FRESH YARN presents:

Hysterical Infertility
By Dani Klein Modisett

I have never been so preoccupied with my own pee. When to do it, how to do it, at what angle. I am desperate to get pregnant again and all the various sticks in the "family planning" aisle of the Rite Aid have become my soothsayers.

I got pregnant the first time two weeks after screaming at my husband, "It could take years! We have to start trying now!" Consequently, this time around I find myself panicking because I am not able to get pregnant simply because I say I want to.

Here's a secret, I look like a deep person. I have big, dark eyes. I even sound deep because I have an authoritative voice that I have cultivated from being terrified that people will figure out I know absolutely nothing about almost everything. But do not be fooled, I am completely unprepared for adversity of this kind. The kind where you want something too much and no amount of goal setting or studying can help you get it.

Like most post-feminist women who did no actual work for women's rights and yet enjoy a hell of a lot more possibility for cash, I never thought much about having a baby. I spoke to my husband, Tod, like I did, but I would confess privately to my girlfriends, "Look, it's not like I'm dying to have a baby, I'm just afraid I'll die regretting that I didn't, if I don't." I couldn't imagine it at the time, but what if being a parent really was more rewarding than getting a job in television?

That was before I met my son Gabriel. Before I get all sentimental on you, let me clarify that Gabriel, who is a year and a half, might not be the apple of everyone's eye. He almost always has one hand in his pants playing with himself; often while chasing little girls begging for hugs and kisses with his one free arm. It might not be cute at 30.

On a break from monitoring my ovaries like a day trader watches NASDAQ, I ran into Dianna at Gelson's market. Dianna is part of a lesbian couple in my hipster "Mommy group." I dabbled in several "Mommy groups" during the first year of Gabriel's life. I stayed with the hip one because it had Dianna the Art Dealer, a Movie Star (I really shouldn't say who, okay?), and several Record Executives. I am none of these things, but at least there was hope of the conversation going beyond nap schedules and weaning. Dianna is so informed about the optimum hormonal cycle for making a baby you would think she was a doctor and not the art collection rep of several famous movie directors. She and her partner, a Sheryl Crow look-alike, are trying to get pregnant again, too. The timing of her conception, she told me, is crucial because she only has so many sperm to work with.

I hung on her every word as she recounted the details of their struggle, identifying with everything. I too, had breastfed for a year, depleting my body. I too, had very light periods now. I too wondered how long the sperm would last. I had my Palm Pilot out before she finished saying the name of her Chinese acupuncturist.

"He worked for Chairman Mao, and he changed my life." Three days later I went to see him.

Jin Wang's office is in Alhambra. No spa vibe like the other Eastern healing places I'd been to in LA -- he performs his alternative magic in a fluorescently lit store in a strip mall. The storefront office is divided in two by fabric screens. Not embroidered silk screens, just plain muslin stretched across wood rectangles held together by aluminum latches. Obviously, this man feels no need to impress anyone. He wouldn't even know what "selling the sizzle" means. God bless him.

The diagnoses are done in the front of the store. Mao's Main Man sits at a small white Formica desk. You sit across from him on a stool. I walked through the glass front door, we said our hellos, and within minutes we were off and running to find the answer to my seemingly spent ovaries.

Holding my left wrist with his left hand, Jin said, exactly as you would imagine a man would who spends eight months of the year in Beijing, "The Chi of your Yin very unbalanced." I wonder if that's what Mao suffered from and how long it would be before I want to slay intellectuals. Fortunately, I live in Los Angeles where there would be fewer victims.

"Is no problem. We can fix that." He continued, "I no promise you get pregnant though. I no can promise that." He laughed nervously, as if American women pursuing baby-making was enormously comical to him. And a little threatening.

His expression changed from mirthful to dire in an instant. It reminded me of my toddler, Gabriel. He continued to hold my wrist, looking right, and concentrating. To be helpful I volunteered, "I have low blood pressure all the time."

"Sure," he said, still looking past me, "from all your exercise. You all like to exercise a lot."

"That's true, yes." I nodded, wondering what the "you all" referred to. You all Americans? You all women who decided to have babies later in life so you're always running away from the clock? You all Jews? I doubted that. Do they even have Jews in China?

