Shorter than a 100 meter backstroke

Like standing on a straightaway section of train track, Susanne and I have looked ahead and known children are in our future. We’re good with it, excited at the prospect of little fingers and toes, unintentional smiles, and impromptu cooing. We’re also well aware of the all-night feedings and intense lack of sleep, followed by intense stress and a certainty that you have lost your everloving mind.

canister of fun

canister of fun

Understanding that one can’t actually plan a pregnancy, we went ahead anyway, armed with optimism and a copy of the Mayo Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. This was better, we’d heard, than the What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which apparently should be renamed What to Fear Greatly When You’re Expecting. Fear-mongering was not going to be a part of our process. We patted ourselves on the back for our intelligence and ability to learn from our friends.

Susanne, ever the feminist, wants not to refer to the little one—when there is a little one—as an unborn child or as a baby. I asked what we should call it instead, and she immediately responded, “let’s call it my parasitic fetus.”

“Really,” I asked, not wanting to betry my own feelings on the subject, since this is her body and her pregnancy, after all.

“What? It’s a parasite, you know. It’s going to suck nutrients out of my body and grow in my abdominal cavity.”

This is true, I thought. Still, I felt it was a little negative. I kept my opinion to myself.

“Okay, honey, it’ll be our little parasite.”

“Parasitic fetus,” she corrected.

So there we were, me reading the Mayo Guide to her before bed, interjecting the phrase “parasitic fetus” or “parasite” into the text where “unborn baby” and “fetus” were written. Things got a little convoluted when I came across “child.” What could I use for “child”? In a heartbeat, I had it.

Reading aloud, I said: “Nutrition during your pregnancy can have long-term consequences for your parasitic fetus after birth.” Susanne giggled.

“It’s okay, honey,” she said, patting me on the arm. “You can just call it a baby.”

Whew. The book would have taken 14 percent longer to read.

Looking forward again, on our metaphoric train tracks, we felt some vibrations from a vehicle ahead, and knew it was time to place an order with the sperm bank. Yes, I am not a sperm-producer, so last spring and summer, we identified some candidates for the job, whittling down to two finalists: the nerdy biochemistry student and the sweet librarian. Sweet librarian won out in August, mostly due to his sentimental answers to the questionnaire and the lack of autoimmune disease in his family. We did notice, however, that having a drunk uncle is an excellent indicator that one may choose to donate sperm—nearly every family history we read showed a maternal or paternal uncle with an addiction problem. I began wondering if it wasn’t code for something else, but so far, I haven’t come up with any ulterior meaning.

Lo and behold, the FedEx driver showed up on Thursday with our Very Special Delivery. I say “the driver,” because in Walla Walla, there is literally one FedEx Ground driver, a strapping middleaged woman with curly hair, always tied back, a body frame like a wine barrel, and a determined air. This woman could jerk and lift 300 pounds, I bet. There is also a sole FedEx Air driver, a beanpole, balding guy with wire frame glasses from the 70s and a chatty manner. He rang our doorbell. On our stoop stood a beige plastic container the shape of a Chinese mushroom, plastered with “medical specimen” and “perishable” stickers.

“Wow,” he said, clicking buttons on his electronic inventory machine, “I don’t usually deliver these to private homes.” He had a wild look in his eyes that concerned me.

“Oh,” I asked automatically, not really wanting to have this conversation.

“Yeah, I usually take them—”

Here I thought that he was going to say a fertility clinic, or something else that would make it obvious that we needed help in the getting pregnant department.

“—to a vet lab or a ranch.”

Okay. I did not anticipate that one.

“Well, we have a horse in the back yard,” I said, and I could feel Susanne cringe in the next room.

“Oh, the horse sperm container is much smaller,” he said, using his hands in a “this is much smaller” gesticulation.

He thought we’d ordered bull sperm? Seriously?

I may have, at that point, emanated more sounds in an attempt to form words, but I don’t recall much.

“You’ll open this up and find like, a tuna can in there.”

The FedEx driver was schooling me in animal husbandry. Yes, he was.

“Well thanks,” I said, picking up the container, the height of a toilet seat.

“Sure thing,” he said. “See you soon!”

Oh my God, let this happen on the first take. Please, sweet baby Jesus.

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2 Comments on “Shorter than a 100 meter backstroke”

  1. Joy
    September 26, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    Wow! So exciting! Good luck!!!

  2. Alexis
    September 28, 2009 at 1:58 am #

    Good luck! Don’t worry, this is only the beginning of the erosion of modesty that is the childbirth process.

    By the time my babies were delivered, I was pretty sure I had had an internal exam by every damn employee of the hospital including the janitor.

    At one point, the doctor said “Oooh, check this out, you can’t usually feel the amniotic sac like this! Come over here and feel this!”

    Hello? Hello? I’M SITTING RIGHT HERE! I can HEAR YOU! And really who are all these people treating me like a please touch museum exhibit?

    Good luck.

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