Meeting an Astronaut

In Space, anything is possible.
Or perhaps,
“Whip me, beat me, take away my charge cards… NASA is talking!”

From SpaceCamp? No? JB had never seen it either, which downgrades his Eighties movie knowledge from Deficient to Abysmally un-American. I could focus an entire series of posts on the movies he’s not seen. Hey…

However, tonight I’m hear to talk about meeting a astronaut. My friends, when I stop to catalog my many blazing failures as a wife and mother? Then I consider last week’s’ Air Force One adventure and tonight’s Meet the Astronaut? In my opinion, any surplus emotional capital now lives in my corner.

I wouldn’t know a Bieber if he sat down next to me, but I am over the moon (pun=totally worth it) about meeting an astronaut. That’s me, Proud Geek. Then I realized that Space Camp has an adult program. It’s ON, people. Who wants to go to camp with me?

Wait- back to the kids, since this is about them, right?

Not only did Zach meet a live one, complete with blue suit and nifty patches, but Bill– we’re likethis– approached Zach rather than waiting for Z to chase him down. I expected an astronaut to be pompous, but William McArthur, a North Carolina native was above and beyond (again, totally worth it).

Zach, to his credit didn’t drool on himself. But other than name and rank, he was basically speechless. My son. Speechless. The child talks in his sleep.

The pictures, Stephanie. Yes, well. As it would turn out, my camera made it, but my SD card did not. Nor had my phone (so I thought). A few minutes after taking this shot, JB took back his phone and wandered off with Elliot.

To look at a Turtle. When less than 5 feet away, stood an astronaut that has BEEN IN SPACE. Sigh– can you just visualize the gnashing of teeth and wailing (mine) that could have been?

But then during the presentation Bill called on Zach by name. Who needs a picture of their very first meeting when you have this one?

Zach’s face stayed like this for most of the talk. Without words coming out of it.

Except during the questions.

When McArthur asked what types of supplies might be delivered to the Space Station, I muttered Tang. Which Zach overheard and answered.

Cue audience laughter. Next step– show Zach a container of Tang.

At the end, before the Colonel could finish “any questions” Zach’s hands flew into the air.

You never know what’s going to come out of a 5 year old’s mouth, so both JB and I tried to get him to ask us first.

Nope.

“Is the robot still on Mars” was his question. Not, “what’s it like to pee in space”. Though that’s also a valid (IMO) question.

Yes, is the answer, by the way. With a new one going up August 6th.

Then, after the Colonel reminded the audience that China also wants to explore space, but–unlike everyone else–doesn’t want to share knowledge, Zach had another question: “well, what happens if they get there first?” Very much concerned that if China calls “shotgun” on space that we’ll never ride front seat again.

Actually…

By the time we left–with assorted schwag, autographs and foam astronauts– two very tired kids were mostly slurring nonsense from the backseat.

When suddenly Zach mumbles that he needs an engineering degree– and can he “get one those from NC State”?

Yeah, kiddo. NC State has a few engineering programs.

Raising Boys

In general, and when raising boys, parenting brings many ah-ha moments. You know, those times when you realize something as a parent that your intelligent-self would have noticed long before it became an issue? Like the time where I finally noticed that Elliot was not hot-natured like the rest of us and therefore a good bit of his early dismay was because he was freaking cold. Or that the reason Zach hated haircuts was because I was using scissors that caught and pulled his hair. That kind of stuff.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’m not just raising kids, I’m also raising future adults. Then I started thinking about how we are–right now– laying the ground work for those future-selves. There are lots of areas that I hope my example will be enough–a love of reading, for example. Then there are things that I hadn’t seriously considered yet–like how to be a man.

