focus on fertility: week 1

This post is part of an ongoing series of posts regarding my experiences working through the book Fully Fertile, by Tami Quinn, Beth Heller, and Jeanie Lee Bussell. For previous posts, click here.

During this first week, I learned that a newly-pregnant friend had miscarried. She had told me she was pregnant just a few weeks after finding out herself, back in January, and on Wednesday, when we were catching up, she told me that she had lost the baby the previous weekend. She told me how strange it feels to lose the baby, and have her hormones going crazy, when most of the world didn’t even know she was pregnant to begin with.

After we talked, I thought about how this is not unlike trying to get pregnant as a lesbian. It’s more than a matter of just peeing on a stick a few days a month and hoping that nature takes its course. It’s this way, too, for other women who use assisted reproductive technology for whatever reason. There are mysterious doctor’s appointments and absences from work, hours spent looking through donor profiles, and yes, peeing on a stick. It’s not something I would want to talk about all the time with a host of strangers — or even necessarily close friends — but it is still strange to be making such monumental decisions and changes about your life within the privacy of your marriage. Big things are happening, and the only one who knows is my wife. If I were a single woman doing this, the only one who might know about all of this is me.

In a way, though, this privacy appeals to me. One of the things that is lacking in a house with three children is privacy. Our decision to get married was conveyed to my wife’s ex-husband at the speed of light. A new car, re-painting the dining room, whether or not we are getting a dog. All of these choices and plans are shared with her ex before we know it, sometimes before we are even settled on them ourselves. It is fundamentally important to us that we never ask our kids to keep secrets from a parent, so this is something we have come to accept as a fact of life.

There are other things that travel through the gossip-chain of school age children and trickle upward to the parents. Recess is an extended game of “telephone.” Someone had lice (or bed bugs!), someone’s dad lost his job, someone got suspended for punching another kid. The restaurant down the street has roaches — someone saw one run across the floor — so we should never eat there again. It’s amazing how easy it is to have your finger on the pulse of a small town just by sitting down at the dinner table and asking, “So, did anything interesting happen today?”

But the flip side is an eerie feeling that your walls are made of glass. Because my wife’s kids pre-dated her relationship with me, this privacy was never something we really had. Our neighbor across the street heard that we were together from her 10 year old daughter. Once we told the kids, it was public information. So this private decision to have a baby, while we have mentioned it in a casual, offhand way to the kids, feels like a welcome bit of privacy in an otherwise transparent life.

So, while the first week of Fully Fertile focuses on the flow of life-energy (or prana), my focus has been on the flow of information. How do you feel less isolated without feeling like you’re on display? When is an appropriate time to tell your kids you’re pregnant, when you know it will immediately be conveyed to the person you would least like to share your private joy with? How do you navigate a demanding job during the process of becoming pregnant, let alone the first months of pregnancy when you are vomiting into the toilet every morning and falling asleep at 8 pm?

prenatal vitamins

Eeep! I started taking prenatal vitamins yesterday. I ran out of my usual Flintstones, so decided it was time to make the leap to real prenatal vitamins. My wife claims they are a waste of money, but the brand I chose has twice the folic acid of the Flintstones, and about 4x more Vitamin D, which I am actually deficient in (according to my most recent bloodwork, which was in the middle of the summer last year).

brainstrong-prenatal-vitamins

focus on fertility: introduction

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading the book Fully Fertile, by Tami Quinn, Beth Heller, and Jeanie Lee Bussell. Because our first insemination will take place during the month of July, we are about four months away. This week, I’m going to start going through the exercises in the book, and will update this blog with my progress. Before I get started though, I wanted to write a bit about why a woman who has never even tried to get pregnant thinks that a book about infertility will be so useful.

