Browsing Tag


Guest Posts, infertility

Platter of Oranges

March 17, 2019

By Amy Sayers

I notice it right away, the platter of oranges. Big juicy naval oranges with pock marked skin. Thickly skinned. A few of the leaves, oval and glossy make a mandala on the red plate. Sandra, the architect in New York, potted orange trees in her loft. The scent of the white flowers were dazzlingly fragrant.

Oranges. Highly valued for their vitamin C content. Maybe they’re snacks for later. I could just peel one and put the peelings in my glass of water and savor the potent oil resting in the glands of the skin. I wonder if they’re organic but they had no stickers and I’m hungry and salivating over plump and juicy orange sections.

Twelve other people sit around the table, chatting noisily. All couples. Most of them have smooth ivory skin, one woman is black. Clearly I am the oldest woman. I pull on my chin to erase the lines drawn down to my mouth and fidget in my chair.

“Today we’re going to talk about the treatment. From biology to process and what to expect.” Continue Reading…

Pregnancy, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

My Pregnancy Journey: A Leap of Faith

April 11, 2018

By Dana Mich

I glanced down at the two pink lines gazing up at me from their glossy plastic eyelets. I set the First Response test on my bathroom sink and bit my lip as I ran the tap. It felt too good to be true.

It was the day of my thirtieth birthday, and Mother’s Day. May fourteenth, twenty-seventeen. The previous evening’s cake and candles, and that morning’s sunlit family brunch—gilded with yogurt parfaits and a medley of quiches—hovered in my peripheral view. If anything, those two little tick-marks should have been the cherry on top of an already serendipitous twenty-four hours in my life. But this was my third positive test in nine months with no baby or expectant bump to show for it. Instead of rejoicing on that first day of the decade I’d slated to be my parenting years, I pleaded to the universe: “Please just let me have this baby. I swear, I’ll be so careful.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, infertility

Five Years and a Baby’s Life Ago

February 28, 2018

By Jennifer Roberts

Josh and I got married in November of 2012. We’ve been married for 5 years now. In a way I feel like we met yesterday, and in a way I feel like it could have been a lifetime ago.

I grew up in Florida and Josh and I met there in early 2009. When I met him, I had just gotten over one of those “friends with benefits” things that women get into at one point or another of their single years. I wasn’t looking for a serious boyfriend at the time, especially one who was 6 years younger than me who played professional baseball. There were many pro athletes in that area, and because I lived there I made a few friends that played sports professionally over the years, so I knew the stigma attached to dating one of them and that sometimes stereotypes are true.

Needless to say, I ignored my somewhat bitter thoughts and let Josh charm me into what became a relationship worth more than I could have ever dreamed. I knew from the very beginning that when Josh was done playing professionally, he would prefer to move back to the Pacific Northwest permanently. After we got engaged, I finally made up my mind to leave everyone I knew and give the PNW a fair chance to ‘wow’ me and become my home. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, infertility

What The Body Knows

December 10, 2016

By Emily Stoddard

Hysterosalpingogram. There is not enough space in my mouth for the word, yet here I am on the exam table, having the procedure that I cannot say. They fill my uterus with dye. On the X-Ray screen, I watch the fluid expand. I think of it as a sort of carbon dating. We are here to decide how authentic my uterus is.

I remember when I prayed for blood from my uterus. In the back of my middle school journals, I hid a list of girls who had already gotten their periods, according to recess gossip. I knew I was one of the last to start. The knowing held me like a map: You are here.

And now, we are deciding whether my uterus is only a diorama, an altar to something imagined, like those names in my seventh grade journal. We send fluid back, inward. I send small prayers with it. For a new map. Now for different reasons, but also the same reason—to be like the other girls.

The dye flushes deeper, into the fallopian tubes. Fallopian. It sounds as distant as an ancient civilization, until a flare of pain reminds me that Fallopian is within me. Part of my body. I had been tracing the X-Ray screen and wondering what languages they speak there, what weather they have.

The nurse breaks in to report: “Sometimes, we just need to clear the dust bunnies, to get the tubes to behave like they should.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, infertility, No Bullshit Motherhood

Dead Souls

November 13, 2016

By Alex Behr

A new year. January 2001. I went alone to the next IVF appointment in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, menstruating. Everything was mathematically planned out. I had been on the Pill for a month to regulate my ovaries, and now I’d stopped taking them. The doctor did an ultrasound in my bloody kootch. The nurse who took my blood to check for hormone levels said, “Hopefully it’s the last period you’ll have for a long time.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Though later, before I left, she said, “Everyone’s nervous the first time.” What did that mean? Was I doomed to failure? Yet she also said, “The lining of your uterus is thin. Everything looks good.”

The first set of injections would stimulate my follicles to produce more eggs than normal, and I would be monitored on an ultrasound, like any normal pregnant person, the follicles looking like the underside of a psychedelic mushroom, open to new life.

