Nothing to See Here

 A few weeks ago, Mr. Ostrich went in for his test. There was a lot of buildup to this– Though he wanted to pretend it was all just fiiiine, I knew he was worried. There was lots of planning, anxiety, running around my local pharmacy to ask them for a sterile cup for an …er… analysis. (I’m not one to stand on decorum, but how do you scream that out in the middle of a store to a pharmacy assistant. “Yes, I’m looking for the perfect sterile receptacle for my husband’s spunk.” I kept it classy with an “…er… analysis.”)

Any way, the results are… Excellent. His bits are in working order. My bits are in working order. Just as I suspected, everything is… gooood?

Medically speaking, this is a trend for me. I have big scary health problems, which usually turn out to be a whole lot of nothing. The short list includes:

When I was 21, I found a lump in my left breast. It was about the size of a penny. I remember lying in bed before my senior year at college, thinking “Yeah, I should probably see someone about that.” After tests, a few sets of doctors, and a biopsy, it turns out I had a fibroadenoma. Within about a year, that little sucker went away on its own.

At 29, I got the shits. No, seriously. An uncontrollable extravaganza of crap. I’d eat something, and it would race right through me. This lasted months. My doctors thought I could have Crohn’s disease. Tests came back negative. Maybe lactose intolerance? Nope. Good ol’ Irritable Bowel Syndrome for me. I prefer to call it “spastic colon”– It is more accurately descriptive. With a better diet and a lot less stress, I’m a mostly functioning person now. Mostly.

And then there was that time when I was 33 and found another lump. This time in my back, and much bigger than is appropriate for my run-of-the-mill bodily oddities. Not cancer- whew!  It’s just a sack of fat that is hanging out on my back. My doctor assures me that this can just happen. It’s not harmful, it’s just weird. I’ve lived quite nicely with my little lump of back fat ever since.

There are others, like the cancerous mole that turn out to be a serious case of dry skin. Or the years of migraines that just up and went away. My body isn’t a wonderland, it is more like a traveling freak show. Here one day, only to move on to the next town tomorrow.

I’ve just compared my body to a band of carnies.

When my doctor delivered the results of Mr. Ostrich’s test, he suggested we try some Clomid. Which I haven’t fully thought about yet– we’re still weeks away from the first round. Do I have reason for optimism? What if this drug makes me crazy? What if I grew a second head? What if my hypothetical child grows a second head?

What if it doesn’t work? That is, of course, the biggest question.

A Tale of Two Fertility Apps

With the start of each cycle, we the barren have the opportunity to start anew. It’s like New Year’s for your uterus.  I resolve to tackle this month with the same enthusiasm I had when I first started trying to conceive. I will not drink every night in an effort to drown out the tiny voices in my head telling me I will die alone and childless in a dumpster.

Like all modern resolutions, I will use technology to poke and prod me into staying on track.  For this month’s exercise in wild-eyed optimism, I’ve picked two apps to help me obsessively monitor my bits to predict the best time EVER to get preggers: Clue and Glow.

Why these two? Because a) I’ve been using an app for over a year that keeps popping annoying ads for something called “Flowerama” which is a game about farming (I think…) and b) this New York Times post covered them and I’m a sheep who will try anything once.

My impressions thus far:

Clue: Visually so pretty and very intuitive. I like how the interface isn’t a calendar, actually. My cycle is its own contained thing, and doesn’t give two shits about calendars, TYVM. It’s also less of a painful reminder of the duration of time I’ve been at this. The whole thing feels very human, so I feel less like a broken chemistry set.

Glow: Glow is like a personal trainer for fertility. It asks too many questions, makes you log seemingly endless pieces of data. It offers chipper hints and articles about treating your body well (“Skip those nitrates at the deli, and have a green salad!” “Your period starts tomorrow. Pamper yourself!”) This is probably the best app for data nerds because it will calculate how fertile you are TODAY. Currently, I have a 12% chance of getting pregnant. #depressing

About a year ago when Mr. Ostrich and I began trying in earnest, I was tracking this stuff like a mo-fo. Unconsciously, I was convinced if I just managed all of it *perfectly* that would change things. Obviously, this was not true. Pregnancy, unlike most other things I’ve achieved in life, cannot be attained through diligence, smarts, and hard work. If this were the case, there would be no daytime talk shows. (I’m looking at you, Maury.)

