Walmart Lurking, Wee-Wee & The Infertility Olympics: In Which Our Heroine Refrains from Going Batshit.

Well folks, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

The bad news is that the stork gave us the finger again this month. Back to the old drawing board. Which has sex on it. Good thing it’s a favorite hobby.

The good news is actually better than the bad news is bad, in my opinion. The good news is that I managed to refrain from going completely fucking batshit whackadoo insane this month while I waited to test. I mean, I felt like crap. I felt anxious and angry and hopeful and hopeless and then sad when the blood came, and my best friend had to come over and watch truly heroic quantities of Battlestar Galactica and eat Thai food with me, cause he’s good like that. But it felt like the worst of the worst of it was kept at bay this month.

I did not, for instance, go to Walmart and in a creepy, lurky, trying-to-be-stealthy-but-failing-epically kind of way buy several boxes of pregnancy tests, timing my contemplation of the selections for a moment when the aisle was otherwise empty (which is difficult to do because the pg tests are in the same aisle as the athlete’s foot meds) and holding the boxes so that the labels faced inward until I got them to the register. I would like to take some time to apply a little good-old-fashioned feminist deconstruction to the fact that at 37 grown-ass-woman years old I continue to feel like a busted teenager whenever I buy pregnancy tests, but that will have to be another post.

Suffice it to say that not only did I not go out and buy tests, I even refrained from obsessively taking the ones I have left over from last month’s shameful spree. Do you hear that, world??? I DID NOT TAKE A PREGNANCY TEST THIS MONTH!!!! Does anyone out there have any idea what a phenomenally HUGE fucking step that is? Yes, I’m sure you do. Based on the comments I’m getting on this blog you ALL know about the Catbox and the crazy, crazy, crazy that comes with it. Preach, sisters.

So, yeah. I didn’t test. I refrained at 10 days, when you know damn well you’re going to get a negative but you trawl the Fertility Friend charts and decide that there’s just the slimmest possible chance, and you’re planning on going out for drinks with a friend tonight and you just want to be sure.

I refrained at 11 days, when the CountDownToPregnancy stats begin suggesting that you’re more likely to get a faint positive than a false negative, so you don’t drink any water after 8pm and tenaciously hold it when you wake up at 3am having to piss, because you want the absolute most potent wee-wee you can possibly excrete so that those coy little hormones you just KNOW are floating around in there will show up on the test.

Which you’re running out of by the way, so you’d better lurk on over to the Walmart after work tomorrow.

I refrained at 12 days, which is when you tested positive the last time but not the two times before that, and now both Fertility Friend and CountDown are assuring you that only gross statistically anomalous freaks would get a false negative at this late date, but even when you see the negative you still tell yourself that those statistics don’t mean anything, even though you’ve basically been living by them like the bloody Bible for the last week and a half. So you squint at it until you actually begin to see a little pink or blue line that moves around depending on where on the strip you’re looking and actually shows up when you look at other blank surfaces, an honest-to-god hallucination bred of deranged hope and pure bloody-mindedness.

I EVEN refrained at 13 days, when the real crazy happens and the Catbox is up over your head so you can’t breathe and you can’t think and you stop being able to hear people outside of your head and your temperature has dropped but only a little and it dropped the time you were pregnant for 11 weeks so you never know and maybe it’ll be this time but probably not but maybe, just maybe, it may just be that you can see a glimmer of something that if you look at it from the side with your eyes kind of scrunched up with tears in them might look a little like hope, please maybe, please maybe, please maybe…

And then the blood came, and my husband and my BFF circled the wagons cause we’ve been through this before and they’re good men who know what to do.

But I made it through all the crazy hurdles. The psychotic, hormone-crazed, PTSD-riddled, nipple-obsessed Infertility Olympics. I’m sad, but I’m not all twisted up like some weepy lunatic pretzel made of progesterone and despair. Gold fucking medal, me.

I really think it’s this blog. I think it’s giving up on striving toward fertility and just dealing with infertility, and the fact that women out there are hearing me and are going through the same thing. That does something to the spirit, somehow. It gives it a reason not to tear itself to pieces. It gives me a reason to stay sane.