At home, though, Sam and I got in another fight. “If I get a shit job I’ll be too depressed,” Sam said. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Attachment Parenting

November 10, 2016

*An amazing picture Jesse drew of his family, putting them in two pairs.

By Kendra Lubalin

Sadie is wrapped around my leg, her surprisingly strong thighs and arms tightly squeezing her body to mine, attached.  She says “I don’t know why I ever stopped nursing!  If I hadn’t I could still suck on your boobs every day!”  She is six years old, but her face is pressed to my calf so tightly, her yearning voice so authentically in pain, that I can’t laugh.

She wants to be so close that she doesn’t know how to get there.  It’s an impossible amount of closeness to achieve.  She wants my membranes to be permeable so she can swim inside me, she wants to pass though me like a ghost, but solid and warm – blood mixing with blood, breath with breath, heartbeat with heartbeat.  If she could crawl back inside the womb I’m still not sure she could satiate the desire she has to own me, to make me hers.  She whispers to me that she will put a window into my stomach, so she can live in there and still see her friends.

Straddling my lap she grabs my face in her hands and goes eye to eye, foreheads touching.

“You are mine.  Only mine.” Continue Reading…

infertility, Guest Posts

Napalm Picnic

September 22, 2016

By Alex Behr

Note: Names have been changed.
I picked up the thermometer by the bedside table and shook it. Every day I took my temperature and recorded it on grid paper, trying to determine when I was ovulating. Sam and I lived in a Victorian split long ago into an apartment on each floor. Our bedroom was off the kitchen, with a tall, gated window covered by a curtain I’d sewn.

My primary care person, a nurse practitioner in San Francisco’s Castro District, had told me for years not to worry, but I did. The notebooks I stored in a suitcase in the closet were filled with my fears. My FSH levels were normal—I was new to infertility-related acronyms. I never said that word, infertility, in my mind. I was way too superstitious and optimistic. Basically, normal FSH levels meant I wasn’t struggling too hard to produce the follicle-stimulating hormone necessary for ovulation.

Every annual checkup, I’d walk past the stacks of HIV prevention pamphlets in the office and lay down for this nurse practitioner. She told me my breasts felt good—soft and healthy—almost like she was evaluating their allure. I put my feet in terry-cloth-draped stirrups so she could feel my uterus. Good, good. No STDs. Regular sex. Healthy. Good genes. No problemo. She massaged my breasts for nonexistent lumps and said, “There’s a population crisis.” Who was I but one more woman adding to the problem? She said, “You’ll get pregnant.”

After three years of hearing me worry, she told me to get a test to see if my tubes were blocked. I’d never heard of tubes damming up, much less this test.

The thermometer hit the edge of the bedside table and broke, shattering glass. Tiny silver spheres tapped across the wood floor. I swore and knelt down to dab them in a Kleenex, feeling like I was bringing bad luck to myself—to my body—mercury poisoning was not good for primping the body for pregnancy.

I wanted this blood token. I wanted a baby of my blood—of Sam’s blood. Make something of our misfit lives. I was well-rounded and grieving each month. Drip. Stain.

Motherhood wasn’t a desire out of frustration, but a longing from childhood, from kindergarten, at least, when I echoed my mom in a drawing: she had her baby in a baby carriage (my sister); I had my baby doll. An introvert so shy that I didn’t speak in kindergarten, standing in the room, not joining the finger-painters and the tights-wetters, I always knew I would be a mom one day. I would create a blood tribe for comfort and silliness and intimacy.

I printed out the driving directions to Kaiser from the front room of our flat. The dial-up modem buzzed and fussed by my computer. I wanted to slide up to Sam, feel his warmth, and have sex. Instead, I picked up an invoice from my desk and killed a silverfish.

At Kaiser I saw pregnant women throughout the waiting room, as if they were my personal mocker, as if I sat in a room of Pulitzer-prize-winning authors with stringy hair and bad skin wearing pink hoodies and sweats with white stripes up the sides. Kaiser accommodated us all. We weren’t San Francisco’s brightest and finest, just women struggling in our bodies. It was 2000, but I’d dropkicked the diaphragm and sperm killer in 1997, having finally convinced Sam to try to get me pregnant—that everything would work out—that we could still play music, and he could still do kung fu; he’d have plenty of time for himself.

I waited for my name to be called. I knitted a green blanket for the baby I knew would happen if I tried hard enough. I was always poised to have my name called, as any delay in putting my yarn away or picking up my purse would cause them to move on to someone else in the waiting room, someone with life inside her.

Sam, wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and Converse sneakers, waited in a plastic seat. I picked up his hand and ran my finger over the homemade tattoos he’d given himself as a teen-age punk. The two tiny lines were markers of good luck to me. The nurse called my full name, “Alexandra Behr?”

Sam said, “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, stay here,” I said.

I held my arms together against Sam’s chest, and he wrapped his arms around me. What if the nurse left without me? What if she called someone else? “Watch my stuff,” I said.

