Today we learned that we will not have another child in nine months. And the chances are getting slimmer that we’ll ever have another.
It’s become a silent signal, every 28 days or so. I happen to look in the trash can in the bathroom and see that my wife needed a tampon, and that’s how I know.
It’s not that we don’t want to talk about it. I don’t think, as superstitious as I am, that I’ll jinx us. As Catholic as my wife is I don’t believe she fears tempting fate or angering God. It’s simply that more than three years ago we decided to hope for the best, do what we can within our bounds of reason, and accept what life gives us.
My wife and I met in our 30s, neither one of us having been a parent. We married four months before her 40th birthday, and it took me another two years to be comfortable with the idea of being a dad. Forget the long story and deep introspection, I just wasn’t ready. When I decided I was, and we both agreed the time was right, we did what most conscientious couples in their late-30s or early 40s do, we sought counsel from my wife’s gynecologist.
Medicine is not a field chock-full of certainties. That’s why it’s called medical practice. No self-honest physician will say that she enjoys contributing certainty to people’s lives, not in every aspect, not carte blanche. The trouble with this is that many people, including us, forget that, and place so much trust in modern miracles.
Our physician gave us prudent advice — try to conceive naturally for six months, then let’s talk. After six months, we tried Clomid, the most common fertility drug. It was unsuccessful. Several months later we were referred to a specialist. Surgery was required, which would have been nice to know at the beginning of the process. Nine months with the fertility clinic proved fruitless. We turned to adoption. We talked with friends who had been adopted, talked with parents who had adopted. We went to seminars. We combed through our finances, weighed the wait times of various countries with the conditions in which those countries raise the children, thought seriously about ethnic and cultural characteristics. We just weren’t comfortable. We felt defeated. We felt cheated, angry, depressed, annoyed. We felt less than whole. We felt old.
It’s cliche by now. We gave up hope and tried to move on. We shucked the stress and took a vacation. Two months later, on a rainy Saturday morning, following a night when we both were grumpy and frustrated, my wife walked quietly over to me, sat down, placed her hand on my knee and said, with some trepidation, “I’m pregnant.”
As you can tell, if you read more than one of my postings, I’m a worrier. The next eight months were torturous. I worried about the baby going to term. I worried about the baby surviving delivery. I worried about my wife’s health. At each sonogram I held my breath until the tech said all looked good.
By our daughter’s first birthday we started to wonder if we would try to give her a sibling. Would it be fair to her to be an only child with parents who will be old and possibly needy when she’s still relatively young? As my wife approaches 45, are the risks to her health, and to a baby’s, worth risking for something we don’t need, but we want? Were we being selfish? What if something happened to our daughter and we suddenly were not parents anymore? Should we have a child to fill that void, a backup? Again, it took time for me to get comfortable with the idea. Being a father was more difficult than I could ever imagine. It’s absolutely the most difficult thing ever I’ve done, and I take it very seriously.
We decided to try, but without going to doctors, without chasing the right basal temperature, without the stress and hope and disappointment that we battled the first time we tried. We decided that if we were meant to have more than one child, then we would. We would certainly try our best — I was particularly earnest about this. My wife regrets not trying Clomid again; I don’t. Maybe I don’t want to tempt fate, after all. Maybe that makes me a fatalist, maybe I am superstitious.
Today is a little disappointing. My wife feels emotions I could never claim to understand. We talk about it some, but we don’t dwell on it.
Any child in our lives would be a blessing, no matter the circumstances. And sleeping (for the moment) in a little blue and yellow bedroom at one end of the hallway is a blessing. We’ve been given a gift, an opportunity, a tremendous responsibility. Sometimes we’re silent about this, too, sometimes we simply exchange smiles.