Thanks, y’all. Keep on keeping on.

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Help. I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t…. Oh, F*@k It.

The dark days, the maddened grasping obsessive days, the Catbox days have arrived.

I have managed to stay out of the crazy place for much longer than in previous months. The writing is helping – in addition to hearing from other awesome women going through the same thing, it’s been a way of focusing all the helplessness and rage into something that connects me rather than isolates me. My husband has read each post and looked at me with new admiration and understanding, which has helped me feel so much less alone in this insanity. People have reportedly learned things here, so I’ve been able to feel useful in all this impotence, which, for good or ill, is the only way in which I can see any worth in myself. All the unspeakable silence and shame is lifting. It’s fucking awesome.

But here I am, right smack dab in the middle of the Catbox.

Just in case you need a refresher, the Catbox is the beastly, insufferable state one occupies in the final four days before taking a pregnancy test.

Just as Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead, simultaneously and with equal statistical likelihood, until such time as the box is opened and one possible reality collapses into the other, the final four days before testing are a barbaric thought exercise in which one is both pregnant and not pregnant, full and empty, positive and negative. After you’ve been doing it a couple of years you lose the ability to comprehend or translate the signals your body is sending, so that some parts of your anatomy are screaming joyously that you are all kinds of knocked up, while other equally legitimate and strident bits are solemnly pronouncing your uterus empty, empty, empty like the garbage cans after curbside pick-up.

My nipples, for instance, are planning the baby shower. End of September. It’s a Libra. We’re so happy.

My lower back, however, knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no chance in an infinite number of hells, and that my period is lurking right around the corner. Walk it off, bitch.

Either one – either one – could be telling the truth. There are no statistically reliable methods by which you can eke even the merest shred of valuative differentiation between the two. It is maddening beyond even my power of speech.

Today was the first day that I really started to creep into the cray-cray. I find that I am unable to pay attention to what people are telling me, which is kind of an insurmountable challenge if you are a fucking therapist. In the past it was the hope that drove me insane – it’s poisonous, a cloying toxic miasma that can smother the oxygen right out of the air if you’re not careful. Now I generally banish the hope before it even starts, because it is just bloody well easier that way. Or it would be if it weren’t for my accursed fucking body shooting up these obnoxious little flares to just throw the whole planned hopelessness thing off the rail completely. It’s not over till it’s over. And you just so badly want it to be over, even though you know that the grief will come, all the terrible grief and numb disappointment that floods your body when you finally see the blood.

At least you have an answer.

These are the days when the fierce rejection of this month’s hope begins to go global, when the knowledge that you are barren and will never conceive seeps a little deeper into already porous bones. It’s something you just know. And at the same time, with the same fierce rejection, you know that it will someday happen. How can you know both these things so surely? How, in the face of this insane duality, can you know anything? Ever?

I am certainly not going to be consulting my nipples for any kind of clarity. They are over-zealous fucking reactionaries and I am totally over their bullshit.

I Own A Uterus, And I Have Some Opinions. Deal With It, Y’all.

This is going to be an unapologetically feminist post. I have no wish to offend anyone, but neither do I wish to hedge on what was intended as a full examination of what this whole infertility thing is like. And because this whole infertility thing sort of involves my body, which, by dint of having breasts and a vagina and a uterus and stuff, is female, and because this country that I proudly call home has recently made quite a name for itself with its rather patrician and obsessive concerns about this body, I must at some point come to a discussion of how living in said country affects my thoughts on the whole infertility thing. So, caveat emptor and shit.

Ok, here’s the long-ass details, and we’ll work up to the feminist diatribe in a sec.

