Ode to Ovulation

The monthly call to fertility is exhilarating, but in our house, we’ve come to eye it with suspicion.

My husband was kind enough to print out this article from the New York Times for me yesterday. The author, John Tierney, discusses one of my favorite topics, the invisible powers possessed by ovulating women, and highlights a recent study from Florida State University. Researchers found that men in a committed relationship tend to subconsciously downplay the attractiveness of ovulating women they do not know—thus, in theory, driving away temptation.

My husband brought me this article because he knows I love all things related to ovulation. (I owe it so much! Of course I love it.) But secretly I wonder if he was simply drawn to the title, “The Threatening Scent of Fertile Women.” The study examined how men are threatened by ovulating women that they aren’t sleeping with. But I’m here to say those researchers missed an opportunity. They could have thrown in a few couples and examined how men are threatened by ovulating women they are sleeping with. That’s how it goes in my house anyway.

If you haven’t noticed this already, ladies, ovulation is a rush. Somewhere near the halfway point of our monthly cycle, our hormones finally start playing a happy song. The rage-to-tears roller coaster of menstruation is shut down temporarily, the clouds part, and out comes the marching band. This is powerful stuff, especially for us introverts. I’d set my whole social calendar by it if I could.

Most of the time, stringing together words into a sentence suitable for the spoken word is a real chore. I have a hard time even making conversation with the guy making my sandwich at Thundercloud’s. I slouch my way through life, the Hunchbackette of Austin, periodically swinging my arm up over my head so I can scratch at my dandruff like Aly Sheedy’s character in The Breakfast Club.

But once a month, all this changes. The Friendly Dental Assistant in the Sky lifts the heavy lead blanket off of me, X-rays complete, and suddenly I’m free. Words come easily to my lips. There’s a spring in my step. I turn the radio up, and my 37-year-old, mother-of-three self actually thinks it sounds like fun to go dancing downtown at one of those obnoxious dance clubs filled with 18 year olds and fake smoke.

And then there’s the grocery store. Most of the time, the grocery store is a completely non-exciting place to be (especially in the center aisles, we all know how we feel about all that preserved food). But when I’m ovulating, it’s another story altogether. I am not the most observant person, but even I see it, the heads turning, the looks. I’m not saying it’s a Katy Perry reception or anything, but it’s there. I can feel it. I almost feel like I have superpowers, like if I wanted (and knew what I was doing), I could make people—OK, men—do something. I’m not sure what. Something Marilyn Monroe would do. (And I most definitely do not look like Marilyn Monroe.)

I love that there’s this thing, this thing that no one really knows about or talks about, but it’s there. I love that women have it, and it connects us to the earth, and to our mothers, and to our children, and to our lovers. It’s very girl-power, but not in a dumb way—in a very real way. I love that it’s ruled by the moon. (We women, like the oceans, are moved by the moon.) Our hormones rise and fall according to a cycle, just like the moon travels around the earth, just like the earth travels around the sun, just like the plants change and grow throughout the seasons. Men are connected to the natural world as well, but not as directly as we women are.

At home, when ovulation comes, I warn my husband. He already knows, of course. But that’s another part of him, the part that knows. So I warn his brain. Basically, his brain and my brain are hatching out a plan, every month, to avoid baby #4. We have back-up plans. We have exit strategies. We have essential supplies stashed in strategic strongholds. We have emergency evac drills with maps on the wall. So far, it’s working. But since our children weren’t planned (by us anyway), we have a healthy understanding of how sometimes, life doesn’t take orders. It takes charge.

And so we make our plans, but still we wonder. Will that last chair at our dining room table that seats six eventually be filled? Will my husband’s early predictions that we would end up with four kids ultimately prove correct? Now, don’t get me wrong. I definitely do not want to get pregnant again. I’m 37 and I’ve had three kids. I won’t go into the details (you’re welcome), but this body is hanging on by a thread. Another pregnancy might send me over the edge. But when ovulation comes and I tell my husband that it’s almost like I can feel baby #4 out there, somewhere, we both get worried at the sound of my words. My brain may not want to get pregnant, but in those moments it seems another part of me absolutely does. Namely, I guess, my ovaries. And for husbands and wives alike, the power of the ovaries can be downright threatening.

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