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Archive for the ‘Making Babies’ Category

jacksteps 001Rachel and I lay in the hammock.  High above, tree tops sway in the evening breeze.  I sip from a glass of scotch, no water, she from her glass of chardonnay.   Her feet are by my chest.  I massage her toes.

Michael approaches the hammock, holding the end of a green garden garden hose.  He asks if Rachel knows where the spray nozzle is.  He and Jack need it for a project involving mud.

“I don’t know,” Rachel says. 

“Can you help us find it?” 

“No.”

Michael makes a few more attempts to pry Rachel from the hammock, but she doesn’t budge.  He goes into the garage with Jack to look for the spray nozzle.

They return a few minutes later.  Michael tries a new approach.  He isn’t asking his mom to help look, he says, but he needs her help moving some things in the garage so he can look.  Rachel declines the invitation

Michael sits down on the bench next to us and continues to press his case – explaining the importance of finding the nozzle, how valuable his mom’s help would be, how unlikely it is that he and Jack would be able to find it on their own.  Jack joins the conversation, berating Rachel and I for not helping.  We are the tallest people here, he points out, and the best able to check high shelves in the garage.  

Rachel’s not persuaded. 

Jack abandons the quest for the hose nozzle and asks if he can get in the hammock with us. 

Absolutely not, Rachel says.  Jack is indignant.

“You never let me get in the hammock,” he says. 

 I point out that he was  just in the hammock with me after dinner, while I read Savage Sam to him. 

 “That was only for five minutes”  he says.

I remind him that the hammock is actually my hammock (a birthday present), that we all agreed that I get to decide who is in the hammock, and that there would be no complaining. 

Jack says that when we made that agreement, he didn’t know I was going to be so mean.

He tries to climb in the hammock.  Rachel tells him he has to get out.  He continues trying to get in, fingers clutching the hammock cord.  Rachel holds up her chardonnay to avoid spilling it and tells him she’s going to count to three, and then he’ll have a time out.  

“One…” 

 Jack pauses.  He hates and fears the one-two-three. 

“Two…”  

He slides backwards, out of the hammock.  His feet hit the patio before Rachel gets to three. 

He eyes us, and seems displeased that he gave us such an easy victory.  He sits back down on the edge of the hammock.

 “Jack,” Rachel says.  “I’m going to count…”

 “I’m not in the hammock!” Jack says.  “I’m just sitting…”  He trails off.  Even Jack, a skilled attorney,  can’t muster a convincing argument that sitting on  the hammock is not the same as being in the hammock.   

“Jack,” Rachel says.

With an angry shout, he lurches to his feet.   Minutes later he tries a flanking attack, climbing in at one end.  Rachel  takes him over to the back steps for a time out.  She returns to the hammock.

“I’m getting my tubes tied,” she says. 

She’s kidding, of course, but seems to be overcoming her sadness about not having a baby.

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Rachel and I are sitting across from a fertility doctor.  A big, smooth mahogany desk stretches between us .  The doctor is a young woman with a confident demeanor.  Want a baby?  She can make that happen.

We’re in the doctor’s office even though, two months ago, Rachel decided, finally and definitely, that she did not want to have a baby.  Every practical consideration weighed against it:  Our ages, finances, and jobs;  the fact that we already had three kids between us and too many pets.

It’s my fault.  The weekend after my Dad died Rachel and I were standing in the living room of my Mom and Dad’s apartment in South Bend.  Relatives had been swirling in and out, but for a moment it was just us.  

“I want to have a baby,” I blurted.

 “Ok,” she said.

It turned out that, despite her very rational decision two months earlier not to have a baby, Rachel was full of maternal desire.  My sudden statement was the lit match.  She combusted.   She said she wanted not one, but two babies. 

Driving home from South Bend, she scrolled on her Blackberry, researching the science of baby-making.  Medical procedures.  Statistics.  Rachel is a pharmacist.  She gets this stuff.  Because of some medical issues, professional assistance would be required.   Because of our ages, she said, we should get started immeditately.   It was now or never.

As we headed east on I-94, I said something about the baby. 

 “Zuh,” Rachel said, emphasizing the plural.  “Baby-zuh”

 A boy, we decided, would be named Henry.  It’s my Dad’s father’s name, and my Dad’s middle name. Hank for short.  Rachel  made a face at “Hank”, but agreed. 

I asked her what we would name a girl.  Teale,  she said, after her Dad’s mom.  Her grandmother doted on Rachel, and kept a special bedroom just for her visits.  She died when Rachel was twelve.  Rachel told me that at the funeral, she stifled her own tears because she felt that the loss was really her father’s, and it was he who was entitled to grief, not her.

I nod.  I tell Rachel I like the name a lot.  I look over at her.  She whips a tear from her cheek and looks out the window.  “Sorry,” she says.

Rachel gets us in to see the fertility doctor two weeks later.  The office is nicer than the doctors’ offices  I usually visit.  In the waiting room it’s just us, another couple, comfy furniture, and a giant flat screen tv.  No horde of hacking patients, no Golf Digests.   Pleasant women in blue medical uniforms ask if we’d like some coffee.  

The doctor shakes Rachel’s hand first, medical professional to medical professional, and asks what sort of pharmacy work she does.  It’s clear that she’s read our questionnaire carefully.  As we sit down she notes that Rachel is obviously fertile – she has a history of getting pregnant quickly.  I hand her my paperwork and she compliments me on my motility and count.   