I have pretty standard employer-provided health care, and in this country I am lucky as hell to have it. It does not cover “fertility treatments”, which is pretty normal. Having been diagnosed with endometriosis 7 years before we started trying, I knew that we might face an uphill battle. So when I began to have erythema nodosum outbreaks alongside early pregnancy symptoms, I started to get a little freaked out. It seemed like my body was actually rejecting its own pregnancy hormones. We went to a fertility doc who specialized in endometriosis and methodically cherry-picked the services that we thought would be the best bang for our buck, primarily focused on trying to figure out what was happening with my hormones. I couldn’t go to a reproductive endocrinologist because that would have been considered a fertility treatment and therefore hundreds of dollars just to get in the door, so I was sent to a general endocrinologist who had a very difficult time figuring out why I was there if I didn’t have diabetes. Then I got sent to a rheumatologist because, um, you know, inflamation and stuff, and he had a similarly difficult time figuring out why I was there if I didn’t have arthritis. Neither the rheumatologist nor the endocrinologist believed me about the erythema, so I had to wait till the next outbreak (aka, next almost-pregnancy) and then go to a dermatologist for a biopsy. Despite my pleas that I was training for a 5k, he melon-balled a nice big hunk out of my leg and confirmed what I had been telling them for months. And then all three of them individually looked at me with that special kind of frowny, knitted-brow half smile that only confused male doctors can pull off and said – I kid you not – “Huh!”

We are still getting bills for this stellar medical sleuthing. Gregory House, where were you when I needed you in my pants?

Then, after giving up completely on dudes in doctor coats and seeing a naturopath for a while (which, ironically, WAS covered, because I work for a progressive mental health agency with an alternative health sub-plan, and because the naturopath had suffered infertility and billed services as pain management for the endo), I finally had a positive test. That was the first chemical pregnancy. When my lines started to get faint I was told that the health care system did not consider it an actual pregnancy until 12 weeks, so they couldn’t authorize any kind of hormone treatment to save it. It was the same with the next pregnancy, which lived to 11 weeks. I got bills for all the ultrasounds and testing because it wasn’t yet considered a “pregnancy” covered under my prenatal care. Even the drug that pushed the dead fetus out of my body cost more than my normal co-pay.

Just a few months later, after yet another chemical pregnancy, the debates about “Personhood Amendments” started. These were laws that were aimed at defining human life at conception, the minute a sperm fertilizes an egg. Unimaginable sums of money were being funneled into political action that would criminalize as a murderer any woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy, with potential for actual jail time. Todd Akin joined the already charming conversation with his stunning grasp of the female anatomy, and we were blessed with the term “legitimate rape”. My empty uterus and I sat with slack-jawed, stunned horror while exclusively male politicians weighed in on the exact spiritual chronology of a pregnancy, after months of being told that my pregnancies weren’t fucking pregnant enough to deserve medical attention. The fact that these were generally the same exclusively male politicians who were threatening women’s health care everywhere from private corporate insurance to cancer screenings for low- and no-income women just made the whole thing a disgusting absurdity.

So, here it is in the quick n dirty. If you DO want to be pregnant, it’s 12 weeks before you can get help. If you do NOT want to be pregnant, it’s pretty much as soon as the sperm enters your immediate airspace and then you can’t have any help at all. Regardless of your personal stand on abortion, you have to admit that this is a hot fucking mess. If life is so bloody sacred, then we should be able to get help with infertility. If it’s not sacred enough to assist a first trimester pregnancy when a woman wants desperately to keep it, then “personhood” is a despicable farce. Really, gentlemen. Shit or get off the pot.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s the gentlemen (discrete cough) who are deciding this. Here I sit in this fertile/infertile body, both fetishized and threatened simultaneously by the self-same powers, clinging to my once-a-year vote to elect mostly men to sitting bodies of mostly men to decide this shit for me. For me in this body. This body that has carried life and willingly given it up because the father was an emotional and sexual abuser, that has carried life and had it evaporate away without explication, that has carried life and watched it slough off into the toilet water when no one would pay to save it. This body that put off childbearing until possibly too late because there is no such thing as affordable, adequate childcare in this country so that if you choose a career it means choosing against children, even if your career is to serve children. This body that has borne the weight of misogyny, rape culture and ignorance just to stand at these crossroads and plead for help from the very men who would condemn all the choices that came before.

