Ups and downs.

July 31, 2007

Tonight (CD22) I’ve been having some mild, menstrual-like cramping.

I don’t know what to think–right now I seem to be vacillating between hope and despair.

Why hope? Because mayoclinic.com tells me that “Some women […] experience abdominal cramping early in pregnancy. These cramps are similar to menstrual cramps.” Implantation can cause cramping, I think. And there are all sorts of women on this site who say they were sure their periods were on the way when, in fact, they were pregnant. That could be me, couldn’t it? It sure would be nice.

So why despair? Because my shortest recent cycle was 24 days, so this could very well just be the beginning of Aunt Flo’s arrival for this cycle. That cycle, the spotting that I thought was “implantation spotting,” which happened around 8 days after I ovulated, turned into full-on bleeding two days later–which put me at a not-at-all-normal nine day luteal phase for that month. I’ve never had a cycle that short before or since, but now I know it’s a possibility, which means cramps on CD22 could be kind of a bad omen.

Sigh. Ah, the joys of the two week wait. I guess I’ll find out soon enough when/if I start bleeding/spotting. This cycle I refuse to test until I’m actually “late,” which is more than a week from now. The longest cycle I’ve ever had in in my life was 32 days–so if I’m not bleeding by August 11, then I’ll test. And you can hold me to that.

On a trip to Borders today, I stumbled upon this book about overweight women and pregnancy. (Aside: am I the only one who feels like an interloper in the pregnancy and parenting section in the bookstore? As much as I might want to linger in that section and browse, I can almost never bring myself to do it because I feel conspicuously non-pregnant, kind of like how I once felt in the Wedding/Etiquette section at Barnes & Noble without an engagement ring on my finger. Instead of standing there calmly like a normal person with every right to shop openly in whatever section I like, I tend to skulk through at the speed of sound, skimming for titles that I can snatch down and take to read elsewhere, perhaps leaning against a shelf in the always-deserted Military History section. …But maybe that’s just me.)

The book was pretty interesting, although I only read the second chapter, “Fertility and Weight.” It was stuff I’ve heard (and mentioned here) before, noting that ovulatory dysfunction and PCOS are the two most common weight-related reasons that women have trouble conceiving. Since I don’t have symptoms of or a diagnosis for either of those yet, there’s no way to know whether this explanation applies to me, but I don’t need a diagnosis to know that I’d benefit from losing some weight.

The tragedy is that I love, and I mean LOVE, to eat, and to cook. This passion for food sometimes seems to be in direct opposition to my interest in health and fitness–as illustrated by my subsequent bookstore purchases. After I slouched out of the Parenting section, I resumed an upright posture and walked over to magazines. Fifteen minutes of browsing and I ended up with two periodicals to purchase–Self and Food & Wine.

Truly a tale of two selves, not just two magazines: The editors of Self seem to want me to live my fittest, healthiest life, telling me how to drop one size in two weeks doing aquasthenics and how to get my abs “Flat, Sexy, [and] Tight” while eating “slimming summer dishes.” My inner athlete (I know it sounds implausible, but I really do have one) finds all of the snappy, brief articles and fast health facts inspiring, and sometimes does things like tearing out the two-page workout plan-of-the-month for later use, or adding extra ingredients for a low-fat recipe to my weekly shopping list.

The editors of Food & Wine, on the other hand, seem to see me as a gustatory connoisseur, someone who deserves to eat and drink only the best. The F&W folks want me to celebrate life’s deliciousness to the fullest, so they suggest “18 food-friendly Chardonnays” and give me a recipe for the best summer seafood “feast.” My inner gourmand takes this all to heart, salivating over the gorgeous food photography and the detailed, thoughtful articles about culinary trends and unusual wine styles.

It’s hard, at first, to see what the two outlooks have in common, but maybe the two aren’t so far apart after all. Interestingly enough, this month both magazines contain recipes for a watermelon-based soup. F&W‘s recipe for watermelon gazpacho calls for tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and a scallion relish on the side. Self’s version, aptly called “watermelon soup,” calls for watermelon, mint, sugar, ginger, white wine, and lemon juice, with crumbled feta as a garnish. Both look like healthy, fresh recipes, both likely delicious and good for me too.

The devil, of course, is in the details. F&W‘s calls for olive oil, Self‘s doesn’t, and that feta crumble? Self‘s recipe calls for one teaspoon of feta per serving. ONE TEASPOON! I’m not even sure how to measure a single teaspoon of feta cheese. What’s worse, the photograph of the soup in the magazine…

Self Watermelon Soup Photo

…clearly shows about three or four times that much feta on top of each soup bowl. Way to mislead your fat, hungry readers, Self.

