In 2009, my wife and I talked about having babies. Specifically, I informed my then-girlfriend, who was already the mother of three, that if she did not want to have more babies, that was it. It was a deal-breaker for me. “BABIES,” I said, “plural. Not BABY.”  I wanted, specifically, two babies.  Also, she had to want the babies, not just be willing to go through it for me. Because babies should be wanted, all of them, each of them. There is a big difference between wanting a baby and agreeing to have a baby because the person that you love wants one. She did not answer right away. She said she would think about it, and come back to me. And she did.  A day or so later, she said she was in. Whole-heartedly in.  Babies I wanted, and babies I would have.

And then, you know, life happened. For one reason or another, it wasn’t time to start trying to conceive until late in 2013. Then it took us nearly a year to get pregnant. So it wasn’t until six years after that original conversation that we had our first baby together.

By the time Bumby was born, the other kids were kind of… old. The next-youngest was 9, and the oldest was 14. Having another child when your next-youngest is 9 is very different from having another child when your next-youngest is 3.  To further complicate matters, the Big One was decidedly moody about the topic of adding a fourth child to our nest, and made those moods known throughout the entire experience of talking about a baby, getting pregnant with a baby, being pregnant with a baby, and having a baby. It was, frankly, rather miserable for my wife and me. Although Bumby and the Big One are fast friends now, it is far from clear that she in particular, or any of the older kids more generally, would welcome another addition with open arms.

Then there is my wife. She agreed to babies, this is true. She knows she agreed to babies. But she has reneged. She is happy with our family of six. She is not getting any younger, and although she loves our children fiercely, she also looks forward to our empty nest years (as do I!). She would like to have those empty nest years when she is still young enough to do fun empty nest things and does not have to take too many prescription medications. Before I ever got pregnant with Bumby, she made it clear. She wanted this one more child very much, but only this one more child.

So that leaves me.  I wanted babies. I have been quite clear on this, always. I did not want just one pregnancy, just one baby. But I agreed to stop after one, because I still feel just as I did in 2009, that each child should be wanted by its family. Knowing how the rest of the family felt, I almost hoped that being pregnant would not live up to my expectations. Maybe I would feel about it the way so many women do — it is acceptable as a means to an end, but not altogether a great experience in and of itself. I may even be miserable, or have complications. It is weird to almost hope for these things, but I wanted it to cure me so that I would not yearn to go through it again. So that I would be content with just one baby.  No such luck. I had an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy.  I was at home in my body for the first time since puberty. I felt beautiful. I marveled at the changes and adored having Bumby close to me and with me, always. I wasn’t even really uncomfortable until around 37 weeks, and slept well. Something about the pregnancy hormones agreed with me, and I was just happy the entire time. I can count on one hand the number of times I was angry or sad for the entire pregnancy. Then, I had an uncomplicated vaginal birth just one day past my due date.

After which, I met Bumby. I fell in love with him, hard and fast. Postpartum came with all the rawness and separation and plummeting hormones that it always does. Sometime in those early weeks, I became furious with my wife.  How could she, knowing how amazing it is to have a child, knowing how fast and fierce and primal the love is, how could she say I can’t do it again? When I agreed that maybe just one baby would be enough, I didn’t know what I was giving up. But she has been through this before. She knew what she was asking of me, and she asked it anyway.  How could she? She didn’t answer.

I cooled off, and my hormones balanced out.  I still wanted another child, but I stopped being mad at my wife for being done.  She could not make herself want another child any more than I could make myself not want another child.

My confidence as a parent grew, and I found I can actually manage four kids on my own, while my wife works or has a late dinner. I make decisions about the older kids that I previously would have deferred to my wife. I love them more, and have more patience with them.  Bumby started sleeping, and I started getting my life back. I went back to work part-time, and found a work/life balance that works for me.  Bumby started walking, and talking, and making jokes. I went from staring at him adoringly, to interacting with him. The love grew. I got my hair cut, without Bumby in my lap. I left Bumby with the sitter so I could go to the 5th grade science fair with his big brother. I started planning our spring garden, now that I have a fun toddler to plant it with, instead of a baby who won’t be set down long enough for me to plant even one tomato plant. I became me again. But now, me with Bumby.

