Overachieving ovum and subpar spermatazoa

The results came back from BFFs repeat semen analysis: 4% normal morphology,  up from 2% in July.  This is,  add I anticipated,  a very marginal and pretty much inconsequential improvement.  Normal morphology is 14%. La and I were hoping for something like 8 or 10. 4% just feels.  . . Unfair.

So we will be going forward with the IUI using BFF this time and hopehopehope that one of those 4% of normal shaped sperm find one of my five follicles and make a baby.  It’s not impossible or even a total long shot.  This protocol is,  after all,  the recommendation for a woman with PRO and a man with poor morphology.  So hope isn’t lost.  But today is still sad.

We will be contacting our two other potential donors to talk about moving forward with one of them.

It can’t all be good,  I know,  and I am still grateful for the hope we have to hang on to,  but there is a fair amount of grief to contend with today as well.  Especially for La, who has held on to this idea for years,  the possibility for loss is just as present and palpable as the hope.

Almost as Good, and sometimes better

My nephew is here!

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Liam Greer came busting onto the scene on Friday night at 8:20pm, MST. He came in at a whopping 8lbs 15oz, 21in long and a 14 in head. I really, really hope the giant head runs in my sister-in-law’s family and not mine. Dear lord.

He’s pretty fabulous already. We haven’t hung out much, because he’s kind of a big deal and I really hate being *that* family member who doesn’t respect boundaries (because there are plenty of them already) We have a dinner date tomorrow. His mom and dad are coming too.

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I know I’m biased but he is a REALLY beautiful baby, amiright?

In other news . . .

Both BFF and I had appointments with the fertility acupuncturist on Saturday. She seems to see some evidence of PCOS in my chart, and explained that while I do ovulate on my own that I may not be ovulating well or producing very good eggs. She noted that having many days of positive OPKs could indicate ‘weak’ ovulation and eggs trying to be released in the midst of lots of cysts impeding them. Still nothing confirmatory, but I think I might push for some blood tests when I go in to see the Texas Ranger tomorrow.

I’m now taking myo-inositol (which, BTW, seems to have a LOT of clinical evidence of helping PCOS symptoms without side effects), fish oil and vitamin D3 to support ovarian function and increase blood flow. And, of course, it is now officially time to stop eating refined sugar, wheat and dairy again. Which I have always known I would have to do but have ignored for a while now. You guys, donuts are my kryptonite. This is no fun.

I’m feeling much more at peace with the path we are on right now. We are definitely taking this month off, and will likely not proceed to the IUI in the Aug/Sept cycle either, although we may try at home again (possibly using The Conception Kit – another recommendation from the Acupuncturist) BFF will get a repeat sperm analysis after 8 weeks of acupuncture/herbs/supplements.

There is a lot of waiting ahead of me, and I know it is being mitigated somewhat right now by the appointments I have. I’m working hard to put some other things into place that will help me get through the next (maybe two) month(s) of not trying. And, still, I know there will be times when it feels so so so far away.

But today, things are good. Today, I have a tiny (or not so tiny!) nephew who is precious beyond measure. Today I have a few more answers and a few more techniques to try. And tomorrow I see the Texas Ranger for more information.

The day after that, well, I will get there when I get there.

Things. Some good. Some hard.

I had originally wanted to wait to update you all until AFTER my nephew made his arrival earth-side – which should have been by now. Unfortunately (for all of us, but mostly for his mama) the induction using pitocin did not encourage Liam to come out to this side of the belly. After 12 hours of not enough progress, she was sent home. She will go back tonight to try again. Nephew Wath 2013 has been delayed. Adorable baby photos will have to wait until another day.

Some things have happened this week, like this:

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aka the best salad ever aka direct from the garden at the estate.

And this:

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aka the first egg from the golden girls (there was another last night too. So exiting!)

Eating stuff from your backyard is THE BEST.

But then this also happened:

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Which I guess for some people isn’t that bad, but made me feel like this:

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I find it shocking that for some people with uteruses, the HSG is totally like, no biggie. This is the impression I got when I asked about it on the babycenter board and when I did some pre-procedure googling. I find this shocking because it was absolutely, hands down, the most exrutiating pain I have ever experienced. Granted, I (thankfully) have not had a lot of run ins with excessive pain. But I do have a fair number of tattoos and have undergone surgery and busted my ankle up so bad that doctors now don’t know what to do with it. So . . .I have some reference.

