so-sexy

Here are a few lessons I've learned from this month's ovulation time.
  1. Never eat steak fajitas at Chevy's when you're ovulating and need to go home and have sex. Also, never eat steak fajitas at Chevy's when you're allergic to cumin.
  2. There are subtler ways to let your husband know that it's time to get busy than leaving your positive pee stick on the bathroom counter. Ditto for the kitchen counter and bedside table.
  3. If your husband is greater than eighteen years old, it's possible that you may need to give him some extra encouragement after a few straight days of sex. Saying, "If you finish up quickly we can still catch the last inning of the Houston/Atlanta game" may do the trick. Or it may not.
  4. Doing two hours of intensive hip openers and inner thigh strengtheners during a Monday night workout class is not conducive to having sex on said Monday night.
  5. Being clean is sexier than being smelly.
  6. Granny panties, pajama bottoms and a man's undershirt may be less enticing than a black silk negligee, but only if the negligee is not smelly.
  7. Never, ever talk about national politics during foreplay.
  8. If your husband has to pee, make sure he does so before participating in obligatory sex. I have been reliably informed that the urgent need to urinate prohibits ejaculation and the desire to ejaculate prohibits urination. A painful catch-22.
  9. Ovulatory sex and pleasurable sex are not mutually exclusive, but the latest scientific research shows the overlap to occur with approximately the frequency of an albino turkey vulture or Halley's Comet. I believe this equates to around once every 76 years per couple.
  10. Make sure your ovulatory diet's rich in fruits and vegetables--I prefer grapes and potatoes, but that's just me. Trust me on this, though: they will serve you in much better stead than the steak fajitas from Chevy's.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Death March With Cocktails

It's that time again. The march is on.

Left...left...left, right, left.

In order to inject a little life and insensibility into this month's journey to Bataan, I've decided to pack some produce in my kit--namely, grapes and potatoes. Fermented grapes and potatoes, if you must know. I mean, they advise against drinking the water, so we need something.

. . .


I was holding out hope that I would ovulate a bit later this cycle so that my appointment on 10/28 might be no later than three days after the start of my next period. I want the CD 3 tests, and I don't want to have to wait yet another month. Unfortunately, if the two equally magenta lines on the ovulation predictor stick are to be believed, I'm earlyish again this cycle. Feck.

. . .


The Dodgers just gave up a three-run homer with two outs in the fourth. I am in minor agony. Have not won a postseason series since 1988. Feck, feck, feck.

. . .


J. is downstairs writing an essay on road trip packing techniques. He is expounding on the proper white-to-brown and white-to-black sock ratio. I believe he has identified several variables including season, ownership of athletic sandals and the correlated ratio of long pants to shorts.

. . .


Something I learned today: Never drive on a Sunday across the Golden Gate Bridge. On Sundays, nearly everyone on the bridge is from somewhere far away--Nevada, Peru, Antarctica--and has never before seen a toll booth or, perhaps, even a bridge. This would be fine if traffic was exclusively limited to tourists, but they allow locals as well. Here's the problem: locals take the Golden Gate at 70 mph; tourists take the Golden Gate at 25 mph. Sometimes tourists even try to stop in the middle of the bridge for a picture. You can always identify the tourists because they are wearing shorts and it is 57 degrees. Sometimes an expensively dyed blonde in a Range Rover on her way home to Sausalito will simply run over a slow-moving tourist's Chevy Malibu if she's distracted by the Barney DVD her kids are watching in the back seat. She may not notice.

Fortunately, I almost never have to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. I live in Oakland, which connects to San Francisco via the Bay Bridge. Since tourists never go to Oakland, they never take the Bay Bridge.

Oakland is a city that is most famous for the fact that it once boasted the highest per-capita murder rate in the United States. This has successfully kept most of the tourists out of Oakland. That and the fact that it is not photogenic or wealthy like San Francisco: It is often referred to as S.F.'s ugly stepsister, but I see it as an urban Cinderella. The weather is beautiful--not foggy and cold--and it has marvelous architecture, trees, hills, restaurants, arts and people. And it has the best views of San Francisco. Now if only we could find it a very, very large glass slipper...