And you know what?  I can’t imagine having another baby. I sometimes would like to have an afternoon of baby Bumby back, where we just nurse and nap and I eat strawberries in the sunshine while he stares at his own hand. My pregnancy and our first year as a family of six were the hardest and most wonderful months of my life, and I will remember them forever. But I don’t want to do them again, and I don’t want to do them with another baby.  I am done, with one.  I am sure that I will still have my moments of longing, but in the main I am, shockingly, at peace with this.

Before Bumby was born, we were a blended family. A family, yes, but there always seemed to be shifting alliances — me on the one side and my wife and the kids on the other, or the adults on one side, and the kids on the other.  Various divisions. Bumby has brought us all together. We have gone from a collection of people, to a whole family. One family. We are all brought together by loving this little guy more than we thought we ever could. We don’t need another baby, because we are complete now. I don’t need another baby, because I had the baby I was meant to have. Thanks, Bumbs.

a year

Bumby is almost a year. It is only nine days away. I can’t believe it. My timehop app keeps showing me pictures of me in all my enormous glory a year ago. Instead of seeming fluid, the last year seems to have passed in fits and starts, snapshots of moments that I spent with my little boy.

  • We are leaving the hospital. Although my wife has had three children before, we are both equally terrified. We have put Bumby into a three-month size set of pajamas, because we are afraid of breaking his arms by trying to fit them in the newborn size pajamas.  We have to roll up the sleeves in order for his tiny fingers to show.  He is jaundiced, and has red, raw cheeks that are shedding the top layer of skin.  He is nine pounds, and 20 inches. He is the most beautiful and frightening thing I have ever seen. I stare at him the whole way home, and make my wife drive 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.  I want to cry all of the time because my heart is breaking with love.
  • It is late, and I am exhausted. I am nursing my two week old baby for the hundredth time that day, and it hurts so bad it brings tears to my eyes. We will never get this, I am sure. I wake up my wife, because WHAT IS SHE DOING SLEEPING WHEN SOME OF US ARE TRYING TO BREASTFEED OVER HERE?
  • He is four months old, and we went for a walk in the woods with the dog.  We came home and I ate a bowl of strawberries while I nursed him (painlessly, effortlessly). We both fall asleep and take a long afternoon nap together with the sun streaming in through the windows.
  • He wakes, again, covered in vomit and screaming. I hold him and rock him and nurse him. An hour later it happens again. I look down at my poor little baby, and think that I would gladly take this reflux from him so he could sleep without pain.  Instead I call a doctor, and then another one, and then another one.
  • I pull him onto my lap, with his blanket and his pacifier. Here are Paul and Judy. They can do lots of things. You can do lots of things, too. Judy can pat the bunny. Can you pat the bunny?  It turns out he can! He dutifully pats the bunny, and looks in the mirror, and smells the flowers, and sticks his finger through mama’s ring. We skip the page with daddy’s scratchy face. That page is weird anyway.
  • I have washed the sheets on the big bed in his room. I am trying to make it, and he keeps crawling all over the sheet.  I sit on the floor with him, and we hide under the sheet. He laughs and laughs, Mama and Bumby in a tent.
  • I wake up in the night, engorged. It has been eight hours, and my baby is still sleeping. I tiptoe into the kitchen and pump, just enough to take the edge off, while peering at him on the video monitor. He snuffles, then moves, then snuffles again, and sighs himself back to sleep.
  • He flies down the stairs, on his back, headfirst, tucked into a ball so his head doesn’t bang. I scoop him up when he gets to the bottom, terrified of what has happened. He does not cry. I do, enough for both of us.  He sticks his finger up my nose and laughs.  He is fine. One day later I pay obscene amounts of money to have sturdy gates professionally installed all over our house. I hate that it is impossible to protect him.
  • I throw him on the bed on his back, and his mouth opens wide in a laugh. I call my wife in.  I give him a good tickle, and he opens his mouth wide again, laughing. She and I stare in shock at the fifth and sixth tooth in his mouth, which he cut without a single complaint. We didn’t even know he was teething this time.
  • I pull him onto my lap, with his blanket and his pacifier. Here are Paul and Judy. He looks up at me, closes the book, lays his head near my breast, and takes out his pacifier. Too tired for a book tonight, Mama. Let’s just get to the good part.
  • I am unloading the dishwasher, and realize the house is quiet. Too quiet. I look around, and find Bumby under the dining room table, feeding the dog triscuits out of a box he has snagged from the snack cupboard.
  • I come home from work, and he looks up from playing when he hears my voice. He pulls up on the coffee table, and walks over to me as fast as he can, falling all over the place, saying “mama mama mama mama.” He flings himself at my legs, “Up up up.”  I pick him up.