Then he said more about my Chi. The Chi of my Yin.

"You know Yin and Yang?"

"Not personally," I answered, trying a little shtick to warm up the room. He looked at me puzzled.

"You know Yin and Yang?" he asked louder.

"Yes, I know the idea. Ideas. Yin and Yang. Opposites that need each other to exist."

"Okay, sure." he said, smiling. Nice teeth. He had no idea what I said.

I really didn't know what Chi was. I had heard the word in yoga class, and I think I read an article about Woody Harrelson once where he talked a lot about it in between tokes on his hemp joint.

"Chi is like energy, right?"

"Yes, energy. There good Chi and bad Chi. Chi have to be balanced."

"Absolutely." Balance is good. I knew that. Therapists have been beating this idea into my head for what felt like decades.

"Too much bad Chi in your kidney."

I scanned my brain for another zinger, feeling like Albert Brooks. I didn't know whether to sweat or laugh. I did both.

"I give you acupuncture treatment and you take these herbs." He handed me a bottle of small brown, round pellets. "What the dosage say?" he asked, shoving the bottle in my hand. Apparently he doesn't read small print. He doesn't have to. He works intuitively.

"Three to five pills, three times a day," I read aloud, squinting.

"Okay, you take maximum amount. Smaller amount for Chinese women, but they small, you big girl, so you take maximum amount."

I was a fat teen, so I don't argue with anyone who describes me as large. I nod my head in agreement. I will do whatever this man I don't know with no credentials other than working as an aid to a communist dictator, and the endorsement of a woman I have seen half a dozen times in my life tells me. Anything to get me closer to carrying another baby, to having another mega-dose of the most intoxicating love I have ever known. Short of impaling myself with Ginsu knives, I will follow his suggestions to a T. And I have nothing to worry about because he didn't just go to school to learn Chinese medicine. He is Chinese medicine.

"We start treatment now. Come."

He pushed aside one of the muslin screens revealing a massage table, the kind with the hole at the top to stick your face in when you are lying on your stomach. I'd laid on one of those before. It made the skin on my face feel like it was being stretched over a bowl, like Saran Wrap. "Put your face in here," he said, pointing to the hole.

He was so confident and I noticed, before I lost my peripheral vision, that he was wearing a lovely, soft, button-down shirt in deep rose. Anyone with the taste to pick out that shirt obviously had vision.

"I stick needles in your low back." He felt around my lower spine with his big, strong hands. "Interesting."

Thank you, I thought but didn't say, like a peacock very proud of her tail feathers. "What? What's interesting?" came out instead.

Whatever he said was bound to be a tremendous insight because he appeared to be reading my back like Braille.

"You do gymnastics as kid?"

"Yeah." I said quickly. If you count cartwheels on my front lawn hoping to get discovered, I thought while he kept feeling up my spine.

"Your back grow funny. Stick out at lower part."

"You know, I had always wondered about that. It is very hard for me to lie flat on my back. I always thought it was my fault." This man really gets me. Wang moved on to my feet.

"I stick needles in now. No hurt. Some people like to hurt, not me. You tell me how needle feel, 1-10. I like it 2-3 to start. We work up to rest."

"Okay." I muttered through the face hole. I love this guy. I feel more fertile just laying here. Speaking of which, he's kind of sexy. He is. That shirt, the thick neatly trimmed hair. He's so tuned in and sensitive and…ARGHHHHHH!!!!!!

A pain shot through my left foot like a machete had been lobbed at it.

"Oh fuck! What the fuck?" Tears burst out of my eyes like capitalists in China, missing the last boat to Taiwan.

"That too much? You very sensitive, look at you crying. You big baby crying like that. You cry like baby. I took needle out. Why you cry like baby? You cry like baby. I leave you for ten minutes."

I lay there recovering from the shock of that amount of pain inflicted on me and the fact that I was paying for it. What am I doing here? Then I thought about how Gabriel's arms are so fat there is cleavage where they meet his hands. I love him more than anything in life. The screen moved a few inches; Jin poked his head in, "Come back to office now." Putting on my shoes I felt ashamed, the class wimp. I sat on the stool opposite his table, careful not to brush my perforated foot.

