Strains of the latest pop song are playing on the stereo at full blast. It’s the type of song that gets into your bones and forces your hips to swivel and jive, the type of song that just makes you want to dance. I’m surrounded by ten other women, but right now, it’s just me, the music, and my pole.
I inhale and exhale. I lift myself into an inverted crucifix.
I inhale and exhale. I slide my hands on the pole into a bracketed hold.
“This is it.” I think to myself. “I will nail this pose.”
I timidly, but determinedly, lift one leg off the pole and extend into an aerial split while pushing my body away from the pole.
I inhale and exhale.
I did it, the elusive extended butterfly, a pose that I have been working on for months. This is why I have been stretching every night; this is why I got a personal trainer;this is what all those bruises were for. I did it for this moment of shear exhilaration. The power of the pole is mighty indeed.
It feels like a broken promise.
I have always wanted to be a mother. It was some ingrained biochemical feeling, like the hypothalamus that controls automatic bodily functions. It wasn’t a choice or a decision. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew; I didn’t know if I wanted to get married.
I did know that I wanted to be a mother.
Over the years I have questioned this conviction. Why do I feel this primal desire to procreate? Is it because I feel that I should be a mother? Am I simply caving to female convention and convincing myself that it is my idea? Is it because I have some romantic notion of parenthood and babies? Are these feelings the same feelings you get when you see the most adorable puppy and are positive that you should take it home with you?
I don’t always hit it off with other children. In general, they tend to irritate me by some obnoxious behavior or another. I tend to gravitate toward a lifestyle that screams “I don’t have kids!” I love sleeping in and having freedom to decide to go to a movie on the spur of the moment. I like to get up and go whenever I want. I like my weekly pedicures and my hour and a half workouts five days a week. I like having the income to get facials and plan vacations. All of these things in my life would not work so well if I had a child to protect, to take care of, and to worry about.
Maybe I just love the idealized concept of having a baby. To have some small perfection before the grit, grime, and nonsense of the world implodes and turns it into a human disaster that needs therapy and Prozac for the rest of its life. Maybe I was romantically head over heels with the idea of carrying my own child, a genetic link to something so precious, a piece of me and my husband.
It is, after all, no longer practical to have a child. Historically, the more children you had, the more help you had around the house and the more likely you were to have someone to take care of you when you were old. It’s different now. I don’t need a son to take care of me when I retire. I have a 401K to do that. I don’t need a daughter to help around the house; my husband does all that any way. The practicality of having children no longer exists except to propagate the species so that I can have someone contributing to social security when I am old and decrepit. Besides, in all my experiences, it appears that parents do nothing more than subject their children to their own psycho-complexes and neuroses, which can lead to a very dysfunctional adult. I am no exception to that rule. If I really loved my not yet existing child, why would I subject that poor creature to my craziness? Then I realized that my desire for motherhood goes beyond practicality. It just is. If all of our decisions and desires were perpetuated by practicality, the world would be a different place. I do not want to be a mother because it makes logical sense or because I feel like I should be a mother, I want to be a mother because I want to.
My husband and I had been together for seven years before we got married. At the time, having children was still a vague, ambiguous idea for us. I knew that I wanted children, but it took us seven years to decide that we were willing to take a chance on “forever”. Bringing another human being in this world would take at least as long to decide. But biology has a mind of its own. My reproductive system is in a word, faulty. I have only one remaining ovary and have had several laparoscopic procedures to remove the most stubborn of endometriosis. A few months before our nuptials and after my second surgery, my husband turned to me and uttered a statement that I never expected him to say. He told me that he wanted children right away. I was blown away. I remember trying to have conversations with this man to determine when he might think about getting married. He always made comments about “not being tied down” and “it’s just a silly piece of paper” For years, I didn’t think he would even want to get married. So, to have him so casually tell me that he was ready for the rocky adventure that is parenthood was shocking to say the least. Right then and there we decided to try having kids. We knew based on my history that getting pregnant could be a bit of a challenge. I was prepared for a challenge. I wasn’t prepared for an emotional roller coaster through the gates of hell.
Three years went by without so much as a positive pee stick. Each month, I held my breath and waited. And it came. I would exhale and mentally prepare for the next month. Three years of thinking about nothing but “Is this the month?” I would imagine how I would tell my husband, how we would share the news with our families, and my reaction seeing the heartbeat for the first time. I was an emotional cutter.
I was a prisoner of my own mind and to anyone else who knew that I was trying to conceive. They would make the most ridiculously feeble attempts at support.
“It will happen when you stop trying”
“You could always adopt.”
“God gave you the desire to be a mother, and it will happen.”
These statements do not help. In fact, they make things worse. All I wanted to do is scream. No one I knew understood what I was going through. No one in my family had ever had any trouble getting pregnant the first time around. It was as simple and easy as breathing. I was the proverbial infertile black sheep.
That’s when I found my salvation.
I became a Groupon addict shortly after I was introduced to the best online coupon system ever invented. I found myself excitedly anticipating emails with deal updates. One day I found a deal for an “all girls” studio that offered pole dancing classes. I had taken many dance classes before and missed it desperately. I was also looking for something new, a distraction from “empty womb syndrome”. If I wasn’t a mother, than I would be that childless woman that every mother envies. I would have the perfect hair, expensive makeup and clothes, travel all over, speak three languages, and pole dance. So I signed up for the Pole Dance 101.
I should note at this point that I have always been a curvy size 12 with little muscle tone. I was a cardio junkie, running half marathons, but hated to lift 10 lb weights. I knew pole dancing would be a challenge.
My first class was the hardest class of my life. I walked away from that class hurting all over, bruises and skin burn on my legs, arms, and feet. I was hooked. I can’t explain the power of pole. It’s addictive and mesmerizing. When you nail a new trick, when you perfect a spin technique, the high is incredible. I found something to be passionate about besides hoping that a little zygote would choose my uterus for its home for the next 40 weeks. I quickly learned about all the great pole dancers; I watched YouTube videos for ideas; every song I listened to had an imaginary pole routine that I came up with. I signed up for a personal trainer to improve my strength. I began stretching every night to improve my flexibility. I wanted to own pole dancing. I was in love; I had found my soul mate.
I still want to be a mother and continued to attempt this feat. It is still challenging and very difficult. But thankfully, I have two things in my life that prevent the lure of darkness and despair. One is my husband – my rock, and the other is pole dancing. I entered a different world with pole dancing. In this world the girls do not judge you for being a married woman with no children, they don’t judge you for not being a size 2, they don’t expect you to plan for your future and where you are going with your life. All they care about is coming to class and cheering you on when you nail a new trick. It is a separate world, a world were sensuality is just a spiritual as praying. To be fair, I don’t think pole dancing would have as much of an appeal if the girls I went to class with were anything other the amazing. They, along with pole dancing, have brought me back to life.
I am still childless, but I have hope and I have the pole.