What to get for the childless couple
Now that mid-January is here, I am clearing up the holiday detritus--putting away J's very silly Christmas tree candle, which he has kept, unburned, since junior high school; the white lights and the few ornaments are going back in a bottom drawer that won't be opened again till next November. The wrapping paper is mostly put away. Our Christmas gift haul from family--the Punch Out the President paper doll book, the Falcon Guide to Birding in Northern California, the Cunning Linguist paperback, the Hopper calendar, the new cotton sheets--all are appropriately stowed in their allotted locations.
And now I survey our mantel, ready to plow through the rest of the holiday reminders. There are cards--a dozen or so. Most of them are photocards with pictures of happy families, mom and dad and baby Joe, smiling gleefully for the camera. One is a picture of a man and his enormously pregnant wife; a terrible picture, really, that I believe to have been sent for the specific purpose of proving her fecundity. Which is unfair, doubtless, but still. So, these are not cards that I want to display on our mantel forever, much as I may like and respect the photographees. Personally, I think the right course of action is to feed them into our roaring fireplace and watch their perky little edges curl up like the Wicked Witch of the East's be-slippered dead peds. But then I feel mean and petty and also J. would think I had lost what's left of my loose infertile grip. Instead, I will place them in a tin box full of last year's holiday photocards--the kind I thought that I might, myself, be sending this Christmas--and vow not to think of them again till next year.
There is one particular item on our mantel, however, that is the height of egregious thoughtlessness, and I don't know what to do with it at all. You see, I have this friend, an extremely fertile friend, who has two children, pregnant with number three. I love her, love her children and value her friendship immensely. She is beautiful and smart and observant and thoughtful and funny and independent and again with the beautiful. I do not normally resent her good fortune because of the smart, observant, thoughtful, funny and independent. The extremely fertile and mind-blowingly beautiful are a little harder to love without reserve (read: "jealousy"), but that's not exactly her fault.
And she was very understanding when I told her about the infertility struggles back in early December. Wanted to know what it was like, whether I was on any fertility drugs, what exactly was an IUI. She has another friend who had terrible struggles with infertility--a third-trimester loss followed by two years of negatives followed by a difficult pregnancy that resulted in a tiny (but healthy) preemie. So, I figured, she'll really get it, even though she's so fertile. She'll be sensitive.
Every year she sends one of those family photos--her blonde hair gleaming, the two kids scrubbed and perfect, the weimaraner sitting patiently, the handsome husband in his dapper suit. And there's always a newsletter detailing the trips they've taken, how the little ones have been excelling at gymnastics or karate or soccer, the medal she won in a triathlon, the promotion hubby received. The usual self-congratulatory drivel. But I don't normally give it much thought, so when this year's eight-by-ten envelope arrived back in mid-December, I stuffed it in the pile and let it sit. Figured I knew what was in it, so what's the hurry?
A few days ago, I thought I'd send her an email to check in. She's due later this month, and as it's not entirely her fault that I am infertile, I figured I owed her a base-touching. So, I pulled out the envelope in hopes of having something un-baby-related to refer to in my email--a "Sounds like you had a great time in London!" or a "Congratulations on hitting the seven-minute-mile mark in your last race!" Something innocuous and friendly.
So the envelope? Surprisingly, no newsletter this year. Nah. Just pictures. A photo collage, to be precise.
OF HER BELLY.
Her naked belly framed by her naked self wrapped strategically in a diaphanous white scarf. Her daughter's pretty blonde head RESTING ON HER NAKED BELLY. Her son with his upturned nose ON HER NAKED BELLY. Her husband glancing lovingly AT HER ENORMOUS, NAKED BELLY. A close-up of her own hands CRADLING HER HUMONGOUS, NAKED BELLY. Professional shots, studio lighting, black and white.
And there was a little note attached: "A gift to you from Mom, Dad, Kids, Dog and Baby New Year!"
I think she expects us to frame it.