In any case, yesterday was miserable. After screaming through the HSG, I was informed that my ovaries looked poly cystic. I’m going back on Tuesday for another ultrasound for them to check and decide if this is actually the case.

I feel somewhat confused by this. I have very regular periods (with the exception of the last year when two cycles were longer than usual – one very long, 60 days) and appear to ovulate based on BBT signs. My metabolic panels have always been good – no signs of insulin resistance, blood pressure issues or high cholesterol. I’m a bigger girl, but my weight is much more packed into my thighs and booty vs. my belly. I don’t have acne or hair growth. Basically, this is coming as a bit of a surprise to me.

The doctor who did the HSG and subsequently informed me of the appearance of my ovaries was not the Texas Ranger, but the follow up is scheduled with her. So I’m hoping to get some answers then, and also from the fertility specialist acupuncturist I am seeing on Saturday.

I know the PCOS is not the end of the road when it comes to fertility stuff, and that it can definitely be treated in a variety of ways. But this is not the kind of news I want on the heels of BFF’s less-than-stellar semen analysis results. But, if it is in fact the case, we will just do the next best thing.

At least I don’t feel like I have a knife shoved up my cervix anymore. See, there is a bright side to everything!

The Swim Meet

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When La and I had our Big Gay Love Extravaganza Event (GLEE) in April 2012, we knew that we wanted our best friends there playing some significant roles, and we knew that we wanted our best friends in costume. Because that is how we roll. BFF and my best buddy served as our “Men of Honor” and were tasked with determining their outfits, with some guidance about style (20’s and 30’s vintage theater.)

BFF initially decided he wanted to wear an old fashioned bathing suit (ie: the jumpsuit shorty kind, often seen with stripes) and a boater hat. I was very excited for this possible costume, since it was both a perfect fit with the theme AND hilarious! Unfortunately, because of cost prohibitations and the inability to rent said suit, BFF went with a different, but still highly fashionable, choice.

I mention this because I think it is oddly appropriate.

This morning, the Texas Ranger called with the results of BFF’s semen analysis. The results? Aside from what appeared to be an ‘incomplete sample’ (although it wasn’t specified if that was because of a screw up or something else) – normal count and normal motility (ie: the quantity of sperm and their ability to swim forward at a normal speed) but a poor morphology.

Morphology is, for those of you not in the know, the shape of the sperm. Here are some possible shapes of human spermatozoa:

ImageThere seems to be a lot of disagreement about what constitutes a “normal” number or quantity of “normal” shaped sperm, varying from 14% to just 4%. BFF’s semen has just 2% of the sperms that are normally shaped.

So . . .if we were to compare sperms to swim teams (because, obviously): Joe’s team is well stocked with swimmer’s that can totally get from one end of the pool to the other, they are just mostly wearing crazy swimsuits and outlandish hats.

The suck of it is that swimmer’s with wonky bathing costumes on can’t get the job done when it comes to fertilizing the egg. They are just not well equipped.

So. What now?

We don’t know.

It continues to be very important to us to use BFF as our donor, as long as that is reasonable and possible. Its not about the sperm being free or easy to access (it never was, although that definitely helped.) Its about our relationship with BFF, and even more so, La’s relationship with him. In the current scenario, having BFF donate feels like the closest thing to having La contribute the genetic material for our kid. It doesn’t make sense in a rational way, but our hearts both know it to be true.

So, on the one hand, we want to explore avenues for making this happen with BFF’s sperm. Because our hearts want that deeply. On the other, there is the reality that the poorer the quality of the sperm, the less likely we are to get pregnant no matter the method. And the longer it takes, the more money we spend and the more heartache we incur.

On the upside, poor morphology with good counts and good motility is the best of the bad situations. From what I’ve been able to read, there is a reasonable chance of success using IUI with this method.

But questions remain . . . .

  • We had initially planned to wait on some of the diagnostic testing for me until after a few IUI attempts. Do we bump that up to make sure we aren’t playing with an even bigger handicap than we think?
  • How many IUI’s do we do with BFF’s sperm before we decided to use an anonymous donor from a bank?
  • Do we investigate using other fertility measures (like drugs) even though it appears that I am ovulating normally?

