When Nora announced she wanted to take ballet lessons, I was of course supportive, but also amused because as a child (and adult!), I was the furthest thing from a graceful dancer. Or any kind of dancer. I don’t exactly walk straight.
I was a soccer player. And generally a tomboy who partook in nothing classically “girly.”
But when your child is excited about something (that is actually productive and not mind-numbingly stupid, like Candyland or football), you hop on board. So I got her the necessary gear and dropped her off for her very first ballet class. I was pretty proud of how professional she looked in her lavender leotard, pink ballet slippers and ballerina bun. No one could ever guess her mom had to google “stuff for ballet?” in order to get her ready for class.
Then when I picked her up…
Instructor: “Hi there! You’re Nora’s mom?”
Me: “I am!”
Instructor: “In case you’re wondering why Nora’s barefoot— I had her take off her shoes for class.”
Me: “Oh, were they hurting her?”
Instructor: “No, she couldn’t point her toes in them.”
Me: “Oh. Because they’re too small?”
Instructor: “No. Because they’re not ballet slippers.”
Me: “They’re not?”
Me: “They look like ballet slippers to me!”
Instructor: “Ok. They are not, though.”
Me: “How can one even tell these aren’t ballet slippers?”
Instructor: “Well, you can tell because they’re not slippers. And they’re not, you know…for ballet.”
“Well then what kind of shoes ARE these?”
Instructor: “Pink shoes. Flats. They are pink flats. With a rounded toe.”
Instructor: “Walking? Wearing to school? Or a party? They’re for anything, really. Except, of course, ballet.”
The IVF doctor sighed deeply, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re very old and you’re quite deformed. There is no point in you having sex anymore.”
Ok, fine. Maybe I’m paraphrasing. It was more like, “Given your age, and the fact that you have only one Fallopian tube, the chances of you conceiving naturally are quite slim.”
But I heard what I heard.
This was back in April 2021, about 7 months after a disastrous ectopic pregnancy that had resulted in a burst Fallopian tube and emergency surgery to remove it and save me from internally bleeding to death.
Eric and I were trying desperately to have one more child (we had always dreamed of two girls, and by we I mean me, and then I convinced Eric it was his dream too) but, given my various mental health issues, I had been staunchly avoiding a trip to the IVF doctor, fearful of what the brutal process would do to me, both mentally and physically.
I have known many brave women who have gone through IVF, and I have always marveled at their tenacity and strength. I couldn’t imagine having to manage the slew of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, hormone shots, side effects, and overall logistics without going completely insane (particularity given that my depressive and anxious tendencies can be triggered by something as benign as a change in routine, or the fact that it’s a weekday). IVF didn’t seem like something I was built for.
But it had been seven frustrating months of natural trying, and while some of you (men. Definitely only men) , might think “Cool! Sex!”, I can promise you that nothing is less seductive than strictly scheduled, position-coordinated sex, followed by obligatory post-coital bicycle kicks (just me, not Eric, although he was welcome to join) in order to get those sperm a swimmin’. All of this culminating in half-upside-down vertical leg-propping on the headboard whilst scrolling social media to pass the 15 minutes those little champions need to find their way to your ancient egg!**
This ritual was not proving successful in making a baby, but while upside-down Instagram scrolling I did come across a useful reel about how to put a tortilla under my nachos as a vessel for all the crumbs at the end, thus creating a bonus burrito. So not entirely unproductive.
The pressure we were putting on ourselves was making us both miserable, and we finally broke down and decided that intervention might be necessary, both to make a baby and to allow us to return to a non-cyborg sex life.
In the weeks leading up to our initial consultation with the IVF clinic, I still held out hope that we could somehow conceive naturally– hope that was immediately dashed when the doctor informed me of the cobwebs in my uterus and the deficiency of my lady parts. Or however he phrased it.
The doctor was confirming my worst fear since the ectopic pregnancy– that getting pregnant again was going to be extremely difficult, and perhaps not possible at all. I could tell he knew his shit (as I like to assume all doctors do), and so I took a deep breath and tried to process the fact that natural baby-making was no longer an option for me.
The doctor walked me through the process. We discussed timelines, hormone side effects, actual chances of conceiving and the likelihood that I would have to go through the process more than once. In more disappointing news, it turned out I would need to have preliminary tests done before even starting IVF, including testing on my one remaining Fallopian tube, which he was convinced was likely blocked with scar tissue from my two previous surgeries, and might have to be removed in order to optimize IVF results. I asked about IUI, a less invasive intervention, but was told that given my ectopic pregnancy, I was a poor candidate. The only way to ensure that I would not have another ectopic pregnancy was to bypass the tube entirely.
