“Baby Charlotte has arrived.” So announced the e-mail from my friend in London. And so she had. Pink cheeks and red hair, a carbon copy of her mother. The three clear digital pictures proved it.
“I’m so pleased for you.” I wrote. And I was. New babies always make me happy. So, off I went to purchase the perfect little outfit for the perfect little baby. And here’s where it all falls apart. You see, the only thing wrong with Baby Charlotte is she’s not mine. And, once again I find myself wandering through the aisles of impossibly small socks, precious little outfits, and gadgets I never knew existed, shopping with forced enthusiasm for someone else’s baby.
The old biological clock has been ticking for years now. Trouble is, there was no suitable father for my potential—until Jose. Once upon a time, he was the boss I discussed career goals and fee income strategies with. Then he became my running buddy and the conversation switched to interval training and IT band syndrome. Finally, one day, the lightening bolt hit—the one they talk about that you never really believe exists—that moment when you look at someone you’ve known for years and say, “Oh. It’s you.” Now he’s my husband and the main topics of conversation are ovulation windows, sperm counts and whether Valentino, the name of his favorite uncle, is a fair handle to saddle a kid with.
I always thought getting pregnant would be so simple—insert Tab A into Slot B. Wiggle. Repeat. For my mother and the grin-and-bear-it generation, that was about the extent of their knowledge. Older relatives would be tight-lipped about the ins and outs—so to speak—of reproduction and the young mother-to-be would just figure out the rest as it happened.
But today’s hopeful mother has an obstacle before her that her predecessors never had to deal with. She has information—mountains of it. A trip to the bookstore yields a whole section of magazines and shelves of books on any numbers of subjects from fertility diets to choosing your baby’s sex. Friends—and sometimes strangers—have tips and tricks galore: have a couple of margaritas, try Robitussin, go to Bora Bora and relax. Then there’s the Internet. For every time-honored method, there’s a website out there offering contradictory advice. If a prospective mother read every piece of information available, there would be neither the time nor the inclination to use any of it.
As for me, I take my temperature with a basal thermometer and chart my body signals, tracking every change. I read books and convince myself I have endometriosis or that my 36-year old eggs just might not be up to the task. I grill my oh-so-British mother for every personal detail of her reproductive history just in case there’s some terrible hereditary disease I don’t know about. I think of everything that could go wrong and every reason why it’s just not working. In short, I worry myself into a nervous stiff that frankly, even I wouldn’t attempt to procreate with and that any egg with half an ounce of sense would never consider for a sane mother.
And in the end, the most useful guidance I’ve found is more than a century old. So, for the sake of my husband’s libido, my mother’s dignity, and little Valentino’s existence, I’ll take the advice of that great matriarch, Queen Victoria on the eve of her daughter’s wedding: “Just lay back and think of England.”