* So long as “starting to die” =/= “dying”

Well, kids, how were your holidays? Mine were fine. Everyone who needed gifts got gifts. Most people who would have appreciated a gift or a plate of cookies or something equally festive got nothing. Lots of people got cards, most of which, I’m sure, have since been recycled and forgotten. Sending Christmas cards is actually a very expensive enterprise, but I don’t imagine we’ll give it up until the government drops the postal service. So, never.

But I didn’t come on here to talk about Christmas. Christmas is so last month. What did I come here to talk about? Not much. Mister Bubby said something funny the other day, but heck if I can remember it now. I’m getting old.

Speaking of getting old, a few days ago I was afraid I might be pregnant–for no reason except, you know, the usual, most obvious one. I’m sorry, that’s obscure, but I’m trying to be more sensitive to my male readers, some of whom are uncomfortable knowing the details of my menstrual cycle. Wait, did I just say “menstrual”? Sensitivity FAIL. Screw it, my period was late. For the first time in about…eight years. Many things went through my mind:

1. I am 42 years old. The eggs are getting old. They could also be getting lazy. Maybe taking their cues from every other part of my body.

2. I am undergoing (very successful!) hormonal therapy. Hormones are crazy. They could be messing with my cycle.

3. I am getting old and perhaps misremembering the date of my last menstrual period. I probably forgot to write it down, even though I have to keep track of these things for medicinal purposes these days, but even if I did write it down, my efficient 10-year-old just recycled all the 2013 calendars, so we’ll never know, will we?

4. If I’m pregnant, I’ll need to be institutionalized, which will be expensive. Plus, my children still need their mother. … I have exhausted my ability to think along these lines. I will go back to my first three thoughts now.

But it is very difficult to put a thought like #4 out of one’s mind entirely. Even when one’s conscious mind is consciously concentrating on other matters, e.g. laundry, dirty dishes, phone calls that need to be made, escapist literature that needs to be read, the subconscious has a way of keeping that unwanted thought somewhere in the brain where it can vex and annoy the nerves of one’s body. It makes for a very uncomfortable night’s rest.

I did go so far as to buy a pregnancy test and bring it home. I didn’t take it right away because it was the day before the housekeepers come, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get all my work done if I was curled up in a little ball sobbing on my bathroom floor. So I put it off and put it off until finally my subconscious just couldn’t stand it anymore, and I took the test. (I noticed that even the generic versions are now promising accurate results up to five days before your expected period, which is just crazy. Frankly, I begin to worry that science is eroding this generation’s ability to delay gratification. But I digress.) Obviously, it was negative. I mean, obviously, because I’m 42 years old and taking progesterone and doing everything within my power to avoid positive pregnancy tests. Well, obviously not EVERYthing, if I’m still taking pregnancy tests at 42. That’s what’s crazy.

I did feel some small measure of relief upon learning the result, but there was still the matter of the as-yet-absent Aunt Flo, which was still bothering the subconscious enough for the conscious to call my SuperGyno the next day. The SuperGyno said to just keep taking my progesterone until my period came and take another pregnancy test in a week if it did not. I did not find her acknowledgment of the possibility of pregnancy comforting, even if it was professional and scientifically accurate. But I was scheduled to give blood on Thursday, so I just went about my business.

So, a short history of my blood-donation career: I first tried to give blood as a senior in high school, but they wouldn’t stick me because my veins were too small. I felt rejected. I didn’t bother trying again until after college, when I found myself in charge of our church’s blood drive. It’s kind of tacky to ask people to give blood if you aren’t willing to donate yourself. So I went to every drive (held quarterly at the church), and they rejected me–sometimes for iron deficiency, other times for vein issues–over and over. Once they got a needle in my arm and blood was coming out, but it didn’t come out fast enough and they had to quit. They told me to drink lots of water next time. I thought I did drink lots of water already–I was taking medication that required me to drink a lot of water–but whatever. I drank a lot of water, and I tried again the next time, and I successfully donated my first pint of blood. I felt very satisfied.