A lot of my musing was prompted by my 3.5 year old, a lover of dress-up play. He’s equal-opportunity about it– my bras and heels, Dad’s shoes and ties. Given the chance he will happily play Fairy Princess with his female friends. He even picked the prettiest dress–black velvet with red trim. I complimented him on how pretty he looked (after all, he was pretending to be a girl) and went on about my day. I will admit to a moment of, “oh jeez” but it never occurred to me that I was supposed to be…embarrassed? Worried? Panicked?

He’s just a little kid playing dress-up, not RuPaul in the making. And if he does grow up to be RuPaul, I wouldn’t love him any less. I wouldn’t think of him as being less anything. Truthfully, I’d be in awe of his fashion sense, being that I don’t have much of one.

It is impossible to raise a child in a gender-neutral environment without putting him/her in a small room without interaction–and really, that’s not cool. Some of the stereotypical “play with trucks and trains” occurred by their own choice. I tried to give Zach my old Cabbage Patch Dolls when I was pregnant (preparation, you know) and I consistently found them stuffed into drawers and under sofa cushions. He Just Wasn’t Interested. But, give him a Spiderman “action figure” and he’ll bathe/sleep/eat with him. (By the way, if your husband, father, father-in-law gets on your case about your son playing with a doll, remind him that action figures are dolls.)

After the Princess Parade (and some tongue-in-cheek comments from friends and an initial wince from Joel) I started thinking about this whole gender-role conundrum a little more. Even though I could care less about my son wearing pink sparkles to play in, I wondered how other moms felt. I did an informal poll on my local online mom support group, asking the question “How do you feel about boys playing dress up in girl’s clothes”. Out of 107 responses, 86% of the moms didn’t care at all; 11% didn’t care, but their husband’s would; and only 6% would forbid it outright.

Good, my laissez-faire attitude about the whole thing trends toward normal. Another poster** made a comment that I loved:

“Boys who are taught there are “girl things” and “boy things” are the same ones who will grow up to believe that women can’t do certain things just because they are women.”

Well, hell– I cannot have that. A feminist simply cannot raise a chauvinist — it’s in the rule book somewhere. And I will not have sons who think that cooking, cleaning and parenting is “woman work”. I’m home because I want to be, not because my husband ordained it so.

An Amazon search resulted in 195 results for the keywords “raising boys”. Oy, if I read all of those I won’t have any time left to, you know, raise my boys. I’ve read one, It’s a Boy! by Michael Thompson and while it was interesting, I didn’t find any of the information to be new (perhaps all of those gender classes*). Male and female brains are structured differently (duh) and the range of those differences for each individual is going to vary on a spectrum. No single child, regardless of their biologically-assigned sex, is going to meet all of the expectations in a gender criteria list. That’s just silly. My oldest son is more verbal than kinetic, that doesn’t make him less a boy. He cries when he gets upset, that means he’s 3.5. Neither of those are predictions that he’s going to be less of a man.

And whose definition of “man” am I trying to emulate anyway? As a child, my male role models were an active duty Army-father and the active duty Army-father’s of my friends. Do I think my Dad was more manly than other men because he was in the Army? As a kid, maybe. As an adult, not really. Do I consider a real man to be one who can change my oil? Or is a real man one who understands that presence in the family–both emotionally and physically–is more important?

For me, the answer is obvious. My definition of a man is not how much an asshole they are, but how much of an asshole they aren’t. In short, I will not raise boys like the ones I dated. I will raise boys to be like the man I married. And the man I married doesn’t change my oil.

Societal expectations be damned. If my son wants to rock a pretty dress, then good for him. He has the curls for it. The thought that some have alluded to, that he’s going to “catch the gay”, is just asinine because common sense should (and science does) discredit the notion that sexual preference can be caught. Homosexuality is as biological as heterosexuality–allowing or disallowing him wearing a dress isn’t going to change what already exists in his DNA (and no, I don’t have any assumptions about his sexuality.) Or even beyond that, the notion that sexual preference can be determined by fashion sense. I’m pretty aggressive, I know how to use my power tools, and I used to love flannel shirts. And I can worm my own hook. Ah…but it’s okay for the girl to be tomboy, right?

