So, we’re about to embark on a new round of horrifying science experiments designed to get me pregnant, a set of circumstances I have tried to avoid all my adult life and am honestly dreading like it’s the Hantavirus.
It’s really strange to be going through all of this as a person who has never wanted to be pregnant. To be honest, for years, I assumed that all women felt the way I did: that the thought of gestating a creature in their body made them feel like Ripley in Alien 3, and that they’d consider jumping in lava to rectify the situation.
Don’t ask how I missed the pregnancy enthusiasts, because I really couldn’t tell you. I think I just figured everyone was lying, so their husbands and boyfriends wouldn’t feel bad about doing this to them. But no, it turns out that some women really have spent just as much time looking forward to being pregnant as I have punching myself in the stomach when my period was six hours late.
My mother, for instance, once suggested that surrogates might do their job in part because they enjoy being pregnant.
“I’m 100 percent sure it’s the money,” I said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “I could see doing it. It’s just so much fun to be pregnant.”
This was honestly a revelation to me. Fun to be pregnant?
“I feel like you’re just trying to con me into producing another grandchild for you,” I said.
She looked at me with what can only be described as great pity. “Oh, honey. I don’t care what you do. I just want you to be happy.”
Unfortunately, I believed her, which was nice but also aggravating in that it deprived me of the opportunity of blaming her for my ambivalence. I called my sister.
“Did you like being pregnant?” I asked.
“Eh. It kind of sucks,” she said. “Everyone treats you like you’re disabled and crazy and your body does a lot of weird stuff. For example, there’s a lot of extra moisture in your underpants zone.”
“YES. And no one tells you. No one tells you anything.” She paused. “But it’s also kind of romantic, because you don’t know who this little person is yet. At least with the first pregnancy. By the second one, I was like, ‘Please let me nap.’”
I started polling friends who had been pregnant, and discovered that there are three main types of pregnant women:
- The ones who love it. These people are often very healthy and on the young side. Also, anecdotally, they’re more likely to go for a natural birth, possibly in a tub, attended by doulas and unicorns.
- The ones who hate it. These are my people. They range from pasty hypochondriacs like me, who are terrified of the physical risks and unpleasantness, to marathon runners irritated that their training is being interrupted by their incipient spawn.
- The ones who don’t enjoy it, but consider it a necessary evil.
Prior to fertility treatments, I was hoping to join the third camp. Now that I’m spending so much time with my feet in stirrups, I can tell you with certainty that I’m going to be in Group No. 2.
It’s not just that I’m fat and old and have a lot of health problems. It’s that I’m a crazy hypochondriac on the one hand and what the IRS terms a sole proprietor on the other. I spend half my time worrying that my body is going to fail in some exotic and horrifyingly painful way, and the other half the time congratulating myself that at least no one can really tell me what to do, in a professional sense, as long as I meet my obligations.
Pregnancy is going to be a challenge, she said to herself, in the understatement of the year. Picture The Yellow Wallpaper, only with more crying.
The only upside to needing fertility treatments is that it’s prepared me for how fucking unfair pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting are for women. For instance, my husband is not a patient at our fertility clinic. I am. That seems obvious, since I have the parts we’re dealing with most often, but in practice, it stinks.
I was prepared for attending a lot more doctor’s appointments and understood that I’d be taking on all of the risk and most of the unpleasantness, due to the fact that I’m the one with the uterus. But I wasn’t prepared for how the sole responsibility would be on me.
For instance, I have to:
- Track my cycles.
- Make the doctor’s appointments.
- Eat, drink, and rest in a manner consistent without becoming pregnant.
- Fight with the insurance companies.
- Fight with the pharmacy.
- Fight with the office staff when the insurance companies and the pharmacies claim that they never received Paperwork X,Y, Z … generally only to discover that the staff did send it, and that I’m yelling at an innocent person who’s trying to help.
That’s not even going into getting blood tests every few days and transvaginal ultrasounds every other day for a week, or the horrifying diagnostic tests that got us to this point. Bottom line, in order to get my paying work done when I’m “doing a cycle,” I basically have to cut out all leisure time. Which, as many of my mom friends have pointed out, is excellent practice for becoming a mother.
Halfway through preparing for this next cycle, I realized I was really pissed at my husband, and couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t have a uterus, after all. (Although I’ve begged him to try real hard to grow one, and he refuses.) Then I realized: I have no time to myself, but he still does.
Before you wag your finger at me and ask me why I thought becoming a mother would allow me anything so frivolous, let me make one point: leisure is not frivolous. Leisure is where all great thought comes from. Every invention that’s made your life easier, every piece of art that’s made your life better—all of those started out because some guy had the time to take an extra-long shower and wonder, “Hey, what if….”
No unstructured time, no neat new thing. Which is why it’s usually a guy taking that long, inspiring shower and why there aren’t as many famous female inventors and artists as there are male. It’s not just overt sexism: “No girls allowed in the lab!” It’s also covert sexism: “OK, you can use the lab, Cinderella, but only if your chores are done. Also, I hope you aren’t giving that baby formula to steal back a little time for your art project. What kind of a mother are you?”
The solution came to me as we were leaving the clinic with our new plan of attack.
“I want you to make all these phone calls,” I said to Adam.
“OK,” he said, eyeing me with cautious terror of someone who’s wondering how he got in trouble, just walking through a corridor in a clinic in Westchester.
“Because I have to have all the shots,” I said. “And then I have to have a million horrible ultrasounds. And then, if I get pregnant, I’m the one who could die or wind up peeing myself a little bit forever. So I want you to deal with the insurance companies…”
“OK,” he said, more firmly. “OK. I’ll call them. I’ll make all the calls.”
And this morning, he did. Only to find out that he can’t deal with the insurance companies on my behalf unless I call them first, because of HIPAA. This makes perfect sense, of course, but I still felt defeated.
“Also, I’m pretty sure the doctor’s office is going to call you, not me,” he said. “I have a feeling.”
They did, sort of. Well, they emailed me. Adam called them back, which I’m sure will start a new cycle of them emailing me and him calling them and them suggesting that I call them and me emailing myself a list of all the reasons I’m sure I want a baby, so I don’t forget. BECAUSE IT WOULD BE EASY TO FORGET.
All I know is that in order to “make things equal” by turning over the insurance haggling to my husband, I had to make a list of telephone numbers, write out my cycle, call the insurance company and the doctor’s office and the pharmacy … and then deal with the fact that everyone is probably going to call me anyway. Basically, to even things up, I’ll have to make the process twice as much work as it needs to be. I’m inventing new work so that Adam is as annoyed as I am.
I’m not going to lie, at this point, it seems like it’s worth it. I know it’s a pretty shabby way to treat my friend and traveling companion, a man who would cheerfully walk through fire (or wait on hold with the insurance company) just to make me cry a little less. But look at this way: there’s a zero percent chance anyone will be sticking an ultrasound wand into his person in the near future.
Sometimes, we have to make our own version of equal, you know?