I have this friend. I've written about her before, I know. T. is many, many things I cherish in a friend: generous, dependable, clever, capable, responsive, and funny — my God, so funny. She had her kids at the same age I had mine but encountered no difficulties. So it wasn't until I had trouble conceiving that the question of infertility presented itself to her in any meaningful way. We learned a lot about it together, I firsthand and in the moment, she just a half-step behind.
She's always been there for me. If because of this experiential gap there have been times that "there" has meant "not quite exactly there," well, it was still a lot closer than any of my other friends were. I'll give you an example. The day I was discharged from the hospital after Charlie's birth, she dropped everything to show up, take me to lunch, and treat me to a pedicure, a bracing few moments of normalcy that shored me up more than I can say. (The pan of lasagna and the brownies were a nice touch, too.) This past weekend she said to me, "It wasn't until Charlie was born that I learned that when a baby's born early, there's something to say other than 'Holy shit it's so soon oh my fuck is everybody okay?' That you should also say, 'Congratulations! You have a baby now!'" See what I mean? She's always been right there with me, taking it all in — not always knowing immediately what to say, but paying very close attention, meeting it all with an open heart, and learning. Just like those of us living it more personally.
So I get a little thrill — of pride, of gratitude that I have such an ally — each time I see the payoff from that. Since my experience is over, her understanding has fully caught up, and I'm rocked by the awesomeness of hearing her in action: arguing with a solvent staunch Republican friend, say, who's dealing with infertility himself, about insurance coverage for treatment. Or taking her chiropractor to task.
Her chiropractor, it seems, regularly posts a bulletin up by the front desk. I imagine it's generally something along the lines of Your Spine: Threat or Menace? and What to Expect When You're Expecting Your Head to Be Twisted Clean Off. On the day in question, the bulletin made...let us say egregiously inflated...claims about chiropractic care and infertility. T. read it, drew herself up to her full rhetorical height of about eight foot six, and marched in to the exam room, where she proceeded to tear the poor unsuspecting chiropractor a brand new musculoskelethole.
She told him, she said, that although chiropractic adjustment might have some applicability as complementary medicine, it doesn't constitute any kind of standalone treatment or cure for infertility, and that by posting the bulletin his office appeared to endorse a stance that was wholly irresponsible. That by disseminating such claims, his practice could deter patients of his from seeking real, for-true reproductive medical help. And that he was lucky, she finished, to be hearing this from a patient who didn't have an immediate stake in the matter — not a vulnerable patient, not one the notice had hurt or offended personally, "not my friend Julie, who'd probably feel like burning down the clinic just to make a point."
Which is funny, because, you know, I don't have anything against arson, but it might have been a slight exaggeration.
We visited T., whom I like to call Effortless Segue in moments of affection, this past weekend. I was somewhat apprehensive about the visit because of Charlie's recent behavior. But I worried for nothing. He was wonderful, really great company. It's almost like he'd read my post and all of your truly helpful suggestions and decided he'd better shape up if he didn't want me following him around cheerfully saying, "That's terrible! But I don't care! Now I'm going for a time-out. In a place of loving curiosity! After which I will shepherd you to bed promptly at four of the clock. Also, the cat loves me better." Or some combination of same.
Really, thank you all. I read every comment with great interest — not to say ravenous desperation — and they gave me a lot to think about. In the spirit of continuing conversation, I'll say that while an earlier bedtime has its charms, what we found when we put Charlie to bed early is that he still stayed awake exactly as long, sometimes until nine o'clock and beyond. With yodeling, y'all. Now, I'm not opposed to his being awake, working out the details of his day; mostly I just need him to be in his room alone and in bed. As the Biblical proverb goes, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. But going all lonely goatherd is simply not okay. Anything short of eight and, goddamn, it's Yma Sumac.
Also, I have a terminology problem with some of the suggestions, probably nothing more than semantic, but significant. Any sentence that begins with "I love you, but..." makes me shiver a little. To me, that seems to suggest a condition. I don't want any kid to think that there are limits on my love. (My tolerance, certainly.) I'd be much more inclined to say, "I love you, and..." or "Because I love you..." I love you, and I want you to learn to behave like a decent human being instead of an entitled little savage, so... Or Because I love you, I can't let you become someone who says mean things to hurt people. I know this is probably an esoteric point, but I think language is important. (The same goes for "I love you, but right now I don't like you," times a million. I feel creepy even typing that.)
But what a lot of great insight in those comments. I want to single out one particular way in which you've helped. Up till now I've made an effort not to talk about the jobs I don't like to do. Oh, sure: When Charlie complains about setting the table, I've reminded him that everyone has to do things we don't want to, but when he's asked what I mean, I've admitted only to hating to pay taxes, or getting shots, or saying goodbye to good ol' Effortless Segue. Neutral things like that. I haven't wanted him to think I resent any of the things I do to take care of him and Ben. But I'm starting to think that's wrong-headed, a good way to allow him to take for granted what Paul and I do every day. Maybe, just maybe, it's okay for him to know that I'm not that jazzed about cleaning errant pee from the toilet seat. And the floor. And the wall behind the toilet. And the crevice where the toilet tank joins the bowl. (If there are still more places pee can hide, do not tell me where.)
Even more helpful was the commiseration. It's such a relief to know that even if my young reprobate does end up in prison, at least he'll have plenty of company. Hair-tearing-out shared is hair-tearing-out assuaged. And if not, we'll go bald together.
I get so much out of my blog. Thank you for helping.
Now can I tell you about Ben for a second? Ben is awesome. There.
I just don't know how to convey how dear he is, how delicious I find him even when he's screaming, screeeeaming, oh Jesus please stop the screaming. I don't have any great anecdotes that illustrate it; it doesn't make for much of a story, the way he gathered his boots because he wanted to leave the café, but then saw me bringing a brownie, so stopped in his tracks and dropped them, but it does make me grin like a fool.
Finally, an update on the Utah bill that made me so crotchety, the one allowing the state to charge a woman with criminal homicide for inducing a miscarriage or obtaining an illegal abortion. According to the New York Times, the scope of the bill has been narrowed somewhat:
The sponsor, Representative Carl D. Wimmer, a Republican, said he had removed a key clause that would have allowed prosecution under Utah’s criminal homicide laws for a “reckless act of the woman” that resulted in death to a fetus. Language will remain, he said, that makes a woman’s “intentional” actions, if resulting in the death of her fetus in an illegal abortion, a felony.
Gosh, thanks, Carl! That's so much better!