*I find the idea of gender-roles in America totally fascinating. I took several gender-related classes for my Sociology degree–my husband and I met in a Gender and Equality class. I almost had a Women’s History minor, too. Lots and lots of exposure to feminism and gender role issues with all of that. It definitely affected how I viewed and judged gender roles.

**Labmom, author of this blog.

Zach–Not to be Left Out

Hey Mom, Look Fast.

My first son. My Big Boy. You’ve been on this earth for 39 months, 9 days. Wowzer.

See, I was perfectly content to get sappy about your brother and save the Zach-sap for another day. Until I ran across this photo–

Maybe it was because I had been looking through all of y’alls baby pictures. Maybe it was because it’s actually possible to have a meaningful conversation with you now. Maybe it’s because you delivered a rebuttal to one of my mom-decisions that was worthy of the Supreme Court. I just had this sense that 15 years from now I’ll be able to look back at this picture and see the man in the boy you were. After I got a beer and stopped crying…sigh, this mothering thing will rip your heart out if you let it…I got sappy all over you. You even helped me pick some of the photos. At one point you asked why there weren’t pictures of you and Elliot together. So we found some and I got to work.

I spent the first 2 years of your life so smug in my parenting skills. As it turns out, you get your personality from your father and my skills didn’t have much to with it at all. You liked to sleep, eat, stare and snuggle. In that order. Even fully immersed in the “I’m three stage” you aren’t a difficult kid. You’re a people-pleaser, a peacemaker (usually), a diplomat, and a spokesperson. You are also self-centered, bossy and extraordinarily talkative (that you definitely get from me!).

November and Decemeber 2006

I worked full time throughout my pregnancy, going into labor 10 days before I was due. We all blame a certain company, who had caused an inordinate amount of stress for the past several weeks and for whom I had concluded the resulting meeting late that afternoon. At home, we were watching college basketball and at the next bathroom break, my water broke. Just like in the movies. I got all excited, decided my contractions were 5 minutes apart (they weren’t), and that we should go to the hospital (we shouldn’t have), and that I could do a natural delivery (I didn’t). I was dilated a whole centimeter.

Eight hours later I had dilated to 2cm. 12 hours later I made it to 3cm. It was then that they gave me the pitocin. I made it to 5cm before begging for the epidural. You were what they call “sunny side up”, meaning you were face up instead of down. Which explains the rug burn on both of your cheeks. I pushed for 2 hours and you finally popped out. Well, you were kind of vacuumed out, but regardless you were out and I avoided the c-section.

I didn’t have a parenting dogma mapped out. I’ve never read a Sears or Ferber book. I just did what came naturally, which I would classify as Attachment Parenting-light. I was still working, telecommuting, and you were the perfect baby for such a situation. You weren’t demanding–quite the opposite, actually.

Your First Year

It was just you, me, and our two dogs. Where Elliot has you to entertain him, you had the dogs. You bounced yourself to sleep in the jumparoo more than once, but you also enjoyed free range over most of the house. We listened to NPR and read a ton of books. I was a member of the No-TV club (until I got pregnant with your brother, then all bets were off). We took plane trips–to both Louisiana and Illinois– and you were the perfect travel partner. You were a child living in an adult’s world, for sure.

I’ve had the chance to watch a child grow from a newborn blob to an independent preschooler. I appreciate you more than you can possibly know. Sometimes I think you get the short-end of the stick –because you are the oldest, because of who you are, and because even when you are demanding, you still really aren’t.

As laid back as you are, you’ve thrown some volcanic fits. Some kids hold their breath, you managed to form petechia.