Still, there’s a lesson about portion control in here somewhere. Food & Wine‘s recipes are full of fresh, whole ingredients, just like Self‘s, and although some include “unhealthy” embellishments like cream or full-fat cheese, many rely on olive oil (“good” fat!), fresh herbs, and citrus for flavor. It’s not like the magazine is called Fast Food & Soda, and I’m not overweight because I’m overdosing on high fructose corn syrup and processed foods. I’m overweight because I eat large portions, rarely refuse myself second helpings of things that taste good, and love ice cream and homemade baked goods.

I don’t know what to do about the ice cream/baked goods thing, other than giving up sugar entirely (yeah, right) but I know I’ve got to learn how to manage portions. Is it possible to be a gourmand, a connoisseur, who keeps track of quantity as well as quality? Trying to measure out a teaspoon of feta seems like utter insanity to me–but maybe making and eating much less food overall, especially if it’s delicious, gourmet food, would at least be a step in the right direction.

(Well, that and getting in a LOT more exercise than I currently do, even if I’m having trouble figuring out how much exercise is enough or too much when TTC. But that’s a topic for another post.)

3 pounds

July 27, 2007

Apparently, I’ve “lost” three pounds since Monday, when I last weighed myself. Both times I got on the scale with an empty bladder and empty stomach, just after waking up. I’m not too excited by this “loss,” though, because my weight tends to fluctuate a lot within a five or six pound range. My current weight is about where I land when I eat reasonably healthfully, without controlling portions but without eating dessert every day either, and also without exercising very much. If I go through a few days of eating ice cream every night or going out to eat several times, my weight tends to shoot up by three or four pounds in a matter of days, and if I go back to my “regular” behavior, it shoots right back down.

But not that far. Dropping three or even five pounds is nothing for me, and requires almost zero effort, but making that loss count by increasing it to ten or fifteen pounds lost is tougher. Even this winter, when I was exercising consistently 4 times a week on the elliptical machine, my weight was only about five pounds lower than it is now, and didn’t go down very fast after the first quick loss.

I think this is one reason why I often lose motivation with exercising for weight loss–rather than being inspired by the first 4 or 5 pounds to come off, I get discouraged by how slowly things happen after that, and start to slowly slack off the exercise. I’m bad at portion control anyway, so once I slow down my exercise frequency it doesn’t take long for me to end up back where I started.

Maybe yoga will help me break out of this pattern. I’m not doing it to lose weight, but to feel healthier and more flexible, so I have no reason to give up too soon. Plus, yoga helps me stay mindful about food–which ultimately means I eat less than usual.

I’ve often wondered whether being overweight (currently I’m about 35 lbs from where I should be) is affecting my fertility, but I do seem to ovulate regularly, and the information about overweight women and fertility that I’ve seen suggests that most of the problems overweight women have come from irregular or absent ovulation. Based on how regular my periods are, I have to assume that’s not quite my problem. On the other hand, this study suggests that when both members of a couple are overweight, it can take up to three times as long to get knocked up, although the researchers don’t seem entirely clear on why that is. Since G and I both need to lose weight, maybe this has been our problem all along.

Well, we’ll see what happens. I know I probably shouldn’t be, given the weight issue, but I’m somewhat hopeful about this cycle. Unbelievably, G agreed to one more baby-making session Wednesday night (CD16), so this month I feel confident that we’ve done absolutely all we can to maximize our chances of conception, at least according to Dr. Blase. I’m going to stick with the yoga, because it makes me feel good, and if we don’t get lucky this time around I’ll start getting more aggressive about losing weight over the next few months.

So, yeah, Cape Cod…

July 25, 2007

…it’s a pretty white place. Hardly the whitest locale on earth or anything (Fun Fact: when you put “the whitest town on earth” into Google, references to Pfafftown, NC; Graham Hill, CA; Bozeman, MT; Westport, CT; Easton, CT; and Boise, ID all come up in the first page of references — two mentions for Connecticut!), but we definitely did not see many other black folks while we were there, or many people of color at all, really. A few of the service people at the resort were brown–either black or Latino/a–but they stayed behind the scenes, cleaning rooms, keeping the grounds, etc. All of the waiters and hostesses were white (though several had what sounded to us like Eastern European or Russian accents) and all of the greeters and front-desk staff were straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. Of course, most of the other resort guests were white too, but we did spot one family of Asians, and once, a tall black man with long, neatly groomed locs leaving the tennis courts as we arrived (you know there are rules about how many of us can be in close proximity in a very white place at one time–all three of us might have spontaneously combusted if he’d lingered).

ANYWAY, so I was thinking about how this resort town in Cape Cod is probably no whiter than, say, Pfafftown, NC–okay, I wasn’t really thinking of Pfafftown, NC, as I had never heard of it before Google brought it to my attention, but you know, substitute any smallish town in America for Pfafftown. The town in Cape Cod that we visited seemed like a lot of places in the US–a place where “minorities” are minorities in the truest sense of that term, a tiny fraction of the general population.

