Friday, September 16, 2011

The Belly of the Beast (May 2004)

In New York, good gynecologists are like good men: already taken. I resorted to a foreign import for my husband and I find myself doing the same thing for the gynecologist. The recommendation came from an expat living in Moscow. Her Italian OB/GYN accepts my insurance and is taking new patients: she’s as good as it gets.

She conducts the first appointment like a job interview. We pour over my past experience and then discuss my goals. (Where do you see your ovaries in five years?) Recently married, I admit to vague thoughts of children. “You’re not getting any younger,” she tells me. “Do you know anyone who is?” I ask.

“Okay, so now we test for everything.” And she means business. Eighteen vials of blood later it transpires that I’m not immune to German measles and am given a vaccination and a four month injunction on pregnancy. She also prescribes prenatal vitamins. She is way more gung-ho for this pregnancy lark than I am.

I never really wanted kids so why do I want one now? When asked, I can’t muster better reasons than I think The Pater will make a great dad, it’s what I’m supposed to do and I think I’ll be good at it. I do know I’ll regret it if I don’t have kids, but that hasn’t translated into urgent action yet. It took five years for The Pater to answer my marriage proposal (a week after we met) and I want to enjoy being married before I take on another commitment.

The vitamin package portends initial nausea, black stool and diarrhea. I try to focus on all the folic acid and add it to the morning coffee ritual. I elbow my way to a seat on the number 4 train and we promptly get stuck in the tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. My mouth fills with saliva and my head fogs. I fight my way to the doors, swallowing furiously. I sag slowly to my heels. “Move train, move,” I urge as my head lolls between my knees. At Bowling Green, I stumble onto the hatefully bright, orange platform, sensing the other passengers’ relief. I can’t blame them; we all hate the sick passenger.

I allow the Pater to think that we’re ‘trying’- a term he abhors - and nothing happens, mostly to my relief. It seems that we’re always traveling and it would be inconvenient (in other words, I can’t drink) if I were pregnant, the holiday season, a trip to New Orleans, etc. I let The Pater suffer the illusion of trying because it suits my reluctance. I don’t feel ready exactly, but eventually my competitiveness kicks in and I buckle down. Needless to say, The Pater enjoys the near constant sex for 10 days with interruptions for work and refreshment.

Meanwhile, back in Murray Hill, La Bella Dottoressa is getting impatient and hurrumphs when I show no signs of morning sickness. I understand: it’s a business and a bun in my oven means food on her table. There are the monthly appointments, the tests and the big daddy of billing: delivery. If it’s a C-section, she can really cash in. A pap smear and a vaccination don’t add up to much; she needs babies or cancer, some operable fibroids at the very least.

The easiest, and non- invasive, test is of The Pater’s sperm. Once we rule him out as “the problem,” we can start dissecting me. Somehow he doesn’t see it that way.
“But you do it all the time,” I protest.
“Only in the privacy of my own home, no one knows I’m doing it,” he claims.
“They know, trust me, they know. But, fine, I’ll be the guinea pig.” I know the stubbornness of The Pater.

Two weeks later, my intuition is confirmed in the advertised three seconds. The urine soaked stick sports a positive symbol and we’re instant, conspiratorial parents. Next stop, the doctor’s office. “No wonder your progesterone count was so high,” La Bella Dottoressa exclaims, grinning. I detect only the slightest remorse that she didn’t get to run a few more tests.

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