Thursday, October 19, 2006

What I don't want to face

Is my age. Not because I am so old, but because my age makes itself apparent in knowledge and limitations. There are things I know about myself, that I can accept even if I still struggle with them. I know that I am not good at hierarchies, which made working at Smith College School of Social Work a challenge (well that along with the incredible racism and classism that permeated the halls and stacks of paper with a stench that turned my stomach daily). I know that I do not like routine, though I need it; finding a balance between having some routine and not feeling hemmed in is a fine art that takes decades of effort and I am only one decade into that practice.

My age, shows in my body, it doesn't recover as quickly, I cannot ignore the aches the same way I did when I took 3-5 dances a week, an occasional yoga or self defense class added in and very erratic sleeping schedules. It also shows my age in a comfort I have in this body that is larger and looser than it was in my twenties. There is a thrill in my sexuality that is deeper and more fulfilling than what I thought was evolved when 23. I suppose it was rather evolved (or at least rather extensive in experience and wilingness to explore) at that time but still nothing compares with the truth that one can inhabit with age and time to assimilate those experiences.

Last week marked thirty years of getting my menstrual cycles. Three decades. Years upon years of a remarkably unremarkable cycle. Quickly my cycle was regular and the only time I was seriously late, I was pregnant. Yes, I have been pregnant, more than once. Yes, I was using birth control every time. Looking back I realize that I was pregnant three times, but only really knew about the time times that I had it "taken care of", the other time I had a very early miscarriage. How do I know? Because as I have said the only other times I missed a cycle I was pregnant.

The other night I had a what I think was a hot flash, as best as I can determine what a hot flash actually is when I have one. I had one a few weeks ago. This after a long absence of any middle of the night heat waves. When I say long, I mean about 3 years, maybe longer. These flashes are a sore subject at Casa de Cedar, for both of us. They represent the end of a road, a road that leads to pregnancy. It could eventually be the end of ambivalence. That would be nice, but so so sad.

When I was a child I longed for a baby, I ached for that future time when I would have a child, maybe even two. A high school senior, 17 years old, I was pregnant. There was no way I could continue a pregnancy. While at my after school job at a market research company whose name I no longer remember I called into the very nice clinic where I had left my urine sample at so that could tell me I was not pregnant. Only when I called they told me the thing I feared, the one thing I did not want to face, the unfortunate evidence of my wild abandon (but not so wild that I ignored birth control). With barely a two second pause, I made my appointment.

On a weekday, during spring break of my senior year I took the subway to the elegant neighborhood, next to the infamous Copacabana Club (the original location), met up with JL, the boyfriend - the shell shocked almost father-like creature. We parted ways in the waiting room while they took me into a room where several us heard what to expect, told a brief explanation of why we chose this path. I don't remember much of that piece, just that something like that happened, I believe they referred to it as "counseling". I remember slipping away under the general (there was no WAY I was staying awake for this, I was already being more brave than I ever wanted to be); I remember thinking about the stuffed animal, a cat that Abby had given me since she couldn't be there was still in my bag, but I was no longer sure where my bag was and I felt desperate about getting the cat back. The next clear thing I remember is waking up in a narrow bed with stiff but clean sheets (like I said this was a very nice place), a lovely nurse like person hovering near me, feeling the absolute terror and horror of what I had just done, something so irrevocable, so permanent. I remember the hot instant chicken soup and throwing it up moments later. Escorted by JL, we took the subway back to my mother's apartment, where I was staying during my break from school, where it was safe to be healing from this. I stayed on the pull out couch from my childhood that was new when I was 7 but was now stiff, the arms with stuffing falling out and an Indian print bedspread covering it's age and leaks. To avoid the reality of what I had just lived through, while asleep courtesy of anesthesia, I convinced JL to attempt anal sex because escape was what I craved more than anything. I needed to know that I was still sexual despite the invasion that was not sex but abused my sex organs with my consent and my distinct fear. The attempt, both the physical and mental were far from successful that evening.

