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I wonder if it’s just me for whom infertility leads to a particular perversion of magical thinking. Until Saturday I was convinced I was pregnant, thanks to a variety of the usual signs, most notably a period that was a week late. As I’ve written before, these days are beyond agonizing. Part of you wants to rejoice and think that at last, the wait and anxiety and anguish is over. Part of you doesn’t want to allow any excitement to mount, only to be cruelly crushed by reality. Every time you drive by a drugstore you think, “should I buy a pregnancy test?” but then you think, “if I buy it now, then I won’t be pregnant.” When you’re out to dinner and your friends suggest that you get a glass of wine, you would definitely like one to ease your stress, but you think if you order one then you don’t really believe you’re pregnant, and so therefore you won’t be. Or if you have a drink you are somehow saying you don’t care that you’re pregnant or you’re not concerned about the health of your baby, and so somehow you don’t deserve to be pregnant. I know none of it makes any sense. But that doesn’t matter. Your brain just goes in all these painful directions, always circling back to the absurd idea that somehow your thoughts are controlling your fertility, rather than what’s happening in your uterus. You think, maybe you actually were pregnant but your body decided the cells weren’t dividing properly and the embryo needed to go in the no-go chute. Does it matter if you were or weren’t for that week? You aren’t now.
Meanwhile, your child’s obsession with obstetrics becomes almost too much to bear. Morning, noon, and night she pretends to be pregnant, or says she’s having a baby brother or sister because you’re pregnant, and stuffed soccer balls and baby dolls are constantly hidden behind her shirt. You beg her to play something different. You wonder if the only cure for her babymania is for you to actually have a baby, and then she’ll know what it’s like for real. Obviously, if you could make that happen, you would. Is she doing this to torture you? No, you’re sure of that. But it does. Is she doing this because she senses your desperation? Somehow, maybe, although you’re not sure how. Or is she just a little girl who’s very fond of playing mommy having a baby? Are other children similar obsessed? Does it matter?
You’ve been told by many people to think positive–that if you envision being pregnant and having a baby, it will happen. But what if you envision it and it doesn’t happen and then your vision just hangs over your head like an impossible dream, and you are haunted by what isn’t? You have a life to lead that is not well-served by being consumed by babymaking. Your daughter’s obsession need not be your own. But how do you put it out of your mind? Perhaps some magic is required. Some more peaceful or joyful sorts of magical thinking you haven’t yet figured out how to achieve.
I’ve known parents who blast AC/DC on their way to drop their kids off at day care. And I know parents who are strictly Veggie Tales and Raffi until their children are old enough to complain.
When Zoe was born we definitely leaned toward lullabyes and Sesame Street music and the like. It wasn’t hard because I already listened to Sesame Street music (even as an adult–Jim Henson is one of my heroes) and we were turned on by friends and family to a variety of children’s artists whose work is not at all nauseating and even enjoyable, such as Elizabeth Mitchell and Laurie Berkner. We also resurrected our own childhood favorites, including In Harmony, Free to Be You and Me, and Peter, Paul & Mommy. We also rocked Zoe to sleep on many nights to Sweet Honey in the Rock, Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora or to a classical bedtime mix that Randy created.
After a couple years when we figured it was safe, we loosened up a bit about what we played when Zoe was in the car. Also we missed our grown-up music. Often she would request (by which I mean demand) to listen to kids music. We took turns.
Now that she’s almost five, her tastes have matured. There’s a lot of grown-up music she likes, including Adele, Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga, the Beatles, Madonna (thanks to the Superbowl halftime show) and the music covered on Glee. I am a certified Gleek and have downloaded many a Glee tune and made a bunch of cds that are often in rotation in the car. And I know Zoe is not the only preschooler who likes Glee. I’ve heard from many friends that their kids sing along to the Glee songs and I’ve seen that disturbing video on YouTube of the cute little Filipino kid in the Warblers outfit singing and dancing to “Teenage Dream.”
What I don’t know is if all these other kids ask as many questions as Zoe does about what the lyrics mean. Recent inquiries have been about: “I Kissed a Girl” (“What does she mean ‘it felt so wrong it felt so right?'”), “Only the Good Die Young,” “Born this Way,” “Never Going Back Again,” and “Without You.” Generally I try to answer very straightforwardly and at face value. “She’s talking about how she kissed a girl and it felt nice but she’s worried that her boyfriend will get mad.” It’s easier with songs that are celebrational and positive: “It’s about how you should always like yourself and be proud of yourself even if people make fun of you or you make mistakes.” “It’s about how she really likes being with someone she loves.”
