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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just a Silly Superstition

Greetings, Guests and Regulars!

Back on U.S. soil, my underwear - what's left of it - still damp with Irish mist. Anytime I travel overseas, my socks and undies seem to disappear. I'm sure it has to do with my packing and unpacking method: wad everything up and stuff hastily into backpack; dump backpack upside down on hotel floor upon arrival; kick crumpled clothing mass over into a designated "Monica's Mess" corner of the room; then gather it all back up and re-stuff into backpack upon depature. Not exactly conducive to keeping track of underwear.

(Kevin, on the other hand, folds everything neatly into rectangles and sets, not crams but sets, them into his own backpack. He puts his socks together into sock balls, which never ceases to amaze me. He never loses socks or underwear. Thank god he has whatever gene makes us notice and care about things like wrinkled clothing and dirt and general disarray, or our house would be wreck, and thank god he forgives my own lack of this gene.)

* * *

Speaking of genes, did you know that 75% of the genetic make-up of a child comes from the father, and not the mother? It's true, according to the old Irish man who approached me and Kevin to chat while we were shivering underneath a covered bus-stop in Bantry. He was a farmer with white hair, a few missing teeth, that slightly moth-ball-ish old-person smell, and a thick country-Irish accent I could hardly understand (but of course found endearing).

He asked if we had children and we said "no," to which he responded by peering closely into our faces, looking us up and down, and remarking that he could tell we had "good stock for a strong brood." I decided not to burst this adorable man's bubble by divulging how, um, weak our stock-n-brood really was, historically and statistically speaking anyhow.

Then he asked how old I was, and when I told him thirty-three, his slightly-cloudy eyes got wide with genuine concern. Time is running out! Better start now, he said: have one boy (since the boys are the ones that spread 75% of the family genes down the line) and then a girl. Oh, and I should be eating plenty of fresh meat and dairy produce everyday to for the "strongest stock." I felt oddly happy to be able to emphatically say, "I already do!," and the old man looked pleased as well. I can't imagine what he would have thought if I'd told him not only my shocking age, but that I'm a vegetarian. He probably would have shaken his head in dismay and thought, poor little lassie. She'll never have her strong brood.

Just before toodling off in the rain, he told us he had twelve grown children of his own, and that he and his wife had gotten started producing their "brood" when she was just seventeen years old. Then, when a sort of sad and faraway look in his eyes, he told us she had died fifteen years ago from something-or-other. Now he lived alone on the farm.

* * *

Our bus to Dublin pulled up just then, and Kevin and clamored on to find two seats together.

"Twelve kids?" he said. "No wonder she died early from something-or-other."

What a funny old man with his accent and his outdated beliefs about where our genes come from, about meat and dairy making a strong brood. It was as though he'd stepped out of a medieval storybook page. What nonsense, this man was spewing forth! I know plenty of vegetarians - well, a few anyway - with kids in hand or on the way. And suggesting in semi-seriousness that we just"have a boy and then a girl," just like that? How simple and lovely life would be if it were this easy to come up with a plan - "eat steak and milkshakes, have a boy, and then a girl" - and for such plans to work out flawlessly. Clearly he's out milking cows and not on the Internet reading infertility and KuKd blogs. He just doesn't understand what it's really like out here in the brutal, dog-eat-dog world of 30-plus women trying to make babies.

(And by the way, as if I would want twelve kids. As if Kevin would want me churning out babies all my life, and for what? So I could wear out my poor vaginal canal and die young like this guy's wife did, leaving him alone in the soaked hills of County Cork?)

Kevin and I both chuckled and shook our heads. What a funny old man. Kind of refreshing, actually, his innocent naivety about the whole thing.

Still, on our transatlantic flight home, I found myself unthinkingly asking for an extra pat of butter for my scone. Asking for a carton of milk instead of my usual tomato juice when the beverage cart came rattling by. Digging around first for the ground beef in my pasta, making sure that it had number one priority on its way down my esophagus before the less-brood-enhancing spiral noodles.

Wanting, sort of sheepishly, to shed the foul-mouthed cynicism for a moment and believe. Believe this old man's medieval storybook advice, believe that Kevin and I have some "good stock" in us, that we could somehow produce a "strong brood" that doesn't wither in utero; that eating blue-cheese-stuffed-bacon-wrapped fillet mignon might help with that; that any brood we produce might in fact be comprised 75% of rational and organized Kevin and just 25% of irrational and disorganized me. Daring to want, for just a fleeting second, to carry out this old farmer's perfectly logical plan: have a boy next year. And then a girl. Simple.

But then again, believing just seems so...tiring sometimes.


