March 26, 2012 § Leave a Comment
While I wait for day 21 blood tests and the blood group test when I will have to pretend that I am already pregnant, I investigate all things ovulation. I am embarrassed to admit that at the age of thirty-six, I know very little about it. As far as I remember, they did not mention it in sex education classes in fourth year seniors. Sex education of the PSHE kind consisted of only one message – sex equals certain pregnancy. And not just full intercourse. Sperm on toilet seats, pants, condoms, all within ten metres of a vagina, led to pregnancy. In fact, according to Mr Beard who taught us, all the fertility clinic need do is leave a couple of sperm on a seat of a public toilet for a chance encounter with my inner thigh, and I would automatically fall pregnant. Fear permeated us. Well, me. Fear that a ‘with tongues’ snog might lead to sex, which was sure to mean a missed period and baby.
Some ignored the warnings and got on with it anyway. Fearless young women who arrived at school in uniforms so customised they resembled anything but, who felt comfortable in their changing bodies and embraced all that it was to be fourteen. For me, their world was alien, while they talked in the toilets I read books, Judy Blume’s Forever was the closest I came to intercourse. The fear of pregnancy permeated my thin skin so successfully that at the age of twenty when I discovered that I was gay and finally got down to the deed, I had to stop myself from whispering what about, you know, protection, before I reminded myself that I was in an almost naked state with a non-sperm producing woman.
In short, we were told nothing of fertile 36 hours, LH surges, the egg only being fertilizable for 8-12 hours and the survival rates of sperm. Did they not think that adolescents could be entrusted with such knowledge?
I discover that I will need to buy a kit to find out whether I ovulate and venture to Boots. I am surprisingly brazen. I go to the main shop in town where I could bump into anyone. I don’t just grab the first one I see and scurry head down to the self-service check-out, as I still have the tendency to do when buying my monthly tampons. I actually spend five minutes in an aisle marked conception and pregnancy and properly browse. This process is changing me in ways that I did not expect. As I take each new step – and that’s how I see it now, as a series of self-contained steps, the ultimate picture still too intangible and overwhelming – I feel a renewed confidence in doing something that I want to.
I peer at the cellophane wrapped boxes closely. There are a surprising number to choose from. Even the cheapest ones are pricey and I fleetingly wonder if Aldi produce the Clear Blue equaivalent of Magnum washing-up liquid or Harvest Morn muesli. Most are of the ‘blue line’ variety. You pee on a stick and on the day of your LH surge a strong blue line appears next to another. The trouble is, on the days when you’re close to it, a thin, less distinct line might appear and you’re advised to wait for the following day when it might become stronger. As I squint at the demonstration lines on the outside of the box I fear that I won’t know the difference, that I’ll be calling a clinic and paying them £850 to be inseminated on the wrong day. I replace it on the shelf. There’s another that is three pounds more expensive but instead of a feint blue line, on the day of your surge it displays a digital smiley face, an empty circle when it’s not. It looks fool proof, even for me. The extra three pounds will be worth it. I pay at the till, with a real, live cashier who gives nothing away regarding any thoughts about my prospects as a potential mother.
I tell Carol my accupuncturist about my purchase and she asks me if I’m checking my mucus. My what? I ask. Your discharge, she tells me, her calm and knowing face telling me that this is something to be taken seriously and I resist becoming my embarrassed, fourteen year old self again. Even if it means touching my vaginal discharge. She talks me through the stages cloudy, increasingly elastic, then eventually clear and slippery, before it turns cottage cheesy again. I go home, determined to spot the signs. One in ten are my best odds and I need all the information and help I can get.
The first few days confuse me. On the days when it is stretchy, it also looks cloudy to me, and what I think might be slippery, I wonder if it is slippery enough. After four days of this, along with peeing on a stick, I am despondent. Perhaps it just happens to be one of those odd months that every woman has when they don’t ovulate. Or perhaps I don’t ovulate at all and a knawing anxiety accompanies my day.
As I step into the shower the morning of my fifth day of testing this initial small stage becomes linked to the bigger picture and my mind races to accepting the fact that I will never have my own children before I’ve even reached for the shampoo. When I grab the towel I have almost forgotten that the test is still sitting on the cistern. When I catch sight of it I realise, there it is, a smiley face, that I am so relieved and welcome to see that I almost cheer and thank it.