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."
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
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.
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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