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Grandma goes to Washington

We spent last week in Washington, DC and it was, like a lot of things we do as a family these days, about 80% wonderful and 15% how-come-the-human-race-didn't-die-out-long-ago? (The other 5%? Cortisol, trace elements, and mechanically-separated chicken.) I find it very easy to travel with Charlie; he rises to the occasion beautifully, given liberal access to electronics on the long car ride — check! — and strict adherence to his pharmacological regimen — check! Oh, believe me, check. Ben, on the other hand, is tough these days. I lost count of the number of times we had to yank him away from this attraction or that: Ben, please don't put your hands on the glass display case. Ben, see that sign? It says, "Don't touch." Ben, there's no touching here. Ben. Hands in your pockets, please! Ben, if you touch the glass again we'll have to go out.

Repeated reminders because it was all so stimulating that I could see how he'd forget, and because I really didn't want to leave. But then invariably he'd touch again, with a sly look: You mean like this?


Here he is touching the picture of a mother monkey yelling at her children, immediately prior to my yelling at him, and if that's not recursive, I don't know what is. Yeah, Mr. Darwin! Yeah, evolution!

Now, I'd thought we were past this exasperating toddler bullshit where he tests us to see if we mean what we're saying, but apparently not. Since nothing rockets me across the room faster than a child intentionally defying me, I spent a lot of time chugging across public spaces, clean-and-jerking him from the scene of the offense, and then hustling him to wherever his howls of outrage would echo the loudest and disturb the greatest number of appalled tourists. (Wherever we go, be assured we're Ambassadors of Awesome.) At the Museum of Natural History I halfway expected an opportunistic team of curators to leap out from behind the leathern scrotum of the elephant in the atrium. They'd seize my preschooler and whisk him away to the taxidermy room, where he'd be summarily stuffed, mounted, and encased in glass, to be showcased in an upcoming exhibit: Why Humans Should Eat Their Young.


Tell me he wouldn't be tasty.

Okay, yeah, I'd miss him.  But I did buy a membership to the Smithsonian, so I'd get 10% off at the gift shop plus discounts on IMAX tickets plus the monthly magazine, so, you know, there's that.


While we were in Washington, I attended RESOLVE's Advocacy Day. This year we asked Congress to support the Family Act of 2011, which would institute a tax credit for out-of-pocket costs associated with IVF. I met with staff of my state's three members of Congress and told my story — briefly, with no swearing, and I was wearing a slip. The other advocates and I outlined the provisions of the bill, and asked that they support it.

What a simple idea, to ask that our elected representatives do their job and...represent us.

This year I was taken, as I was in the past, by how empowering it can be to do just that. This time I felt more strongly than ever that one person really can make a difference, just by showing up and asking. During a meeting with one of the aides to my House member, she said that even if my rep fully supports a measure, he won't co-sponsor unless he hears from a constituent. Oh, hey: that's me. Or you.

If it's important to you that people have affordable access to the most appropriate treatment for the disease of infertility — Well! When you put it like that... — you can help make it happen. It takes 90 seconds to customize and send an e-mail message to your senators and representatives — 45 if all you add to personalize it is baby baby please please please I just want a chance to try. It takes 15 minutes to follow up with a phone call. Or, even better, schedule a meeting with your rep in your district; RESOLVE will help you do it

Anyone who's been through the social isolation of infertility already understands that no one's going to do this for us. I could say RESOLVE will, but in fact they are us — us as a collective, us at our most forceful. At the event last week I watched the staff of RESOLVE manage it all so smoothly, and with such perfectly channeled passion, that it would have been easy to feel complacent; us is in good hands, and I'm grateful for all they do. But the framework's just that, a scaffold. Now it's our job to build on it.


One essential part of the story I told the staffers is that we started trying to conceive when I was 29. See, these aides are all so young, no more than 25 or so. While their competence is impressive, and frankly a little shaming considering how I spent my 20s (glug-glug gesture, energetic pelvic thrusts, slide whistle SFX re: my credit score), their life experience probably hasn't given them much exposure to infertility or its repercussions. It sometimes feels tough to connect, so I tried to emphasize that infertility affects even young, powerful, well-educated cute people. To say without saying outright, "This could be you in five years."

And in ten years? Why, you, too could have the unequalled pleasure of having a complete stranger ask you if you are your three-year-old's grandmother.


I shoved my walker up her ass, tennis-ball feet and all.


Whoa. My truss must have cut off the blood flow to my brain, because I can't think of a clever segue. Loosening it now with my button hook and taking a deep whiff of sal volatile. Ah, that's better. Now I remember the Hoover administration.

Charlie's ADHD meds work okay to curb his problems with impulse control and keep him on task when necessary, but we still work a lot on behavior modification. The latest innovation is the bonus video as reward: when he gets ready in the morning in a timely fashion — visual timer with abrasive audio cues, reinforced by hoarse-voiced maternal haranguing — he gets to watch a quick video on my phone. This is kind of genius, if I do say so myself; it's quick, it's finite, and it happens right at the table without stepping out of routine.

Right now we're working through Simon's Cat, but we're about to run out of those. I wonder if you have suggestions for similar: short, gentle, funny, and appropriate for kids. Ben would be happy to watch the same clips over and over again — "The one where the cat gets a baseball bat haaaaaaahahahahaaaa!" [Lusty sigh.] — but novelty motivates Charlie, so we're ready to move on. Do you have any ideas?

Please. Quick. This healthy, attractive, privileged child needs your help.