What, this again?
We are watching TiVo; J. has just finished writing for the night, and we have a plate of sliced pears in front of us.
We're watching an easy show--Monk--and settling into our normal routine, where he tries to lay claim to two-thirds of the futon by pushing me to the far end with his feet. His feet are icky and cracked and have plantar warts, so I usually retreat in haste, before he threatens to rub them on any exposed skin. I'm giggling, as I always do, and in return threaten retaliation--cold hands down the pants, tickling under the chin. J. is laughing at my ineffectual tickling attempts, where he holds me at the length of one of his long swimmer's arms and my shorter ones can grab nothing but air or occasional billowing shirt.
I give in and let him swoop me to him for an arm-pinning hug. We laugh some more. I tell him that he'd better treat me gently, what with the imaginary baby and all.
I don't know if he actually moves, but his hug seems to stiffen, and I turn to look at him. The face that had been lit up a moment before is suddenly opaque. I turn off the TV.
What's going on with you? I ask this carefully, neutrally, hoping he'll say he's just remembered an important email or that he forgot to clear out the rain gutters before the latest storm. But I know that's not the case.
Nothing, he says. Really. Nothing.
Nothing?, I ask, incredulous.
Right. Can I tell you what I think?
I guess, he says, getting a little defensive. J. is rarely defensive.
I think the thought of a baby is still scaring you, scaring you silly.
Maybe. I guess.
The tickle of anger and dread starts to spread.
Why? Why is it still scaring you? We've gone through this over and over, and you said you were ready. You said you'd gotten to the point where you wanted a baby for you, not just for me. Why do you only think about the negatives? And why are we going through this if you're still undecided? I am trying to keep calm, but I'm failing. The lilt of hysteria has crept into my voice, my eyes.
Dunno, he says, clearly uncomfortable. Maybe because I have so much fun with you and I don't want that to change. And babies are so much work.
Here, predictably, I start to lose it. This is the same conversation we had eighteen months ago, when we agreed to start trying, and again a year ago, after we'd already been trying for months. Aspects of this conversation have cropped up every now and again since then, but not for a long while. Not since we decided to pursue treatment.
I am out of reassurances for him--the "we'll figure out how to make it work" and "you know I'll always love you more than anything" and the "I think you'll be an amazing father" stanbys--and I have lost the ambition or energy to go through it again.
I get up, take the pear plate to the kitchen. Move the wash to the dryer, bang the dryer door. I am not crying, don't want to give in. I don't cry much, every couple of months, maybe. I bottle it now. Do the dishes, check email, download photos from the camera. It's been an hour, and J. has not turned the TV back on; he's just lying there in the semidarkness. I'm starting to feel like I've been a jerk.
He calls my name; it's his conciliatory voice, loving and hurt and repentant. I am completely powerless against it, which I'm sure he knows. I go back in.
I've been thinking about it, he says, and I'm sorry I reacted that way. Can I tell you what I've been imagining?
Yeah, I guess so.
I am thinking of when the baby's eight or nine months and starts making those nonsensical mumbly sentences, the ones that have no real words in them and sound like when Archimedes is imitating us talking from the other room. And I'm thinking about when he's two, and wants to play with trains. Or when she's four and we take her to tumbling class. And then we'll have fun for a few years, till twelve or thirteen, and then we'll have more good years after the rebellion and stuff. And when we're old, we'll probably like talking to him, or her, or them--whatever--and sending postcards from our trips to Yellowstone in an RV. But could we not buy a lot of big plastic toys for the baby? We don't have enough space. Speaking of space, how about if we turn this room into the nursery, and build a room in the garage, and move the TV and futon in there, and get rid of the junk, and then maybe we'd have room for some big plastic toys if you really want...
And then I cried, and hugged him, and remembered why I wanted this particular, peculiar, wonderful man's child.
And then I resumed my customary spot on the other end of the futon, before the feet could get me.