Here it is decades later and my sex life has long since recovered from the naivete and lack of appropriate, um, accessories of that evening. My journey of parenthood has been a push-pull relationship ever since. I have debated whether, when, if, many times over. I have taken quizzes, polled friends, read books, even done therapy. Seven years ago I was trying, on purpose with very expensive, previously frozen crawlers, in my own bedroom with my then partner. Three times I got pregnant while trying not to; three times trying very hard, making offerings, having rituals, I did not even go one day late in my cycle. Afterwards I sank into a five year silence on the topic. It was awful, I was stuck. Back in therapy I made progress. If you call acknowledging that either decision involves a deep and gruesome grieving progress. I came as close to a decision as I had in five long lonely painful years to not have children.

Then, bang. Enter The Girl Friend. In our early days she spoke passionately about wanting to have children and a terror landed in my belly that I would lose this person that I was growing convinced was a once in a lifetime kind of love because I had made a decision that was in direct conflict with her heart's desire. Our relationship quickly turned into a whirlwind of change for both of us since that time, two and a half years ago. In involved, among many other things, her moving 2000 miles from home and family, and me ending a 12 year relationship. We are both torn because we are selfish about our time together - it's still earlier in the scheme of things, less than three years long. There is a deep relish in having an intensely passionate relationship, something that we have more completely with each other than ever before and given the damper our animals can put on the mojo, the idea of a toddler's cry at 11pm when just on the verge of a powerful orgasm, well is less than thrilling.

On the flip side there is a joy and love we will not experience in this lifetime and that feels earth shatteringly empty. Aside from the selfishness about our time, our lack of constraints, there is our age. We are far from spring chickens, and each 3am sweat reminds how I am about to be past my prime for bearing children. Yes there is adoption, I know that quite well. That would still be having a child, which is an elemental decision that has to be made first. Not to mention whether I can resolve to have a child and never experience pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, experiences that I have longed for since before my body could physically do that.

Lately, time feels like it marching in a such a dogged way. Deadlines loom, over hang, pass over me. Anniversaries of beginnings, endings, diagnoses seem constant. This deadline, which has no real date, casts a shadow over everything in these days of clear sunny autumn days in the Bay Area. I have no answers about what happens next. There is no one closing conversation that TGF and I will, or can have. It is an ongoing internal and external dialogue. There are days when I can push it aside, like my age and neither exists in any real way, but today, like the last few days it seems a shawl covering my thoughts with a overlay of sadness and fear that it will became a wedge in my relationship that can only be removed by ending. TGF would push this off as not true, not possible but fears are not about what is real but about the what ifs that keep us awake.


Jennie said...

Oh, honey.


heather said...

you are so right on about the what ifs being what keeps us awake. i say this as someone who's had that experience twice this week, already.

there are so many things we can do with our lives, but only time to do so much. from what i've gathered, though, you seem happier now than you've been, overall (?). i think that is something to be grateful for, something to cherish. like TGF.

i would say, try to take some comfort in the fact that you have her, this counterpoint who loves you, and that in knowing yourself so much better now, that your life is bound to get even richer with time.

stumptown dreamer said...

Thank you for writing so beautifully about the difficult subject of pregnancy termination. In this country (USA) I hardly hear about unwanted pregnancy experiences other than when the abortion issue is up and lobbying is hateful and horrible....Having had one myself, and many friends who have too (in the uK and Australia where it is never debated in parliament) yours is almost the first story i have read over here. Thank you for making real what so many have experienced.
ANd good luck with the next changes. I will be there soon myself!

Gandksmom said...

Deciding when or if to have a baby is a very hard thing. Deciding not to, even harder.

goblinbox said...

Excellent entry. I threw up after my first abortion too, and got pregnant a few times when I didn't want to, and couldn't when I did want to. Fertility is a complex topic. Thanks for speaking about it so well.

Hot flashes suck! ;-)

Jbeeky said...

Thank you, I am just so glad I am not alone here. I really needed this.