I realize no one can tell us what to do, but I would appreciate your input, darlings. I realize that many of you didn’t have to think about these things – you got your sperm in vials with counts, motility and morphology all guaranteed to be super-awesome. But maybe you can imagine? For those of you who are using or have used a known donor, or have a male partner – what do you think?

As if to add insult to injury, today I got a spot of pink when I wiped. I realize it may not count me out just yet, but it certainly feels like some salt in the wound. I’m 12 DPO today and have had similar spotting right around this time the last few cycles. My insistence on not tracking symptoms too closely means I don’t have a lot else to cling to, hope wise. I’d been planning to wait to take a test but will probably go ahead and pee on one tonight or tomorrow morning. It would be a lovely surprise, wouldn’t it?

We might be underwater, but I’m not holding my breath.

Doctor’s Orders

And so begins, possibly, a new era of the baby making saga.

Yesterday we went and saw a “full spectrum OB-GYN” Practice (ie: an OB/GYN who does some fertility work as well) who had been recommended to us by a lesbian couple who are also trying to conceive using a known donor. Due to a bunch of rescheduling mishaps, the appointment was with a different doctor than we had initially planned on seeing (that is, the specific doc recommended to us)

On Monday, during my lunch break, I looked around on the practice’s website and found the bio of the doctor we were scheduled to see. And I just about lost my shit. There, amongst his accolades and degrees earned was this:

“Raised in the mid-west from a strong Catholic family of twelve, Dr. Lennon has a sincere appreciation of traditional family values.”

Maybe this doesn’t phase you, but I’m going to go ahead and guess that many queers would have the same response I did. Which was to feel a deep and abiding fear strike deep into my heart.

Monday night, La, BFF and I made a plan of action for if the doctor ended up being a bigoted asshole. We decided to be calm, collected, professional and strong. We decided to not walk into the office with judgement based solely on this phrase, just as we wouldn’t want to be judged. But my heart still raced and I, admittedly, did try and choose a few incredibly brilliant come-backs for any potential shitty comments.

We showed up to the appointment – all three of us arriving at different times – and waited. I showed up a full half hour early, amped on a half caff americano spiked with sugar syrup. BFF showed up so late he had to be shown back to the room. La was, of course, perfectly on time.

The MA who took us back was great. She was prepared for there to be three of us (although there were only two at that moment, see above) and clearly knew who was who. She was kind, good humored, and funny. As soon as we sat down and told her BFF was on his way, La asked if the doctor was ok with us and how things were working. She smiled and said “OMG YES! This is the most liberal practice EVER!” And went on to report exactly how and why they were awesome. Cue giant sigh of relief.

Before she could finish taking my medical history, someone popped their head in and told us that the doctor had to go to a delivery and we could either wait for him or see one of the midwives. A little frustrated, we decided to see the midwife. Once the door was closed, the MA warned us that this midwife was the “most conservative” in the practice, but that we would be fine still and would get good information from her and then could continue seeing the original doctor. Cue sharp intake of breath. again.

The woman who walked in was a straight talking shoot from the hip middle aged woman in a breezy black blouse and white tennis shoes. “So, the three of you want to get pregnant, eh?” she asked immediately. Yes, we nodded. We do. “Well, tell me what you’ve already done and what you want to do next.” She was kind of scary, but in a super sweet way. Like a Texas ranger housewife.

I explained our 5 failed attempts at home insemination, detailing that BFF provides his sample in a sterile cup, brings it to us, we insert it with a needless syringe. That we do this somewhere between 2-6 times in my peak fertility period. That I know when to do so because I track my basal body temperature, my cervical fluid, my cervical position and use ovulation prediction kits.

“So, you’re ovulating?” She asked.

“Um. Yes? I mean. I think so? I mean, all of the evidence I have here suggests . . .” and then I pulled out the folder of my printed BBT charts and showed her. “This is what ovulation looks like, right?”

“Yep, looks like ovulation to me. Sounds like you work.”

I was confused at first. Did she mean that I was ‘working’ at understanding this? and if so, was that a judgement? Was she asking if I had a job? if so, that was a weird non-sequitor. Did she mean . . .it sounds like I am fertile?