My little baby. My only baby.  I can’t believe how fast the year has gone, and I can’t believe that Bumby has not always been a part of our lives.

unaccompanied minor: why we’re letting our 11 year old fly to Denmark alone

Generous discounts for children with SAS

Our daughter (Boo, the middle one) has a friend who is half-American, half-Danish.  Every summer, the friend goes to Denmark for a month, they pick up their new au pair, and head back to the US.  Our girls are good friends.  Best friends, crazy-good friends, who do everything together.  The month of July, while her friend is gone, is kind of agony for Boo.  Every year, Boo’s friend’s mom tries to make up for this month away by planning camp or some other activity for the girls to do together, which really never works out for us.  They are gone for July, and August is kind of a family time for us.  We go on vacation, we get ready for back to school, we lie around and complain about how humid it is.  You know?  So not really the time we want to ship our daughter off to camp.

This year, Boo’s friend’s mom came up with a new idea — suggested, no doubt, by the girls.  Boo could come to Denmark too!  Maybe not for a month, but for a week!  Which would involve Boo flying to Denmark alone.  Of course, the friend’s mom said YES!  So it was up to us.  Now, let’s set aside the fact that the friend’s mom said yes before running it by us, thereby guaranteeing that we would be The Most Hated Parents if we were to say no, which, of course, made us want to say no.  Our Boo is, shall we say, not the most responsible of children.  She is our Pokey Puppy, the one who can’t get herself ready for school without reminders, who still, even with reminders, sometimes does not brush her hair.  She gets distracted playing with the dog, or her brother, or making faces at herself in the mirror while singing.  Often, when we leave the house, we say “Boo.  Got your backpack?  Your lunch?  Your head?” “Yes, yes yes!” she answers.  I drop them off at school, and she rushes out to meet her friend.  Then I get to the train station, and see the lunchbox sitting on the backseat.  Honestly, I am sometimes shocked I have not seen the head sitting back there.

She had raised this before, wanting to go to Denmark.  No, Boo, we had said.  You’re not ready.  You’re too young to fly, and go through customs, alone.  We like the idea, but you’re just not ready yet.  Plus, we have never been to Denmark.  We don’t know what it’s like, or what to expect.  And besides, you haven’t been invited.

Well, then she was invited.  The conversation was the same.  She was disappointed, but not surprised.  No, Boo.  You’re too young, you’re not ready.   And honestly?  She is.  It makes us totally uncomfortable to think of her leaving her passport or Deno (her beloved stuffed dog, pronounced like “Dino” the dog from the Flintstones, but not spelled the same, because Deno is a girl) or her head, for heaven’s sake, sitting on the airplane as she bops off, singing Let It Go to herself and waving at the pilot.

That day, I read the Atlantic article about the Overprotected Kid, and nodded along.  Of course, when I was a kid, our neighbors had a treehouse where no grownups were allowed, and where we once started a fire in an old kitchen pot.  We played Ghost in the Graveyard and Flashlight Tag in the backyard of one house while our parents all drank margaritas on the deck of another.  I walked to and from school alone from first grade on.  I had that childhood, the free, liberating, unsupervised one that no one now has.  I loved it.  And I chafe at the fact that our kids are not allowed to run during recess (this is real), and aren’t permitted by the school to walk home without an adult until they are in fifth grade.  My wife’s upbringing was similar, and involved mud-ball fights against neighborhood kids, spy clubs and long days at the community pool, where there were parents somewhere, just not anywhere nearby.  It also involved a trip to Minnesota and a trip cross-country, in middle school and early high school, without parents.  I mentioned the article at dinner, and showed the kids the pictures of the “dangerous” playground it featured.  They agreed it looked awesome.  Then we sent them off to change into their pajamas.

