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Means of Support
By Caroline Bicks

But I had to rewrite the script once I met my husband. Early on in the dating process, Brendon claimed he'd be perfectly happy if he never had kids. Not that I believed him when he said this. This was a man who took in his landlord's pit bull after the guy was arrested by the ATF. Parenthood thrives on his type: the kind-hearted optimist. Who else would willingly sign up for 18- plus years of commitment to someone they've never met? In my gut I knew that he was the kind of guy who would easily take the leap into fatherhood.

But I was wrong. He loved holding other people's babies, but never asked me to have his. So, when it came to having kids, I had to become the optimist: "It'll be this great adventure," I promised. "We are going to have SO MUCH FUN."

He wasn't convinced. He reminded me of the sacrifices we'd be making, the permanent changes to our lives, the fact that I like to sleep until noon. I lobbied, cajoled, and wasn't above a little deceptive advertising -- like, "Don't worry, it'll take at least a year." Which I honestly believed. I'd watched enough friends struggle with getting pregnant to know that it doesn't just happen when you want it to. Plus, I was nearing "advanced maternal age" (a fact that the worrier in me secretly loved since it meant I could belly up to the ultrasound bar whenever I wanted). But, as it turned out, I didn't have to wait more than a few months before getting pregnant.

Even though this new "bright, shiny people" me was ready for the ride, I could see that Brendon wasn't. I'm not saying he wasn't there to rub my feet and watch gross birthing videos. But there was this cloud of worry following him around that I didn't recognize, and didn't like. Once our daughter was born, though, we were so absorbed in the everyday, that there wasn't time to think about what we'd left behind. Brendon embraced his fatherhood -- or at least decided to go steady with it -- and we went on our merry, sleep-deprived way for a few years. Drunk with optimism, I pushed for a second kid, too. The sales pitch was a little different this time -- "Every kid should have a sibling," and, "We already have all the stuff, why waste it?" -- but the result was the same. A fast pregnancy and another healthy child. We were crazy lucky. And we knew we were done.

But there was something about the finality of a vasectomy that bugged me. What if I changed my mind? What if Brendon converted to Mormonism and decided to live The Principle? He was born in Utah. It could happen. Plus, what if we were playing with karmic fire by closing the door on having more children? Brendon does this sometimes when he says he can imagine a happy life without kids -- even now that he has them. Hello? Did he not watch a single Lifetime movie? He's just asking for tragedy to strike when he says things like that. I don't want to see our story on TV (even if I could have Melissa Gilbert cast as me).

So, even though I knew the vasectomy was a sensible step, I certainly wasn't going to help him take it. In our house, it's up to me to get Brendon to a doctor's office. He could have an oozing abscess the size of a Ring Ding growing in his mouth and still insist that it's going to go away. That's why I knew he was serious when he started contacting friends for urologist references and then actually following through on them. It turns out there's this whole underground network of guys in Boston who've done it, and they all go to the same doctor -- The Snipper. And before I knew it, Brendon had an appointment with him.

So this was how we'd gotten here: with my husband going under the knife to control a piece of our destiny, and me careening around Harvard Square trying to support him. I never could have imagined this scene twenty years ago, but here it was. And, looking back, its time had come. You see, the problem with being the optimist in a couple is that you look like you don't need any help. Walking around in his "Life is Good" t-shirts, he'd made it look so easy all those years when we were chasing our dreams, losing them, changing them, and diving into jumbo mortgages. It was only after I had to grab the parenting balloon myself that I realized how much work it is to be the one who's always looking up. But he'd still trusted me enough to come along for the ride. And once we were up there, we were dodging the bees together, sharing the stings, but also getting handfuls of the sweet stuff. Now he was ready for us to come down; the least I could do was help him have a gentle landing.

I ran out of the Coop, away from my hunky young salesclerk, and within minutes, was pressing my nose against the window of CitySports. When the saleslady swung the door open at 10:00, I was the first one in. I ran to the back and started scanning the racks of alien merchandise. What the hell was I supposed to choose? Cup? No cup? And how are you supposed to pick size on these things? Jesus -- there's a land mine. I grabbed one of everything, and five minutes later, was out the door heading back to the hospital.

When I got there, it was over. Just like that. I handed the bag to the receptionist, and she passed it through a door in the back. When my husband came out, shaky, but smiling, I expected to feel something dramatic: A major shift in the balance of our marriage; the victory of sterility over hope. But instead, I felt O.K. We'd each given ground and each given support when it came to figuring out our family. We wouldn't be having any more kids, but I think we got something else we needed a little bit more: Because even though he was limping as I helped him to the car, that day we found our equal footing.

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