You want to be a train conductor when you grow up. I tried to buy you a conductor hat and you politely refused, stating, “I’m not a grown up yet.” You are convinced that you are going to college when you are 13 years old. You love basketball, though there is still some confusion on whether you will be a Duke or Carolina fan. You have a mess of curls and I keep your hair long, because I think they are gorgeous. You mimic my expressions and school me on my occasional hypocrisy (HANDS ARE NOT FOR HITTING, MOMMY). You are sensitive, compassionate, and full of laughter. I hope you don’t let life take those qualities away from you.

Faces of Zach

You are an awesome brother. When I was pregnant you continually insisted that having a brother meant “cookies and more toys”. Once reality set in we had some tense moments. But nothing like I anticipated based on anecdotal evidence. I’m always impressed with how much assholish-younger brother you can take before snapping back at Elliot. You boss him around incessantly, though and I think that time for you is coming to end with him.

I listen to you guys play when you think I’m not paying attention. I hear you explaining Real Life Issues to him.

“This is NOT a cup, Elliot. This is a baby cup. We DO NOT drink out of baby cups”.

      I tried to give y’all baby sippies and call them a cup.

“Head butts are not cool. I don’t like them. Does you like it when I do it to you?”

      Overheard from the living room after I Elliot had started crying. E’s lesson was learned, no interference from me was needed.

“Yes, that is a _____ (train, truck, car, shoe, sock, book). Good job.”
“HA, Elliot. That’s not a cat. That’s an apatosaurus”.

Brothers

You try my patience daily, sometimes hourly. That’s not really your fault — I don’t have an abundance of patience to begin with and life with a 3.5 year old mostly guarantees that my short supply is gone by noon. But you also amuse me with your silliness. You amaze me with your intelligence and self-sufficiency (bliss, you can put on your own shoes, brush your own teeth, and get in/out of the carseat…complete with buckling).

Most importantly, you filled this adult’s world with the unconditional love of, and for, a child.

Elliot, Mom is Sappy Today

Elliot, mom is sappy today.

My second son. My baby. But–as you are insisting and I am realizing–you stopped being a baby a while ago. You’ve been on this earth for 20 months, 13 days. It’s completely surreal for me to look at you now and remember that you it wasn’t so long ago that you were an an 11.8 pound, 6 month old.

I should have known from the moment of your birth that you’d do things your own way. Labor was quick–we arrived at L&D at 6am and you were born at 7:20-ish. Epidural? Nah, Elliot wasn’t interested in waiting. Nor was I. I believe I responded to the nurse’s edict to “not push until the doctor arrived” with a “fuck you, someone better get down there to catch.” Doctor got there and caught. Yes, he charged us full-price.

You were a tiny thing, with a dimple in your right cheek and baby blue eyes that didn’t turn. I was grateful to you for being a reasonable 7 lbs. since it made that unintentional natural childbirth much easier. That and the lovely nurse in training who had just finished an elective class on Lamaze. Since I hadn’t even bothered to watch a YouTube video on breathing techniques, he was most useful. His name was Mark and you were his first birth. Someone else who will never forget you.

November and December 2008

Hummus- 1; Elliot- 0

In some ways you are easier than your brother. From the beginning you put yourself to sleep. I can count on one hand the times you’ve “requested” that I rock you to sleep. You started attending playdates at 5 days old–totally passed out in a Moby Wrap. You didn’t poo a whole lot, which made cloth diapering a breeze and was deemed normal breastfeeding behavior. We wouldn’t find out about your food allergies until later.

You loved staring at shadows. You’d just lay there and stare. You definitely let me know–loudly–when you were quite done with Elliot-alone-time. You still do.

January/February 2009.

In many ways you are harder. My child, you and I share a lot of the same personality traits. Words that would not be used to describe us; laid-back, patient, and easy-going. Your father and brother are those people. We are not those people. I can see struggles in our future, because I’ve lived those struggles in the past. We have a battle of will every day. I assume I’m still winning, though probably not as often as I think. You’ve finally started to get the whole “learn/use words” thing, for which we are grateful. I chuckle every time I hear you yell “no,no,no,no,MINE, SHOO” to Zach when he’s trying to re-appropriate your toy. Zach isn’t as pleased with your verbal progress.