It’s possible that I am just infertile. It’s possible that no amount of money or choice or freedom will make a life take hold in my belly and grow strong and true. It’s possible, and if so then I will deal with the blame cell by cell, atom by atom in my own dreadful reckoning. But it’s also possible that my womb is held hostage by an indefatigable patriarchy against which I have only the barest defenses. The real stone-cold bitch of a kicker? It’s that there’s no way for me to know, because I am as much at the mercy of my body as my body is at the mercy of the patriarchy.

How’s that for a pickle?

A Cup of Pee and Thou

I am fairly certain that there was, once, in the distant mists of memory, a time in my life when I did not know the exact day on which I ovulate. I am almost positive that somewhere in the past was a time when I was not acutely conscious of my basal body temperature at all points in my cycle. In fact, I can almost remember times when my period came unexpectedly, as if I did not know to the most minute cellular detail precisely when it was due to arrive. Like, I would wake up and go, “Shit! I forgot my period was due! I’m out of tampons!” I mean, imagine the heedlessness, the depraved indifference! Craven, bedlamite willy-nilly laxity!

Oh, how I miss it.

What a side show, what a roller-coaster. My body is a mysterious sequence of events that I have had to learn how to read like hieroglyphs, like braille. Its secrets are mapped out in graphs, calendars, digital read-outs from machines into which I put sticks marinated in urine, all to somehow divine the exact moment when this elusive statistical oddity of conception is most likely to occur. At least 10 days out of every month I wake up every morning and handle my own pee, so that like an alchemist I may extract from it the arcane knowledge it holds. My own pee. I don’t even notice it anymore. Sometimes I forget about it completely and leave a cup of it on the bathroom counter, where my husband discovers it as I bustle about getting ready for work. I’ll hear, “Uhhhh…….Kitty?” and I’ll know that I spaced and left an actual cup of actual pee with which my husband is at that moment face to face.

Oh, the humanity.

And at the same time, even as I’m having to microscopically focus on the details of my body, I have also somehow been shut out of it.

Some pretty shitty things have happened to this body, many of them perpetrated by me. I grew up with physical abuse; I have had sexual trauma; I have struggled with addiction, anorexia and cutting. I had an abortion when I was 24 and to this day I cry when I get a pap smear. For the last decade or so I’ve worked really, really hard to peacefully and lovingly inhabit this body, and for the most part I do fairly well. I have even actually enjoyed it from time to time, have enjoyed feeding it and allowing it to be expressive and to get loved up and generally have a rollicking good time. I have been in good shape sometimes and fair-to-middling shape at others, and I have tried to be ok with both. For the most part, we get along ok.

When I was pregnant in May, it was the first time I have ever truly loved it. It was miraculous to me. The way everything was filling up with blood, coursing, pink-cheeked. The way I could feel the space pushing out, expanding me from the inside. The way it was just doing all these almost supernatural things, my body just doing these joyful wonders without hesitation, without shame. It was awesome. My body was awesome. I took such good care of it, started walking every day, got prenatal yoga and pilates dvd’s and did them every morning. I took great delight in thinking about food for my body, for the body growing inside my body. Food became, instead of a complicated and ambivalence-laden vehicle for either excess or deprivation, a sacrament I shared with that little life. Everything, even the nausea and the exhaustion, was something precious and vital that kept me firmly grounded inside my own skin. For the first time in my life.

And then the miscarriage happened. I went for an ultrasound at 11 weeks and saw, instead of the faint flicker of a heartbeat that we had seen the time before, a disintegrating dead husk in my belly. They sent me home with an abortificant and I tried to go somewhere else in my head until it was all over, but there is no way to step outside of that kind of physical pain, even for a veteran dissociater like myself. So I just tried not to scream while it all came out.

I keep thinking I should go back to doing yoga. I am by no means a super crunchy wellness junky and in fact can usually only get to within about 3 inches of touching my toes, but it did just feel so, so good. My back and shoulders are all ferkakte and yoga helped tremendously with that. But every time I think about doing it, doing pretty much ANYTHING that places me at the grounded center of my own body, I recoil and have to think about something else. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it reminds me of that pregnancy, or if it’s some kind of cruel withholding punishment I’m inflicting on this body, this body that failed and feels, still, laced with death at the core. I just know that the thought of being present in my skin and bones long enough to breathe into some kind of awareness sends me into a protective crouch and utter barren stillness.