And my wife and I looked at each other, and knew in our gut that saying “No” was the wrong decision.  Maybe Boo and her best friend wouldn’t be best friends next year, and she wouldn’t be invited to Denmark when she was “ready.”  Maybe it wasn’t Boo that wasn’t ready at all — maybe it was us.  One of our principle rules of parenting comes from Dirty Dancing — when you’re wrong, you say you’re wrong.  So when Boo came back to the kitchen after changing into her pajamas, we said we were wrong.  It was the wrong decision to say No to Denmark.  We told her the reasons why we made the decision we had, and why we had reconsidered.  The way she said “Thank you!” and the hugs that followed, I will never forget.  She later told us she couldn’t sleep that night because she was shaking with happiness.

I’m still not totally comfortable with the thought of her flying off to a country we have never visited, without her parents, to spend a week doing things we can’t even imagine.  But it’s really not about what makes me comfortable.  It’s about what’s best for our daughter.  And what’s best for her is to fly, totally supervised by trained, competent airline personnel, to visit her friend.  To have a million experiences she will never get any other way, and will probably never have again.  To have the chance to grow into it.  To make mistakes, and learn from them.  To feel the fear and the freedom of doing something totally new, all on her own.

Maybe she will leave something important on the plane. Maybe she won’t.  But either way, that won’t be what she remembers.  She will remember visiting her friend, and she will remember that we trusted her.

And just when I have those doubts, that maybe she’s not ready, she comes in and tells me new Danish words that she learned from watching YouTube videos.  She can say “thank you,” and “please,” and “I like to read.”  It is already an unforgettable experience for her.

(The picture of the young Hermione Granger look-alike with her friend is from the SAS website – the airline that will be carrying our daughter off to foreign lands we have never visited)


let’s do it anyway

This weekend, we did nothing but chores. Well, technically, we also sat outside in the freezing cold to watch one football and two soccer games. We went to Home Depot twice, since we are working on repainting the kids’ rooms. We switched out summer clothes for winter and went to Target. My wife did about 37 loads of laundry (she has a very particular system, and does not appreciate anyone messing with it, even if that someone has actually managed to do their own laundry without ruining anything for their entire adult life). I tried to go for a run (something for me! Something fun!) and tripped over a metal pipe buried in leaves on the edge of the sidewalk, twisting my ankle and skinning my knee. I limped home after only being gone for 10 minutes.

Yesterday, the kids were off from school, so we worked from home. Sometimes this means about 4 hours of work sprinkled with fun activities for the kids. This time, for me, it meant my ass at the desk from 9:30 in the morning until midnight, with breaks only to pick my son up from a birthday party, eat dinner, and clean up the kitchen afterward. To top it all off, my boss warned me at about 7 pm that I was “about to get really busy.”

To say that I resent the men I work with who have stay at home wives or part-time wives is an understatement. I promise you none of them were up at 6:45 to make dinner in the crockpot before they left for work. I promise you none of them were responsible for making sure their awkwardly-sized pre-teen daughter had long sleeved shirts. When I told my wife I was “about to get really busy,” she correctly observed that we were ALREADY really busy. And then the cat peed on the bed, which is her way of also observing that it has been a little too hectic for her liking.

As I sat at my desk, researching laws I don’t care about at 11:30 at night, I thought about busy, and our lives. I thought about adding the complication of a pregnancy and a baby to our already full plates. When I climbed into bed, I asked my wife if I would be happy soon. I don’t think anyone would be happy working a a job they don’t like for 16 hours a day, and spending their leisure time cleaning up cat piss, so she hopefully does not take these questions personally. I asked her whether we were stupid to add another complication to our already overbooked lives. “Well,” she said, “according to the New York Times, having more children is totally likely to make you even more miserable. But let’s do it anyway.”

I should note that this is how we approach most things in our lives.  Oh a dog, that sounds like a lot of work and something we don’t have time for. Let’s do it anyway.  What’s that, we never have a weekend with more than an hour of free time?  Let’s go ahead and re-decorate all three kids’ rooms anyway.  Etc.

