Infertility in Into the Woods
One of the assignments for my musical theater performance class in college was a duet. I got a really cute boy as my duet partner. I told him that we had to practice. A lot. We had to sing with his arms wrapped around me. We were assigned “It Takes Two” from Into the Woods. We were supposed to research our song as well as the play. He was the Baker. I was the Baker’s Wife.
I should probably add that we didn’t research the song. I had no clue what we were singing about.
Beyond witches and slippers and hoods,
Just the two of us-
Safe at home with our beautiful prize,
Just the few of us.
It takes trust.
It takes just
A bit more
And we’re done.
We want four,
We had none.
We’ve got three.
We need one.
It takes two.
I had a lot of trouble with the numbers in the song.
I had no clue what four, none, three, OR one referred to, though I could guess that my singing partner and I were the two.
It wasn’t until I read a blog post about Into the Woods this week that I got what the song was about. The Baker and his Wife were infertile. They needed four ingredients to lift the curse. They had none. By the time they sang this song, they had three of the ingredients in hand. They only needed one more. It would take two of them working together to lift the curse of infertility.
It could also be generously understood as wanting four kids (big family), having none, having three ingredients, only needing one kid to become a parent, and, again, it taking two. That Sondheim; so tricksie.
Like the author of that article, I was the infertile Baker’s Wife.
Would I have sang the song better if I had known what the hell I was singing about? I don’t know. I don’t think I really got what infertility was until I experienced infertility. I mean, yes, I could have understood it on an intellectual level, but I couldn’t have sung that song with meaning imbued into the words. I couldn’t have conveyed how it feels to be in that situation. Until I experienced being in that situation.
When I was 21 years old, I assumed I was fertile. I assumed that if I had unprotected sex, I would get pregnant. And I assumed that when the time came that I wanted to have a child, I would easily have a child.
That word infertility, I read it differently back then. In, as in inside, deep in, fecund. I was in it. I was fertile. That’s what in-fertility meant to me. It was the state of being in a fertile space, not “in” in the sense of without.
And then suddenly I couldn’t have a child and that Latin prefix “in” shifted into place. I wasn’t “in” anything. I wasn’t in motherhood, in pregnancy, or in a fertile body. I was infertile. I was without fertility.
I didn’t know it at the time when the boy wrapped his arms around me and we swayed together singing, but I couldn’t have carried a pregnancy to term any more at age 21 than I could at 27. I really was an infertile woman singing about being an infertile woman. While being totally clueless, too.
I’m not a huge movie musical person, but I’d like to see the movie of Into the Woods that’s coming out in December. Are you planning to see it?