As my husband and I prepared to breed, I discovered fascinating things about the female anatomy. To start, in order to get pregnant, you must first be fertile. And in order to be fertile, you must first have regular cycles.
I, on the other hand, was apparently irregular. After ceremoniously tossing out my trusty birth control, I didn't get a period for eight months.
Any point prior, I would have welcomed an eight-month retreat from cramps and bloating. But when you're trying to get the baby-making machine cranking, lack of blood is not ideal. My mother helpfully suggested I might be in perimenopause, so I immediately started counting my wrinkles. Maybe 35 is old, I thought. Maybe I missed my window. Her armchair diagnosis sent me spinning, so I finally made an appointment with my OB/GYN.
I panicked even more when I couldn't get in to see my doctor for an entire month. I made use of the extra time by preparing myself mentally and emotionally for adoption. Perhaps my husband and I could take a delayed honeymoon to romantic Vietnam, and maybe we'd just bring a child back with us.
But after eight long months of phantom PMS symptoms, I awoke the morning of my doctor's appointment to a real accident in my panties. Never had I been so happy to ruin a pair of $10 underwear.
With that dilemma behind us, my husband and I figured that the first time we'd have sex — BAM — we'd get pregnant. After three months of trying, our cocky attitudes turned to a fear that we might be completely and utterly hopeless. We wondered if his sperm needed swim lessons; we questioned how hospitable my eggs were being. We became insecure during sex, fumbling with even the basics.
"Wait, wait — hold up! I have a toe cramp."
"Sorry, sorry ... I just can't stop giggling ... OK, try that again ... "
"Ew ... ouch! Not that hole! Just turn on the lights."
After confiding in girlfriends with children, it turns out that most of them experienced some kind of performance anxiety and wound up tracking their fertility. They suggested I do the same. I was up for this as I realized it would cut down on the days of the month my husband and I would regress back to inexperienced teen sex.
I soon learned that there are myriad systems to test for ovulation. The first method I tried was fertility strips, tiny slivers of glossy cardstock paper with built-in lab tests and little arrows pointing in the direction of my urine stream. (I appreciated the help.) Once I did my thing, I'd set the now unsanitary stick of paper on the bathroom vanity, waiting for a thin purple line to appear. This is where it got tricky, as I was then required to evaluate how dark the line was — the darker, the better.
After several days of postulating the color purple, I realized could better assess the results if I kept a few days' worth of strips lined up on the vanity for comparison's sake ... which would have worked if the lines hadn't slowly faded with time. Throwing the strips in the trash — and throwing in the towel with this particular lab experiment — I silently wondered how anyone who wasn't a scientist managed to get knocked up.
Next, I opted to try Clear Blue Easy. How hard could that be? Clear Blue Easy ovulation tests are just like the pregnancy tests, only instead of a "+" symbol, a cute little smiley will appear. After a few tries, I got the hang of this test. I never did see a happy face, though ... just a sad, faceless circle reminding me of my empty womb.
I incorporated other testing methods, including the trusty old daily basal thermometer readings and savvy new technology like iPhone apps. I actually downloaded an app called iPeriod and began uploading all of the gory details of my cycle. Once I got all of my bodily fluids recorded, I began receiving pop-up reminders to fuck my husband.
But after several months of letting my iPhone dictate my booty calls, I discovered that iPeriod was ovulating a week earlier than I was, which meant that I was giving A-game bedroom performances for nothing.
Failed by technology, I opted to rely upon my own intuition to determine which 48-hour window was best. That weekend, my husband and I made love like the experienced 35-year-olds we were. I felt sure we had finally hit the bull's-eye, or at least stuck it in the correct hole.
Turns out there's a reason human beings have been able to reproduce without the assistance of strips or apps for all these years. Two weeks and four positive pregnancy tests later ... it was on.