“Good luck,” he said.

I left Sam and walked through the doors to go through an infantalization process: stripping and putting on a blue poly/cotton covering that was large enough to accommodate me at nine months’ pregnant.

I was about to have radioactive dye injected through my vaginal canal and through the Fallopian tubes. Canal. That word reminded me of Venice, the murky waters. The romance. The pollution. All my eggs had existed in me since I was born on a snowy Easter weekend, but I wasn’t able to get pregnant and I didn’t know why.

Then on the examination table, I had the procedure—the HSG—the hysterosalpingogram. Hysteria in minutes, the dye forced up inside me, cramping. The X-ray test examined the hidden me. The outer me was one that some men had coveted. That I had filled with alcohol, with drugs, with lust, but in private, a rollicking party of two.

The X-ray machine took photos as the dye went its way, but the dye got dammed up. The cramping was intense. I winced and gritted my teeth. I felt like I was being raped by a thin, pressurized knife.

The doctor and his assistants—future infertility gurus—stood by my legs in stirrups, looking at the X-ray screen. I wasn’t the only patient in this room. Others were a curtain away. Nevertheless, the medical people discussed my most intimate parts. The uterus looked great, healthy! But they said the tubes were blocked. The egg couldn’t reach the sperm, those racing gray squiggles in life-science movies. They got stuck, stupid, unable to reach and pierce the membrane and start life.

The doctor pulled and prodded. On the monitor I saw tiny cauliflowers at the end of the uterus. Longhorns. The dye was trapped.

A nurse wiped the ultrasound goo off my abdomen and gave me a sanitary pad to hold between my legs. I got off the medical table, sobbing. I asked questions, wanting to write down the answers, but I was still naked except for the medical gown. I was not processing what the doctor was saying.

When I asked if the tubes were blocked, he said, smiling like a Simpsons’ cartoon character, “Ab-so-tute-ly!”

A friend had recommended this doctor, a man in his fifties with thinning hair and a pinched expression.

“You’re a textbook case for infertility,” he said.

I snotted up and dripped tears. How could I wipe them while holding the gown closed against my ass?

“Yucky news in the dot dot dot of getting pregnant,” he said. “Don’t think back on all the people you’ve been with—with all the recriminations.”

I shook all the way home, even with Sam’s arm around me. But I resented him, too. I felt I was talking him into being a parent. Badgering, as he’d say. He wanted to tour. He didn’t seem as upset as I was. I wondered, lying flat down on my bed, Maybe Sam would get his wish now, and never be a dad.

Barry Glassner writes in Culture of Fear about people’s use of “poignant anecdotes in place of scientific evidence.” Since my friend had gone to this fertility expert at Kaiser who had solved her miscarriage problems, I went to him, too.

For years, I’d been drenched in magical thinking: anyone who did become pregnant after initial difficulties was a role model for me—even though her circumstances (or her partner’s) might have been drastically different. People I confided in told me these stories all the time—they knew of a friend who went to Paris and got pregnant. The Eiffel Tower phallic cure? They tried to give my confidence, even though for years no one—including me—knew my tubes were blocked.

Only with me, the prayers and wishes hadn’t worked. The doctor told me not to blame all the men I had slept with, which, of course, was what I did—and blamed myself, too.

At home, I circled Sam in the kitchen. It was in the back of the flat. There wasn’t a lot of space between the table and the stove, the stove and the fridge, or the stove and the sink. The window gate was bolted to the frame of the six-foot window. The back hall in the alcove by the kitchen led only to the tiny bathroom or the back yard with walls on all sides. We were shut in by metal. Sam could escape only through the front door.

Sam did kung fu. His punches were strong and direct. His knuckles were swollen from doing pushups on them, and his biceps were huge. He punched the table, a wedding present. I jumped and my heart raced. “Why did you rush ahead and tell our families?” he yelled. He felt it was our secret, our problem. He wanted me to not tell anyone that my tubes were blocked, that we might have to do IVF.

“You never do anything,” I said, crying. My face was puffy.

“Why do you get mad at me when you say stuff like that?” he said. He walked out, slamming the front door.

Shaking, I knew I had hurt Sam’s feelings again. Sam knew I meant “never do anything” referred not only his career, but to the infertility problem. He wanted things to remain the same—renting at an undermarket rate from people who hated us, in the best city in the country. I wiped off my tears and walked to the front room, the former parlor, where I had my office. I wanted to research what was wrong with me. My desk was by tall, rattling windows and a built-in bench; streetlights shown through the space above the curtains. I didn’t know which way Sam had gone, but I knew he’d come back.

I stared at the computer screen, my breath stuck—sometimes I forgot to breathe. I didn’t want to be one of them, the infertile. I immediately thanked Billy, my boyfriend from the early 1980s, the second person I’d had sex with. I thanked him for my newly discovered blocked tubes. I’d met him when I was sixteen and a half. He was twenty-three.

