My girlfriend, Erin, gave birth to her first child, Jack, the last day I worked at the Senate. After my office was stripped of all personal and professional items, I zipped over to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla to visit my new little friend.
Erin gave birth during a full moon and after Jack was born, they parked her in a tiny closet of a room. As the saying goes, babies due around a full moon will be born on a full moon and the hospital was packed. We sat, chatted and recounted her fairly uneventful birth while I held Jack. He was perfect and as babies go, very pretty.
I called him “Jack-Jack” after the baby from The Incredibles.
A year later, I arrived at a park near their home in San Marcos for Jack’s first birthday. My little man had teeth, wobbled on his feet and spoke sounds resembling words accompanied by finger-pointing. For his birthday, I bought him a book from “I See Me,” which tells a story using each page to spell out his first and last name. It teaches children their name, letters and uses beautiful drawings of animals using those letters to tell the story. Erin loved it.
Brian was two months into his deployment and our unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy loomed over me. I looked around after my initial greetings to realize two things: 1 – I was the only single person and 2 – I was the only childless person. I left as soon as it seemed appropriate and then cried safely in my car all the way home.
Unfortunately, this soon became a pattern. During his absense, I seemed to be invited on many outtings themed around families and babies. It became a game to keep track of the intrusive, insensitive questions and remarks lobbed my way.
“So, why haven’t you two started a family?”
“What are you waiting for? You can’t have babies forever.”
“I imagine you’ll be pregnant as soon as Brian gets back.”
“Must be hard trying to decide between a family and career.”
“Which one is yours?”
“So, you and Brian do WANT children, don’t you?”
“I thought you two wanted kids. Maybe not, huh?”
“When are we gonna throw you a baby shower?”
Since I didn’t know whether there truly was a problem yet, I was afraid to share my concerns. And so, people assumed we had not started trying simply because I wasn’t announcing our reproduction activities from a mountaintop.
Soon, Jack and my darling friend, Erin, came to become my joy as much as my pain. I wanted so much to tell her my fears, but I worried (strange as this sounds) about making her feel bad. I also didn’t want pity. Eventually, those feelings – not just from her but my other mommy friends – would surface.
But I couldn’t go on being afraid. It was the time for bravery and magical thinking, if I would make it to the other side of the Great Depression.
Two months before Jack’s second birthday, Erin and our other close girlfriends, Erin W. and Katherine, all took a cruise to Mexico. I decided it was time to tell. I had to start telling the people who asked the whole truth. They were supportive, sad and most important, positive.
Erin W’s mom, Ruth, took in many foster children and adopted one son, in addition to the children she had.
“Bottom line, a woman who wants a child will get a child,” she said.
For Jack’s second birthday, Brian was home. On our way up to San Marcos, I warned him about how he would feel and the questions he would face. I told him about my game of keeping track of those questions.
When we arrived, there were more couples than the year before and a lot more children. Erin’s younger sister, Megan, and her new husband, Tim, and an older aunt and uncle of Erin’s were the only other childless couples. When asked, I explained that we couldn’t have children. I heard a new one that day: “Yes, we were too old too.”
Before the party broke up, they asked all the parents and their children to go outside on the porch for a picture. Brian and I stood inside living room looking out at the whole, painful scene.
“Time to go,” Brian said.
We said our good-byes and got in the car to make a trip over to Stone Brewing Co. for dinner, good beer and to unwind. As we pulled away from the curb, Brian said: “10.” I looked at him and repeated: “10?”
“Yes, 10 times I was asked which one was mine.”