"You no good candidate for needles. Some people, they can't handle the needles. Is no good for me to give treatment because is no fair to pay me when I can not do full treatment."

Clearly, not an American doctor.

"I no see you again."

Excuse me?

"I go to China on Saturday, I come back in six weeks, but I no see you again."

"But… what… shouldn't we give this another shot? I mean, I… I'll… I'll work harder not to feel pain… I can change… I'll…" My foot twitched. Jin stared at me blankly. I pulled myself together and whipped out my checkbook. "For the record, I no see you again!" Noticing the plastic "Come Again" sign hanging on the door I added, "And while you're in China, why don't you pick up a little ambience, maybe a Pagoda shaped lamp to brighten the place up, help you see what you're doing a little better, invest in your drive-by needle shop."

Of course, I didn't say any of that out loud, because I was raised in Connecticut. I wrote him a check for $125 dollars.

"Just take herbs," he continued, "maximum dose, and you should be fine. Pretty soon you have other baby, right? We hope!" Laugh, laugh.

In the next six days I took the pills perfectly. I was determined to prove that, although I cannot take needles, I could take pills like Judy Garland.

On the seventh day, I couldn't get out of bed. Except to sprint to the bathroom to shoot every fluid that wasn't encased in a vein out of my ass. It was the most horrifying experience of my life, and I'd given birth. I have never been so sick. Those fucking herbs. Laying on my bed in a pool of sweat, bracing for the next intestinal revolution, Gabriel running circles around me with his hands in his pants wondering why Mommy wasn't moving, I made an appointment to see my Western gynecologist, Dr. Chin.

"There's nothing wrong with you," he said holding test results in his hand, characteristically unenthused.

"Really?" Easy for him to say, my rectum was still stinging.

"You're perfectly fertile. You just need to relax and give it some time. Let's wait another six months."

"Six months! In six months I'll be really old. And what kind of prescription is 'give it time?' Granted, I was relieved that I didn't need the extensive hormone replacement therapy treatments I had mapped out for myself, but beyond that, I felt lost. Doing nothing is nothing I have any experience doing.

This morning I was back on the toilet with no pregnancy paraphernalia to unwrap, no task to keep me distracted. I was "relaxing". So of course I started thinking. I was reminiscing about the days when pee was just some shaded yellow liquid and not the informant it had become. How I used to feel relief when I got my period, not depressed. The door to the bathroom flew open and Gabriel barreled in waving a plastic stick in his hand, shouting,

"Mommy toy! Mommy toy!"

Last month's pregnancy test must have gotten stuck in the bottom of the wicker basket. I grabbed it from him quickly. Still negative. Oh well. I decided to tease him a little with mock incredulousness, my life a series of Children's Theater moments. "Gabriel, where did you get that?"

He looked at me blankly, pausing to consider his options.

"Mommy Toy. Mommy Toy," he's 20 months, that's all he's got.

"Yes, honey. That is Mommy's." Gabriel laughed hysterically and ran doughnuts around the bathroom. He loves being right. His giddiness was contagious. So I got up and ran in happy circles, too!

No I didn't. I just can't find a way to end this story. I was hoping to be able to write a cute little post-script about how now I'm pregnant. But I'm not. And I don't know what's going to happen. I can't write the end of the story because I don't know it, and that is the biggest and most uncomfortable change since I made the choice to join my life with someone else's. I don't know the end of the story of my life, and right now it's a fucking nail biter.

I don't know the end of the story of my marriage, the middle or end of the story of Gabriel's life, or if there will be any story at all of me and another baby. I knew the end of the story of my previous life. I will live alone in one room; I will date many men for three months at a time. I will eat popcorn in the dark. These were all things I could plan and control.

Family life is none of that. It's one huge question mark after another from the moment you bring the baby home. From, "Will it breathe if I don't stare at it?" to, "Will he at least take his hand out of his pants to eat?" to, "Will he get into a college I can brag about?" So I hate it.

I just thank God I didn't alienate Wang. I may need him as an adoption reference.

To be continued.


©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission