Over the years, Tim and I have, as couples do, gone through a number of pregnancy scares. Pre-Tim, both of my pregnancies were surprises, powerful events that changed the course of my life. I was conditioned to view missed or delayed periods with fear and anxiety — which is a reflection not on the children who were borne from those circumstances, but on the circumstances themselves. My first husband was not a nice man, and raising children with him was an unhappy experience.
But Tim and I, despite the difficulties we faced in our joint-parenting life, are a different story. When our pregnancy scares began, and he saw how terrified I was, he responded with comfort and humor. He assured me that pregnancy would be a welcome surprise, and a child resulting from our union would be adored and cherished. I know that’s true, because that’s the kind of father he is. And he is an absolute sucker for babies and little kids. A pregnancy might be a surprise, and might even disrupt what little stability we’ve established in our life, but we would celebrate both the expectation and the arrival of the baby because babies should be celebrated. I didn’t get to enjoy my pregnancies, and I know that Tim would make sure I enjoyed this one.
To further ease my mind, he came up with a game of naming the babies we thought we had conceived. We settled early on the boy and girl names we would actually use if we got pregnant (Caroline Margaret for a girl, and William Lloyd for a boy. Tim’s grandfathers were Lloyd William Currell and William Lloyd Farrar. We thought it fitting.)
In subsequent pregnancy scares, we started inventing alternate baby names to match something currently in our lives. When we thought we’d conceived in NHL playoff season, the names reflected our favorite players: Marian (Hossa) and Duncan (Keith). Upon potentially conceiving in the cheese-producing state of Wisconsin, the names became Brie and Camembert. An ostensible Oregon conception resulted in Willamette and Douglas (fir). A recent trip to see the Northern Lights yielded the potential names Aurora and Orion.
We’ve had so many over the years I don’t remember them all, but the best one was a reference to our speculation over the characteristics our child would reflect from each of our DNA: Tim’s tall head, my narrow heels; his huge lungs, my McArdle dimples; his deep-set, olive-green-with-gold-rings eyes or my blue-and-blue eyes. We called this child Recessive Gene Surprise.
All of this is a silly way to ease what is truly meaningless worry over something that has a microscopic chance of happening, because long before we got married, Tim went through a procedure to render himself incapable of fathering another child. He had the bullets surgically removed. A surgeon reproductively incapacitated him over a painless lunch hour. Tim decided to neutralize his weapon, and now only loads blanks. He made the responsible choice and got himself spayed and neutered. He’s been snipped. His swimmers are no longer allowed to swim free.
He had a vasectomy.
And this is why any fear over pregnancy is really misplaced; the chance of getting pregnant is so small that it almost doesn’t exist. My anxiety has always been a waste of energy, but making a game out of it was the best way to acknowledge the fear without feeding it or fighting over it.
As I approach my own naturally sterile phase of life, the chance of conception dwindles even further. I’m okay with that. I’ve enjoyed the years of humor we’ve had envisioning our own little bizarre-eyed sprout, and am ready to move on to the grandparent phase of life when that happens 10 years from now. My baby days are behind me, and I’m okay with that. Our imaginary children run free in our fantasy land, with their freaky tall heads and hockey skates and musical voices calling to each other in the hills of Forest Park: William! Myrtle! Aurora! Duncs!
It’s a happy dream world.