I really don’t want to get too deep into the concept of romantic love. I did teach her the word passion because she asked about it in the context of an Adele song. I told her it meant to love something or someone very much or feel very strongly about something. She said “like I’m passionate about going to Aunt Susannah and Uncle Aaron’s house tonight!” OK, sure. She does understand love, even in a way way way prepubescent sort of way, so that’s something. And she has strong feelings about a lot of things.
It’s fun that she likes this music. I DVRed the Grammys and fast forwarded through the boring parts to find songs by artists she likes. When something caught her ear she asked me to get up and dance with her. We talked about Katy Perry’s blue hair. Zoe LOVES “Firework” (mostly the Glee version, because I really don’t think Katy Perry can sing) and she was disappointed Katy Perry sang something else on the Grammys. But it’s also tricky, because it is clear now that she is really paying attention, and she isn’t willing to just let things slide. She wants to learn what the words are and what they mean and make sense of it all. For me it’s like being on a parenting game show. Quick, explain this very sophisticated concept in 30 words or less that won’t lead to further questioning!
And she just as often will ask for the Muppets or Susie Tallman lullabyes or Barenaked Ladies’ Snacktime (their cd for kids). And I am so excited when I’m playing a regular BNL cd and she says “aren’t these the people who sing “Food Party?” That’s my girl! I like that we can share more music and have little dance parties together.
At the same time, she’s reading now, which is thrilling for all of us, but similarly opens up new possibilities for questions that I never anticipated. We were driving behind a van the other day with stickers on the back that said JESUS IS COMING. BE PREPARED. Zoe read the sentences and said, “Jesus is coming? What does that mean?” I changed lanes and changed the subject. Not ready for that one yet.
The book that Zoe’s urologist wrote (featuring Zoe’s story) comes out next week, and the website about it is itsnoaccident.net. I will be a blogger for the site. If I don’t tell our story, someone else will, and I know it better than anyone else.
Dr. Hodges has been amazing in his treatment of Zoe and ongoing support to us. He (along with his colleagues at Wake Forest Baptist Health–the gastroenterologist and physical therapist and the patient care staff) actually understood Zoe’s problem when no one else seemed to and have worked hard to help us resolve it.
I hope this book gets a lot of positive attention and helps parents, pediatricians, teachers, and school administrators understand the physiological challenge Zoe (and many other children) was dealing with and that Dr. Hodges’ research, insight, and advice will encourage them to be more patient, flexible, and open to helping kids get healthy.
There was a period in junior high school where I experimented with make-up. I remember a day when I won an eye shadow kit in a contest and took the opportunity of lunch to beautify myself in the bathroom. I think I chose a Kermit-esque shade of green. I showed up in history class after lunch and the boy who sat next to me, never the most tactful young man, said with genuine horror, “what’s all over your face?”
Perhaps I improved my technique a bit and learned a little about color, but I never really got the hang of it. I wore mascara to all the high school dances. I’ve bought, very occasionally used, and eventually thrown away various products both cheap and expensive. I am fully aware that some well-applied concealer would do wonders to mitigate the dark circles that have been under my eyes since I was a kid.
But I just don’t have time to worry about it, and I evidently don’t care enough to become more expert in make-up application. I’d rather sleep for five more minutes than make myself up in the morning. And then there’s the other thing.
I feel kind of weird about it. I know it makes you look better, I get that. But it’s not really me and it’s not really what my face is like. One of the most important things about me, for which I have been loved and teased, is that I am genuine. I am me, take it or leave it. A former co-worker accused me (not in a nice way) of being “guileless.” So what? Why should I be otherwise?
My mom wears lipstick. I wear lipstick. My sister understands make-up and wears it well, still managing to look natural but artful. I’ve already told Zoe that when she’s older and wants to learn about make-up she needs to ask her aunt.
But then there are special occasions. I wore a little makeup for my wedding. I think my sister helped me put it on. For her wedding, she treated me to a professional make-up session. I was so transformed (and I am the first to admit I looked terrific) that some of my own relatives didn’t recognize me.
So last week I was scheduled to have a professional head shot taken, for us on various website or in print publications where I am plying my trade. And the photographer arranged to have a make-up artist there to pretty us up free of charge before the photo shoot. So I did it. Who doesn’t want to look beautiful in a photo? And she made me up, very naturally, and the photographer took the photos.
And I got them back today and it’s weird. Everyone says the pictures are beautiful. I agree. But I feel a little strange because it doesn’t look like how I look every day. I guess it doesn’t have to. I suppose can be extra lovely as I represent my professional self. And go back to being my normal, flawed self the rest of the time.