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It’s a good thing so few people read my blog, or I’d never have the nerve to put up this kind of post. 

Ah, the mood-stabilizing caffeine is finally kicking in.  Or maybe I’m just safely out of the public sphere.  I should not be allowed out of my bed, much less the house, when I’m in a state like this.  I should have known it wasn’t going to be all sunshine and roses, even on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day.  I accused the erratic heating system at work of causing my migraine yesterday, but I was in denial that a migraine is usually the harbinger of my period.  Or, more precisely, the dashing of my hopes of pregnancy for yet another cycle.  When I awoke this morning to a continued headache, surprised I had been able to sleep at all, and dribbled toothpaste down my new shirt, I just knew.  These things come in threes.  Sure enough, no baby this month.

Were my hopes any higher this cycle than usual?  My digital, idiot-proof fertility monitor had actually green-lighted ovulation 2 weeks ago, so I was optimistic.  Mr. Apron and I tried our most dutifully to make a baby.  After some wrangling, I’d made a (back-up) appointment with a fertility doctor.  And yet, this morning, as I saw the wall of chances come crumbling down, it still crushed me as hard as ever.

I tried go out, pick up my new glasses, buy our special peanut butter, do some bullshit shopping, just to keep myself busy and occupy my mind, rather than sitting home and wallowing in self-pity, but there’s no use.  The littlest things are setting me off, and I’m seething with vitriol at my body’s failure to do what I’ve commanded it to.   A woman at Bed, Bath & Beyond directs me to the “other side of the store” to find the dog beds.  I find nothing except doggy stairs (to let the dog access the human bed), couch/car seat covers (for when the dog is lying on those human furnishings), and doggy towels (microfiber towels with a dog-print on it, so you know it’s for dogs).  As I head out the door by the register, the cashier tosses off her mandatory, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”  and I bark back, accusatorily, “You don’t actually have dog beds, do you?”  “What?” She is taken aback.  “I mean, for real dogs.  You don’t have them, do you?”  Of course they don’t.  But she told me they did.  I go into Starbucks to try to get the caffeine jolt that usually lessens the stubborn migraine’s grip on me (now entering its 23rd hour).  My usual caffeine intake is restricted and so minimal, that a junky, girly Frappuccino is enough to send me into a hyper, happy buzz, and hopefully kill the headache as well.  Why would the drink-making chippy ask if I wanted whipped cream after I specified I wanted soy milk in my Frappuccino? Especially after the register-chippy already wrote a line through “WC” on the cup? I should have stayed in bed today.  As my eyes tear up, I grab my drink and rush to the car, only to find myself boxed in by 2 enormous SUVs. 

I hate that Starbucks, with its impossible parking lot.  I hate the oversized SUVs the WASPy tooth-bleaching moms drive in my neighborhood.  I hate having to explain common-sense things to people; and I hate when they lie to me about what their store carries.  Maybe I could tolerate this bullshit any other day, but not when I’m fit to burst from disappointment and frustration. 

On these days, when I hate my body, I want to punish it somehow.  As soon as I find out I’m not pregnant, I want to go on an anti-pregnancy bender of sorts.  If I were a drinker, I bet I’d be reaching for a bottle.  I want to purge all the precautions from my body.  Caffeine?  Feta cheese?  Eating well?  Vitamins?  Exercising?  I want to simultaneously make a clean start and scrub it all away, and trash all the things I’d been doing, on the chance I’d be pregnant.  Which I never am.  As my body is punishing me by denying me the baby I want so dearly, I want to punish it for failing me.  I want to ignore my Good Girl GI diet and eat greasy disgusting things to make myself sick.  I want to skip my prudent breakfast, and eat nothing but two rolls for lunch.  As a non-drinker, I don’t have a full toolbox of methods to actually make myself sick, but I think I’d be drinking it all away if I could. 

If I go out, if I pretend everything’s okay, and go about my business, am I denying myself the opportunity to be sad?  If I stay home and bathe myself in self-pity, marinating in my own filth and self- loathing, is that any better? 