I work in an extraordinarily high-stress environment. Last summer, when we got married, this high-stress job had an extremely negative impact on my ability to enjoy my own wedding. I started this particular job about 13 months ago, so when I was in the run up to the wedding, I was still relatively new, and had a difficult time (still do, in fact, have a difficult time) creating boundaries between my work and the rest of my life. Add to that the fact that we planned on having our wedding at our home, which required significant work before it would be ready for the event, and my stress reach a level in the weeks before the wedding where all I wanted was for the wedding to be over so that I could rest. With a wedding, a person is able to force her way through this kind of stress, and the wedding day comes and goes whether you are ready for it or not. The first three days of our honeymoon, my wife and I both spent much of the time sleeping. The result of taking on too much and pushing through was that a few weeks after the wedding, I realized that felt like I had missed it.

This process won’t work with respect to getting pregnant and having a baby. You can’t force this kind of thing. Aside from that, I don’t want to. One thing I learned from my wedding is that just because you can do it all, it doesn’t mean you should. Recently, I’ve been very, very stressed. I’ve been snapping at the kids, suffered from insomnia, and had to go for a run at 10pm because of my work stress and dissatisfaction wiht my job. I can’t quit it right now, so I realized that I had to really do something to deal with the stress I am under. That’s where Fully Fertile comes in. Even though I am not struggling with infertility — to my knowledge — I knew I needed a way to get in touch with my body, my mind, my emotions, and just take care of myself during this extremely difficult and stressful time. I’m doing the exercises in the book in the context of planning for a baby, but I am doing them to take care of myself and give myself the support I know I’ll need to make it through the next year-plus at a job I find so stressful and challenging to cope with, while also going through the life-changing process of having a baby.

The Fully Fertile program uses yoga, Oriental Medicine, nutrition, and spiritual practices like meditation to optimize physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and provide support for the conception process. But the posts in this series won’t just focus on what the exercises in the book are — you will need to purchase the book to get that. And I’m not here to sell books. Instead, these posts will be my journey, using the book as a tool, to try to get in touch with my own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health to support myself through a time I know will be challenging. I invite anyone who is going through a similar process to join in.

Because I’m a type-A, driven sort of person, I know that I need to focus my attention somewhere, to avoid becoming a bit obsessive and drive my stress levels even higher if we aren’t able to conceive right away. The exercises will give me a focal point and give me something to work on so that I can prioritize self-care, otherwise managing my health and stress will definitely take a back seat to the ever-growing To Do list.

Lastly, although the Fully Fertile program is designed to be done over the course of 12 weeks, which means I technically would not need to start until mid-April in order to have completed all of the exercises by the time we are ready for our first insemination, I have no illusions that there won’t be hiccups along the way. There may be a super-busy week where I’m not able to do the exercises, or there may be a particular topic that I get stuck on and want to spend more than one week on. To that end, I’ve purposely built in some slippage, to give myself permission to be imperfect in this. It’s very important to me that my stress-reduction plan does not become just another stressor in my already hectic life. So don’t be surprised if you see multiple posts for the same week’s worth of exercises.

staying home

I previously mentioned that the topic of whether I should continue my demanding career after the baby is born was a topic for another post. Well, I guess that other post is this one. With the likes of Marissa Meyer and Sheryl Sandberg making news by implementing family-unfriendly workplace policies and asking women to push harder at their careers, I find myself very glad not to have an alliterative name, and wondering more than usual how I will cope with work/life balance once the baby is here.

My job requires, by some calculations, 7.5 hours of work every day of the year. You know, including Christmas and Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. Yes, I am a lawyer. I am actually a pretty good one. I find the work interesting. But. Not a day goes by where I don’t regret my decision to go to law school, mostly because of this.

payoff

That, dear reader, is the anticipated payoff date of my remaining student loan debt. Which I am currently devoting my entire salary to, other than taxes and certain fixed expenses, which aren’t going anywhere. That’s two years away.

Last night, something happened that is all too common when you’re a junior lawyer. My boss emailed me at 8:15 and asked me to send out a document. This wouldn’t be a big deal if I was already working anyway, but I wasn’t. I was out for appetizers and drinks with my wife and a friend. I did not want to work. I was not expecting to work. But the expectation of ME was that I leave, go home, log on to the remote system, and send out the document. Immediately. I think this is totally unreasonable, and most people, I think, would agree with me, unless they are also lawyers, in which case they will tell you this kind of thing happens all the time. It has happened to me on New Year’s day, it has happened to me when I was on vacation, it has happened to me when I had said a few hours earlier that I had a “procedure” done at my doctor’s office and my doctor asked me not to work for the rest of the day. It happens ALL. the. time. I am never, literally never, mentally unplugged from my job.

