Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Seven Months Ago...

I wrote this after about five months of "trying." It is still a work in progress.

Getting Pregnant in the Blogosphere: When is information TMI?

When my husband and I decided to start trying for our first child I was fairly confident I knew the basics of the birds and the bees. In fact, during graduate school, I worked as a file clerk in a fertility clinic, so I knew I was even a little bit ahead of the game when it came to understanding my cycles and other forces of nature. Never did I imagine there was so much I didn’t know.

Here is where I must admit that I “heart” Google. I do a lot of research for the exhibit design firm I work for and Google always comes in handy when I need to find information about a particular topic we are working on. I also pride myself in being a big know-it-all. I take great satisfaction in knowing oodles of facts and figures that most people could care less about. If the Internet had existed when I was ten years old, I can only imagine HOW more precocious and obnoxious I would have been.

Google is amazing, no doubt about it. Any question I have about any topic can be answered in seconds just by typing it into the search box. My co-worker couldn’t remember the words to the Muppet Show theme song. Google it. Up pops hundreds of sites dedicated to those “most sensational, inspirational, celebration, Muppetational” furry icons of our youth. Want to convert inches into centimeters? Google it. Need a quote by Hippocrates? Google it. Want to get pregnant? Google it.

It was a pretty subconscious act. I guess Google has become second nature to me. “Ok, we’re trying to get pregnant. Let’s Google it and see what comes up.” I started innocently enough. I Googled information about ovulation during my lunch break. A lot of the sites just verified my existing knowledge on the subject—cycles, phases, eggs, and sperm. The more I read, the more I Googled. On one site, I read about charting your cervical mucus. Cervical mucus? Google it. More than I ever needed to know about a part of my body I never see. The different colors, the different consistencies, the secret hidden meanings behind each variant. On several other sites, I read about the Robitussin Method. Huh? Apparently, the active ingredient in this distasteful cough syrup from my childhood, which loosens the mucus in a congested chest, also has the power to create the ideal swimming environment for my husband’s little guys. Who knew? Now if I ever see a woman in line at the grocery store with Robitussin, a bottle of wine, and a tube of KY, I’ll know better.

All of this initial, more factual information, while overwhelming in its volume, left me feeling empowered more than anything else. I started an ovulation calendar and began to monitor my cycles in increasing detail. I even learned to speak TTC (a secret language of acronyms for those “Trying to Conceive”). With this newfound body of knowledge, we were sure to get pregnant instantly and be on our way to happy family in no time.

After the first few months with no BFPs (Big Fat Positive) on my HPTs (Home Pregnancy Test), my Googling began to go deeper and deeper. I wasn’t exactly worried that there might be something wrong. I’d read on countless sites that it can take the average fertile couple up to a year to get pregnant. We weren’t in any hurry either. But, with so much information available at the click of my mouse, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for all the possibilities, right? I’m just curious, I justified. Knowledge is power. And, like a good Girl Scout, I am always prepared.

That’s when I entered the Blogosphere.

Of course, I’ve heard of this mystical sphere in the Internet ether-world before. The word got so overused in the 2006 mid-term elections I thought I was going to strangle the next right-wing conservative pundit who used it. And of course, I have read blogs, bulletins, and postings before. I read “Pink is the new Blog,” “Awful Plastic Surgery” and “Perez Hilton” for the latest and greatest in celebrity gossip. My friend Jodi blogs her exploits as the ultimate indie-band groupie on her Myspace page, and my husband visits his man crush, Morrissey’s, blog nearly every day. But this was different somehow. Suddenly I was reading blogs about the harrowing trials and tribulations of countless women across the world seemingly desperate to procreate. Tales of years of fruitless attempts. Detailed recordings of each month’s cycle days and BBT (Basal Body Temperature). Counting the DPO (Days Past Ovulation) in hope. Confessions from POAS (Pee on a Stick) addicts. Anguishing stories of miscarriage, defunct ovaries, endometriosis, and even more painful cases of unexplained infertility. There were success stories too, but, like most things in life and the Blogoshphere, they seemed few and far between and less dramatic than the others. Even in the area of fertility we are drawn to sensationalism and voyeurism.

Sites about trying to get pregnant turned into sites about being pregnant. Is that what it feels like? OMG! Does that happen to everyone? Maybe I do want drugs? Before I knew it, I was reading about co-sleeping, nighttime feedings, and how to use a breast pump discretely in the workplace. I wasn’t even pregnant yet and I was already forming opinions on the best ways to potty train and how to keep my sex life alive on only two hours of sleep.

My obsession was driving my DH (Darling Husband) crazy. Everyday I would confront him with half a dozen new facts he had absolutely no interest in knowing. Believe me when I tell you, your husband DOES NOT want to hear about any kind of mucus, let alone the kind that your cervix is producing. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was beginning to take all the fun out of trying, one of the only things about pregnancy that involved him and something he enjoyed greatly.

I was beginning to take all the fun out of trying for myself too. My empowerment had quickly turned into severe anxiety. I found myself feeling relieved when AF (Aunt Flo) paid her monthly visit. That made me stop and think. Just six months ago I could barely contain my hormonal urges to produce progeny. Every time a baby entered the room, my uterus did a little dance of joy. Now I was consumed with the details of raising a baby I didn’t even have yet. I had completely forgotten the reasons I wanted to have a baby in the first place. Mind you, I was never disillusioned into thinking that having a child would be a walk in the park. I have girlfriends with small children. I know it is hard. I’ve seen my friend Claire’s face after being up for 48 hours straight with her sick baby. I have witnessed my girlfriend Julie literally juggle two kids in her arms. I knew when we started it would be difficult—that it would take every ounce of strength I had to be a good parent. But the idea of OUR baby always made the struggle seem worth it, and I had expected to encounter parenthood as it happened, not BEFORE it happened.

I didn’t need to live out every possible situation of the next 18 years before the kid was even conceived, which is what the Blogosphere of parenting offered me—every possible scenario for every possible person in every possible place in the world. Knowledge is power, but too much information can make you CRAZY.

Recently, I’ve tried to keep myself out of the parenting Blogosphere. It’s hard. I have good days and bad days. I work in front of a computer all day with instant access to the World Wide Web held in my right hand. It is so simple to do a quick Google on childhood immunizations (a hot topic among my friends with kids) while I’m waiting for my emails to send. But, I am trying to be strong. I’ve stopped charting my cycles and filling out ovulation calendars, and much to my husband’s joy I’ve stopped describing cervical positioning over dinner (although, I am keeping that Robitussin tip filed in the back of my brain, just in case). We’re back to just going with the flow (so to speak) and hoping for the best. When there is a reason to worry, we’ll worry then. The way millions of parents have done it for thousands of years.

I think I’ll stick to using the Blogosphere for the reasons I KNOW it was invented—instant access to up-to-the minute celebrity gossip and terrifying photos of plastic surgery gone wrong.

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