For a moment, with this experienced doctor exuding confidence, praising my spermatozoa and Rachel’s womb,  it feels like it’s a done deal.  The doctor, her eager staff and gleaming facility are at our baby-making disposal.  Rachel’s as good as pregnant.

Then the doctor pulls out a well-thumbed medical textbook.  The binding has started to rip away on the back,  and the corners are blunted.  She opens it and lays it in front of us.  The pages have the dull sheen of an old textbook.  On the open page is a chart.  It shows, for various ages, the chances of a baby with Downs Syndrome, and the overall chances of a baby with some genetic abnormality.

For us, it’s a 1 in 82 chance of Downs Syndrome, a 1 in 50 chance of any genetic abnormality.  The numbers feel grim.  I immediately wonder if they  can be improved by various treatments I’d read about.  I look up from the book as I start to ask my question, but the doctor is already shaking her head.  No.  She’s heard these hopeful questions before.    The textbook is old because the chart is set in stone.  The numbers have never changed.

By the time Rachel and I walk across the black asphalt parking lot, I’m letting go of the idea of having a baby.  It’s not just the chart.  My sudden desire to have a baby was kindled by my Dad’s death.  I wanted to fight death with life.  It was a natural, emotional reaction, but not a good reason to have a baby. 

Rachel took longer.  Having tasted it, it was hard for her to let go of the idea of being pregnant, giving birth, raising a child together.  She lay sleepless some nights.  She cried.  In fits of passion she tried to convince me, and herself, that we should still do it.   But in the end she knew that our instincts two months ago were right.

I feel bad for putting Rachel on this emotional roller coaster, but I love her for saying “ok” that afternoon.

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dogsuck2 001Rachel and I are in bed together. It’s 6:30 am. There are no kids in the house. Just Rachel and I. In bed. She has to leave at 7:45, for a work trip. I wake her gently, with a kiss. She kisses back sleepily, without opening her eyes, and throws a leg over me.

I calculate the time it will take Rachel to dress, pack, and inject a cup of coffee – forty five minutes, I estimate. That leaves, maybe, half and hour.

Maya whines.

Maya is a lab-mix puppy I brought home for Rachel three months ago. The puppy is now in a crate downstairs in the kitchen. I rub Rachel’s back, hoping to distract her from the distant, pitiful whine. It turns into a high pitched howl.

“Babe,” Rachel says, “We have to let Maya out.” “We”, in this context, means me.

“No,” I say. I burrow in against her warm body.

Maya howls again. “Babe,” Rachel says.

I flip the covers off, exasperated. Downstairs, Maya’s tail thumps against the crate as I approach. I don’t reciprocate. I let her out of the crate and open the back door. Maya steps out onto the porch, and sits down. This irritates me. If she didn’t have to go,  why the howling? I shove her with my foot. “Do your business,” I say. She doesn’t budge. I shove harder, pushing her down the steps while she looks back at me with reproach.

She dawdles, making no move to get business done. My choice is to either stand by the door in my boxers while my spot in the bed grows cold, or go back upstairs and risk her barking and irritating the neighbors. I decide to risk it. I slide in next to Rachel. After the cool morning air by the back door, her skin feels all the warmer.

I hear a faint howl outside. It’s Maya.

 “Is that Maya?” Rachel asks.

“No,” I say.

Rachel gets up this time. When she comes back up the stairs, Maya thunders after her. Max, Alani’s German shepherd, follows. They burst into the bedroom, hunting cats. They find one and chase it under the bed. The cat emits an ugly, angry mewl. Rachel tries to herd the dogs out. “Git! Git!” She yells. “Git!”

I stay under the covers. My theory is that if we’re not both out of bed at the same time, we’re not officially “up” yet, and all possibilities remain. Rachel finally shuts the door on the dogs. She gets back in bed. We embrace. A little time goes by.

Rachel twists in bed to look at her clock. She turns back to me. “Do you want to come with me to walk the dogs?” she asks.

“What?”

She points out that she’ll be gone on her work trip all day, and the dogs will be cooped up in the house. They need a morning walk. “Come on,” Rachel says.

“No,” I say.

Five minutes later I’m on the sidewalk, yanking Maya’s leash, trying to get her to heel. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t surprised Rachel with this puppy, having a baby would still be a possibility.

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coffeecup 001Rachel and I are not going to have a baby.

We decided this weekend, on our honeymoon, eighteen months after our wedding. (We already had three kids between us when we got married, so we had to take our honeymoon where we could find it.)

Early on, Rachel had talked a lot about having a child together. I loved the idea, but the reality made no sense. We already had plenty of kids, and dogs, and cats, and no time. And it would create an odd stepfamily dynamic. We’d have her kids, my kid, and our kid? Weird.

Rachel’s theory had been that an “our” kid was necessary for marital bonding. She told me that in the animal kingdom the only animals that mate for life were those that have offspring together, and that the same was probably true of us. I suggested that as human beings, we might not be subject to the same rules as desert quail. Rachel was doubtful. “I just don’t think human beings are that evolved,” she said.

I pointed out that most divorced people had previously had children together, so pooling genes in an infant didn’t seem a good predictor of marital longevity. This seemed to make sense to her. Also, she knew it shouldn’t be a baby’s purpose cement a marriage.

A baby shouldn’t have a job,” she said this weekend.

For the first time, poolside at the Marriott, she was sure: No baby. I was surprised at my reaction to her certainty: Disappointment. I didn’t really want a baby either, but I liked it when she did.

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