No one would say that coercing your 10 year old daughter into a shirt that isn’t $55 is fun. No one wants to run around from practice to practice, packing snacks and dealing with messes and broken things and cat pee and dogs barking and teenagers stropping. On balance, it probably nets out to less overall happiness. But still, no one who has kids would really change it. As my wife said, they also add so much light to your life.

So no. Having another kid won’t make me happy. It will probably even make me less happy (on a net basis), if the New York Times is to be believed. Whatever, lets do it anyway.

picnic tables and sperm donors

After we realized that we would miss our July insemination, my wife and I took a deep breath and looked toward August.  In reality, we needed this time.  It was too hectic, coming home from our trip to Paris, dealing with the prolactin issue, and we hadn’t really had time to process what we were getting into and how we were feeling about all of it.  Over the last two weekends, we have spent a lot of time talking about the emotional and logistical issues that we needed to work through before we could get pregnant.  We talked about what it meant to bring a baby into a family with three older kids.  We talked about how we would handle work and family pressures with a baby to care for.  We cried a little, fought a little, and talked even more.  It took us two weeks to do the emotional and logistical work that we needed to get to the point where, Sunday morning, we sat down to pick our donor.

A few months ago (is it months already!?) we sat down with a couple bottles of beer and an iPad and narrowed the field.  Let me start by saying that the sperm bank has 3 different subscription levels, which each cost a different amount.  The cheapest plan gets you the most basic information, and the most expensive gets you the most comprehensive information.  On the weekend that we did the narrowing of the field, we had just bought a picnic table.  Picnic tables are shockingly expensive — the table that we had to spend 11 hours assembling (that is a slight exaggeration, but only slight) was like $300.  And they go up from there.  Anyway, through a glitch of ordering, we wound up with two picnic tables being delivered.  After some deliberations, we decided to keep both of them, because we have a big deck and didn’t have room for anyone but our family if we only had one.  My wife likes to have room for company so we can constantly invite people over, so we just spent the extra $300 and kept them both.  We’re sitting there, after putting together one of our extra picnic tables, trying to decide what subscription to get.  I vote for the middle-of-the-road subscription, which is about $100 cheaper than the top-of-the-line subscription.

Moon Valley Cedar Works M700 Outdoor Picnic Table

(not our actual picnic table, but the actual picnic table we bought. and finished.  and assembled. for hours.)

“Okay, good idea,” my wife says. “It’s just HALF THE GENETIC MATERIAL FOR OUR KID.  You’re right, let’s save a hundred bucks.  Maybe we can go buy some more picnic tables with it.”  We got the most expensive subscription.  This included, for the record, some kind of cool things (like baby or childhood pictures of the donors) and some kind of creepy things (like audio of them answering questions, which made my skin crawl so I made my wife turn it off after 2 seconds).

We used all of our most idiosyncratic criteria, indulged all of our whims and gut-feelings (“That guy looks like he would be mean to the other kids on his baseball team!  Delete!”), and got ourselves down to 4 potential donors.  We tried to choose someone built like my wife (long and lanky) who was good at sports and had Irish ancestry.  I wanted freckles, because one of the things I love about my wife are her millions of freckles.  She even has freckles on her earlobes.  (No donors have freckles.  They should find some donors with freckles.)  We liked donors who were described as neatly dressed.  We liked donors who were articulate on their personal essays.  All of these things mattered, but none was controlling.  They were just sort of guides as we navigated through the thousands of profiles, random reasons to say yes to this one and no to those five.

And.  We preferred an anonymous donor.  Donors can be either anonymous or open, meaning that they agree to a one-time meeting with their potential future offspring when said offspring turns 18.  Maybe it’s because we watched The Kids Are All Right.  Maybe its because it undermines our sense that we (WE) are the parents, not the donor.  Maybe it’s because just last week we had to deal with yet another person asking us “But whose kids are they REALLY?”  Maybe we will regret this one day, but we did not want to choose an open donor.  The donor is a donor, not a dad.  And so, he will remain anonymous — to us, to our kid — forever.

I must admit, we have a teeny bit of ambivalence about this choice, because we have a good friend who was adopted, and went to great lengths to track down her birth-mother when she was 18.  She felt it was really, really important to her to find and make peace with the woman who gave birth to her, and firmly supports adoptees’ access to this information.  But we believe that there’s a difference.  We know this isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it’s the right choice for us.

