People, I think it really is my diaphragm that's causing my singing voice to fail!
(Yes, you should be reading that in a high-pitched, excited voice. I'm super excited to have a probable explanation. ... We all know that I love to get new information, esp as it relates to how my body works. Or... uh... doesn't.)
Yesterday, I had emailed a friend (I'm using that word pretty loosely here, considering I've only talked to him one time in my life... but the man is a science teacher and when I wondered who I could ask about such a thing, his name popped right into my head), asking if he knew about how diaphragms work, and specifically, if he knew how big an unextended/empty diaphragm was. (I was curious as to how much real estate I'd lost when they took that 5x5 section out.)
I'm going to copy/paste his response here, because it was most informative:
- Your diaphragm is a muscle that contracts and relaxes, which in turn makes your lungs inflate/deflate, kind of like a bellows (you know, those old-timey things people would use to blow air on the fire).
- Each person's diaphragm muscle is a different size depending on the size of their thoracic cavity (or, in other words, how big around the base of their rib cage is).
- The diaphragm literally seals off the thoracic cavity (base of the ribs) from the abdominal cavity. If there is a hole going all the way through the diaphragm, then it wouldn't be able to pressurize the thoracic cavity as effectively, meaning the lungs would have a more difficult time being expelled of air (which is necessary for singing).
- If the piece of diaphragm removed did not go all the way through, then at least it is weakened in one spot, leading to the same result, only less severe.
Hope that helps! If there's anything here where I got you confused, let me know so I can clarify.
(How great are teachers? I love them! ... Honestly, they talk differently than any other group of people. I heart not only the detail in his response, but that he encouraged me to let him know if I got confused (who, me?) and needed clarification.)
So, what I don't know is whether Dr. G took a whole section out (leaving a hole) or if he just took a piece out and then stitched me back up. Either way, it appears that I have an explanation for why I can't seem to keep enough air pressure to sing the way I want to. (And am I the only person out there who was surprised to learn how the diaphragm works? WHO KNEW it was a muscle? ... Not me. All of those years in choir, being told to "take a deep breath and fill your diaphragm" led me to believe it was, like, a whole other chamber one could pump full of air. Bodies are so interesting!)
I'm curious as to whether the diaphragm is a muscle that will get strong enough to compensate for having a chunk of it missing. I'm hopeful that, in time, I'll be able to sing without my voice dropping out on me. ... In the meanwhile, I'm choosing to focus on just being grateful that I can hit a high note again - that I can sing at all - because those few months without the ability to even hum along were pure torture.
*I'd like to take a moment now and announce that I'm singing in church with my mom and seester tomorrow. They have been warned about my voice just dropping out. The good news is, Katie is also a soprano and we'll be singing the same part, so if my voice is suddenly gone, she'll be there to back me up. Phew!