Try­ing to make a baby not nearly as much fun as it sounds

Edmonton Sun - - LIFE - JEN­NIFER van der Kwast

Years ago, be­fore hav­ing a baby was ever even a no­tion, I’d read a phrase I’m about 80% cer­tain I can quote ver­ba­tim: Hav­ing sex with some­one you love is even bet­ter when you’re try­ing to make a baby.

I wish I could re­mem­ber who wrote this. Not so I can at­tribute the quote cor­rectly, but so I can track down the au­thor and shove my test-neg­a­tive preg­nancy sticks down her throat.

If you’re older than 40 and your bi­o­log­i­cal clock has sprung a few coils (I pic­ture a con­fused cuckoo bird pok­ing his head out at ir­reg­u­lar in­ter­vals to chirp “Preg­nant? Who’s preg­nant? Are you preg­nant?”) there is noth­ing even re­motely ap­peal­ing about hav­ing sex to make a baby. Mak­ing — or try­ing to make — a baby is work. And like all work that re­quires phys­i­cal ex­er­tion, two-party col­lab­o­ra­tion and an in­creas­ingly tight dead­line, it’s enor­mously stress­ful. Who even cares if the other per­son in­volved is some­one you love? This has noth­ing to do with love. This is about cre­at­ing a fam­ily.

To be hon­est, I don’t need a baby. I’ve al­ready had one. Al­though, at three years old, she’s not much of a baby any­more. Not only can she speak, she can sing Psy­cho Killer in its en­tirety. She’s ca­pable of ad­vanced ne­go­ti­at­ing skills and can make a rea­son­ably con­vinc­ing case for a) Wear­ing only dresses to day care, b) Eat­ing only cake for break­fast, c) Very badly need­ing a younger sib­ling (prefer­ably a sis­ter to play Anna to her Elsa). Her pleas can’t be good for my re­pro­duc­tive san­ity.

I’ve been try­ing to grant her this re­quest for a sib­ling for al­most a year. So af­ter a self-di­ag­no­sis con­firmed by no less than three In­ter­net sources, I made an ap­point­ment with my doc­tor to dis­cuss a cure for sec­ondary in­fer­til­ity, the con­di­tion in which women who’ve al­ready given birth find them­selves in­ca­pable of re-reproducing.

“Let me start by ask­ing you a ques­tion,” said the doc­tor. “Are you hav­ing enough in­ter­course?”

The an­swer to this ques­tion is no. Def­i­nite no. By any stan­dard. Ask any­one. But I was re­luc­tant to come right out and say it, so in­stead I stalled with an­other ques­tion. “What do you con­sider enough in­ter­course?”

“If you are try­ing to get preg­nant, you should be hav­ing in­ter­course at least two to three times per week dur­ing your cy­cle.”

I let out an au­di­ble whim­per. Two to three times per week? What, am I sup­posed to quit my job? I have a full-time ca­reer, a tod­dler and a heap of laun­dry that re­fuses to wash it­self. My day care has a take­away food ser­vice that I never use be­cause I don’t have time to place the on­line or­der (24 hours in ad­vance? Ha!). I still have an un­used gift cer­tifi­cate for a 45-minute mas­sage that I got for Christ­mas. In 2015.

Two to three times per week?

I’ve spent a fairly large sum of money on ovu­la­tion mon­i­tor kits (40 bucks a month, just say­ing) specif­i­cally to avoid the af­front of reg­u­lar sex. Just adding the rit­ual of pee­ing on a stick to my al­ready crowded teeth-brush­ing, mois­tur­izer ap­ply­ing bed­time rou­tine is a ma­jor ef­fort. (And what hap­pens when I for­get and pee with­out a mon­i­tor? Do I wait an­other 15 min­utes be­fore I am ready to pee again? The agony!) It’s a se­cret, guilty plea­sure to dis­cover that my hor­mone lev­els have not surged, that I am per­fectly free to spend the rest of my evening read­ing one more para­graph of Lin­coln in the Bardo be­fore I fall asleep with my glasses on. And don’t be­lieve, not for a sec­ond, that I am alone in this non-con­ju­gal glee. I’m pretty sure that my hus­band’s four fa­vorite words in the English lan­guage are “you’re off the hook.”

Two to three times per week?

There was a time when two to three times per week was not an is­sue, when we could en­gage in the fun kind of in­ter­course, the un­pre­dictable kind that al­lowed for twist end­ings. The kind that didn’t de­mand re­sults un­til ac­ci­den­tally (or mirac­u­lously, if you pre­fer), we did get a re­sult, and then that was pretty cool, too.

But that hasn’t been the case for a while. In­ter­course is now a twice-a-month (at best) or­deal, dic­tated when­ever my luteiniz­ing hor­mone de­cides to rear its aw­ful head. The mo­tions are ro­botic, the out­come is pre­dictable. There is noth­ing even mildly ro­man­tic about this en­counter.

There’s an­other ques­tion I have for my doc­tor, but de­spite the pro­fes­sional safety net that sup­ports our re­la­tion­ship, it’s still a hard one to blurt out.

“Do I need to have an or­gasm?” I ask.

By the way, this is the sec­ond per­son I’d like to im­pale with a $40 box load of fer­til­ity sticks: the per­son who first sneaked this ger­bil of a fact into the spin­ning wheel that is my preg­nancy ob­sessed brain. I don’t re­mem­ber how or when I first learned that the fe­male or­gasm was very much a part of the baby-mak­ing chore­og­ra­phy, de­signed to help usher sperm along its path to the hal­lowed egg, but I wish I could un­know it. Not only do I have an ar­du­ous, phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing task ahead, which re­quires col­lab­o­rat­ing with the same per­son who failed to put enough postage on the in­sur­ance form for our leaky roof and now we missed the dead­line for the claim. Not only am I forced to hit a SMART goal (fail­ure not ac­cept­able, close enough not even a re­mote al­ter­na­tive), but I have to en­joy it. Not even fake en­joy it — re­ally, re­ally en­joy.

“Don’t worry about that for now,” said the doc­tor, maybe kindly.

So at least that. If noth­ing else, that.

I do have to ad­mit: On nights when I am not forced to per­form ex­haust­ing baby­mak­ing du­ties, I some­times al­low my­self to fan­ta­size about how idyl­lic life would be if we de­cided not to add a new­born to our won­der­ful, lov­ing and per­fectly com­plete three-per­son fam­ily. I might fi­nally be able to fin­ish Lin­coln in the Bardo. And one day, in the not-so-dis­tant fu­ture, I might even re­dis­cover what it means to Net­flix and Chill with some­one I love. It doesn’t have to hap­pen of­ten, but it would be nice to ex­pe­ri­ence that long-lost, sup­pos­edly plea­sur­able, art of hav­ing sex when you’re not try­ing to make a baby.

Van der Kwast is a re­cov­er­ing New Yorker cur­rently based in Am­s­ter­dam, where she writes about her com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships with par­ent­ing and food. Since writ­ing this ar­ti­cle, she has started vis­it­ing an acupunc­tur­ist. She has also fi­nally tested pos­i­tive on a preg­nancy stick. One thing may or may not have any­thing to do with the other

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Check­ing the pee stick to see if you’re preg­nant can be stress­ful — not to men­tion dis­ap­point­ing

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