You’ve got to wonder what makes a couple decide to have a baby. Do they grow tired of those endless, restive Saturday and Sunday afternoons? Sick of sleeping eight straight hours without interruption? Bored with weekend getaways and romantic dinners at expensive restaurants? Whatever the cause, most married men and women decide at some point to replace their champagne flutes with sippy cups, their passion with pacifiers, all in search of that feeling parents get mooney-eyed over, as they hold a baby in their arms and radiate incredible, unconditional love and selflessness for the very first time in their lives.
My husband and I had an easier time than most making the baby decision. He’d been married before and had two daughters, 10 and 12, who lived a few minutes away and visited every weekend and then some. A year earlier, I had slipped out of my wedding dress and into the role of cook, housekeeper, soccer team mom, Disney Channel watcher and Uno player. Add to that a new house fully baby-proofed by its previous owners and a new job that let me work at home and it seemed there was no time like the present for tossing the birth control and making a baby.
I could already picture myself cuddling my gurgling, giggling bundle of joy. I’d take the baby for long walks in the warm sunshine, letting it nap in its carriage while I enjoyed a book and a latte at the local coffee shop. Everywhere we’d go, wrapped in our golden aura, people would stop us and marvel at my baby’s beautiful eyes, curly hair and sunny disposition. Some would even hand me business cards, begging to use Baby in their next commercial/photo shoot/film. Oh, there would be hard times too, of course. A few times a day, the baby would be hungry and I’d have to nurse it for five or ten minutes, but it would suck the extra pregnancy calories I’d accumulated right out of my body, leaving me even slimmer than I was before getting pregnant. I’d done my reading and I had this baby thing all figured out.
For his part, Hubs attacked our latest project with the all the determination of an Olympic sprinter. Picturing a cuddly, cooing baby waiting at the finish line, he single-mindedly pursued amorous encounters at any time, place and hour. Within days, the man had become a sexaholic and I, his co-dependent accomplice. We were going to be the best damn baby makers out there, and do it in record time. Yet even a gold medallist can only give so much. Within a few days, we were sore, exhausted and unusually crabby. For the first time in our history, an extended period of rest was required. Egos were nursed along with minor cuts and scratches. A pregnancy test at the end of the month confirmed the pathetic news: USA’s best damn baby makers hadn’t even bronzed.
Feeling betrayed by my own body, I, like thousands of other baby-making rejects, sought solace on the Internet. Here were the tormented accounts of women who’d tried for months and even years to make babies, all to no avail. They poured out their angst on pregnancy message boards, denouncing their smug, baby-toting friends and their grandchild-obsessed mothers-in-law. I quickly realized my own plaintive tale, tentatively titled “5 Straight Days of Action, No Baby Satisfaction”, would look like child’s play sandwiched in between stories of $3,000 fertility treatments and a sorry husband’s low sperm count. Wordless and alone, I skulked out of their online clubhouse, searching instead for a little baby making advice. I had no idea of what a tangled web I was about to discover.
Apparently baby making, even for the young and fertile, now required an advanced command of a language I was unprepared to learn. It seemed that conception could only occur during my luteal phase, after a luteinizing hormone had triggered ovulation. At that point, the added progesterone would help an egg attach itself to my endometrium. All I had to do was learn to recognize my cervical fluid pattern and a baby would be on the way. Huh?
In simpler terms, I had one of three options. I could write down the condition of my cervical mucus, noting each day whether it was pasty, sticky, stretchy or creamy. Not only did this option absolutely gross me out, but the resulting document potentially would be more embarrassing than the discovery of my secret diary. I could already see the writing on the public bathroom wall: “For slippery cervical mucus, call 555-3897!” Next.
Option two was even more horrifying. With two clean fingers, I was to feel the condition of my cervix once a day. A high and soft cervix equaled prime baby making time. Not only did I have doubts that I could even find my cervix with two fingers, but the warnings about possible infection using this method made me envision a humiliating discussion with my gynecologist. “Well, you see doctor, I was searching for my cervix and apparently, I had a hangnail. . . . maybe a slightly. . . dirty. . . hangnail. ” Next.
