We were lying on a pull-out couch in what is now our office when Alexis told me she wanted to get pregnant. Her furniture hadn’t arrived from Switzerland — where she’d been working for the past three years — so we were bare-bonesing it in our apartment for the fall. She/we¹ had spoken vaguely/abstractly about having kids before but now Alexis was speaking in an immediate, concrete, and rather adamant way. We had been engaged for eight months at this point and co-habitating for two. A little voice in my head said, “Pack a small bag, just two or three days worth of clothes, and then book it down the fire escape. You can do this in the morning when she’s asleep or even when she’s in the bathroom. Travel light; you don’t need much! Just pack a small bag…”
I’d always wanted kids in some far off, entirely un-thought-out way, but the idea of actually having kids, like, within the year, was terrifying for me. In the arbitrary schedule I’d set in my mind, couples date for several years before getting engaged (we’d already flouted this line item), live together for several years before getting married, and spend time together as a married couple for several years before having exactly two children. This was all going up in smoke before my eyes.
Alexis feared that she was approaching an age where getting pregnant and staying pregnant were about to get a whole lot more difficult². I found this unconvincing and proceeded to systematically intellectually dismantle her argument piece by piece, which, let me tell you, is a really romantic thing to do as a partner. We had several tearful fights³ about it. Dramatic things were said (by Alexis) and long, ponderous Scandinavian silences were perpetrated (by me). And in the end Alexis said, “Well, I really want it. And I think we’re ready.” This was simple and heartfelt and very difficult to dismantle intellectually.
And it wasn’t wrong. I was about as ready as I was going to be, which is to say not really at all. But I’ve never been ready for anything. In kindergarten, I stood off to the side for three weeks of recess, arms wrapped around a pole, trying to get the lay of the land. I stand silently (or jabbering nervously) at the top of rope swings for 10 minutes, trying to talk myself into taking the plunge, trying to convince myself that the testicle-retracting fear of flight will be far more endurable (and short-lived) than being labelled a coward.
I could use the “not ready” excuse ad nauseam til the end of time. I can easily picture myself saying it at age 35, 40, 45…”Just give me a little longer to get my writing off the ground!” “I need more time to…stare off into the middle distance, contemplating my mortality!” And so, I did a cost-benefit analysis. If I pushed back and convinced Alexis to wait a couple years and it turned out she had had a valid point about age/biology and we ran into complications⁴, I’d never forgive myself. I also ran the risk of having a sad or miserable or resentful partner in the interim, which would kind of defeat the purpose of delaying a couple years.
I would love to say that I had some epiphany that I desperately wanted a child at the exact same time Alexis did, but…I don’t think that’s how life works. At the end of the day, I had to make a choice to trust the person I’d chosen to have sex with forever⁵.
So, I told Alexis that I was ready, assuming that it would take (as she promised) several months, if not years, to get pregnant.
It did not. Turns out my boys⁶ can swim.
² The medical term to describe the pregnancy of a woman over 35 used to be “geriatric pregnancy”. I SHIT YOU NOT. Now it is the mildly less upsetting, “advanced maternal age”.
³ Our “fights” are very quiet, solemn, and careful.
⁴ I really used to think this was a goofy, sitcom-type fear. Women are successfully having pregnancies into their sixties these days. But this whole process has opened my eyes to a lot of the potential complications, as well as the pervasiveness and realness of that sort of fear among women.
⁵ I think instead of saying, “Will you marry me?” we should say, “Do you want to have sex forever?” Much more exciting and a little less intimidating.
⁶ Boys means sperm.