. . .


Is it obvious that I'm stalling? I really don't feel like marching this evening.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Peeking through fingers

I spent the last two hours watching--and sometimes just listening to--The Debate.

It was refreshing, in a way, because I haven't gotten this acutely worked up about anything since watching Michelle Kwan perform at the Salt Lake City Olympics. (I guess I just outed myself. Yes, I am a figure skating fan. A big, big fan. Loveitloveitloveit. Me and a bunch of nine-year-old girls. Totally embarrassing.) Oh, forgot about the utter panic of peeing on the stick the other day; guess I was pretty worked up about that.

I watched the first hour and ten, then just couldn't take another minute of Dubya's smug, frightening grin, so I went to the other room and just listened through the door. From what I saw, he seemed defensive and angry and deceptive, but didn't bumble or mug or twitch quite as much as last time, so I doubt the polls will show it to be quite as decisive a victory for Kerry as the first one.

I am too full of adrenaline and hope and fear to write much; my hands are still shaking a little bit. The worst part is, I won't be able to fully relax until the first Wednesday after the first Monday in November.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

CBC, TSH, ESR, RBG, WTF?

Dr. Useless strikes again.

When I went to Dr. Useless a few weeks ago for my infertility referral, she figured she might as well send me over to the lab for my regular thyroid test. I have Hashimoto's Thytoiritis and take a low dose of thyroid hormone to keep everything in balance. The testing process is simple and involves nothing more than a standard blood draw. (I hate these, to be honest, but only because I am a needlephobe. They do not hurt, I do not pass out, but something about the needle slipping effortlessly into my flesh just creeps me out. On the positive side, this has been a big deterrent to my mainlining heroin.)

After each lab visit--which occur every six months to a year, depending on how recently my dosage has been adjusted--I have received a copy of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test results from the lab, which I dutifully file away for future (obsessive) reference, as there are myriad theories on which level is best for conceiving. This year, however, I got a photocopied generic fill-in-the-blank form directly from my doctor's office, not the lab, with checkboxes. This indicated that my TSH was "within normal parameters." No number, not even anything to indicate what those parameters might be. Nada.

More peculiarly, however, there was also a "normal" checkmark beside something called "RBG". And another beside "ESR". And another beside "CBC".

What the fuck does this mean? She has never tested me for anything other than TSH during these annual draws. If she wants to test for something else, we talk about it during an office visit and it is done separately. Such as when she tested my cholesterol and iron last year.

So, I call her office and get the nicest of the receptionists, which isn't really saying a hell of a lot. When I say that I'd like my TSH number, she tells me it's "normal" and didn't I get the results in the mail? I say, no, I only got something saying it was "normal" but no actual number. She says, well, why do you need to know the number? Though it's not really her business to ask, I go ahead and explain. She protests again, saying the doctor would be aware if there were anything wrong with my level. I persist. Eventually she caves: 3.88. Normal, yes, maybe a little higher than I'd like, but probably OK. Such a little piece of information, though; why on earth would this unsympathetic receptionist feel the need to keep it from me?

Anyway, glad to have gotten that hurdle out of the way, I ask about the rest of the "results" from the photocopy. What does ESR mean? RBG? And why was I tested for these things without my knowledge?

Ah, she says, perhaps you'd better leave a message for Dr. Useless.

So I do. "Dr. Useless," I say, "I'm just wondering about my test results. I got something in the mail saying I was tested for things called CBC, ESR and RBG. I'm hoping you can clarify why I got these tests and what they mean."

Later, on my answering machine, a curt message saying that "all of my tests were normal. Don't worry about it."

I pull out a few of my hairs and decide to start Googling.