Option three was a picnic compared to the first two. All I had to do was take my temperature each morning using a basal body thermometer, then chart it on a special graph that began on the first day of my period. My temperature would remain constant for the first 13 or so days, then dip lower on the day that ovulation, or “O” Day as I called it, was to occur. Eagerly, I printed out a chart, bought my thermometer and began tracking my temperature. I kept a companion graph online, so that other mommy wannabes could track my progress, and I could keep an eye on theirs. Soon, I was locked in an obsessive charting competition with countless other baby making hopefuls around the globe. Who would win the golden positive pregnancy test? Would it be Giselle from Dijon? Suki from Japan? Jo Nell from Mississippi? Surely not! I hadn’t come this far for nothing. My husband, noting the maniacal gleam in my eye as I scribbled down my temperature each morning, cowered beneath the sheets, praying that “O” Day would not be too painful.
And suddenly, it was upon us. Detecting a definite temperature plunge on Day 14, I turned to Hubs, who knew by the strange combination of my gritted teeth and come-hither smile that it was time. Resolutely, he stepped up to the plate and hit no less than four home runs that day. I’m embarrassed to admit that when he left the room for a few minutes, I even attempted a flailing bicycle leg exercise on the bed that ended prematurely when I lost my balance and strained my neck. No matter. We had done all we could do. We had given our best and surely our efforts would be rewarded.
Now, all I could do was wait and ask Hubs for frequent neck rubs. A pregnancy test wouldn’t detect the presence of a baby for at least another 9 to 12 days. I became obsessed with identifying the early signs of pregnancy. A late night headache? It means I’m pregnant! Lost keys? A baby’s on the way! Bickering with Hubs? I’ve gotta be preggo! Mornings found me fixedly staring at my breakfast, willing myself to feel nauseated before finally wolfing it down. After a week and a half of this torture, I finally got a break. Hubs, the girls and I headed for California to visit his parents and the pregnancy fixation was trumped by a succession of amusement park visits and gluttonous nights out. It wasn’t until the return flight home that I realized I couldn’t shake a feeling of vague nausea, fatigue and unheard-of constipation.
That afternoon as I unpacked, Hubs headed to the grocery for a pregnancy test. By this time, we’d talked and schemed about our baby-to-be so much that I nearly forgot about the test after I took it. As we emptied our suitcases and idly chatted about the trip, I happened to look down at the little wand on the bathroom counter. Two lines had appeared in its tiny plastic window. Two very definite lines. “Oh my god, ” I said. “I can’t believe I’m preg. . . . . ners. ” We laughed like two dazed hyenas, then hugged and laughed some more.
That evening, we told the girls. They had known a baby was in the cards and already granted their approval, so we weren’t expecting fainting spells or hysterics, but I still felt a little nervous as their father announced the news. “Girls, Lucinda’s going to have a. . . . ” In a surprise move, Hubs turned to me. “Ba. . . . by. ” I croaked. Our 12-and 10-year-olds stood staring in perfect cinematic-style shock, their mouths forming little Os. “How?!” 12 finally said, quickly following up with “. . . . Don’t answer that!!!”
Late that night, I held my own private winner’s ceremony, posting a positive pregnancy test symbol at the end of my online chart as the Giselles, Sukis and Jo Nells stamped their feet in frustration. With the benevolent smile of a gold medallist, I ignored the churning of my stomach and laid my head on my arm, watching the computer screen blur before my eyes closed and a pool of drool formed on my desk. In just nine months, there would be poopy diapers, I thought sleepily. There would be spit up. And there would be a demanding little creature I’d waited my whole life to meet.
Lucinda Ferrara is a freelance writer and television producer who spends most of her time raising her 12 and 14-year-old stepdaughters and her 1 1/2 year old daughter. You can read more about her life and times on her blog at http://www.suburbanturmoil.blogspot.com.