Pundelina said...

Believe. I think it's a good thing. (Mind you, your ass won't be too happy with you for believing in double pats of butter :p )

Glad you're home safe and sound even if your undies aren't.


angie said...

I love the idea we can sort of order a boy from our uterus through red meat and whole milk. That world seems mystical and kind, and filled with gnomes who finish your show cobbling.

I find belief exhausting some days too. but what if, you know...wouldn't it be nice and delicious?

Brenna said...

I have two vegan friends in DC who recently managed to produce a perfectly healthy baby it can happen, meat and dairy be damned. ;) (Says the girl who would cry if someone told her she had to give up cheese...)

Are you going to post pictures from the trip? I'm glad you're back, glad you had some misty magical times over there--much deserved, and I'm sure much needed.

Believing can be tiring ... though ultimately I'd say it's more appealing to accept hokey, homespun advice from an old Irish farmer than to live in a world without hope.

I have so much hope for you and Kevin! I was pregnant for the first time at 33. Didn't work out, but now at 34 I'm believing more every day that this could be the year we begin our brood.

Tina said...

I think I want to give live in this old man's world for a little while. Just long enough to believe babies don't die and I can place my order and receive just that. Glad you are back! xx

Michelle said...

That would be nice if it were that easy. I remember long ago believing things would do just work out...unfortunately I don't believe that way anymore.

Glad you are back safe and sound and the trip sounds nice.

Amy said...

Yeah, believing is a tricky thing. I will find myself doing little things like you and the butter. I have a 4 leaf clover hanging on my fridge given to me by a 4 year old boy who's family seems graced in luck and wellbeing. Can't hurt and I actaully found myself belieiving somehow this little lucky gift would produce a living child. No luck, but it still hangs there...just in case.

Your trip sounds great. The old man does sound like a character from a book.

Eat those meats and dairy! Boy then girl. So, simple. Why didn't we all just do this?

Hope's Mama said...

I ate lots of meat and dairy. And had a girl. But she died. Now I don't seem to eat as much of either, and I'm carrying a boy (and nope, not dead yet - 28 weeks and counting). Go figure old man. But I would like to hang out in his world, if only for a few days.
And sorry, but I'm so with Kev (can I call him Kev?) on the packing! If you'd married my husband, what a fucking disaster that suitcase/backpack would be........
Good to have you back, Mon (can I call you Mon?)

Sonya said...

The thing is, the woman could have had several miscarriages and he'd never have known. My mom lost a baby at nearly four months and never talked to dad about it. They just 'didn't want to hear about that stuff' back then.

On the other hand, the old guy was giving the same advice we always get from those who don't understand 18 months of disappearing hpt lines, babies and hopes vanishing in gory, quentin tarentino (spelling? who cares) like scenes in dirty 7-11 bathrooms... oh yeah, the advice... "relax".

Yeah, like I can relax when I have everything I've worked for literally being flushed down a toilet.

Sorry. I'm hormonal. I mean to say.... great blog!

Sharon said...

Yeah, if only life were that simple & wonderful!

KuKd Chick said...

*Ireland pictures to come. Still drying off my camera.

*Ah yes, Pundelina. The pats of butter related to ass-cushioning. How DO those darned French women do it, what with their butter-and-nutella-slathered-crepe-eating habits?

*Regarding vegetarianism, I suppose there could be some brood-n-stock-enhancing qualities in Tofurkey. There must be.

*Wow, Sonya - I cannot IMAGINE having miscarriages and not telling Kevin! Seriously, can you imagine? Yeah, it could have happened with ancient Irish man though. Seems like something that could happen in the Catholic Irish countryside.

Karen said...

I liked reading about your encounter. The fairy-tale loving girl in me would like to think he was an angel in the misty hills you met and he's foretelling healthy babies for you and Kevin. And you need a fairy godmother to get your undies back or replaced I guess!! I keep meeting older couples who, when my youngest announces our baby died, tell me their own stories of baby loss. I've heard so many really sad stories from the 40s and 50s of women left labouring alone when it was discovered their babies had died - and their husbands unable to do anything because of the Doctor and Nurse making all the decisions. Nightmare. Nightmare. I'm going to go back to thinking about faeries and leprachauns now.... Welcome back to this side of the pond.

Sara Joy said...

I don't claim to understand what you have been through. But this? I understand this; the desire to believe in the magic again. Even though it stings so bad to have to let it go...I just want that feeling back. That ability to believe in the magic and beauty of having a baby. I miss that.
De-lurking because I just feel this one so much. Love your writing Monica, proud to be a DBMomma with you. Thankful you have the courage to voice what so many of us think.