Dear readers. My last installment ended on a wild promise: that I would next discuss “the cervix.” (There was also something about 6-inch flour tortillas but the pictures didn’t turn out.) So there’s my thesis. Pull up a chair!
Last week I started writing a post about how lame it is that any hetero couple with five minutes and a pulse can get pregnant (or really, two pulses, but you know what I mean), while folks like me and probably most of you are compelled to study and save and practice and so on. Right? Straight people have it so easy — as much sperm as you want, for free! And it’s renewable! No plastic waste! It lives longer in the vagina than frozen sperm! And you don’t even have to know what pregnancy is to get pregnant! You can accidentally get pregnant!
Then I realized I was being an asshole. Is it hard for gay people to have kids? I mean. Duh. But do I really think that accidental pregnancies are always super-duper? Do I think that it’s always a breeze for straight couples to conceive? Of course not. I was being self-pitying. So I stopped writing about it.
Surrounded by the rubble of that exploded blog post, I started thinking about this: people are weird about sex and things involving sex-making parts. Take this-here cervix entry, for instance — it felt liberating to promise but it was really uncomfortable to try to write. I had in mind some really explicit, but somehow tastefully coy, description of the experience of learning about my wife’s cervix, but I couldn’t do it, on account of the part of me that kept saying, Dude, it’s weird to talk about your wife’s fertile regions on the Internet. Even though another part of me kept asking, Why is it weird? Aren’t 12-year-old girls in cheerleading uniforms and the trailer for Magic Mike way weirder? And don’t you owe it to your fellow insemination hopefuls to report the truth the whole truth etc.?
Well, those things are indeed weird, I admitted to myself, and I do want to be helpful to my fellows, but still. And then I spent some time trying to determine whether it is objectively weird to write about one’s wife’s cervix on the Internet. There was a lot of mental hemming and hawing, but it wasn’t all bad — I drew Awkward the Octopus to keep me company:
He’s awkward, see, because his legs are all different shapes.
Anyway. Finally, this afternoon, right as I swerved on my bike to miss a big white van making a U-turn on 5th Avenue, I realized that the problem was, simply, that I don’t want to write about my wife’s cervix. Would I write about her tonsils in full, gory detail? Yes. Her fingernails? Feet? Kneecaps? Sure, why not? But her cervix: no.
Which is sort of the point, I guess. “Cervical monitoring,” as the pros call it, is not sex, nor is it particularly sexy. But if you’re doing it at home and you’re not a medical professional, chances are it’s a thing you share with only one other person. (Or, you know, a few people, if that’s your thing.) It’s intimate and can be sort of embarrassing, like sex. And if the person you’re learning to cervix-watch with is anything like Sir Mixalot, their good-natured willingness to do that for you, to put themselves in a vulnerable and somewhat compromising position “for the team,” so to speak, becomes one of those things, like sex, that are the blood of your relationship, too precious to go spewing all over the Internet. So that’s that.
HOWEVER. Many things about this whole lesbian baby-making jam are different from sex betwixt people in love, including that it’s an expensive and logistically challenging proposition, and therefore requires some practice. Cervical monitoring, by which I mean actually looking at the cervix for signs of fertility in order to determine — when the time comes, so help me — when to inseminate, is not immediately easy, so it’s satisfying to figure out, and it makes some sense to share what you’ve learned in the process. So here, sans gory details, are some hints and tips for any future cervical explorers in our midst. Sir Mix and I got ourselves started by reading the New Essential Guide to Lesbian Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth by Stephanie Brill, who co-founded the apparently magical Maia Midwifery and Fertility Services in Berkeley, CA, and it’s way helpful. You’ll find most of what’s below and much much more there, but, briefly:
- Really all you need to do this is a speculum and some sort of light-emitting device (and a mirror if you’re flying solo). You can buy a speculum from the Internet. Ours is from Amazon; I think it cost around twenty bucks. Once you get past the weirdness of owning a quasi-medical device for quasi-medical purposes, it’s a very handy little tool. When not in use, it can also serve as a sort of hand puppet (especially any type of long-billed bird). But:
- It takes a little while to learn how to use said quasi-medical device and to figure out what’s going on in the nether regions. If you’re planning to use this as a way to time insemination, give yourself at least a month to bumble around like a doofus before actually getting any decent information, and another three months to piece together what you find. We were pretty clueless for the first couple of months. And also frustrated. If you’re like I was at the beginning of all this and aren’t even sure what you’re looking for, you can find all sorts of helpful photos at the Beautiful Cervix Project.
- Regarding decent information: it’s true that you only really need the spec and the light, but a camera will also be very, very useful, especially when you’re trying to track cervical changes day to day and compare the various states you find the little sucker in.
- Monitoring other fertility signals is really helpful too — from these, you can deduce the precise day of ovulation, which will make you and your partner feel like super-cool, lady-part sleuths extraordinaire. You can download tracking forms from lots of Internet locales, including the Maia site.
- You really sort of have to take a peek every single day for this to yield much good information. The length of the ovulation window varies by person, and it’s not always smack in the middle of the menstrual cycle, so you won’t really have a clear idea of what’s going on if you aren’t checking in every day.
- Try also to look at the same time every day, so you’ll have even blocks of roughly 24 hours when you’re trying to pinpoint the ovulation time. We have two GPS clocks at either end of the apartment so that we can pinpoint the time to within a few nanoseconds (we also use them to track the speed of neutrinos), but that’s not really necessary.
- Finally, cats are not helpful. Avoid them while cervical monitoring is in progress.
- THE END. LOVE, KATIE.