I have long been a fan of Sandra Steingraber. I read Living Downstream my very first semester in college and it opened my eyes to an incredible world of government and industry disregard for our very human and fragile lives as evidenced by the chemicals they continued to pump into the air that damaged us and made us sick. Now, we have read Having Faith for this current semester in midwifery school and again I am in love.
Steingraber’s writing about the most complex ecological and biological facts is nothing short of poetic. Last semester, I spent a lot of time learning all sorts of things about human ovulation that I had never learned before. It was fascinating. The way Steingraber tells it, it is nothing short of an epic symphony orchestrated on a grand ecological scale:
At the end of a period, the lining of the uterus is thin and bare – like a layer of silt left behind after flood waters have receded. The ovaries, too, are smooth and quiet. Then, high in the brain, the pituitary gland begins to drizzle into the bloodstream a substance called follicle stimulating hormone. True to its name, the hormone awakens in one or the other ovary a whole choir of follicles. Like bubbles, they rise to the surface in unison. Each one is a sack that holds a single human egg. Typically, only one follicle will ultimately surrender its singular possession, but all participate in the task of turning testosterone into estrogen, and it is this collective effort that makes the next step possible.
The assembled estrogen seeps from the follicle-studded surface of the ovary and swirls around in the bloodstream. Some reaches the brain, and, in a second round of call and response, the pituitary gland replies by releasing back into the blood another substance called luteinizing hormone. Like the initial hormone that set the whole process in motion, this, too, is received by the ovary, and it induces one of the swollen follicles to break through the ovarian surface. An egg is delivered out into the headwaters of the fallopian tube. Ovulation. All this in less than two weeks.
If you haven’t read Having Faith yet, you should. Maybe you will fall in love too.