Anyway, when we sat down to look at our six potential donors (I had added in two more that met our criteria as I checked back with the sperm bank website over the weeks between initial review and decision time) with our coffee on Sunday morning, we quickly ruled out four of them.  We were down to one Hot Donor and one Smart Donor.  Let me just say, I don’t know where they find these guys, because basically they are ALL hot and ALL smart.  But one was hotter than usual, and one was smarter than usual.  Smart Donor had a kid already, of his own, so he knew he could get someone pregnant.  But something about Hot Donor just felt better.  Maybe we are shallower than we thought, but he also seemed articulate, and the “staff impression” was that he was well-dressed in professional clothes. I like someone who takes their shit seriously, and puts on some goddamn khakis before he goes for a sperm-donor interview.  For all of these reasons and none of these reasons, we chose Hot Donor.

In the end, my wife is right, it’s a super important decision (more important than, say, a spare picnic table).  But also, it’s not.  There’s no way to know the really important stuff, or how much the really important stuff is even passed down through genes.  Sometimes, two hot people have funny-looking kids.  Not that being hot is the most important thing, but it’s not the LEAST important thing either.  Sometimes, two smart people have a kid who’s kind of…. not as smart.  Sometimes, two totally average people produce spectacular offspring.  Whatever.

What really matters is that we finally picked our donor.  It actually felt great to take our time, talk through our shit, and be in a really good place when we finally sat down to choose.  Maybe, just MAYBE, it was a good thing that we had this extra month, because now we are both CRAZY EXCITED.  Today, I’m going to call the bank and order up some premium IUI sperm from our Hot Donor.

focus on fertility: week 1

This post is part of an ongoing series of posts regarding my experiences working through the book Fully Fertile, by Tami Quinn, Beth Heller, and Jeanie Lee Bussell. For previous posts, click here.

During this first week, I learned that a newly-pregnant friend had miscarried. She had told me she was pregnant just a few weeks after finding out herself, back in January, and on Wednesday, when we were catching up, she told me that she had lost the baby the previous weekend. She told me how strange it feels to lose the baby, and have her hormones going crazy, when most of the world didn’t even know she was pregnant to begin with.

After we talked, I thought about how this is not unlike trying to get pregnant as a lesbian. It’s more than a matter of just peeing on a stick a few days a month and hoping that nature takes its course. It’s this way, too, for other women who use assisted reproductive technology for whatever reason. There are mysterious doctor’s appointments and absences from work, hours spent looking through donor profiles, and yes, peeing on a stick. It’s not something I would want to talk about all the time with a host of strangers — or even necessarily close friends — but it is still strange to be making such monumental decisions and changes about your life within the privacy of your marriage. Big things are happening, and the only one who knows is my wife. If I were a single woman doing this, the only one who might know about all of this is me.

In a way, though, this privacy appeals to me. One of the things that is lacking in a house with three children is privacy. Our decision to get married was conveyed to my wife’s ex-husband at the speed of light. A new car, re-painting the dining room, whether or not we are getting a dog. All of these choices and plans are shared with her ex before we know it, sometimes before we are even settled on them ourselves. It is fundamentally important to us that we never ask our kids to keep secrets from a parent, so this is something we have come to accept as a fact of life.

There are other things that travel through the gossip-chain of school age children and trickle upward to the parents. Recess is an extended game of “telephone.” Someone had lice (or bed bugs!), someone’s dad lost his job, someone got suspended for punching another kid. The restaurant down the street has roaches — someone saw one run across the floor — so we should never eat there again. It’s amazing how easy it is to have your finger on the pulse of a small town just by sitting down at the dinner table and asking, “So, did anything interesting happen today?”

But the flip side is an eerie feeling that your walls are made of glass. Because my wife’s kids pre-dated her relationship with me, this privacy was never something we really had. Our neighbor across the street heard that we were together from her 10 year old daughter. Once we told the kids, it was public information. So this private decision to have a baby, while we have mentioned it in a casual, offhand way to the kids, feels like a welcome bit of privacy in an otherwise transparent life.