How I could manage this at this current job is one thing, but in terms of long-term plans, this particular aspect of this particular job is not likely to change. So, the question is, do I keep my current, gruelling, high-paying job in the hopes that I can get the loans paid before the end of my maternity leave and hope that it will mean that I can then stay home with the baby and our kids? Or do I try to change jobs now, and find something with a bearable lifestyle, but which will undoubtedly be lower-paying and with a shorter paid maternity leave (if it offers any paid maternity leave at all), and accept that I will have to go back to work, possibly full time, for the first year or two of our child’s life?

My wife said to me this morning that when they are babies is not when they need you most — it’s when they are teenagers. As our oldest approaches her teenage years, I can see that there is some truth to this. But also. Staying home for the baby is not entirely for the baby. It is also for me. I want to do it. I can’t think of anything better than spending my days with our little baby, and being there for the bigger kids to help with homework and make a snack, go the the class party at the elementary school, etc., while they still actually want me to do it. And also to keep the teenagers out of trouble.

I don’t know what to do in this moment. I don’t know whether I can let go of the hope of staying home with the baby. I don’t know whether I can endure another year + of being completely beholden to a job I dislike.

fear, and yoga

I have been reading every book I can find about being pregnant, getting pregnant, and having a baby. There’s a delicate balance at work here, because I had originally promised my wife that we would just BE for our first year of marriage, and then work on having a baby. My ticking biological clock and the advancing ages of our existing children has convinced her that it might make more sense to do the prep work in advance, and just wait for the trying part until we have been married about a year, but still, I am sensitive to the fact that I am completely going back on my word and becoming increasingly focused on the baby well in advance of the one-year mark. So, I have been quietly and unobtrusively scouring the internet and reading every book on baby-making that I can get my hands on. When I finished my most recent book, I slipped out to the bookstore on my way home from work, and picked up a book on using yoga to increase fertility.

I practiced yoga roughly from 2001 to 2008, when I moved from California to the East Coast and was unable to find a yoga class and studio that meshed with both my sensibilities about what yoga should be, and my extraordinarily hectic schedule. My move to the East Coast coincided with the beginning of a very demanding career. Whether I will continue that career after the baby is born is a topic for another post, but for now, until certain financial goals are met (namely, until crushing student loan debt is paid off), suffice it to say that I am stuck with it. Add to the mix a move to the suburbs and the acquisition of three young children, and you can see how the weekly yoga class that I hadn’t even found yet slipped lower and lower on the priority list until it was off the list completely.

Since I’ve stopped practicing yoga, I have lost upper body strength (important for carrying baby around!) and have noticed aches and tightness in my lower back and hips (not so great for childbirth!). I’ve wanted to pick up yoga again, but struggled with prioritizing this aspect of my life, when I already felt like I didn’t spend enough time with the kids, or my wife, or working in my garden, or at the beach, or fixing the kitchen cupboard that I broke trying to jam something into the garbage can. When I saw the yoga-and-fertility book, I thought, aha! This is it. I won’t do yoga for me. I’ll do it for the BABY. If I HAVE to do it, for the BABY, then I can more fully justify devoting the time to it. And perhaps, I will be able to drag my ass out of bed 45 minutes earlier, even though I have a 12 hour workday ahead of me and am exhausted from the stress-induced insomnia that has kept me up on and off half the night. Plus, I was tired of reading about babies, and wanted to get started DOING something, and the book I had chosen promised fertility on a three month timeframe — which meant I had just over a month to spare before our first insemination.

It was with this framework that I slipped into bed last night with Fully Fertile. My half-asleep wife murmured “What’s that?”

“My yoga fertility book.” I responded.