Your curiosity gets you in the stuck in the damnedest places. You see a mountain and start a plan on how to climb it. You are tenacious and driven. Redirection has always been more of a challenge with you. You’ve been chasing the big kids since you could move. Now you almost always catch up.

Stubborn, Tenacious and Driven are also Attributes

All of that is a nice way of saying that you can drive a person crazy, turn an entire head of hair to gray, and disappear in less than 2 minutes. You did stuff at a year that your brother didn’t think of until he was 2.5. Because you had your brother to learn from.

You are determine to boldly go where you haven’t been before.

To Boldy Go

Elliot, you might be little but you have never let your size stop you. Ever. I laugh each and every time someone gives me that look. It’s the one I’ve gotten your entire life from moms who don’t know you: “Oh my, bless her heart, look at that mom letting her 6 month old (when you were a year) climb up that slide.” I love smiling so sweetly at them when you proceed to climb/slide/ride/run/hold-your-own-with-big-kids. Because you, my dear boy, are deceptively strong. Not just that, you are also full of joie de vivre. And sometimes you are full of piss and vinegar.

The Many Faces of Elliot

The Happy Mother Myth

The Happy Mother Myth is all about why we aren’t happy. If you haven’t read this article about Why Parents Hate Parenting, you should. Lots of good sociology-rich info about the change in modern parenting and why modern parents report being less happy than their childless peers. In a research paper co-authored by Ranae Evenson and Robin Simon, they reported that “parenthood is not associated with enhanced mental health since there is no type of parent who reports less depression than nonparents” (empahsis mine).

Though I initially found the results to be mildly surprising (really, parents–specifically mothers–are more miserable now?) after a point, I came to see the logic in how that happened.

My general, broad impression of the Happy Mother Myth is that too many women believe that parenting will be as fulfilling as a chosen, for-pay career. I certainly thought that being a mom would be easier–and thus less stressful–than what I experienced in my pre-kid, for-pay job. Silly me. I know women who honestly make mothering look like the easiest, most fun job in the world. And I envy them, because for me, it is neither. While I had a nursery-rhyme themed fantasy of what my day was going to look like, the reality is often more Rage Against the Machine than London Bridge. I felt guilt from both true and perceived barbs from all sides of the mothering fence. Then one day I realized the only perfect mother is the one who has never had children and I stopped worrying about what other people thought about my decisions. That doesn’t mean to say that I am without cause for criticism, and I welcome the constructive variety–in all things. But just yipping at me over a personal parenting choice?Pfftt. I used to rush to my own defense with data supporting my own cause, now I just don’t care. I don’t consider it an insult to my parenting when people are concerned that my kids never get cookies (they do, just not often), nor should anyone else consider it an insult when I refuse a product on my child’s behalf. Once I put the cabash of self-doubt, I was happier.

It also helps that I truly believe that micromanaging every moment of a child’s life is counterproductive in the long run. A certain degree of boredom–for both mother and child(ren)–is both appropriate and realistic. How much imaginative play results from the desperation of impeding boredom (or the parental response of, “well, you could clean your room”)? How many seemingly casual walks (in an effort to kill time and burn energy) become memorable adventures? That kind of spontaneity helps sooth my impulsive beast while allowing me to shed the cultural pressure raising competitive kids. Happy Mother increase, check.

And even though I knew that child-birth would deliver a baby, I think I also expected it to deliver all of the traits that I had deemed necessary for being a Happy Mother such as increased patience and temperance, long art-n-craft sessions resulting in memorable keepsakes…you get my point. The reality is that child-birth did result in a baby (twice), but not the the rest of those things that I thought were the innate, reflexive parts of mothering. The rest I had to learn for myself.

