more than a decade after you were married, Andi and you discussed
the prospect of children diligently and on a fairly regular basis.
took the matter seriously.
did not joke around about it any.
them, you decided, and you are doing nothing more nor less than making
a bid to perpetuate your own genes.
them, and you are attempting to produce another human being over whom
by default you have earned the right to exert blanket control for
five to thirteen years, moderate control for five to eight more, and
minimal if frequently surreptitious and psychologically damaging control
for decades to come.
not have them, and you are making a bid to perpetuate your own selfishness,
denying a certain sort of citizenly responsibility.
not have them, and you are evincing a puerile repudiation of maturation.
yet you could not shake the feeling that children are not so much
children as a breed of defective adults.
do everything adults do, that is, except they do it much worse.
as they are, for instance, noisy, messy, and egomaniacal.
messy, egomaniacal, and cruel, combative, recalcitrant, naive, needy,
histrionic, uninformed, opinionated, untruthful, insecure, moody,
amoral, and physically and emotionally destructive.
you nor Andi ever especially liked being around them, either.
never knew what to say or how to behave in their presence.
Andi whispered, turning to you one night in the middle of a northern
New Jersey movie theater in the middle of a lightweight spoof about
the wacky adorable things kids do, I dont want something alien
growing inside me.
glanced over at her, mouth stuffed with artificially butter-flavored
carbohydrates and fiber, to see if she was pulling your leg.
enough. But experts on Oprah say that motherhood is all about
nurturing and joy.
dont want something forming inside me that literally makes me
sick, day after day. Sciatica. Vomiting. The unstoppable need to urinate.
helped herself to a handful of your popcorn.
she added. Varicose veins.
young couple behind you shushed you.
turned in her seat and shushed them back.
been thinking a lot about this, you whispered supportively.
its own dreams beneath your heart. The very idea frightens me.
watched children the size of Army tanks abusing their parents
house on the screen. Audience members in your neighborhood chortled
knowingly. Something the size of a great oak fell and smashed in Dolby
could always adopt, you whispered after a while.
certain circumstances, I have no problem with adoption. Infertility,
say. Age concerns. But for us adoption would spell bad faith. Simple
cowardice in the face of the unfaceable.
dont understand, if Im being really honest here, you whispered,
how parents do it. Have you ever noticed that hollow, wasted, terrified
look in their eyes two weeks after their babies arrive?
they finally understood the lifelong consequences of what theyve
week theyre thirty, the next fifty.
how their skin turns gray overnight.
shoulders sag. They lose the ability to focus. They suffer from symptoms
of sleep deprivation. They become irritable and self-absorbed and
lose the ability to use an adult vocabulary and syntax and start worrying
about how theyre going to pay for everything.
then they begin talking in public about the color of their babys
stool: semi-solid with light swirly hazelnut hues throughout, and
then their childs backing out of the driveway on the road to
college and theyre standing on the front doorstep, wondering
where the last eighteen years of their lives have gone, yet at the
same time crushed by an overwhelming sense of loss they refuse to
admit exists, saying every minute was worth it.
young couple behind you hurrumphed and rose to move to a different
section of the theater.
noticed the woman was pregnant.
labor, Andi said, no longer whispering. Dont forget labor. They
say birthing feels as if you grabbed your upper lip in your fist and
yanked your facial flesh over your skull. In terms of pain magnitude,
its the equivalent of losing a limb while youre fully
me, the usher sussurated, kneeling beside you, pimply pale face floating
in darkness, but Im going to have to ask you to keep it down.
People are trying to watch the movie.
okay, Andi told him. Were done.
stood and without hesitation walked up the aisle toward the exit.
looked at her vanishing, looked at the usher, handed him what was
left of your popcorn, and hurried to catch up.