“You’re not going to become one of those mothers who’s completely obsessed with Poopsie, are you? All you do is read books and books about the baby.” Rats. She was onto me, with my subtle, behind the scenes baby-obsession. I knew she was teasing, but for some reason, the words cut right to the core of me. I don’t know how I became a person who spends so much time working that I can’t devote a few hours a week to yoga. I tried to keep myself from overreacting to what was meant to be an offhand comment, but I couldn’t. As I read through the introduction and practiced one of the breathing exercises, I found that years were running down my face. It was as if I could not even breathe anymore. My breath had become shallow and tight. Like my back, and my hips, and my shoulders. I felt closed off and hurt. Long after my wife was snoring on my shoulder, I lay in bed with my eyes wide open, trying to sort through my reaction to her comment. I did not want to be one-dimensional, obsessed with our child. I didn’t think I was! But I also didn’t want to be one-dimensionally focused on my career. Financial goals aside, I hated what my job was doing to my identity and my sense of self. Where was the rest of me?

This morning, as we were getting on the train to come to work, I confessed to my wife, “I’m scared. That’s why I am reading book after book. I am scared I won’t be able to get pregnant, I am scared that I will lose myself in the baby, I am scared it will hurt, I am scared I will hate being pregnant. So I am coping with that fear by gathering information. I want to do the yoga as much as I can. I think it will help me through this, and I hate how I feel, physically and emotionally, five years after quitting yoga. I miss it so much.”

My wife looked at me with compassion. “Of course. Everyone is afraid of those things, but of course you should do yoga.”

And with that, I realized that the yoga was already working. Before the first time I unrolled my mat, the yoga was helping me through this transition, just as it had helped me to adjust to life as a college student, graduating into a horrible job market, and a move across the country, alone, to go to graduate school. So, in that moment, I committed to attending the Saturday morning class and doing the yoga in my fertility book — but not for the future baby. For me.

teeth

teeth

These are my sister’s teeth. Her real teeth. Can you believe it? She has seriously amazing teeth. I do not. I have mediocre, sort of beige colored teeth, which I am currently bleaching. I have committed to flossing said teeth due to a recent dentist appointment.

Now. My dentists have all been giving me the “floss your teeth” lecture for my. entire. life. Ever since I was a small child, and whether or not I flossed was essentially out of my control, I have been getting this lecture. HOWEVER! If I can’t do it for me, I will do it for my yet-unconcieved child. In my view, the more good habits I can force myself to develop now, the better off I am. I will force myself to floss, due the link between fetus horribleness and gum disease (I do not recall the precise types of horribleness that can happen to your fetus as a result of gum disease, but I remember that they exist). I will carry on with this diligent flossing for the entire time I am trying to become pregnant and actually am pregnant. Then, by the time Poopsie is born, I will have a full-fledged, fully-ingrained habit. Excellent, there we go. Childbearing as a means to excellent hygene.

The reason that I realized it was time to start flossing, howewver, was not actually the bi-annual “floss your teeth” lecture I received from the hygenist. It was actually the “we’re going to do x-rays” comment, offhandedly made by the appointment desk lady. You see, on my way out after my appointment, they asked me if I wanted to schedule my six-month clean-and-check appointment. I always do this, then invariably cancel it and only go once a year. When I pulled out my calendar, however, I discovered that six months from my dentist appointment put me in mid-August. The month of my first ever insemination. Then, she recommended a date. I quickly flipped to my “Lady Biz” app (this is the real name of a real app – the world is so weird), and discovered that the date she recommended was actually a day AFTER my scheduled ovulation. Which would mean no x-rays for me, because I could actually be PREGNANT. WHAT?! Yes, I know probably not. But I COULD be.

The time between dentist appointments always seems to go so fast that I am shocked and amazed when it is already time to blow off another one. And by the time I blow off my next dentist appointment, I could be pregnant! PREGNANT! And so, I vowed to start flossing now. And also moved the pre-scheduled six month checkup two weeks earlier so that I can get the x-rays rather than having to awkwardly tell the team at my dentist that I artificially inseminated myself the day before, so I couldn’t be exposed to the x-rays.

So far, it has been approximately two weeks since my dentist appointment, and I have flossed approximately three times.