Clearly, G and I are spoiled by the incredible racial and ethnic diversity in NYC, because for us it was a real shock to be in a place like Cape Cod, where we, with our brown skin and kinky/curly hair, were a complete novelty. I should note, here, that we were treated wonderfully throughout our stay, and not just by hotel employees who are paid to make us feel welcome. Everyone we encountered off hotel grounds in Cape Cod was at least neutral, and in some cases downright friendly. But we felt very conspicuous there, in a way that we never do at home. Sure, this feeling of racial conspicuousness is technically our own “hang-up,” but to me it has larger ramifications.

These ramifications crystallized for me when I read Professor Zero’s recent blog post New Faculty, in which she poses this thought-provoking question: “Is the statement, ‘There may be too much racism here for me’ really code for ‘This town is too Black for me’?” She later elaborates on this idea in the post On Racism in Louisiana, speculating that maybe white people who claimed Louisiana was “too racist” for them really meant that “it is going to bring my racism out, and I do not want to look at that.”

These posts really resonated with me after we came back from vacation, because I started to wonder whether the majority of white Americans live in places like Cape Cod (well, you know, minus the beaches, antiques, and fried clams). Are most white people living in mostly white environments, worlds where it is a rare event to see a random black couple eating at your favorite restaurant, or swimming at your local pool, or walking around your neighborhood? If so, then it’s no wonder that the topic of racial difference remains such a minefield in the United States. It’s also no wonder that so many whites deny that racism remains a present-day problem–they aren’t really encountering enough black people to get a decent sense of things. (I got that link from ABW‘s Required Reading page, by the way)

Of course, G and I are not signing up to integrate our nearest super-white town any time soon (Westport and Easton residents are perhaps breathing a sigh of relief as I type this). In fact, we’ve pretty much decided that we’re going to have to stay in NYC forever, in spite of the fact that we’ll probably be renters for the rest of our lives. Not only so we can feel a little more comfortable in our brown skins, but also so our future kids aren’t the only black faces in the local elementary school classroom or neighborhood park.

See how I brought this post back around to our future kids? Full circle, my friends, fuuullll circle.

First of all, for those of you who were waiting on pins and needles to hear, we managed to “follow doctor’s orders” one more time last night, on CD14. Actually, it was late enough that it was practically the wee hours of CD15, so I’m hoping that’ll basically cover us, and we won’t have to feel too guilty about skipping the prescribed session on CD16.

This is the only thing I hate about not charting–not knowing when, exactly, I ovulated. It makes the two week wait way more suspenseful than it has to be, since I don’t know exactly when my LP starts, and so I don’t know when it’s gotten longer than “normal” and I should do a pg test. Which means I test early and get crushed early, only to be crushed again when Aunt Flo shows up. Sigh.

I have a feeling that I’m ovulating today, though, based on CM changes, ovulation pain, and other physical symptoms like that–plus, I’ve ovulated around CD15 for most of the cycles that I did chart this year–so I probably will go ahead and count tomorrow as the first dpo (day past ovulation). That means my period should be here by August 7th at the VERY latest, and that’s giving my typical LP a few days cushion, just in case I’m wrong about the timing. We’re supposed to go see the in-laws on the 10th, so maybe I’ll try to hold out on testing until the trip is imminent. (yeah, right, like I’ve ever had that much self-control)

Guess what else? I did yoga today! Don’t laugh, but I used this ridiculously ancient book, because I’ve done the 28-day plan twice before, once in college and once in graduate school, and found it really easy to follow, especially when at a point of complete physical stagnation and stiffness (ahem, like now). Both times I lost weight, and yoga served as a “gateway exercise,” if you will, to other healthy activity–including healthier eating. My acupuncturist friend suggested some videos, but I think I’ll do Hittleman first and then get videos or take a class once I’ve gotten in the yoga habit. We had such a lovely, active vacation–swimming, biking, tennis–I just don’t want to slip too far back into my couch-potato ways. Maybe I’ll get on the elliptical machine tonight, too, for the first time in ages. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, today I’m supposed to be working on a reader’s report–I was asked to review an article submission for an interdisciplinary journal in my broader field. It’s weird reviewing for a journal that accepts work from multiple disciplines, because since the article is clearly written by someone in another discipline than my own, it’s hard for me to evaluate it. Are the things I perceive as weaknesses or oversights merely differences in disciplinary style?

Ah well. I should be working on my report right now, but instead I’m finishing this blog entry, after which I will likely get back to the novel I’m currently reading. No, it’s not Harry Potter 7 (that’s not meant to sound defiant–more power to all of the giddy HP readers! For some reason I just never started reading the books, although I have seen all of the movies). I’ve come to the point in Russell’s novel that I like to call the point of no return–close enough to the book’s big reveal/climax that I’m not going to be able to put it down until I finish. Which means I might as well read more now, rather than waiting until I’m ready for bed and staying up half the night.

More on Cape Cod very soon, I promise!