And all the while this scientific inquiry continues; I chart my basal body temperature, cervical fluid (could they not have come up with a name that is at least a little bit sexier than “Egg White Mucus“??? I mean, we’re supposed to be trying to have sex when we see that stuff, right? One time early on I told my husband that we had to do it because I had…blech…egg white mucus, and he looked at me with amazement and said, “My god. ‘Let’s do it because I have egg white mucus.’ Where did you learn these positively geisha-like powers of seduction?” I kept it to myself after that), ovulation predictor readings, possible pregnancy symptoms, menstruation. I am intimately aware of the most intimate communications of my body, and yet it still feels like it’s in another room without me most of the time. What a fucked up paradox.

PSA Part Deux: What You CAN Say to an Infertile Woman Without Making Her Die Inside.

A number of people I love asked me yesterday and today what IS ok to say to a woman who is struggling with infertility. I feel a little remiss, not having included such vital information in my last post, which was entirely dedicated to explaining why you should NOT say pretty much anything you would intuitively think to say. Bad teaching on my part. Unfortunately I don’t have as many ideas about what you SHOULD say as about what you SHOULDN’T, but I will do my best.

In thinking about this I revisited an email that a very wise and wily bad-ass broad wrote me after the 11 week miscarriage last May. In the midst of a whole lot of “It just wasn’t meant to be” and “Don’t give up, keep the faith” kinds of commentary, this email was like cool clear water  in a parched and cracking mouth. This is my favorite part:

“Let hope go fuck itself today. It’s a sucky, raw place you’re in. Now is not the time to soldier bravely on and shit. Now is the time to grieve. Messy, awful grief that no one around you really understands, not even your partner.”

I think that what made it so powerful was the fact that nowhere in her words was an expectation that I was supposed to be ok with this. There’s this powerful social demand to show bravery and fortitude, to patch together some kind of beatific, battle-scarred grace that people can point to and say, “Wow. Look how well she is holding up.” I think it feels better to see grace than to see, really see the bloody tattered mess that remains of your hope, your faith, your courage, your humanity. So you end up somehow taking care of other people by saving them the discomfort of your pain, and you give a forced and pinchy smile and you get bloody well bucked up. Which is several letters of the alphabet away from what you’re actually feeling.

So, what can you say to a woman who is struggling with infertility and loss? Maybe, “Please feel free to be a sniveling, rageful, pessimistic emotional biohazard right now. I’m totally ok with it.” Or, “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Seriously. Fuck.” Or maybe nothing. Maybe just listen to us in those terrible Schrodinger’s catbox days when we’re channeling every ounce of ok-ness and energy into not careening pell-mell into the crazy place, when we feel like everything we say sounds certifiable and we have lost the ability to trust our own bodies, when hope has become a toxic, barbed thing that threatens to suck the air from our lungs if we allow it anywhere near us. Maybe just listen and pass the tissues. You’d be amazed at how much you can help someone by just allowing them to be as utterly deranged as they’re feeling in that moment.

On a side note and for the record, I have never actually heard of New Guinean shark-fat enemas. I made that up. I cannot email you the info.

PSA: Things You Didn’t Know You Were Saying, and Undoubtedly Wish You Hadn’t.

Here is a brief list of translations. These translations reflect what fertility-challenged women actually hear when people say certain common things to us. I will preface this by owning that I am quite sure I’ve said one or more of these things to women I knew who were going through this before we started trying. To those women I apologize, wholeheartedly, on bended knee. I had no idea what I was really saying to you.

1) “Just relax and it will happen.”

This is probably the most common. I think the intent is to encourage us to take it easy on ourselves, to try to get some rest from the unbelievable stress of trying and failing to conceive. What we actually hear is: “If only you weren’t such a giant hysterical neurotic freakshow, you’d have had five kids by now.” You want to try to help a woman NOT blame herself, not shame her into feeling like she’s going even crazier than she previously suspected. Women conceive under tremendous amounts of stress, and they also conceive in lovely relaxed environments with soft lighting and frequent foot rubs. The fact that no amount of soft lighting and foot rubs will increase our chances of getting pregnant only makes us feel more helpless, and since we can’t control our environment any more than we already do, militantly and with temperature charts, what you’re essentially saying is that we are making ourselves infertile. What you don’t know is that this is a fear with which we already wrestle in the dark of night and work really hard to disprove in the light of day. Which is fucking stressful. So don’t tell us to relax.

