I’ve always wanted to live in a house in a meadow. It’s a childhood vision, a comfort.
Last night I dreamt the meadow I was walking through turned into ocean. I couldn’t go “back” to the meadow and the swells were pushing me toward the edge of a tall dune where the ocean got really deep. Going over the edge was totally my worst nightmare, but I knew I had to stop being afraid and do it. So I let go and went over.
Nothing much happened. Which I guess is the point. My near-phobic reaction to loss of control is, of course, part and parcel of that perfectionism I’ve mentioned here (a lot). It’s a recurring theme as well as a recurring dream and at times keeps me from taking the kinds of risks that might teach me something important, in my everyday life and in my art.
What I’m beginning to realize is that it also makes me highly susceptible to “experts” of all kinds. Even though I think of myself as reasonably assertive (some would nod vigorously at this point) just sit me down in front of somebody with an advanced degree, bucket of awards or a uniform and I become my six-year-old self: compliant, mute, anxious to please.
I know I’m not alone in this, especially as a student, for example, in the thrall of an esteemed poet-type. I didn’t, however, expect to react this way as a grown woman contemplating becoming a mother. But after several months of disappointing attempts at getting with child I found myself in a room with a “fertility expert.”
I suppose I expected a warm, bosomy type à la Venus-of-Willendorf; after all, we’re talking fertility. But here was a narrow plank of a woman, her pink cardigan bound snugly to her upright frame. She sat behind a desk with her hands clasped, while John and I leaned forward anxiously awaiting her wisdom. “Well,” she began, “of course you realize your eggs are old.”
This was not a question, and even if it had been I couldn’t have answered because no, really, I’d never thought too much about my eggs and their condition, but now that she mentioned it, I could clearly imagine my body as near-empty refrigerator, and on its bottom shelf, pushed way into the back, a forgotten carton of eggs. Old eggs. Quite possibly smelly and certainly nothing you’d want to make into an omelet.
I heard nothing else she said from that point on. I think I nodded my head a few times, we finished, walked out to the car, and I burst into tears. John was shocked. Apparently we’d been in two entirely different consults, as he was not at all fazed by my eggs or anything else the plank had pronounced.
Spoiler alert! I have two children; conceived with my very own out-of-date eggs and delivered down my actual birth canal. So the lady in the pink sweater, who certainly could have used more tact, even kindness, underestimated the power of pokey mama’s half-of-one ovary. But looking back, what’s interesting to me was my willingness to get on board with an assessment that was grievously incomplete. I took it on. And I didn’t even notice what I was doing.
Does any of this sound familiar? Because it’s not just about getting pregnant or having babies. It’s about the reflexes we develop as women, our unconscious acquiescence, especially in the face of an established power, and if we follow the thread all the way through the weave we find a pattern that recurs throughout our public and private lives, as mothers and artists and writers AND…the assessments we accept as valid, the ways we stop ourselves before we start, the apologies we make for our work, our distraction, our lack of … fill in the blank.
It may be tempting to poke fun at the “consciousness-raising “sessions of our proto-feminist foremothers, but I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t time for a revival. Maybe my fear of losing control isn’t so crazy. Maybe I don’t trust myself to always know what I’m doing, because I’ve been asleep for some long stretches and didn’t even know it. Now I know it.
I don’t know about you, but pokey mama wants to stay awake. Let’s keep each other up. Let’s get to the edge. The big blue ocean is right there.