As I do my errands, I am reminded acutely that all am I doing is distracting myself again with bullshit.  I look around my house and see more claptrap nonsense: the stand mixer (still in its box) my mother gave us for Hanukkah that we’ll probably never use; the first season of “The Wire” that I have no interest in watching with my husband; the dogs and their fur-covered trappings; the feeble attempts at suburban homey-ness; and all the crap we use to keep ourselves busy.  Right now I don’t want any of it.  What I want is a baby, and no amount of bargaining or mourning or self-flagellation is going to bring it to me.

I’ve gone through this every month for the past year.  Two weeks out of every month, I could be pregnant.  That possibility steels me for the changes in diet and behavior and body that are taking place.  For two weeks a month, I pretend to be pregnant.  I take vitamins every day; I avoid soft cheeses, raw eggs, and too much caffeine.  I don’t kill myself at the gym, telling myself that this month could be the month that that bit of belly flab that won’t go away is actually something much more significant.  But each and every month, it is not. 

Around the third week of my cycle, I start being hopeful. I start tuning into my body, waiting to feel those twinges and sensations I felt 2 summers ago, when I was pregnant for real.  I wait for that moment to replay itself, that moment one morning that summer, when I came happily bounding down the stairs and felt my breasts heave and tug as they never had before.  In that moment, I knew I was pregnant.  I both fear and welcome those sensations, as they mean something is happening in my body.  But why must the PMS symptoms be so similar in timing and quantity to early pregnancy symptoms?  Why does implantation feel so similar to regular old cramping?  Why does a change in appetite signify my period or a pregnancy?  Why does a bloated belly feel so much like a baby bump?  Am I just more tired than usual or am I tired?  Am I feeling like I need to clean or am I nesting

I am no longer tracking precise data about our “no-no’s” or my basal body temperature.  I tried all that last fall, and through the winter, with no success.  No patterns emerged, and there was nothing to show for my efforts.  My cycle ranged from 4 weeks to 7, and, try as I might, I couldn’t tune into my body’s signals as I had before.  I realize I was not in control, but all my charting and tracking and counting was compensation.  I was trying to control what is supposed to be a natural process.

When “family planning” became a science, and all the “What to Expect” bullshit hit the mainstream fan, the so-called natural process was flipped on its head.  Now we’re having sex on top, on bottom, on the flip-side, on the roof, if it’ll change our odds.  In our own bathrooms, women are measuring cervical mucus, fertility hormones, basal body temperatures, and we’re counting days obsessively.  We will seek out that elusive Ovulation, and we will corner it and make it show itself to our husbands’/partners’ sperm.  It will be known!  We will control it!

As I try to become more in-touch with my body, it becomes a mysterious and distant entity, furtively squirreling away its secrets and sending mixed signals.  We will try again this month, armed this time with a ClearBlue Easy Fertility Monitor.  This thing is digital, folks.  It will seek out and annihilate highlight any ovulation within a 100 foot radius. If there’s anything growing up in my generation has taught me, it is that technology will solve all the world’s problems.  All.  Disregard all the killer-race-of-robot movies and all the cloning scenarios, technology is our friend.

Of course, I had all the greatest intentions on the blogging front this week.  The kids were on vacation, so I had what I thought were absurd amounts of free time on my hands to catch up on paperwork and get a good blogging momentum started.  Blog fail.  Monday I was at a conference all day long.  Tuesday, I did write about my surgical “options”.  Wednesday was endless staff meetings and a video called “Including Samuel” about a boy with cerebral palsy who is fully mainstreamed into his elementary school.  Thursday started off promising, but then I had an IEP from 10 till almost noon, then lunch, and finally I had to meet with a coworker to plan our summer language groups and make materials.  So I spent the afternoon photocopying, stapling, and filing knock-off versions of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” as coloring books.  Today I had off from work, but Mr. Apron and I compiled a hefty to-do list which left me running around all day.  Sigh.  Here is my Friday blog.

Yesterday at work, a coworker admonished me for not enrolling in the optional short-term disability insurance offered by my company.  It’s fantastic, she said, and pays something like 60% of your salary if you can’t work or if you’re on maternity leave.  Of course, she was assuming two things:  one, that I hadn’t enrolled in it when I was hired or during our open-enrollment period which just ended June 30th; and two, that I was a young married thing and would be caring about such things soon.