2) “My cousin/sister/coworker/etc went through EXACTLY what you’re going through, and then she tried acupuncture/naturopathy/colon cleansing/Mayan uterine massage/Chinese dried frog tea/etc and she got pregnant like THE NEXT DAY. Seriously. You should totally try acupuncture/naturopathy/colon cleansing/Mayan uterine massage/Chinese dried frog tea. I’ll email you the info.”

Again, this is most certainly an attempt to be helpful and proactive. No one likes feeling helpless, and there is no kind of helpless that is more spectacularly helpless than long-term infertility. We go through unbelievable acrobatics to find out what’s going on in there, and sometimes there is an answer, but more often there isn’t. More often you end up with a prize collection of the apologetic shoulder-shrugs of various health professionals, and after you’re poked and prodded and bled and ablated and ultrasounded and generally violated in a hundred different ways at the end of the day there’s still no answer. You’re just not getting pregnant. Or staying pregnant. *Pitying smile* Sorry!

It’s exhausting. All the hope, all the effort, all the faithful, methodical adherence to whatever new regime you’re trying this time, and still you’re barren. And once again you’re left with the sickly, sinking feeling that if you’d only done that other thing that someone told you their aunt/grandmother/hairstylist did, New Guinean fucking shark-fat enemas or what the fuck ever, it would have happened. So it’s your fault. Again.

So you can imagine how our insides must cringe and collapse when we hear about the miracles of the flaxseed-enriched transvaginal herb douches that your Starbuck’s barista positively swears by. Chances are we’ve tried it.

3) “Just don’t focus on it so much.”

Very similar to the “relax” travesty, but with added verve. There’s something they call the “two week wait”. It’s a thing. There’s, like, websites and stuff. What it means is the time between when you meticulously choreograph the introduction of sperm to egg – be it through intercourse, or at-home insemination, or intrauterine insemination, or in vitro fertilization, or however those two crazy kids meet and hopefully strike up a little romance – and the time when you can reasonably take a pregnancy test. And it is a shit show.

The first week is usually ok. Not much happens for a little while, even if an egg has been fertilized. But those last four days of the second week, oh-ho-ho. You don’t know from crazy till you’ve lived through the last four days of the second week. At that point all bets are off.

You become near-psychotically attuned to every atom of your body. Your nipples become the subject of round-the-clock reflection: ok, they hurt, but do they hurt like pregnant hurt or like PMS hurt? Wait, that felt more like a pinch than an ache. That’s EXACTLY what it felt like the last time I was pregnant. I’m totally pregnant! But no, I’m probably not pregnant, cause wasn’t there this other time when they hurt like that but we missed the window so there was no chance I could be pregnant? Does it hurt like that time or this other time when… It goes a mile-a-minute and it is constant and unrelenting and there is NO way not to think about it because it is happening INSIDE YOUR BODY, which is where you LIVE.

If you are having a conversation with a woman in the final four days of the two week wait, I guarantee you that as she talks to you she is fiercely evaluating the state of her nipples. Or her cervical mucus. Or something else you don’t want to know about. She cannot help it, because this crazy shit is happening in her body. Asking her not to focus on it is like asking a person in a burning house to just ignore it and think about unicorns instead.

If you have perpetrated any of these fertility faux-pas, nil desperandum. It’s because you want to help, and we know that. As I mentioned above, I have totally said the same things. Because I wanted to help. Just don’t keep saying them. And pass it on.

Warning: This Is My Scheduled Angry Time.

There are so many things that they don’t tell you about trying to make a baby. So. Many. Things.