So, while the first week of Fully Fertile focuses on the flow of life-energy (or prana), my focus has been on the flow of information. How do you feel less isolated without feeling like you’re on display? When is an appropriate time to tell your kids you’re pregnant, when you know it will immediately be conveyed to the person you would least like to share your private joy with? How do you navigate a demanding job during the process of becoming pregnant, let alone the first months of pregnancy when you are vomiting into the toilet every morning and falling asleep at 8 pm?

fear, and yoga

I have been reading every book I can find about being pregnant, getting pregnant, and having a baby. There’s a delicate balance at work here, because I had originally promised my wife that we would just BE for our first year of marriage, and then work on having a baby. My ticking biological clock and the advancing ages of our existing children has convinced her that it might make more sense to do the prep work in advance, and just wait for the trying part until we have been married about a year, but still, I am sensitive to the fact that I am completely going back on my word and becoming increasingly focused on the baby well in advance of the one-year mark. So, I have been quietly and unobtrusively scouring the internet and reading every book on baby-making that I can get my hands on. When I finished my most recent book, I slipped out to the bookstore on my way home from work, and picked up a book on using yoga to increase fertility.

I practiced yoga roughly from 2001 to 2008, when I moved from California to the East Coast and was unable to find a yoga class and studio that meshed with both my sensibilities about what yoga should be, and my extraordinarily hectic schedule. My move to the East Coast coincided with the beginning of a very demanding career. Whether I will continue that career after the baby is born is a topic for another post, but for now, until certain financial goals are met (namely, until crushing student loan debt is paid off), suffice it to say that I am stuck with it. Add to the mix a move to the suburbs and the acquisition of three young children, and you can see how the weekly yoga class that I hadn’t even found yet slipped lower and lower on the priority list until it was off the list completely.

Since I’ve stopped practicing yoga, I have lost upper body strength (important for carrying baby around!) and have noticed aches and tightness in my lower back and hips (not so great for childbirth!). I’ve wanted to pick up yoga again, but struggled with prioritizing this aspect of my life, when I already felt like I didn’t spend enough time with the kids, or my wife, or working in my garden, or at the beach, or fixing the kitchen cupboard that I broke trying to jam something into the garbage can. When I saw the yoga-and-fertility book, I thought, aha! This is it. I won’t do yoga for me. I’ll do it for the BABY. If I HAVE to do it, for the BABY, then I can more fully justify devoting the time to it. And perhaps, I will be able to drag my ass out of bed 45 minutes earlier, even though I have a 12 hour workday ahead of me and am exhausted from the stress-induced insomnia that has kept me up on and off half the night. Plus, I was tired of reading about babies, and wanted to get started DOING something, and the book I had chosen promised fertility on a three month timeframe — which meant I had just over a month to spare before our first insemination.

It was with this framework that I slipped into bed last night with Fully Fertile. My half-asleep wife murmured “What’s that?”

“My yoga fertility book.” I responded.

“You’re not going to become one of those mothers who’s completely obsessed with Poopsie, are you? All you do is read books and books about the baby.” Rats. She was onto me, with my subtle, behind the scenes baby-obsession. I knew she was teasing, but for some reason, the words cut right to the core of me. I don’t know how I became a person who spends so much time working that I can’t devote a few hours a week to yoga. I tried to keep myself from overreacting to what was meant to be an offhand comment, but I couldn’t. As I read through the introduction and practiced one of the breathing exercises, I found that years were running down my face. It was as if I could not even breathe anymore. My breath had become shallow and tight. Like my back, and my hips, and my shoulders. I felt closed off and hurt. Long after my wife was snoring on my shoulder, I lay in bed with my eyes wide open, trying to sort through my reaction to her comment. I did not want to be one-dimensional, obsessed with our child. I didn’t think I was! But I also didn’t want to be one-dimensionally focused on my career. Financial goals aside, I hated what my job was doing to my identity and my sense of self. Where was the rest of me?

This morning, as we were getting on the train to come to work, I confessed to my wife, “I’m scared. That’s why I am reading book after book. I am scared I won’t be able to get pregnant, I am scared that I will lose myself in the baby, I am scared it will hurt, I am scared I will hate being pregnant. So I am coping with that fear by gathering information. I want to do the yoga as much as I can. I think it will help me through this, and I hate how I feel, physically and emotionally, five years after quitting yoga. I miss it so much.”