Thank you. It was a bitter mantra. There’s no logic to blame. Just a sixth sense toward ignored symptoms on his part and trust on mine. Could I go there, or would I be a victim, stuck? Was I a victim, really, or just a nutty girl in love? If you drive to someone’s funeral, as I had, pretending to be a mourner with the headlights on, just to pursue a guy who gets you hot, well …

Billy had waited for me on a brick pathway outside the public library. He was visiting his old hometown—my hometown—a suburb of DC. I pulled down the hood of my winter coat, despite the sting of cold weather, drawn toward his interest in me. And what had I checked out to intrigue him? Maybe Vonnegut? Cat’s Cradle? He’d stolen books from the library. And what did he put under his coat? Something slightly subversive. Burroughs? Kerouac?

I gave him a ride in my parents’ car, a huge maroon Cadillac that my mom had inherited from her dad. His clothes smelled like exhaust fumes and pot smoke. He had long curly hair; we looked like twins. We drove past bare maple and oak trees whose trunks topped electric lines.

He was funny and worldly, and he pursued me with Sylvia Plath poems, stolen Kafka books, jokes about the Ayatollah Khomeini, and his bad boy stories of throwing snowballs at nuns in grade school and doing acid during high school football games. I didn’t tell my parents his nickname was “Billy Heroin.”

That winter, ice licking the branches of the oaks and maples, I got a fuzzy black sweater that I felt would arouse my new boyfriend, though I still had another boyfriend in college. I rarely washed it, fearing it would shrink. I was easy to seduce. I was skinny, wearing a cowl neck shirt, white painter’s pants, and clogs. My gas-permeable contact lenses often popped out, leaving me squinting. He wore boots, jeans and a black V-necked sweater, with curly hair poofing up the neck.

I was hyper. Young. Sixteen and a half. I blithely cheated on Fred, my first boyfriend, out in East Tennessee, because I was happier having sex with someone else—someone more experienced and more deviant. Billy was a community college dropout. I was applying to colleges, getting high before the SATs to skewer my chances of Ivy League schools. I didn’t like standardized tests.

Billy had a fondness for the perverse—debasement, annihilation—very smart but distracted, hitchhiking up and down the East Coast from his older sister’s one-bedroom apartment in the Lower East Side to my hometown near DC, where he crashed in his friends’ loft, a dark, dank slab of wood strewn with sleeping bags. I spent many hours in the loft. I spent my babysitting money treating him to greasy slabs of pizza and colas. I pretended he looked like Jim Morrison, but his nose had been broken too many times in street fights.

Once we went up to New York City and he said, “I know the color of my boss’s sheets.” Fidelity wasn’t a strong point.

At sixteen and seventeen and eighteen and nineteen, through various breakups and reconciliations, I made sure, with my babysitting money, that Billy had enough money for a cab license, for a black leather jacket with vanity zippers, for a black onyx ring. I didn’t care that he refused to wear a condom. I was too loaded on pot or mushrooms or synthetic mescaline or hash or wine and teen-age pheromones to care.

Now, the night after the Fallopian tube test, with Sam still out, I used my dial-up modem to research what had likely gone wrong when I was a teen in the early 1980s and lacked easy access to doctors. I wanted to infer how I’d failed my body.

From Billy, I’d gotten human papillovirus, HPV, in high school. There was no Planned Parenthood in my hometown, if I even knew one existed. The guys bought the condoms, and whether they used them or not was mostly up to them. Birth control pills, diaphragms, IUDs: out of the question. I never talked to my mom about my needs.

I paid to see a doctor in my hometown out of my allowance and babysitting money. My disease was shameful and disgusting, so shameful I told no one except doctors and future lovers, though the virus had then died out, done its harm.

In 1985 I had an abnormal pap smear, caught in time so those cells could be frozen and not develop into cancer. I thanked Billy for that illness, too. But the doctors assured me after freezing off precancerous cells that I would be fine, that I could still get pregnant.

I read more online, feeling nauseous. Chlamydia could cause blocked Fallopian tubes. Maybe Billy had given me that, too? I might not have had symptoms, or might have thought—just a bladder or yeast infection—awful but temporary—leaving no lasting damage, like a cold. I’d had a few over the years. The nurses on the phone just told me to get over-the-counter medicine.

I was separate from my body, not wanting to acknowledge a problem. I had wanted to split lust from duty, obligation, habit, tasks, and now I couldn’t. The dye had pressed hard enough to try to force the tubes open, but they refused.

Billy had overlapped relationships and stuck his lovers into little cubbyholes of disease. The sex-advice columnist Dan Savage has a stock phrase about how older lovers should treat younger lovers: they should view the relationship like a picnic, and when the relationship ends, leave the campsite area in better shape than when they found it.