For instance: It is actually quite spectacularly difficult to get pregnant. No kidding. All those years we spend trying desperately NOT to get pregnant, thinking that it’s just a simple Tab A to Slot B kind of venture – as it turns out, the odds of a sperm fertilizing an egg that then implants properly in the uterine lining and grows to term are astronomically low. The female reproductive system is in fact a finely-tuned sperm killing machine that will only allow this whole messy conception business to occur for a period of about 48 hours out of every month. Who knew? I didn’t, when two years ago we decided to start trying, threw away the condoms with joyous abandon and began rapturously bonking 47 times a day, savoring the thrill of danger because we were allowing these two highly radioactive agents – his sperm and my egg – to encounter each other unfettered. Pro-creation. Let’s fucking create some shit, baby.

And then the months go by and every time you’re sure it’s happened, your body feels full and ripe and ready and full of life and all your folic acid and prenatal vitamins and yoga and hydrating and what-the-fuck-ever is going to pay off and then pthfffft. That test comes up negative and the bleeding starts and the whole thing goes down the toilet with the sound of a raspberry blown by a David Lynch backwards-walking scary dwarf. Over. And over. And over.

And nobody tells you about the miscarriages. You hear about the rare example and it sounds properly gothic and bloody, replete with the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth and the gathering of relatives by the bedside, like it must be this one-in-a-million kind of tragic misfortune that never actually happens to anyone you know.

In fact, a staggering number of pregnancies – 15% of all pregnancies in the US – end in miscarriage. They never tell you, for instance, about chemical pregnancy, which is basically a fertilized egg that begins to implant in the uterine lining but then, for some ineffable reason, stops. So you get a few days of positive pregnancy tests and then that little line gets fainter and fainter until it disappears entirely. The first time I got pregnant, in May of 2011, was a chemical miscarriage. I hadn’t ever heard of it, had no context or containment for such a thing. I was just pregnant and then not pregnant, and the OB brushed me off with impatience when I called and called and called for my hCG readings because I could not understand what had just happened. I had never heard of a 4 day pregnancy. You don’t, really.

And nobody tells you about what a later stage miscarriage feels like. I’m not really ready to tell about that either, but it seems like I’ll need to eventually because every month, every blood, I relive it. In my head and in my body, the shock and grief, the searing, shredding pain that grips you in all your limbs and pushes out the dead decaying thing that you’d already dreamt a life for, gone and slipping out and away, gone and gone and gone.

I’m not there yet.

And in the midst of it all, there is the anger. No one tells you about the anger. You walk around with it like a serpent coiled around your throat, like a pacing tiger that keeps everyone else at bay. You’re angry at women and at children, at people who try to give you advice and sympathy but end up sounding utterly asinine and heartless, at doctors, at advertising, at your family, at your spouse. You’re angry in the grocery store and at the mall, in movie theaters and in airports. You’re angry at the women who conceive despite meth, despite alcohol, despite rape and violence and war and prostitution and destitution, as if these are fabulous talents they are rubbing in your face to make you feel even more inadequate. And most cripplingly at yourself, at this body that has failed so completely to protect and nourish a life in the way that you believe other women’s bodies can. There’s self disgust, self punishment, the final triumph of every cruel internal voice that’s ever told you you weren’t good enough in the fanged and sleepless dark of night.

There’s all this that they don’t tell you.

Maybe because if you knew how much pain was in store you’d never open your legs.

I’m in a place of remapping right now, trying to find a way to live with all this instead of dying every month. I have to figure it out or I have to stop trying, because it is too much death time after time. And I have to find a way of feeling less alone in it. I know that if I feel alone in it, countless other women must feel alone in it too. I don’t know what else to do but write.

This morning, on the advice of a fellow therapist and feminist and thinker, I saw a new therapist who specializes in infertility issues. She suggested adapting the concept of “scheduling worry”, the idea that a highly anxious person might get some relief in their daily life by scheduling time to obsess and be anxious at strategic points in the day, when they’re doing something comforting or mindful, so that the worry doesn’t just rampage around taking everything hostage. Her idea was to have “scheduled angry time”, when I could focus all this anger and impotent rage into something creative. If not pro-creative, then at least creative.

So here it is. Thanks for listening.