My wife looked at me with compassion. “Of course. Everyone is afraid of those things, but of course you should do yoga.”

And with that, I realized that the yoga was already working. Before the first time I unrolled my mat, the yoga was helping me through this transition, just as it had helped me to adjust to life as a college student, graduating into a horrible job market, and a move across the country, alone, to go to graduate school. So, in that moment, I committed to attending the Saturday morning class and doing the yoga in my fertility book — but not for the future baby. For me.

six years

I’ve wanted to have a baby for at least six years. When I was about 25, the urge to have a baby was so strong I thought I would spontaneously become pregnant. Every time I got my period, I was disappointed, even though I knew there was actually no chance of me becoming pregnant short of immaculate conception. A few years later, when I moved in with my now-wife and her three kids, the baby urge sort of went away. It at least faded into the background, replaced with an ambivalence that scared me.

Here I was, 27 years old with no children, and I was suddenly living in a house where at any moment, a four year old boy might wander into the bathroom in the middle of me taking a shower, and ask questions about my body. Or I might be late for work, and discover that my car keys are missing, because a seven year old has put them in her backpack. Apparently they would rather I stay home, with them, so they decided the best way to accomplish this was to physically prevent me from driving in to work. There was toy flotsom everywhere (you know what toy flotsom is — those valueless small objects, like bouncy balls and foam magnets shaped like the number 2, that litter the floor and countertops and table when you have young children, that no one gives two figs about until you try to throw them away). When I arrived home from work, rather than a yoga class, a glass of wine and a good book, it was a flurry of cooking and clearing up and dishes and homework and teeth brushing and finding missing stuffed dogs and tucking in. It was a very different life, and the change was very abrupt. It didn’t matter that we shared custody with the kids’ father and that every now and then there was a kid-free night. Those nights, I was usually so exhausted from the other nights that I collapsed into bed.

In short, I was thrust into parenting three young children. I think there is a reason that we humans are pregnant for 9 or 10 months (depending on how you count) before we have a child, and it’s not just biological. Having kids takes some getting used to, and I think we need time to get our heads around it. We think it’s going to be all snuggles and mommy I love yous and really cute tiny shoes. And there is that, but there is also a lack of privacy and boundaries, toy flotsom and clearing up, caregiving when you’re desperately in need of some care yourself. Perhaps its the carrying of your baby for 9+ months that eases you into the idea that you don’t really have boundaries anymore, at least not in the same way, and that you’re responsible for someone else’s health and wellbeing, often at the expense of your own.

To be fair, my wife tried to ease the transition as much as possible. After all, she had had these small beings in her life for eight years already, and was well-adjusted to life as a parent by this point. But as I said, the shock to the system scared me. What if I wasn’t ready to be a parent, or was not good at it? Was it because I was a step-parent and not a “real” parent that I minded so much that my lotion had walked off or that my favorite mug had been broken? Did I NOT LIKE CHILDREN?

The answer, of course, is “sort of.” I still mind when my lotion walks off and my favorite mug is broken. But not in the same way. Suddenly, somewhere during the year leading up to our wedding, which was last summer, I found my feet with the kids. The middle one calls me her “mom” behind my back, and the littlest one calls me “Mommy” to my face. They have learned that I like coffee in the morning before I am ready for talking or singing. I have learned to ask them if I can’t find my car keys or hat. We have learned how to be a family. It was not an easy adjustment, but it was a wholly worthwhile one. Being a parent is hard, you realize that right away. But it is also amazing. Most people realize that right away, I think, but when you step into a ready-made family and have to find your place in it, it takes some getting used to. Honestly, it took longer than I thought it would. Then, one day, to my surprise, I realized it had happened. Now, I can’t imagine my life without these three awesome, exhausting, silly, intelligent kids.

And this is why, I think, a few weeks after our wedding, the baby fever hit again, in full force, even stronger than when I was 25. The ambivalence was completely gone. Funny that it has taken me six years to come back to the place I was in before, wanting a baby so badly. But I have, and I think the strength of the desire is partly due to the fact that there are fewer unknowns. I already know I have it in me be a parent. Now, I’d like to try being the parent to a baby.