Billy, the second person I had sex with, the person who should have left a clean campsite, instead (I believed) hosted a napalm picnic on my body. My tubes were blocked, laced with adhesions. But I had to forgive them, the tubes I was born with, the tubes that failed.

The funny thing, the ha ha ha ha thing, was there weren’t that many lovers in my past, and it could’ve just taken one. Viruses infected millions of us. They had the knack. Condoms could’ve stopped them. But as a default, I had to choose one person to blame beyond my stupidity, and in my heart it was Billy’s fault.

Our bedroom was tiny, the back of our five-room flat. The curtains I’d made were always shut against our neighbors across the alley. It was the quietest room, farthest from Waller Street. Our roommate had moved out years before, so we’d moved into his room, off the large kitchen.

I drank a beer. I heard the door open. Soon Sam would come to bed with me and his warmth and breathing, sleeping, snoring sounds would end the day. In my futon bed, with my knees curled up against me, I listened to a NPR radio report on the Lockerbee, Scotland, terrorist attack: about the bodies being hurled through space from the airplane. Two girls were found strapped to their seats, their arms around each other, and their fingers crossed.


Alex Behr is a writer and musician in Portland, OR. “Napalm Picnic” is an essay from her unpublished memoir. Other memoir pieces have appeared inNailed, Oregon Humanities, Watershed Review, Lumina, and Propeller. Her fiction has appeared in Word Riot, Portland Review, Propeller, and VoiceCatcher,and two stories were performed in LA as part of the New Short Fiction Series. 
Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

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Check out Jen Pastiloff in People Magazine!

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Family, Fear, Guest Posts, healing, infertility, The Body, Women

This Is Infertility

October 12, 2015

By Hillary Strong

“There they are!”  Betty, the technician, proclaims.

I blink. I stare at my husband. We both give her tight smiles. She’s wondering why I’m not crying. Not just crying, but ugly crying, where snot pours down my face, and I need an entire box of Kleenex to mop up the emotional refuse. She’s wondering why I’m not breaking out the horns and streamers, dancing naked while strewing confetti all over the exam room, watching it fall like snow over the stirrups, the tubes of Vaseline and boxes of Latex gloves, eventually drifting down to the bleach infused tiled floor.

She’s moving the wand around and gesturing towards the screen that to me looks like two Rorschach blots encased in static. My husband is squinting at the monitor. “What do you see?” I want to ask him. “A unicorn? A spider? Two caterpillars?

“You must be excited” Betty says, as she slides out the ultrasound wand that had been shoved into me with robotic efficiency. “Scoot your butt down, legs open, no down further, knees apart”, Betty had choreographed the weird dance of our weekly appointment minutes earlier. “What no flowers? I thought. “No dinner?” Just wham, bam, intravaginal ultrasound. Betty takes off her plastic gloves, drops them into the trash, and scribbles on my chart. “I will print out some photos for you guys to keep,” and with a click of a button, my uterus and its contents appear in neat, glossy, squares curling unto themselves like the receipt from a cash register.

“I’ll let you get dressed,” she says, and the door clicks shut.  Only then does my husband place his hand in mine, our fingers chilled from the air conditioning, and we stare at the pictures, poring over them like they are people we should know but can’t recognize.  It’s like she placed an enormous chocolate cake in front of us, and we told ourselves we could take a tiny little taste of the icing.  It feels decadent and a bit taboo and as our eyes pore over embryonic images of our children, we savor the deliciousness, for we know it could be as fleeting as sugar on the tongue.

I’m staring at a signed poster of Bruce Springsteen. It’s Born in the U.S.A., Bruce. White t-shirt, blue jeaned, red capped, Bruce.  Fighting the good fight. “I’m clothed now, so at least I’m not disgracing the flag”, I say aloud, and consider it a victory when my husband smiles and shakes his head slightly. I stare at the plastic vagina on the desk in front of me, and resist the urge to open and shut it, make it talk, like a puppet. Months ago, it might have been an elephant in the room, something that would have made my husband and I snicker like prepubescents in health class, or if playing the bourgeois, something that would have been examined like a coffee table book. Now, after months of being indoctrinated with anatomy lessons we hadn’t exactly volunteered for, I regard it like a paperweight or desk lamp. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Pregnancy, Relationships

I Used To Believe In Magic

April 18, 2015

By Natalie D-Napoleon

My father was an atheist who believed that facts and science were the only thing worth basing your life on.  My mother is a Catholic, and believes in faith and prayer. Me? I used to believe in magic.


I’m embarrassed to say I believed Santa existed until I was 11, and my mother had to tell me he wasn’t real. I was the eldest child of four and the eldest cousin of 11, so there were no older siblings or cousins to pop my magic-believing bubble.

From the mystical power of pyramids to prevent cheese from molding and hanging upside down in yoga poses to increase the capacity of my brain I graduated to an interest in tarot cards, Jung and astrology. Jung’s signs of synchronicity and deja vu governed my life for a time, and their appearance I always took as a pointer that my life was going in the right direction; that magic was happening and I was where I needed to be in that moment.