“Um. Yeah. Yeah I guess I do.”

She then turned to BFF and asked if he had ever fathered a child. He mentioned the accidental pregnancy he caused when he was 15, and then mentioned that was a while ago. She asked him his age and did the math. “yeah, let’s get you a sperm analysis.”

“Once we do that, you all should do IUIs. You know what that is?”

Yes, we said. We did. But . . .

“Can you do that? I mean. Will you have to freeze and quarantine BFF’s sperm? Because everyone we’ve talked to has said . . .”

“What? Why do I care where you get your sperm?” The texas ranger asked.

“Well . . .its just . . .I mean . . .they’ve said some things about liability and . . .” At this point we launched into an abbreviated version of the sperm saga we have heard. That our GP didn’t care how we got pregnant but couldn’t help us with fertility. That the OB at the other practice didn’t care how we got pregnant but couldn’t help us with fertility. That the RE we got referred to could totally help us with fertility but could only do it with frozen anonymous sperm OR with the sperm of my *MALE SEXUAL PARTNER* and no it didn’t matter how many times this dudes sperm had been in me.

The Texas Ranger didn’t care. Nope. Not a bit. She explained that they could do IUI’s in the office with BFF’s sperm, which they could wash either there or at a nearby lab. No freezing. No quarantining. Sample that day. Bim bam boom.

And with that, the Texas ranger wrote a referral for BFF to get the semen analysis, told us she will call with result and, assuming at home try #6 doesn’t work and BFF’s team is ship-shape, we will do our first IUI cycle in August. It will likely be unmedicated and unmonitored, although the details weren’t discussed. If the IUI’s don’t work after two cycles, I will get an HSG and blood work done. And then we will go from there.

I got an increased dose of thyroid meds for my clinical sort of normal but TTC-high thyroid results as well. Score on that, since the GP wouldn’t up my dose since she only goes by the regular guidelines, not those established for women trying to conceive.

I feel more hopeful than I have in a while. I’m nervous about increased medical intervention, but also feel like it could shorten the waiting and take a lot of the load off of me. We still get to use the donor we adore, and while we will be paying more than free (or, actually, the cost of OPKs and bulk orders of syringes and cups) the cost is still quite low as these things go, and we have a benefactor who is willing to support some of the costs.

And, of course, there is still a chance it will all be unnecessary. That in approximately two weeks we will be pregnant and can return to the OB for a prenatal visit instead of an IUI.

Return from Paradise

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We are back.

If only everyone could spend a week in Cancun every time they have to wait to try again to make a baby. It really is an excellent way to stop thinking about the minutiae of getting pregnant and just really exist in the moment. I vote free beach vacays for all people TTC – every cycle you don’t get knocked up, you get to go away. Who’s with me?

Unfortunately, you can only suspend reality for so long before it comes crashing back down on your head. My usual M.O. is to have a mild-moderate panic attack on the flight home when I begin subconciously making the list of crap in my head. I staved it off until we were in customs this time.

But I have also managed to hold on to a teeny tiny bit of paradise. By this I don’t mean the white sand or water so blue you don’t remember its salt or a mojito whenever I ask for it. I mean bobbing in waves unaware of time, I mean moments without narrative or checklists or somethinganythingijustneedtothink, I mean seeing – actually seeing – all of the things around me, I mean looking at my girl’s face and feeling all of the big beautiful feelings bubble up.

So I’m going to try and float with these feelings, even in the midst of re-writing my work plan for the funder who it seems like I can never please, in the middle of managing money when an unforeseen expense or 30 pops up, and yes, right here smack dab in the center of trying to make a baby.

And we are smack dab in the middle of it, again. We arrived home on CD12 and I commenced peeing on things. I’m expecting to ovulate between now and Thursday and we did our first insemination last night.

BFF is currently living with us while he and BFFBF look for a new place to live. BFF got a new puppy (the biggest floppiest most adorable grand pyrenees named Yankee!) and the puppy is also living with us. Our house is kind of like Three’s Company on a farm right now, and yes its as ridiculous as it sounds. On the upside, we can do inseminations any old time we feel like it . . .which will probably be every other day until the positive OPK pops up, and then a few more tries.