After that, I got married and started having kids right away, so it was hard to donate blood regularly because when I wasn’t busy being pregnant, I had difficulty sparing a 45-minute block of time where I could lie down with a needle in my arm. I averaged maybe one donation per year I wasn’t pregnant. Eventually, though, my life began to have some flexibility and I managed to start donating blood about twice a year after Girlfriend was born. Last year it was my intention to donate every 8 weeks, but I didn’t quite manage it. I did make four successful donations, which was probably a record for me.

When I went for my last appointment in November, my iron was down again. I was somewhat surprised at how disappointing this was. “Disappointing” is not quite the word I’m looking for. What is the female version of “emasculated”? Because that’s how I felt. Like I had failed to perform. It was ridiculous, of course, but apparently “blood donor” has become an important part of my identity. I have so little to offer the world, when I think about it. When I’m gone, people can say, “At least she gave us her blood.” Yes, gentle readers, that is the legacy I’m going for these days.

So I’ve been faithfully taking my iron supplements, and I had a hamburger for dinner Wednesday night, and my iron was 14.6 on Thursday. 14.6! I don’t think it’s ever been that high before. Usually I hover around 13, or whatever the absolute minimum is. Anyway. So I got the needle in my arm, and the Red Cross person has me gently squeezing the squeezy thing every five seconds. Then she tells me I’m not squeezing gently enough and I’m doing it too frequently. Actually, I was not squeezing too frequently. I have circulation issues, so it helps if I move my fingers in between squeezes. (Another Red Cross person told me that several years ago, and it has worked like a charm up until Thursday, when this particular Red Cross person told me to calm down and squeeze like a normal person.) Well, fine. My blood was coming out very slowly, which they don’t like. The Red Cross person (I don’t know what the folks sticking needles in your arm and monitoring blood flow are called) is messing with my needle, which was not comfortable. I’m making her sound less friendly than she was. On a personal level, I quite liked her; she had an excellent bedside manner, but I did not appreciate her criticism of my squeezing technique or the discomfort resulting from the needle manipulation. She recruited one of her fellow (sister) Red Cross people to see if she could find the happy spot where the blood would just become as unto a fountain, but this other person was not doing much better and thought at one point that my vein had collapsed. (It had not, but it wasn’t happy.)

At some point I thought, “Dear God, please tell me this isn’t your way of saying that I shouldn’t be giving blood because I really am pregnant, because if it is, I AM NOT AMUSED.”

Long story short, the second RCP (Red Cross Professional–sounds more professional than “person”) ended up holding the needle in place in my arm the entire time while the tourniquet thingy they put around your upper arm was as tight as it could possibly be, and that enabled my blood to flow at an acceptable (albeit still slow–I’ve always been a slow bleeder, nothing to do about that) pace. When they finally released me, I found that my fingers had fallen asleep. Note: this was not the Red Cross people’s fault. If they’d known it was that bad, they would have stopped, but they kept asking me if I was okay, and I said I was okay because I had gone through entirely too much discomfort to quit at this point for absolutely nothing, and also, I hadn’t quite realized that I had lost feeling in my fingers because I was so hyper-aware of the fact that there was a human being holding a needle in my vein. Anyway, I got better.

Given how much ouch I felt at the needle site at the time, I expected to see some bruising there later. (I bruise rather easily; I’ve been bruised by phlebotomists before.) But everything looks normal. I guess most of that ouch was in my imagination.

It occurs to me that this is a horrible post about donating blood. I must tell you, I probably didn’t hydrate myself well enough yesterday. All of my Red Cross donations prior to this one were perfectly uneventful and mostly pain-free. (They can never be entirely pain-free because when they check your iron, they poke your finger with this little needle that feels like a staple gun. Sorry, Red Cross, but it’s true. The good news is that that pain is fleeting. The real needle-in-your-arm stuff is much less barbaric.) Now I’m afraid that when I’m dead, people will say, “She gave us her blood but discouraged millions of others from donating because they happened across this random blog post about the one unpleasant donation she made.”

What of my legacy now?

I don’t know, but it hardly signifies because the point of my story is that my period finally got here and between that and the blood donation and the extreme relief I felt over definitely not being pregnant, I am extraordinarily tired today.

And that’s all I’ve got.