Turns out CBC is (duh, should've known) Complete Blood Count. RBG is Random Blood Glucose, to help detect diabetes. ESR has something to do with the sed rate, which apparently helps to determine if you are suffering from various illnesses including pneumonia, a pernicious terminal cancer called multiple myeloma and--surprise, surprise--pelvic inflammatory disease. Is it possible that she intended to conduct these tests surreptitiously? Or perhaps just a mistake on the form; a pencil smudge near the checkbox?

I don't think I will ever know. Because I don't think I will ever go back to Dr. Useless. I've had it. I don't care how nice she can be, how quickly she sees me when I have tonsillitis and need Amoxicillin, how convenient her office is, what with all of that nice parking. This is just unacceptable; totally unacceptable.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Preferred by Discreet Women Everywhere!

On our latest California Adventure, from which we returned last night, I had a profound revelation: I am embarrassed. I am always embarrassed.

Let me set the scene: We are near Mt. Lassen on the second night of our trip. I am in the tiny bathroom of a borderline derelict motel room, not renovated since its construction in the middle of the last century. As I start to change my bloody maxi pad, it occurs to me that the elderly woman--clearly the proprietor--who checked us in likely will also be the one who cleans up after us when we check out. This is not a motel with employees; it's a one-woman show.

I picture her changing the lightly-used sheets, tossing our empty water bottles, wiping down the table...and emptying the bathroom trash. I am suddenly acutely embarrassed by the fact that she will have to toss the large pad-and-toilet paper cocoon I must leave behind. Now, don't get me wrong: I have left many of these behind, in hotel bathrooms across the world, without giving any thought to the anonymous housekeepers. My problem here is that I have come face-to-face with the woman whose job it will be: she talked about the weather (cold at night; there's an extra blanket in the closet if you need it), John Kerry (what a man; a real hero) and forcefully brought to mind my late maternal grandmother, a tough woman with a generous heart and a very hard life.

I've had issues with embarrassment all my life, though I've never really thought it about it in exactly that way. There were always other words: shy, introverted, distant, uncomfortable, self-critical. But what it comes down to, really, is embarrassment. Embarrassment at what I do have, what I don't have, what I like, what I want.

I am embarrassed that I dropped out of high school. That I never finished a college degree. That I hate Camus. I am embarrassed of my writing, refuse to let anybody I know see it. I find myself, on sleepless nights, revisiting embarrassing moments from my past, over and over. Things I cannot change.

I am irrationally embarrassed of admitting my infertility, embarrassed of the steps I'll need to take, the fact that I waited so long.

I am embarrassed of my person: Oh, god, nobody has ever had thighs this ugly, zits this big, hair this crazy. Is my breath OK? Do I have spinach in my teeth? I backed out of the bedroom every morning for the first three years with J. so he wouldn't get a full view of my cellulite. (Of course he's myopic, so it was unnecessary in, um, hindsight.)

I am suffused with the embarrassment of privilege. Liberal Guilt. Whatever. This is the one that causes me to grossly overtip waitresses. To bag my own groceries in Trader Joe's. To flee my house every other Wednesday when the cleaning people come: I just feel guilty that someone else should tidy up after me. Today I hid out in the car after running errands until their little white Civic finally left so I wouldn't have to face the fact that they had just scrubbed behind my toilet.

I am socially embarrassed: At times I get so flustered talking with strangers that I fail to hear anything they're saying because I'm trying to figure out something to say next so I won't stand there, mute and agape, deer in the headlights. And then I may come up with a desperate non-sequitur. I can hear myself sounding dim or eccentric and cringe inside. Sometimes it takes the form of indiscreetly saying something too personal in an attempt not to sound cold and robotic. And then I want to slap myself. I've often thought that I should have been sent off to some sort of finishing school for shy girls, someplace that promises to teach young ladies how to converse, to listen, to be composed, to be approachable but poised.

Which brings me back to the shabby motel and my maxi pad. As I was sitting there, considering this sad situation, I looked up and had to giggle. There was a small dispenser on the wall, featuring a stylized drawing of a nurse circa 1958 and the words, "For All Your Sanitary Needs. Preferred by Discreet Women Everywhere!"

I guess if it's good enough for discreet women, it's good enough for me.