Dani Klein Modisett
have never been so preoccupied with my own pee. When to do it, how
to do it, at what angle. I am desperate to get pregnant again and
all the various sticks in the "family planning" aisle
of the Rite Aid have become my soothsayers.
pregnant the first time two weeks after screaming at my husband,
"It could take years! We have to start trying now!" Consequently,
this time around I find myself panicking because I am not able to
get pregnant simply because I say I want to.
a secret, I look like a deep person. I have big, dark eyes. I even
sound deep because I have an authoritative voice that I have cultivated
from being terrified that people will figure out I know absolutely
nothing about almost everything. But do not be fooled, I am completely
unprepared for adversity of this kind. The kind where you want something
too much and no amount of goal setting or studying can help you
most post-feminist women who did no actual work for women's rights
and yet enjoy a hell of a lot more possibility for cash, I never
thought much about having a baby. I spoke to my husband, Tod, like
I did, but I would confess privately to my girlfriends, "Look,
it's not like I'm dying to have a baby, I'm just afraid I'll die
regretting that I didn't, if I don't." I couldn't imagine it
at the time, but what if being a parent really was more rewarding
than getting a job in television?
was before I met my son Gabriel. Before I get all sentimental on
you, let me clarify that Gabriel, who is a year and a half, might
not be the apple of everyone's eye. He almost always has one hand
in his pants playing with himself; often while chasing little girls
begging for hugs and kisses with his one free arm. It might not
be cute at 30.
a break from monitoring my ovaries like a day trader watches NASDAQ,
I ran into Dianna at Gelson's market. Dianna is part of a lesbian
couple in my hipster "Mommy group." I dabbled in several
"Mommy groups" during the first year of Gabriel's life.
I stayed with the hip one because it had Dianna the Art Dealer,
a Movie Star (I really shouldn't say who, okay?), and several Record
Executives. I am none of these things, but at least there was hope
of the conversation going beyond nap schedules and weaning. Dianna
is so informed about the optimum hormonal cycle for making a baby
you would think she was a doctor and not the art collection rep
of several famous movie directors. She and her partner, a Sheryl
Crow look-alike, are trying to get pregnant again, too. The timing
of her conception, she told me, is crucial because she only has
so many sperm to work with.
on her every word as she recounted the details of their struggle,
identifying with everything. I too, had breastfed for a year, depleting
my body. I too, had very light periods now. I too wondered how long
the sperm would last. I had my Palm Pilot out before she finished
saying the name of her Chinese acupuncturist.
worked for Chairman Mao, and he changed my life." Three days
later I went to see him.
Wang's office is in Alhambra. No spa vibe like the other Eastern
healing places I'd been to in LA -- he performs his alternative
magic in a fluorescently lit store in a strip mall. The storefront
office is divided in two by fabric screens. Not embroidered silk
screens, just plain muslin stretched across wood rectangles held
together by aluminum latches. Obviously, this man feels no need
to impress anyone. He wouldn't even know what "selling the
sizzle" means. God bless him.
diagnoses are done in the front of the store. Mao's Main Man sits
at a small white Formica desk. You sit across from him on a stool.
I walked through the glass front door, we said our hellos, and within
minutes we were off and running to find the answer to my seemingly
my left wrist with his left hand, Jin said, exactly as you would
imagine a man would who spends eight months of the year in Beijing,
"The Chi of your Yin very unbalanced." I wonder if that's
what Mao suffered from and how long it would be before I want to
slay intellectuals. Fortunately, I live in Los Angeles where there
would be fewer victims.
no problem. We can fix that." He continued, "I no promise
you get pregnant though. I no can promise that." He laughed
nervously, as if American women pursuing baby-making was enormously
comical to him. And a little threatening.
expression changed from mirthful to dire in an instant. It reminded
me of my toddler, Gabriel. He continued to hold my wrist, looking
right, and concentrating. To be helpful I volunteered, "I have
low blood pressure all the time."
he said, still looking past me, "from all your exercise. You
all like to exercise a lot."
true, yes." I nodded, wondering what the "you all"
referred to. You all Americans? You all women who decided to have
babies later in life so you're always running away from the clock?
You all Jews? I doubted that. Do they even have Jews in China?
Then he said more about my Chi. The Chi of my Yin.
know Yin and Yang?"
"Not personally," I answered, trying a little shtick to
warm up the room. He looked at me puzzled.
know Yin and Yang?" he asked louder.
I know the idea. Ideas. Yin and Yang. Opposites that need each other
sure." he said, smiling. Nice teeth. He had no idea what I
I really didn't know what Chi was. I had heard the word in yoga
class, and I think I read an article about Woody Harrelson once
where he talked a lot about it in between tokes on his hemp joint.
"Chi is like energy, right?"
"Yes, energy. There good Chi and bad Chi. Chi have to be balanced."
"Absolutely." Balance is good. I knew that. Therapists
have been beating this idea into my head for what felt like decades.
"Too much bad Chi in your kidney."
my brain for another zinger, feeling like Albert Brooks. I didn't
know whether to sweat or laugh. I did both.
"I give you acupuncture treatment and you take these herbs."
He handed me a bottle of small brown, round pellets. "What
the dosage say?" he asked, shoving the bottle in my hand. Apparently
he doesn't read small print. He doesn't have to. He works intuitively.
"Three to five pills, three times a day," I read aloud,
"Okay, you take maximum amount. Smaller amount for Chinese
women, but they small, you big girl, so you take maximum amount."
I was a fat teen, so I don't argue with anyone who describes me
as large. I nod my head in agreement. I will do whatever this man
I don't know with no credentials other than working as an aid to
a communist dictator, and the endorsement of a woman I have seen
half a dozen times in my life tells me. Anything to get me closer
to carrying another baby, to having another mega-dose of the most
intoxicating love I have ever known. Short of impaling myself with
Ginsu knives, I will follow his suggestions to a T. And I have nothing
to worry about because he didn't just go to school to learn Chinese
medicine. He is Chinese medicine.
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