Because I’m an only child, I didn’t have a large extended family from which to draw experience. It didn’t take me long to see that motherhood was not going to result in an overall morph of my original personality. Perfection only exists in the dictionary and pharmaceutical ads. The perfect anything doesn’t exist; beating myself (and my husband and kids) wasn’t going to make it real. It didn’t take me long to recognize that the mother who is pleased enough with her situation (if you know her, insert name here) should be the epitome of the Happy Mother. And if she isn’t at ease with her situation, she takes steps to change things for herself. For me, it is as simple as– I cannot allow my children to be the sole definer of my identity.

So my thoughts to the women who are struggling with their own Happy Mother Myth is to stop being so hard on yourself. All 21st century mothers are facing the challenges of changing definitions. Throughout history, women used to practice being a mother for a small lifetime before having their own children. They were acting as little mothers to numerous siblings, under the tutelage of a gaggle of women who met the same mother definition. They left their parent’s homes only when ready to enter a husband’s home. Without the availability of female-based birth control, they got pregnant–quickly and often–and continued the cycle, uninterrupted. They lived in the same towns with their mothers, sisters, and grandmothers. They knew the same people for the entirety of their lives.

We’ve only had reliable, female-controlled birth control since 1963. It’s only been in my lifetime (starting, 1976) that women have held positions of true prominence and power in corporate America. It’s also only been in my lifetime that women have chosen those careers before they chose to have kids. So, if it’s only been within the past fifty-ish years that all of those changes have occurred, why are we all so sure that begetting children is going to bring us continual happiness and reward? I mean, wasn’t a lot of the motivation for the original Women’s Movement that women were unsatisfied with their housewife/mom-only roles? Did we, the daughters and grand-daughters of the original wave of Feminism, think that because the mom role was chosen rather than expected that it would make a significant difference in our perceived satisfaction? Or, as the research in the article suggested, did we all think that meeting our career goals before having kids would decrease the ennui of parenting?

Uh-oh…

Perhaps it’s that the current generation of women are all so far removed from the reality of the June-Cleaver-housewife ideal that we didn’t really have a concept of the demands of child-rearing. Maybe women now think that accomplishing everything before having kids would mean that they wouldn’t succumb to the ennui of parenting. Do I think back to my past career accomplishments and bemusedly wonder how I could plan and execute a million-dollar, multi-national study meeting–in a different town and state from my office–with grace and efficiency, yet am seemingly incapable of getting two kids and myself out of the house on time? Well, yeah, I wonder. But the answer is reasonably simple–there is an immediacy to career-related accomplishments–professional recognition, promotions, salary-increases. The results of good (or bad) mothering are often not so gratifying. It will take years before I know if the choices I made as a mother are the same things that will send my grown children to a therapist.

Are the rapidly morphing roles–because it’s not just moms, but also dads that are being redefined–the reason for our malcontent? Is it because most of us are trying so hard to provide these fabulous moments for our kids that we feel a lacking enthusiasm for our efforts too deeply? Is it all just a measure of adults who were in control of their career finding themselves very much out of control of a Small Person?

For me, it’s mostly the appreciation-quotient, as I reconcile the differences between the woman who worked for-pay and the woman who works for love. In that, I’m really glad that I read Arlie Hoschschild’s book The Time Bind as an undergraduate.

Perhaps I’ll request formal performance evaluations from my family in the future. In the meantime I will define myself as a Happy Mother, because the only expectations I am trying to meet are my own.

Let’s Talk about Sex

Let’s talk about sex! That was my first thought when I was approached by the Museum of Motherhood to write an article related to women’s health my immediate thoughts were of the big three—breast cancer, heart disease, and cervical cancer. Then my mind wandered over to the other big ones—fertility issues, thyroid disease and auto-immune diseases. I started doing research on what I had picked to write about, but my mind was dissatisfied with my choice. It kept wandering over to the problem that many women face, both before and especially, after, motherhood. The one we don’t talk about, the one without its own black lace ribbon magnet showing support. Sexual dysfunction.