Eric rubbed my back as I sobbed.
The doctor was sympathetic and kind, but firm in his belief that we shouldn’t waste time. “Call me on the first day of your next period, and we can get the ball rolling.”
I never got my period.
Instead I got this:
Turns out, I was already pregnant when we spoke with the doctor, but I didn’t know it yet. My one lonesome, rickety tube beat the odds. And apparently, uterus cobwebs are helpful for trapping embryos***.
So for about the 85th time in my life I learned the slightly terrifying (but in this case fortuitous) lesson that doctors don’t know everything– and despite my propensity for skepticism, I had to admit that miracles really do happen.
I said miracle. I didn’t say genius.
** I consulted an actual scientist who confirmed there is, in fact, no science to this.
When COVID quarantine first started, Nora was only 18 months old, and, given concerns about preexisting conditions in our family, we stayed extremely isolated for the next 1.5 years. So basically, Nora saw no one. Ever.
I for one reveled in couch life, fully embracing hibernation like the marmot I’m certain god intended me to be, but I worried about Nora’s lack of socialization and zero exposure to different types of people. Or, you know, ANY people. She started talking to our living room electrical outlet because I guess it sort of has a face.
I became concerned.
It was very important to me that Nora have SOME type of exposure to people who were not in our family (and who were not a wall socket), as well as an understanding that people come in all types of shapes, sizes, colors, ages, abilities, etc– and that we should respect and celebrate those differences. Her babysitter at the time, Sesame Street, was doing an ok job teaching these concepts, but I yearned for her to have some off-screen experiences that would build her social intelligence.
Cue my brilliant idea to order her a slew of multicultural dolls. Nora was in a major dramatic play phase, so I thought it would be great to get her dolls of mixed races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and abilities, thereby normalizing cultural variation for her sheltered, isolated, impressionable soul.
It warmed my heart when her very favorite toy became this basketball-playing young man using a wheelchair.
We had many discussions about disabilities, and I felt proud that she had an understanding of why people might need accommodations or certain tools to help them live their lives comfortably and to the fullest. I felt relieved that once quarantine life was over and we DID go out into the world where Nora would encounter all different types of people, she wouldn’t be confused (or, worse– RUDE) about it. She wouldn’t stare, or point, or doing anything else to make someone feel uncomfortable or marginalized. She would understand and appreciate that we are all unique, and that that is a beautiful thing.
Honestly, I awarded myself alllllll the mom points.
Fast forward a year, when I took Nora into a store for the first time in essentially forever. She was about 3 years old. As we were waiting on a long line at the Walgreen’s pharmacy to pick up my prescription, a kind-looking woman came up behind us. She was in a wheelchair. She smiled at Nora.
Woman: “Hello, little girl, aren’t you cute!”
Nora (screaming, inexplicably, at a rave-level decibel):
“YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
The entire population of the store– staff, customers, emotional support animals– turned to look at us.
Nora took that as her cue to continue.
“MOM DO YOU SEE THIS LADY IS IN A REAL-LIFE WHEELCHAIR???!!!!”
Me (to the woman, mortified and bead-sweating): “I’m so sorry– it’s just, her favorite doll uses a wheelchair, and I guess she’s really excited to see one in person. We don’t get out much…”
“It’s ok,” the woman replied, while somehow, bless her heart, still smiling at Nora.
I thanked her for her understanding.
“YOU LOVE TO PLAY BASKETBALL BECAUSE YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
She stopped smiling.
So if anyone is looking for some mom points, I forfeited mine and left them over there at the Westport Walgreens. Said points are waiting to be claimed by a mother whose child would have done literally anything other than what my child did that day. So if that’s you, congrats, go ahead and collect.
Oh and please pick up my prescription from 2021. I ran away and can never return.
Me (inspecting the artwork in Nora’s backpack): “Hey! You crossed out my name on this drawing and wrote Dad’s name instead?! You like him better than me?!”
Nora: “Mommy, no! That would be mean!”
Me: “I know I know I was just teasing.”
Nora: “It’s just that I thought I was gonna make just a messy scribble scrabble picture so I made it for you but then I started working hard and the picture turned out really beautiful so I made it for Dad instead.”
K well that’s actually way more fucked up than the thing I said.