But over time I stopped believing in magic. Magic was lies adults told to children to get them to behave, it was mythology and fairy tales, serendipity and synchronicity. The adult world taught me those things no longer existed, that magic was for children, and for those who wanted to stay children longer than they should.

My father had always been right. Magic was for those who are by nature dreamers, and my dreams had become boring, tedious, painful and adult.


I was sitting in my Mazda 3 in the parking lot of the university where I worked, on my cell phone, talking to Steve and sobbing.  “I can’t do it. I can’t do exploratory surgery when we don’t even know for sure if that will give us the answers we’re looking for.”

“Nat, I don’t know what to say.  Do you want to get pregnant or not?”

“I do, but…”

“Then have the laparoscopy, don’t cancel it.”

“I can’t. She said in most cases they don’t even find anything. It’s exploratory surgery. I just… I can’t do it.”

I called back the doctor’s office where I’d just finished completing my admissions forms for a laparoscopy and endoscopy in eight weeks’ time, and cancelled the surgery.


For two and a half years we had been trying to get pregnant.

We had tried everything.

I’d had blood tests every morning for weeks to track my hormones at a fertility clinic, plastered with pictures of happy mothers and families with babies on the walls; we’d fucked like rabbits in every position imaginable; and, finally we’d tried the Creighton Model Fertility Care System – no invasive techniques for this natural couple.  The CMFS involved a system of tracking cervical mucus using an infuriating and methodical system of checking wiped toilet tissue and recording my cervical mucus consistency, length and color, every day of the month to determine when I was ovulating. All the while we watched my best friend get pregnant, twice, my sister in law unknowingly use the girl’s name I’d picked, Lillian, and attended so many first birthday parties for our friends’ children that they now outnumbered the adult parties we went to.

It was not long after that that I ended up in the bathroom with a men’s Bic safety razor in my hands.


Steve screamed from the other side of the door at me to open it or he was going to smash it in.

I hated the fact that I loved my possessions so much and the door of my house so much that I couldn’t stand the thought of it being smashed. Fuck! I hated that money was so tight I hated spending it on anything unnecessary – for the sake of him finding me balling with a shaving razor in my hand.

I unlocked the door. And I sobbed a cry from so deep inside me that I thought I might never regain my “self”.  I wasn’t really going to slash my wrists but I was so desperate for a way out of the thousandth fight/conversation/emotional meltdown about our fertility problems that I didn’t know what else to do.

I was grieving for the loss of my fertility, my relationship, my music career, and my dreams of having a child to play on the lawn we had tended to in the yard. We had dug the trenches for the reticulation with my dad who had also helped us lay the pipe and solder it to the water main. We had spread the fertilizer on the ground, then worked in the lawn runners, watered it every day for the first month, then two or three times a week after that to get the runners to take. The lawnmower guy came over once every two weeks to mow it. And I spent my free time hand-weeding, to make sure there were no pesticides or herbicides used on our property.

The lawn was verdant and lush was waiting for tiny feet. All the while we tended to our lawn I had visions of my child or children running around on the grass, playing, giggling, and falling down.

Being safe, being home.

Instead I was sitting at the edge of the bath tub sobbing; impotent and holding a man’s safety razor in my hands.  There was no magic left in my life only the grinding reality of our infertility.


I met Steve when I bought a Rickenbacker on lay-away from him at a local music store.  I had started my first band and we’d just started gigging. When I returned the fourth time to make my last payment I asked Steve if he knew anyone who gave electric guitar lessons. He answered, “Yeah, I do.” We set up a date and a time to meet at his place and I set off with those little moths of impending love beating their wings in my chest.

When I turned up for my first guitar lesson synchronicity seemed to be at work again when I noticed he had a block-mounted poster of Susannah Hoffs from the Bangles propped against the wall in his bedroom, holding her black and white Rickenbacker, the same model as mine. I went for a guitar lesson, we started dating and I and never got another formal lesson from him – a running joke in our relationship.

When we separated I sold that Rickenbacker to fund the first solo EP I recorded, “After the Flood”.


We fell in love then moved in together eight months later, just after I turned 22.  He convinced me the guys in my band weren’t on my musical trajectory, so I broke up the band before it had run its course. I wanted to move on and fulfil my musical vision, and I let him convince me we could write better songs together.

The first song we wrote together happened so easily I thought that was the sign confirming that fate was at work once again. The song had a haunting guitar part in open D tuning. I began to sing over the chords and the words of the chorus tumbled out of my mouth, a gift, “My fear of falling eats me and it swallows me up / My fear of falling eats me and it fills my cup.”

After this Steve was never happy unless we wrote a song together. Once we’d started performing together as an acoustic duo, I wrote three songs on my own and played them to him, hungry for feedback. He made no comment on the songs, but instead asked, “What about me, where’s my place in this?  I…I just don’t know where my place is in our duo if you go off and write songs on your own.”