It seems that this all boils down to luck, which I don’t really have. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but it’s mostly true*. I have never really been in the right place at the right time. I suppose you could argue that I’m lucky on an existential sort of level- I was born to middle class parents in the wealthiest country in the world. Okay yes, that was luck… I’ll give you that.

This explains my percolating pessimism about getting pregnant. Things either happen for me, or they don’t. This is obviously not happening. Does there come a point when you pack it in, and just decide to become a cat lady?

*Mostly, because I was lucky enough to meet and marry Mr. Ostrich. He is by far the best thing I have going. Oh, and my cat. Neither has featured much so far, because this blog is about ME. It’s the one place where I feel comfortable being a sad little blob of selfishness. Deal.

On Mothers: Mine

My period came last week, with remarkably little fan fare. Usually, there is a lot of cramping, nausea, acne, and other delights. But aside for oddly sensitive teeth and gums, my PMS was at a minimum. I wasn’t terribly pleased to get my period, but at least I was a little less overwrought.

While I waited those infernal two weeks, I thought a lot about motherhood. Yes, someone who is trying to have children might think about motherhood from time to time. But noooooo, I’ve got a whole layer of depressing to add. Because my life is lived in EMOTIONAL EXTREMES.

My mom is in the hospital recovering from serious injuries. This has been going on since November. Though at the moment it looks like she will remain “with us,” there were moments when I wasn’t so sure. I was very close to losing her, which made me wonder about life without her.

It sucked.

My mother is no angel. She is difficult, stubborn, selfish, fragile– you know, human. But I’ve always admired how comfortable she has been with not exactly fitting in. Her compassion for the outsider and the underdog is limitless. She doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what other people say about her decisions to live her life. (Her own opinion about her decisions, that is another story…)

When I was younger, I felt truly ambivalent about having kids. I’m not a particularly maternal person. I never liked babysitting. I don’t coddle or take care of people the way that women are often expected to. I’m fiercely independent, and I expect other people to be too.

This has led to occasional tension in my life. I don’t really “get” a lot of other women, and men often don’t “get” me. It’s  amazing how ingrained gender expectations are in our little brains. Anyway, I’ve been lucky to find friends regardless of gender who just don’t give a crap. But there are times when cultural expectations punch me in the face.

When confronted with the idea of what a “good mom” should be, I just didn’t see myself taking on that role. I remember talking about this with my mom, questioning if I should have kids. “I felt the same way,” she said. “It is different with your own kids. You’ll be your own kind of mother.”

And I started to see what she mean. My mom wasn’t your traditional idea of  a “mom” (at least in the 80’s when I was little.) There were no snacks on the table when I got home– I made them myself. She didn’t pick out my clothes or brush my hair– I looked pretty much like a hobo. She didn’t shelter or pamper me– I made my own decisions, and took responsibility for the consequences.

That isn’t to say that my mom didn’t care. She spent hours with me on my homework every night. She would sew my pajamas and halloween costumes. She made sure I got a full night’s sleep. She always listened to me. Always.

I specifically remember being terrified (at age 9) of getting AIDS. I had no idea what it was, but it seemed to be everywhere. My mom very honestly told me what it was, and why I wasn’t at risk– try explaining intravenous drug-use to a 9 year old. I left feeling relieved, smarter, and in control. But there was no “Now let’s get you a warm glass of milk, kiddo” moment afterwards. Sitting up in bed, she turned back to the book she had been reading before I walked in the room.

Maybe that’s what she meant when she said that it is different with your own kids. A good mother knows what her kid needs to feel safe and taken care of. You change based on what they need, not based on some pre-determined nonsense. I didn’t need a warm glass of milk- I just needed the truth.

And what sucks is that I can’t tell my mom that I finally figured this out. I can’t talk to her because she is recovering from a stroke and can’t understand me all the time. I can’t tell her how afraid I am that I’ll never get to be a mother myself, to take care of my own kids in a way that is true to them.  I can’t hear her tell me, honestly and with warmth, that everything will be okay.