Memory Lane: Getting Glasses

I raised my hand.

“Yes, Dawn?”

“I can’t see the board, Sister.”

“Okay. Why don’t you move up a couple of seats?”

And so it began.

++

I was always tall, and as a tall child, I was placed in the back of the classroom.

In first grade, this didn’t seem to be a problem.

In second grade, it was.

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By the second month of school, I was sitting all the way in the front row, leaning over my desk. And still the letters on the chalkboard were blurred or simply not there.

Sister Rita Marie (God rest her soul) touched my shoulder one day.

“Dawn, you have to tell your parents you can’t see the chalkboard.”

This hadn’t occurred to me.

++

My parents did not wear glasses when I was a child. They had 20/20 (or so) vision until they reached their 40s.

So when I went home and said, “I can’t see the blackboard,” they responded the way Sister had the first time I had told her.

“Just ask your teacher to move you up a couple of seats.”

I remember a pause here, a kind of confusion in my mind. Maybe related to the fact that I thought my parents, much like God, were all-knowing and all-seeing.

“I’m already sitting all the way in the front,” I finally informed them.

They took me to the eye doctor.

++

I couldn’t tell you if I am near-sighted or far-sighted. I know, starting in second grade, I started wearing glasses. By the time I was in eighth grade, I couldn’t see without them. Still can’t. Everything beyond the end of my nose is beyond blurry. Without corrective lenses, the world is big blobs of color without detail, without feature.

It’s been this way since elementary school. If I could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of my physical being, I would give myself 20/20 vision. I would like to wake up in the morning and be able to see my bedside clock without squinting at it.

++

In eighth grade, I asked my parents, and then my eye doctor, for contact lenses.

My eye doctor told me that soft contact lenses wouldn’t correct my vision enough.

“However…,” he trailed off. “I don’t want to put you in hard lenses. You’re too young — they really aren’t healthy for the eye. But there are these new contact lenses out now. They’re still hard, but they let oxygen get to the eye.”

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses in 1985 — the year I was in eighth grade — were still fairly new.

He was still hesitant. When my mother pressed him about his concerns, he was honest. “These lenses require a lot of care, and take some time getting used to. I’m not sure she (meaning me) is mature enough.”

My mother reassured him. “Dawn is very responsible for her age,” she said. “If she wants to try them, I think we should do it.”

I’m kind of proud that my mom was confident enough in me to let me make the decision to get RGP lenses.

++

I wore RGP lenses until I was 36 weeks pregnant with Michael. They had taken some getting used to — the first week or so it felt like I had a piece of glass in my eye. For all intents and purposes, I DID have a piece of glass in my eye (actually a disk made up of gas-permable polymers). Through the years, my prescription has changed very little, and I’ve had about four or five pairs of the lenses — they are remarkably durable, much moreso than soft contacts.

Then something changed, and my eyes haven’t recovered. Some combination of pregnancy and allergies (and possibly age) have made RGP lenses untenable. I went to soft lenses, but even those, lately, aren’t working.

I miss wearing contacts. They afford a certain amount of freedom, especially when it comes to outdoor activities and swimming. I miss sunglasses — a lot! I miss peripheral vision. It’s really not about appearance for me, not as much as convenience. I look pretty cute in glasses. And I could really do without perpetual itchy eyes; I forget to put in my eyedrops about as often as I remember.

I’ll take a pair of lenses to North Carolina, along with saline solution. Maybe my allergies will subside enough for me to wear them. If not, I guess I’ll be the woman in the orange dress wearing purple glasses in the wedding pictures.

If you could change something about your body unrelated to appearance, what would it be?

Random Thoughts: The Have A Baby Edition

If you are child-free by choice, or happily child-free by circumstance, I just want you to know, I’m cool with that.

This is a very much none-of-my-business post, but this is also a post that pretty much encompasses what I would tell many a young couple if I were asked directly for my opinion.

If you are in possession of a uterus, I do not think that motherhood is the end-all, be-all of your destiny. If you want to have children, I think that is great; and if you are on the fence about having children, I would hope that this post gives you something to think about.

But if you are really unsure about being a parent, or if you want to remain child-free — that is fine.

It’s fine. Don’t flame me, bro.

++

I have said this before in this space: I never gave a lot of thought to having kids. I barely thought much about getting married.

And then I started dating Dan, and then got married (at 30 years old), and then had children. And it’s awesome. (Really, really hard some days, but mostly awesome.)

I didn’t struggle with infertility. We pretty much got pregnant when we wanted to get pregnant. And avoided it when we wanted to avoided it. There was a brief space, the space between Gabriel’s death and Flora’s conception, that was fraught with some of what I see women and couples who struggle with infertility going through.

But that was a short space.

And here I am.

And let me tell you something: Having a pregnancy at 39 with two other children to care for and a full-time job and then having a baby and turning 40 two months later? IS EXHAUSTING.

++

If you are married or in a stable relationship and you want children someday? Have them now. You have more energy now. Your reproductive organs are nice and young and (relatively to my 40-year-old eggs, for example) primed for making healthy babies.

Seriously: Go for it.

That Ph.D. program will still be there. Europe or whatever other country you want to travel to will still be there. You can start your career now, continue it as a parent, and/or pick it up again later. Work will be there. Guys: cars and more expensive toys? Will be there.

What may not be there (especially, particularly, and almost exclusively for women) is fertility.

This somewhat harkens back to that Allison Pearson quote . If you listened to the interview at all (and I do encourage you to do so; it’s so entertaining) she talks about listening to young career-oriented woman (although I think it pertains to men as well, although to a lesser degree when it comes to fertility), and how she just wants to tell them to go get pregnant.

Will your life be easier with kids? Will getting that Ph.D. or traveling or climbing the career ladder be easier if you are a parent, especially if you are a woman?

Probably not.

But struggling with infertility in your 30s has got to be more difficult. It’s heartbreaking. Stressful. Hard on a relationship.

Like I said, many things remain possible after parenthood. Fertility is finite.

Are there other concerns? Yes. Of course there are, and that’s why I mention stability in your relationship. Plus, you and/or your partner probably want to have some steady income, health benefits (although there are avenues for prenatal care that don’t have to cost tons of money), and other resources.

Like I said, this is a none-of-my-business post. And I know that blogs that are honest about the difficulty of parenting (which is a lot of my blog) can be off-putting to anyone who wants to be a parent someday. But I know so many wonderful people out there who will make great parents if they so choose. I mean to be encouraging, not judgmental.

If I did that badly, it wouldn’t be the first time.