I enrolled in a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and withdrew because he said I needed to choose what I wanted to do, play music or write, because I couldn’t do both.

My problem was I wanted to do everything.

My problem was I was too afraid to follow my dreams.

My partner and I were like idealistic children adrift in a sea of adult responsibility, clinging to each other, yet drowning the other person in our panic to hang onto our dreams.

That was it, the map of what was to become was all there in that first song. The pomegranate had been split open, Persephone had taken a bite. From this song on I would be forever trapped in this underworld of my own making.


I wasn’t “ill” but I was suffering physically. Infertility leaves its sufferers in an illness purgatory. I didn’t look sick, but my body was painfully and clearly failing to do what it should: to make a baby, grow a baby, and bring a baby into the world.

There was not a single person in our family or social circle who had dealt with infertility. Admitting our struggle to family and friends only made the situation worse. “You two just need to relax,” became the empty advice mantra, which implied our problems were the fault of our character or attitude, rather than a fault of our bodily functions. So, from then on we vowed to keep our struggles “personal” and by implication secret and cloaked in shame. I took it upon myself to solve the problem by becoming consumed with the task of getting pregnant, and it was the one thing that filled my every waking hour.

Having a child would save our relationship and the life I’d built with my partner, Steve, who I had loved desperately, had imagined growing old with, having children with and continuing to share my creative musical life with.

The doctor we were working with in the Crighton Model Fertility System sent me back to the fertility clinic to get another hormonal blood work up, to track my levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), estrogen and progesterone levels, which involved returning every second day for almost two weeks. The marks on my easily bruised arms covered up by Band-Aids and long-sleeved tops.

I had to believe making a child involved some sort of combination of magic, voodoo and timing we hadn’t yet worked out the hidden formula to. The answer was there, all we needed to do was hang on as we’d been doing for the last two and a half years.


“Nat you have to check his phone.” I talking to my best friend Donna and she was getting annoyed with me and the high moral ground stance I’d taken.

“But I can’t, it’s not fair. I can’t go behind his back and do that. That’s not the type of person I am. I’ve asked him, I’ve asked him already 20 times. He said there’s nothing going on with her.”

Then she told me she saw it, a few other people saw it. He was playing with her bracelet at my birthday party at a local craft brewery, and it wasn’t the action alone, but the intimacy of the gesture. This was another incident to add to the list of events that had transpired in the last seven months and cumulated with the bracelet-touching incident.

The phone, his phone had become the thing.

Steve spent most of his free time checking his phone, holding it underneath the table during most of my cousin’s wedding, disappearing around corners to check it, and leaving the table at family dinners. His cell phone’s constant beeping became a background to our home life and he spent most of his time hiding from me, tapping away text messages, searching for a way out.

During this week the intensity of his phone use increased, and the woman I suspected he’d been texting had been away in Europe for that week with her boyfriend visiting family. I knew it was her, but it couldn’t be her. We’d been camping together, had couples’ dinners together, I had worked with her just before I left the college.  She had a handsome, gentle, intelligent boyfriend who loved her. She’d been to my house and admired my things, picked up my grandmother’s blue 60’s Jeanie bottle, touched it and complimented me on my taste. The two of them had been working together at the college for seven months, in a job I’d gotten for him since another of his musical ventures had failed and I’d moved on to ESL teaching.

The next morning was a Saturday; while Steve had a shower I got up and grabbed his phone off our cream linoleum kitchen bench. I opened it quickly before I could second guess myself again and read the first text. It was from her:

“I L U & I miss U. Can’t w8 2 C U again. XXX.”

And one before from him, “1 wk 2 go til I C U again. I L U. XXX”

Just like that a knife had been taken to my heart and popped the magic believing bubble that held our love and our life together.

Babies lost, a lawn untread by children’s feet, songs never to be recorded and falling, falling with nowhere to land.

A line from ‘Fear of Falling’, the first song we wrote together, echoed through my mind as the room began to move, “Eve felt it too, that cold, wet, dark drop / Eve felt the fall before the apple dropped”.

I grabbed the edge of the kitchen sink and as if in some Lifetime B-grade film the walls of the room closed in towards me, the ground beneath me seemed to ripple. By the time I was able to breathe again I bolted to our en-suite and shoved the messages in his face as he stepped out of the shower naked.

He had no lies or excuses left. I knew; I had known all along. Our relationship was over. Like watching a structurally unsound high rise building get demolished by explosives the trying was over. It felt good to know where I stood once again. The walls stopped moving, the ground stood still and I knew from this moment on that there would be no more shame or secrets or lies. Only the solid ground I chose to walk on beneath my feet.


After we separated I continued seeing the couples’ therapist we had been to. One afternoon I went in for a solo appointment and told her about a dream I’d had that morning.

