Illustration: John Cuneo
It was the day before Christmas, and I was reading Newsweek's cover story on diet and fertility when I stood up, ripped the roof off a gingerbread house, and ate it, like Godzilla.
This was not something the cover story recommended, by the way.
It was a reaction to something the cover story recommended, namely that you shouldn't eat a lot of red meat if you're trying to get pregnant.
I was trying to get pregnant. My husband and I had been trying for two and a half years. I also had a steak on the grill that was going to be my lunch before I decided to have the gingerbread house instead.
Trying is a good word for this process. At first, trying just meant sex without birth control, but when you marry at 40, trying quickly becomes more trying, and eventually we had the requisite army of experts, most of whom insurance doesn't cover, but of course, you can't put a price on a baby.
You can put a price on not having a baby. That's running us close to $45,000 in credit card debt.
So by the time I was reading that Newsweek article, I'd done it all…drugs, suppositories, IUI, IVF, that test with the blue dye, acupuncture, stinky teas, hormone injections. Once, we were driving to see a doctor in Beverly Hills, and my husband asked what kind of doctor he was, and I said, "I don't know, but someone said to see him, so we're seeing him!" It was that doctor, incidentally, who told me to visualize my husband's face on a cartoon sperm, with arms welcoming my egg to him. We decided the guy was a quack, so I only saw him twice a week for about four months.
The thing is, when you're racing your biological clock, people can tell you pretty much anything and you'll do it. I still worry I need to track down some saint named Amachi so I can bring her red bananas. Recently, a friend said something about standing on your head. He wasn't sure if you were supposed to do it before sex, during, or just in general, but this worked for two women he knew, so I guess I have to stand on my head now. I'll probably visualize my husband's face on a cartoon sperm while I'm at it—not because I'm onboard with that. It's just a hard image to shake.
So it was kind of revolutionary that for the holidays we went to Jackson Hole and we didn't even take ovulation sticks, which might not seem crazy to the average person, but when you're in the middle of this madness, not knowing when you're ovulating is like not knowing where your cell phone is.
And that was the idea. We wanted to lose ourselves for a while. We wanted to just have sex. Every day, you know, just in case. But even so, it was fun again, and that's how everyone says it finally worked for somebody they know, or somebody somebody they know knows.
In the weeks after that trip, I felt good. Well, bad-good. I mean, my breasts were tender, I felt a little nauseous, I was dead tired…I had all the bad-good signs of pregnancy, which I recognized because I'd been pregnant before.
We actually got pregnant on our wedding night, and for a moment we were "those people" (you know, people who got pregnant right away, maybe even accidentally, which now seems as likely to me as accidentally finding Osama bin Laden), but back then I didn't know any better, so we were "those people" until three months later, when we found out the baby's head was too large, and there was fluid where there shouldn't be, and there was a malformed heart, and the baby probably wouldn't make it to term, and, as the doctor said, we should seriously consider termination unless we were deeply religious. That news was hard to take, but even harder because I felt guilty. The truth is, at that time, I didn't want to be pregnant.
We'd just gotten married. I still wasn't sure it was going to last.