Don’t you hate it when the know-it-alls are right?  When I have been interviewing for and hired at my two “real” jobs that offered benefits, I have been more concerned with getting a job and was not brilliant enough to go benefit-shopping like some of my classmates.  I guess that attitude came from the difficulty I had getting my first job, and how grateful I was just to be employed.  With my current job, too, having been hired at a time when it seemed all other sectors were cutting back, I was just happy to get an offer.  The other factor is that I can’t navigate my way into any of the benefits any more than Finley can free himself from a blanket we throw over his head.  I am now familiar with the workings of an HMO, thanks to my brain surgery experience.  I understand about diagnosis codes, copays, referrals, deductibles, and how insurance, not a doctor, decides when you are cured.  What I know nothing about are everything else in that healthcare packet I was given when hired.  Long-term medical, short-term disability, health savings accounts, dependant care accounts, etc.  During my hiring and during open enrollment, my eyes glazed over and I checked N/A on the payroll deduction form without giving it a second thought, because second thoughts about things I don’t understand make me cry. 

Nevertheless, I googled short-term disability insurance, short-term medical insurance, etc.  I went to the company’s website and clicked on the link to their STM provider.  I downloaded the form, printed it out, and e-mailed the HR lady who would know definitively about such things.  Of course, the form I printed out stated quite assertively one could only enroll during open enrollment.  And pregnancy is a pre-existing condition; you have to be enrolled before you’re impregnated. 

She called me back right before the IEP. 

“Now, you know the open enrollment period is closed, right?”

“Yeah, I was afraid of that.”

“But I called my supervisor, and I haven’t heard back yet, but I think I can sneak you for this year in because it’s only July 2nd.  But I need to know, and I’m not supposed to ask you this, but…are you pregnant already?”

“No, not yet.”

She faxed over the forms later in the day.  The cover letter read: “Urgent…I was able to get you into this year’s open enrollment.  Fill these out and return them  today.”   I was able to fill them out without crying, and I was able to use the fax machine to send them back.  Double success!

Now, my coworkers were as puzzled as you are why I was so excited to get that fax.  Last month-ish, I e-mailed HR to find out what the maternity leave policy was.  The HR lady elucidated something about the Family Medical Leave Act, and told me to check the hopelessly confusing and under-useful employee handbook.  They both said the same thing.  FMLA entitles one to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave during the year a child is born/adopted.  You can take it all at once, or use it to cut back on your weekly hours, or some combination thereof.  But it’s unpaid.  For three months.  That’s a pretty serious burden to a family with a new infant.  Basically, this ground-breaking new allowance of leave, this new federal law, all it does is guarantee your job will be there for you when you come crawling back after being basically unemployed for 3 months. 

But short-term disability, which includes pregnancy and post-partum-ness as a short-term disability, entitles me to up to 13 weeks of 66 2/3% of my pay.  It can also be taken piecemeal.  So one could, if one was inclined, stay home for 8 weeks, then come back 3 days/week and use the other 2 days’ worth to keep one as a full-time employee, and therefore keep one’s health insurance. 

Ah, so this is how it’s done.  When I first found out about FMLA, I called my mother and asked her how women did this.  I couldn’t understand how the entire country’s worth of mothers takes unpaid leave.  But now it makes more sense. 

On face value it would seem odd that I enthusiastically texted Mr. Apron on Thursday teasing him, “Good news : baby-making”.  And even stranger that I’m so excited about STM.  But now we can start realistically thinking about baby-making.  Mr. Apron has been very gung-ho (read: horny), and I’ve been bogged down in the pragmatics and logistics of such petty issues as health insurance, child-care, maternity leave, medication restrictions during pregnancy and unpasteurized cheeses.  I think we’re cutting down these barriers one by one.  What’s funny is that we have all these pre-pregnancy books (see Mr. Apron’s blog for reviews) from the library, and not one says that checking out STM before you conceive is an important thing to do.  They’re too concerned with charting basal body temperature and supporting old wives’ tales about how to make a boy vs. a girl. 

It’s sad that these are the things we have to be concerned about when so much of becoming a parent is (I’m guessing here) about bonding with your ever-expanding belly, and, later, the thing that came out of it.  But it is important.  It lays the groundwork to let us have time to be with our children when they’re young.  And fill their eager minds with all sorts of poppycock designed to keep them safe and naive for as long as possible, or at least until middle school. 

Good luck with puberty.