ImageA few other notes . . .

On DOMA . . .Our Cancun resort didn’t have free wifi and pat of my vacation plan was to be as unplugged as possible. So, we didn’t find out about the Supreme Court decisions until we got home. And what a fuckin’ mixed bag, eh? I’m super psyched that DOMA was struck down and that same sex marriage will be federally recognized on some level. I’m also glad the shenanigans in California got addressed. I know that the DOMA ruling doesn’t entirely take care of the issues (I do happen to live in a state where a similar amendment has been enshrined in the state constitution) but I also think this is a sign that the BS is on its way out. Supreme Court precedent is a big f’ing deal, you know?

But OMG can we talk about the Voting Rights Act for a minute? That is BAD BAD BAD. The irony that this decision came at the same time as the Paula Deen scandal is just too much Americanism for me. Why are people not outraged about the VRA being dismantled in the same way they are ourtraged at Paula Deen saying the “N” word? For serious?!

And also . . .I really really really hope that now the marriage stuff is beginning to happen that the LGBTQ ‘community’ can start paying attention to the other million issues that really deeply impact queer folks. Like immigration reform, and health care, and homelessness. And I hope we care as much about those things as we do about the right to get married. I hope we give just as many shits about the way people of color just got totally disenfranchised as we do about the ability to file federal taxes jointly. Now that our relationships aren’t wedge issues, please let us keep standing on the right side of justice.

On Doctors  . . .

Tomorrow the triumverate goes to visit the OB/GYN. This appointment has been a long time coming. It was initially scheduled for three weeks ago, but has been rescheduled a million times (by both us and the doc) and it felt like it was never coming. Now that it is, I’m terrified. I’m scared of the possible homophobia (even though we have a referral from another queer couple using a known donor); I’m terrified of fatphobia (kind like this) and having to defend my body and my life; I’m terrified of finding things out that I don’t want to know about maybe why we aren’t pregnant yet.

But, I’m also hopeful. We have the opportunity to find out that everything is OK, or to fix things that might be getting in the way. We have a chance to ask a lot of questions. We have access to things that might support knowing, understanding, or making this happen.

Under the Hood

Oh man, if I had an audience waiting with baited breath, they would be so excited because there is so much to report!

Basically, I would call the last week Experiments in Awkward Conversations.

There were, of course, the phone calls to every low-cost sexual health provider in the greater metro area regarding my friend’s sperm, which I determined was primarily awkward because I am an adult inquiring about medical services for another adult AND I’m not his case worker. After a solid chat with my GP – who is an adorably awkward lesbian who just had a baby with her partner not so long ago – we decided to hold off on the semen analysis for a while. Her suggestion was to try 4 cycles and if we didn’t get pregs by then, to investigate the semen analysis again.

Ok! Check!

On Friday, La and I went to see the lawyer who will be drafting our donor agreement, and probably helping with some additional estate documents as well. The awkward conversation that ensued here was less “ha ha how weird is it to be talking about my friend’s wiener? ha ha” and more “fuck man, being a queer can sure make simple things a lot harder.” In this case, we are working on drafting an agreement that BFF can sign, relinquishing his rights to the baby that his spermies create, defining the intended roles of both me and La, and setting us up to ensure that La will be the second parent – in whatever way is legal at that point. Apparently, Colorado has pretty good case law (read: some) in this field, which means our lawyer has been able to amend her contract to be specific and has reasonable assurance that it will cover our ass in case BFF gets all crazy which I just really can’t imagine happening. But part of this is defining who we are (NOT MARRIED being chief among the list) by virtue of the law, which doesn’t necessarily correlate with who we understand ourselves to be. It was eerily reminiscent of getting our basically meaningless domestic partnership certificate in Denver. The narrative went something like this:

“Do you, Andiepants, agree that La is your domestic partner, recognizing that this is no way constitutes a marriage, will be void immediately upon your or La’s death, voided if either of you should get married, and basically means nothing but that you spent $50 supporting the infrastructure of the city and county of Denver?”
Yes. Yes I do.