Since the onset of the women’s movement, sexual freedom—prompted in large part by the ability for women to control their own reproductivity with hormonal birth control—has become a banner which many women wave proudly. In theory women were no longer laying awake after an unsatisfying encounter with their now-snoring husbands. In essence, the dissatisfying sexual relationships of my grandmother’s era were to be replaced by mutually enjoyable experiences between consenting partners. Right?

Wrong. A survey conducted by the American Medical Association in 1999 indicates that sexual dysfunction affects approximately 43% of women in the United States. In general, data related to sexual dysfunction, especially for women, are limited. The medical and pharmacological communities have made strides in treating this problem—for men—who hasn’t seen the commercial of a loving couple in side by side bathtubs gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes? And for the heterosexual women whose dissatisfaction stemmed from a problem with their partner, this is great news.

Well, what about the rest of us? Specifically, what happens to a woman with normal function after they have children? I know very few women who jump back into their normal relationships after they have given birth. Is it all related to body image? After all, the end result of carrying a child for 10 months is not kind for many of us (no accounting for awesome genetics, personal trainers and babysitters; though I am super jealous of all of you, too.) Is it all mental—the transition to a sexual being after fulfilling that mother role all day? Is it physiological—the result of decreased blood flow or other vaginal changes as the result of getting aforementioned baby out of one’s body? Or—more likely—is it a combination of the three?

Becoming a mother adds new layers on to a woman’s psyche—layers that we can neither predict nor control. That none of us believes that will happen to me until we are a mother for the first time is part of the transition from a sole entity to a mom. I remember being really tearful when my OBGYN gave me the go ahead to “resume relations” (her words) after the birth of my first child. Secretly I was hoping for another reprieve—a medical excuse whose validity could not be disputed by my husband.

We were both to find out that being a mother reduced my desire a hundred-fold from our pre-parent days. After spending both day and night nursing a baby I was less than excited about the prospect of someone else getting to my body. So I did what lots of women do—I faked it.

Thankfully my libido righted itself as the months progressed; I regained ownership of my breasts, my baby started sleeping through the night, and the 75+ pounds I had gained began to finally come off. Ironically with the reintroduction of my libido I got pregnant again, which restarted the entire cycle.

However, my approach was different the second time. Instead of faking it—both initial desire and the outcome—I was honest with my husband about what I felt (and didn’t feel). All of the advice in parenting magazines—“renew your intimacy”, “go on dates together”, “just hold each other”—didn’t work for us. What worked was time, but during the interim we had to deal with the fall-out of my lack of desire.

I’m very lucky that I married a mostly-understanding man. I’m lucky that my issues largely resolved themselves after a year or so. I’m lucky that my problems weren’t a symptom of a bigger medical problem. But what about the women who aren’t so lucky? What about the women for whom these issues cause long-lasting rifts in their partnerships? Or worse, what about those rifts that become chasms so wide that the relationship ends, forever altering the family unit?

Why don’t we talk about this more, amongst ourselves or with our doctors?

Personally, I think that 43% of women reporting some sort of sexual dysfunction to be a far lower figure than is truly accurate. My feeling is that there are many other women who don’t even view it as a problem, perhaps never accounting for how important sex is in maintaining a healthy partnership. I worry that there are too many women who don’t realize that sexual dysfunction can be a true symptom for other diseases—like diabetes, thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis, vaginismus, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and others.

If my concerns are correct that means embarrassment is leading too many women to suffer silently. Will undiagnosed sexual dysfunction lead to death the way heart disease and cervical cancer might? Probably not. But life isn’t just defined by longevity; it is also defined by quality. Women should demand the same quality of life for themselves as they demand for their children and their partners.

So don’t be embarrassed…talk about it. I’ll bet you find out that 1) you aren’t alone and 2) you don’t have to suffer silently.