My cute little mom was 19 when she got pregnant with me, she was 37 when I graduated from High School. I’ll be 37 in July and I can not imagine having a grown child about to head to college. One of the pieces of comforting information I have always held in the front of my mind is that my mom wanted to have a baby, she was really hoping she was pregnant when she found out I was in there. We moved a lot when I was little, by the time I left for college I had probably lived in at least 10 places. My mom was often single and working full time, just barely making rent and groceries, so after school activities had to be free. Sometimes I could go to a ballet class, but only for a month here or there. So I didn’t grow up dancing in dance classes, but I did watch VHS tapes of dances from my grandma. I also “played gymnastics” with my friends from the apartment complex where we lived. I was a scavenger for ballet information and gathered whatever I could to educate myself.
I had friends in High School who did ballet in class, and would show me things and tell me the technique related things their teachers would say. When I was at college I signed up for my first full ballet class: 12 glorious weeks!! I rode my bike to the shoe store and picked out a brand new pair of soft leather ballet slippers. On my way home from the store my foot slipped off the pedal and into the spokes of my bike tire ejecting me over the handlebars into the asphalt. I had to be on crutches for two weeks because the sole of my foot was so chewed up I couldn’t put pressure on it. I eventually made it to some of the classes, but felt very thwarted by the stupid injury.
After my first year of college I took a year to nanny in Philadelphia where I signed up for an adult ballet class that was a 35 minute drive from my home. I loved every minute of the class, the teacher was so serious and strict and I felt so beautiful and strong. I was offered a part in the nutcracker the school was putting on, not a good part just so we are clear, just a regular stand in the back and chassé around kind of part. I was beside myself with the joy of this opportunity, I had never performed a dance on a stage with a tutu. However my year nannying with the family would be over in December, and I was going home for Christmas and so I would miss the performance and had to decline.
I think I was 25 when I met Mrs. Marcelle at a baby shower and she invited me to watch her school’s dance recital the next week. I told her after the show how much I enjoyed watching and she offered me a job. A JOB!! I started working in the dance studio with her doing billing and returning voicemails, tying shoes and making ponytails for little dancers. I stood in the front with her and did everything she did. I learned how to tap that year, and I pretended to learn hip hop but I always stand up too straight to look cool doing it. You guys… she gave me a part in a tap routine with the kids and I got to perform, on a stage, in front of an audience, with bright lights in my face. The kids were 11 * and they put up with an awkward grown up lady being in their number.
This June will be my 11th ** year performing with Mrs. Marcelle’s school of dance. I am responsible for 8 pieces of choreography in this years show, 3 of which I will be dancing in. I am proud that I have been able to reach these dreams, and eternally grateful for the opportunity Mrs. Marcelle gave me all those years ago when she invited me into her world. If you know her then you already know what a magical being she is, if you don’t let me tell you. She is always happy, but she knows when to cry, and when to pray with me. She wants girls of all walks of life to experience the joy of dance. If the family can’t pay for classes she puts them on a scholarship and their moms volunteer as extra help backstage at recital. She never shows preference to kids because they look the dancer part, and she gives everyone a chance to shine in the spotlight-even the most uncoordinated kids get their moment. The sets are elaborate so the girls feel like they are doing something huge, the showmanship is top notch, and the feeling is bliss…it feels like family, ask any girl who dances with us.
In the years we have been trying to conceive dance has been the constant rhythm of hope in my life. I come back to it time and again. That sparkly pink dance room has been a sanctuary for me; I lose myself in there. I stop worrying about whether I will have my own little dancer one day and I focus on the girls who are there today asking me to show them how. I love telling a story with movement and showing these kids how to do that. You never know what your body is going to behave like when you are pregnant, or when you turn 73. While it felt indulgent to have these photos taken, I knew I would want to remember what my body is capable of right now, and I left the photo shoot feeling very empowered and extremely grateful.
Many of you have asked us “what’s next” in the fertility journey we are on. The short answer is: We don’t know. We have tried 5 IUI’s which are a very simple form of intervention, we took last month off of intervention which felt like a relief from the mind games and stress of hoping. We are only allowed to do 6 IUI’s before we walk away from that as an option. We feel completely puzzled by the questions and can’t think of any more to ask our doctors. Many of you have asked if we have tried ____________ and usually the answer is “yes” we have tried a lot of things. Supplements, and diets, and yoga, and blood work, and other diets, and more sleep, and less whiskey, and gardening, and not thinking about it. The most common advice we get is that we should stop trying and then it will happen. Also many people have asked if we are thinking about adoption or surrogacy, both of which we think are very brave ways to start a family, but are not on our list of ways to to move forward right now. That’s the expanded version of our answer. I love you all for being in this with us, its our greatest comfort to know that you help us carry this burden of hope. Anne Lamott says Hope begins in the dark, thank you so much for having the kindness to illuminate this strange darkness for us. Your flickering candles are more encouraging than you can imagine.
*One of the 11 year old dancers in that class grew up and went away to college and is now back in bend, and teaches with us Thursday nights. She’s 21, and I love her.
** My cute little mom has not missed a single performance, and I suspect this feels like redemption to her for what she could not provide when I was a kiddo.