The good news is that Colorado currently has second parent adoption, which means that worst case scenario, La can be on the birth certificate following a lengthy and expensive process to adopt her own child! Yay!
BUT! BEST case (which is not even that far from reality) La will be on the birth certificate as soon as the nugget is born if civil unions legislation passes (and it is looking mighty good this time around) and is in effect by the time the kiddo is born! Super honest not cynical YAY!

So, $250 and one hour long uncomfortable conversation later, we should have a contract on its way to us.

This morning I went to the aforementioned adorable lesbian doctor to get a pap and make sure all the initial pre-pregnancy tests have been run. Things are looking good, minus a slightly tilted cervix (aim low and to your right, was the issued advice) and the very slight possibility of an elevated prolactin level (for which a blood test was ordered.) Other than that, my vag is in excellent working condition!

Yay for functional vaginas and possibly awesome legislation!!

Shit’s gettin’ real

I want to let you all know that I work, professionally, for a reasonably adult wage, in the sexual health education field. I no longer routinely demonstrate the proper use of condoms, extol the virtues of the IUD or pepper my language with penile-anal penetration, but suffice to say I am still frequently in the position of talking about risque subjects with people who are more than a little squeamish. Last year I had to bring a box of brightly colored silicone dildos (ahem, condom demonstrators) into the principal’s office at a very conservative public high school and tell him exactly how his teachers would be showing barrier methods to his students, and I didn’t bat an eyelash. Really, it doesn’t phase me.

But man oh man if asking a few medical professionals about getting a sperm analysis for BFF didn’t freak me the fuck out.

I was somehow under the impression that we would be able to get a semen analysis at Planned Parenthood, right alongside the usual HIV/STI tests. Having gotten quite a bit of my pre-insurance reproductive healthcare from good ol’ PP, I assumed men were privy to the similar array of services. Not the case. Apparently, physical exams can only be scheduled if there is evidence of infection, and beyond that, only a panel of HIV/STI tests can be run. Since BFF is definitely un-insured, this means we are going to have to get creative about how to get this step done. I realize that the semen analysis isn’t a must at this point in the game, but we might as well get all the medical stuff out of the way up front, right? Plus, BFF is 46 and while we know he managed to knock a girl up in his 20’s, this doesn’t mean the swimmer’s are still in Olympic shape.

Thus, I have spent the afternoon calling various clinics, my doctor, and the public health department (that was one little tip I’m proud to have thought of myself!) explaining that I am a lesbo, and me and my lesbo lover and our gay BFF are gonna get together and make a baby and we need a little help getting all of our ducks in a row and did I mention we make crap for cash? Who do I have to fuck around here to get BFF’s spunk looked at under a microscope?!

The biggest trauma is, of course, calling folks and having to come out over and over again, on the phone, to medical professionals – who I generally don’t trust. Then I start thinking that maybe we shouldn’t have access to low cost services because, I mean, isn’t this making a baby thing a privilege for two dykes and therefore if we can’t do it on our own and/or pay for it on our own, we should just be happy with our dogs? Why does ‘reproductive health’ almost always mean the option to NOT get pregnant when you don’t want to, instead of the other way around? And if we can’t shell out hundreds of dollars to make sure BFF’s sperms don’t have 6 tails, are we really adequately prepared to have a kid, anyway? Are we overpreparing or overthinking or overanalyzing or all of the above?

In other news . . .
Had the donor talk with BFF on Sunday and it was decidedly lovely. I ended up getting totally weepy and verklempt because OMG y’all, if we need a #3 to make a baby, I am SO SO happy its BFF. His heart is so big and he is so wonderful, and the smile on his face when we told him we wanted to do a ritual with all three of us to sort of affirm the roles we are each playing was magical. He is a totally dreamy donor BFF, and I’m excited for him to be Uncle BFF to our babies. Also, he is so strapping and really exceptionally healthy which I think spells good news all around.

Finally. My boss is pregnant and due at the end of January (there are actually two co-workers who are due a day apart! I’m hoping they tag me in when they go into labor!) which up until yesterday still seemed like a while away. But since I am now tracking time by my menstrual cycle, the only thought I had was, whoa . . .that’s NEXT MONTH (because it is, in the cycle scheme of things) and whoa . . .I could potentially be (just barely) pregnant when the boss goes into labor. Assuming, of course, getting tagged in works.