“I was underground, in a tunnel. This strange man had captured me and had kept me there for a long time. I was in a foreign country, somewhere in South-East Asia, maybe Malaysia. And all I had to eat was noodles. He gave me the same thing to eat every day. Noodles. The strange thing was, when I ate the noodles he let me go above ground, where we would eat in an outdoor restaurant, with a thatched roof, by the roadside. That was the best part of the day; I liked that, being out of the dark tunnel. In the dream I decided I’d finally had enough, so I told him, ‘I’m sick of eating noodles. I don’t want to eat the same thing anymore’. And I just got up and walked away into the street, disappearing into a crowd of people. I didn’t look back and he didn’t come after me or try to stop me.”

“Well, I don’t think you need me to tell you what that means,” she smiled. “I guess you won’t be eating noodles anymore.”


What happened to magic? The answer is I still play music, but I learned to ignore the voice that told me I couldn’t write songs or perform alone. I recorded an album of songs I wrote in the United States called “Leaving Me Dry”, with the help of a group of like-minded musicians. I began writing again and recently re-enrolled in a Master’s of Writing. I met a man, Brett, who helped me heal, who is kind and gentle and lets me be the person I need to be. We eloped and got married in California. Then, when we were ready I scheduled an endoscopy and laparoscopy.

Two days before the surgery I received an email from Steve. The subject of the email seemed neutral enough so I opened it. Inside the email he told me that the she of the text messages and he were married and pregnant. For the last time I put aside my pride and hurt, and the feelings of fear I had for the wolf at the door. I opened the door a crack and replied, “Congratulations. I’m sure you’ll have the happy life you deserve together. BTW in two days’ time I’m going in to have a laparoscopy and endoscopy”.

It was no surprise to me when he never replied to my email.

When I had the surgery the surgeon discovered five lesions of endometriosis and a benign cyst on one ovary that he removed.

One month later, after I’d recovered from the surgery, I took the fertility drug Clomid, to help stimulate ovulation and increase egg production. Then I made myself a little shrine in my room, with a picture of the Virgin Mary, a Buddha statue, a rock of amethyst and Brett’s favorite sea shell. Then I prayed to a higher power for the child I’d always dreamt of. I told my mother we were trying, and she said she’d pray for me. I didn’t say anything to my father, I knew he’d say it would all come down to science and medicine, and that it would be up to sperm and eggs and fallopian tubes and mucus to function in the way they were meant to.

I fell pregnant the first month we tried after the surgery.

I no longer dream of running through dark tunnels.

I started eating noodles again.

Sometimes magic comes when you call it, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, even magic needs a little help from fate and science.

Natalie D-Napoleon was raised on a farm on the outskirts of, Perth, Western Australia. She began writing poetry at ten years of age to cure her childhood insomnia. For 20 years she toured and performed as a singer-songwriter playing shows from Sweden, across Australia and in the United States. Currently, she lives in California and works as a writing tutor at a community college while completing a Master of Arts in Writing. She has had short stories, poetry and editorials published at The Manifest-Station, Literary Orphans, LA Yoga Magazine and The Santa Barbara News-Press.
The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mother’s Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!


Featured image by Joe Longo.

Guest Posts, Pregnancy

Red-Handed: On Shoplifting and Infertility.

October 17, 2014


By Jennifer Maher.

Resolve, The National Infertility Association of America, lists a variety of emotional and physical symptoms in response to not getting pregnant when you want to get pregnant. They include but are not limited to:

  • Lack of energy (especially when you have an unsuccessful cycle, on medical appointment days, or when you will see a pregnant friend);
  • Headaches
  • Irritability (snapping at people or making mountains out of molehills)
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme sadness
  • Inability to concentrate

Shoplifting is nowhere on this list.

Yet in the nearly three years it took me to conceive, along with over $22,000 in home-refinancing and credit card debt, I also acquired the following:

  • One black large-ring pullback belt with double buckle
  • A boxy caramel suede jacket with fringe on the front pockets and hem
  • Decadent Fig, Orchid Surrender, and Cheating Heart lipstick (Estee Lauder)
  • Two bottles of 2006 Chalone Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • The complete boxed set of My So-Called-Life

Much like infertility, shoplifting requires a certain kind of seat-of-your-pants creativity. Some seasoned lifters, for instance, line empty bags with aluminum foil to get past the door sensors; others rig bags with springs or wear enormous coats with hand-sewn secret pockets inside. Whatever the method of concealment, though, recreational shoplifting has long been considered an archetypal feminine vice, an impulsive pilfering of the phallus and the mirror image of castration anxiety. Secreting a skin cream in the feminine folds of your purse couldn’t be more obvious in this respect. Or imagine a necklace up your coat-sleeve, its laminated price tag held fast like a nascent IUD. Think about the fact that just this year in a South Carolina outlet mall, they arrested a woman with over $1700 dollars’ worth of stolen clothes in an empty infant car seat. Continue Reading…