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Hysterical Infertility
By Dani Klein Modisett

I have never been so preoccupied with my own pee. When to do it, how to do it, at what angle. I am desperate to get pregnant again and all the various sticks in the "family planning" aisle of the Rite Aid have become my soothsayers.

I got pregnant the first time two weeks after screaming at my husband, "It could take years! We have to start trying now!" Consequently, this time around I find myself panicking because I am not able to get pregnant simply because I say I want to.

Here's a secret, I look like a deep person. I have big, dark eyes. I even sound deep because I have an authoritative voice that I have cultivated from being terrified that people will figure out I know absolutely nothing about almost everything. But do not be fooled, I am completely unprepared for adversity of this kind. The kind where you want something too much and no amount of goal setting or studying can help you get it.

Like most post-feminist women who did no actual work for women's rights and yet enjoy a hell of a lot more possibility for cash, I never thought much about having a baby. I spoke to my husband, Tod, like I did, but I would confess privately to my girlfriends, "Look, it's not like I'm dying to have a baby, I'm just afraid I'll die regretting that I didn't, if I don't." I couldn't imagine it at the time, but what if being a parent really was more rewarding than getting a job in television?

That was before I met my son Gabriel. Before I get all sentimental on you, let me clarify that Gabriel, who is a year and a half, might not be the apple of everyone's eye. He almost always has one hand in his pants playing with himself; often while chasing little girls begging for hugs and kisses with his one free arm. It might not be cute at 30.

On a break from monitoring my ovaries like a day trader watches NASDAQ, I ran into Dianna at Gelson's market. Dianna is part of a lesbian couple in my hipster "Mommy group." I dabbled in several "Mommy groups" during the first year of Gabriel's life. I stayed with the hip one because it had Dianna the Art Dealer, a Movie Star (I really shouldn't say who, okay?), and several Record Executives. I am none of these things, but at least there was hope of the conversation going beyond nap schedules and weaning. Dianna is so informed about the optimum hormonal cycle for making a baby you would think she was a doctor and not the art collection rep of several famous movie directors. She and her partner, a Sheryl Crow look-alike, are trying to get pregnant again, too. The timing of her conception, she told me, is crucial because she only has so many sperm to work with.

I hung on her every word as she recounted the details of their struggle, identifying with everything. I too, had breastfed for a year, depleting my body. I too, had very light periods now. I too wondered how long the sperm would last. I had my Palm Pilot out before she finished saying the name of her Chinese acupuncturist.

"He worked for Chairman Mao, and he changed my life." Three days later I went to see him.

Jin Wang's office is in Alhambra. No spa vibe like the other Eastern healing places I'd been to in LA -- he performs his alternative magic in a fluorescently lit store in a strip mall. The storefront office is divided in two by fabric screens. Not embroidered silk screens, just plain muslin stretched across wood rectangles held together by aluminum latches. Obviously, this man feels no need to impress anyone. He wouldn't even know what "selling the sizzle" means. God bless him.

The diagnoses are done in the front of the store. Mao's Main Man sits at a small white Formica desk. You sit across from him on a stool. I walked through the glass front door, we said our hellos, and within minutes we were off and running to find the answer to my seemingly spent ovaries.

Holding my left wrist with his left hand, Jin said, exactly as you would imagine a man would who spends eight months of the year in Beijing, "The Chi of your Yin very unbalanced." I wonder if that's what Mao suffered from and how long it would be before I want to slay intellectuals. Fortunately, I live in Los Angeles where there would be fewer victims.

"Is no problem. We can fix that." He continued, "I no promise you get pregnant though. I no can promise that." He laughed nervously, as if American women pursuing baby-making was enormously comical to him. And a little threatening.

His expression changed from mirthful to dire in an instant. It reminded me of my toddler, Gabriel. He continued to hold my wrist, looking right, and concentrating. To be helpful I volunteered, "I have low blood pressure all the time."

"Sure," he said, still looking past me, "from all your exercise. You all like to exercise a lot."

"That's true, yes." I nodded, wondering what the "you all" referred to. You all Americans? You all women who decided to have babies later in life so you're always running away from the clock? You all Jews? I doubted that. Do they even have Jews in China?

Then he said more about my Chi. The Chi of my Yin.

"You know Yin and Yang?"

"Not personally," I answered, trying a little shtick to warm up the room. He looked at me puzzled.

"You know Yin and Yang?" he asked louder.

"Yes, I know the idea. Ideas. Yin and Yang. Opposites that need each other to exist."

"Okay, sure." he said, smiling. Nice teeth. He had no idea what I said.

I really didn't know what Chi was. I had heard the word in yoga class, and I think I read an article about Woody Harrelson once where he talked a lot about it in between tokes on his hemp joint.

"Chi is like energy, right?"

"Yes, energy. There good Chi and bad Chi. Chi have to be balanced."

"Absolutely." Balance is good. I knew that. Therapists have been beating this idea into my head for what felt like decades.

"Too much bad Chi in your kidney."

I scanned my brain for another zinger, feeling like Albert Brooks. I didn't know whether to sweat or laugh. I did both.

"I give you acupuncture treatment and you take these herbs." He handed me a bottle of small brown, round pellets. "What the dosage say?" he asked, shoving the bottle in my hand. Apparently he doesn't read small print. He doesn't have to. He works intuitively.

"Three to five pills, three times a day," I read aloud, squinting.

"Okay, you take maximum amount. Smaller amount for Chinese women, but they small, you big girl, so you take maximum amount."

I was a fat teen, so I don't argue with anyone who describes me as large. I nod my head in agreement. I will do whatever this man I don't know with no credentials other than working as an aid to a communist dictator, and the endorsement of a woman I have seen half a dozen times in my life tells me. Anything to get me closer to carrying another baby, to having another mega-dose of the most intoxicating love I have ever known. Short of impaling myself with Ginsu knives, I will follow his suggestions to a T. And I have nothing to worry about because he didn't just go to school to learn Chinese medicine. He is Chinese medicine.

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