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A Busybody

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发表于 5-19-2024 12:19:56 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
本帖最后由 choi 于 5-20-2024 07:46 编辑

Arielle Giusto, A Shattering Secret on the Path to Motherhood; The answers that followed a doctor's pregnancy question were both painful and sweet. New York Times, May 12, 2024, at page 6 of SundayStyles section (in the column "Modern Love").
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/ ... -to-motherhood.html

excerpt in the window of print: Here was a concrete way to combat my infertility. I had to believe our spirit baby would come once I shined a light on every corner of the story.

Note: Maeve
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maeve
---------------------------------
“Has your husband ever gotten anyone pregnant before?” my doctor asked. We were trying to figure out the reason for my infertility.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so. I’ll ask.” It seemed like something I should know.

On my drive home through the winding roads of Marin County, I called my husband, Nick. At first, I avoided the question by telling him about what happened that day at the restaurant where I worked — a line cook was out sick. And, oh yeah, my doctor asked if you have ever gotten anyone pregnant.

Redwood trees loomed on both sides, creating an artificial dusk. Silence.

“Hello?” I said.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Nick said. “And, uh, yes, I have. My senior year in high school.”

“Whoa, you never told me about that. Does that mean she had an abortion?”

“Uh huh, she did,” he said, his voice barely audible.

What? Four years into marriage and this never came up? “I can barely hear you,” I said, trying to sound light. “Let’s talk more later. For now, I guess I can report back that your parts seem to be in good working order.”

At home, we cooked dinner, fed the cat, drank wine, folded laundry, watched a show, brushed our teeth, and still he didn’t bring it up.

We settled into bed. On my night stand was a book called “Spirit Babies: How to Communicate With the Child You’re Meant to Have.” Nick was facing away from me, but I could tell by his shallow breathing that he was still awake. Eventually he rolled over and I saw that he was pale, sweaty.

“There was no abortion,” he said. “My high school girlfriend, she kept the baby. Her parents asked me to sign a paper saying I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I gave up my rights before the child was born. I’ve never seen her. I don’t even know if they told her about me.” The words shook in his mouth. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know how to tell you and then so much time passed.”

My brain was struggling to catch up. This new reality where the man I had promised my life to was able to keep a secret of this magnitude from me. Where he already had a child.

“Each year we were together it got harder and harder,” he said. “Once we started trying to have a baby, I didn’t feel like I could tell you — I didn’t want it to get in the way of your experience.”

“My experience? This is about us. Our experience. How could you hold a secret like that?” I pushed the covers off, heat rising in my chest, the king-size bed suddenly claustrophobic.

“I was worried you would leave me.” Nick’s face looked so young then, scared and adolescent.

“All right, let’s hear it.” I took deep, calming breaths. “Tell me the whole story.” I wish I could say that it all came gushing out of him, but it was more like a trickle, with constant coaxing. His girlfriend’s evangelical household. Nick’s punk rock band. Preacher’s daughter. Bad boy. Abortion out of the question. His plans for college.

His voice stopped then, but his hands kept moving, bunching up the edges of the comforter, then smoothing it back over. “I was totally frozen. All I wanted was for someone to tell me what to do.” He struggled to look me in the eye. “I signed away my rights to an unborn child. They said it was what she wanted.” He feebly reached for my hand, but I wasn’t ready to give it.

Through high school friends, he had found out that the baby was a girl, named Maeve. She had been born four days after his 18th birthday and came out with red hair just like his. Somewhere out there I had a 19-year-old stepdaughter who may or may not know anything about us.

The nagging feeling I couldn’t shake was that I knew some of Maeve’s pain. It echoed a pain I knew so intimately. I had grown up without much input from my biological father, who lived abroad. My mother died when I was 13, and I was raised by my stepfather, who was present but withholding. A creeping lack of self-worth built up in me in the absence of fatherly love. I worried that Nick had inflicted that same pain on his daughter.

As the days passed, I checked in with him constantly. How do you feel now that it’s out? How can I trust you to not keep secrets from me again? I didn’t stop; we talked about it every day, digging deeper. Finally, here was a concrete way to combat my infertility. I had to believe our spirit baby would come once I shined a light on every corner of the story.

By now, we had moved on from natural conception to intrauterine insemination (I.U.I.), the sterile room of the fertility clinic taking the place of our bedroom. I injected my stomach with hormones and a “trigger shot” to coax my eggs out of their follicles at just the right moment. The meds made my skin grow a constellation of raised red dots across my midsection, which I couldn’t stop staring at.

“I’m changing for you,” I told my spirit baby.

After the first two rounds of I.U.I. failed, I cursed my body, a traitor who refused to complete what I felt should be an effortless biological function. An acupuncturist thought there was unprocessed trauma that made my womb an unwelcoming environment. A podcast told me I didn’t want it badly enough. My gut knew it all hinged on healing the relationship with Maeve.

“We can’t just sit with this and do nothing,” I said to Nick. It was the day before Mother’s Day. “It’s time to write a letter, tell Maeve everything you have told me.”

I was relieved when he agreed.

Nick found Maeve’s mother’s address on Google and a month later mailed her a one-page letter. It was raw and open, filled with remorse, shame and, ultimately, hope. I started to have daydreams about opening the front door, hugely pregnant, and seeing Maeve there, come to meet us.

But there was no response. A year passed. We went through six rounds of I.U.I. until it became clear we needed to advance the fertility treatments. My doctor drew up the medication list and printed out the calendar. Hormone injections. Egg retrieval. Cool down. Genetic testing. Frozen embryo transfer. Just keep rolling. Follow the schedule. Give up control. Let our spirit baby come.

Then one random Tuesday that spring, Nick received a call from Maeve’s mother. When he hung up, he was shaking. Maeve wanted to meet him. She had thought about reaching out many times over the years, yet always decided against it. She didn’t want to betray her mother or adoptive father by seeming to need something other than what they could provide. But his letter opened the door; they had all gone to therapy together and decided it was time.

After a number of phone calls between Nick and Maeve’s mother, we met Maeve in a park on a warm September afternoon. It was 10 days before our embryo transfer. At 20, she was caught between being a little girl in her overalls and pigtails and an elegant young woman with her long neck and slender arms. We sat together at a picnic table and talked for hours, her voice quiet and measured.

The red of Nick’s beard reflected in her copper hair. Here was a flesh and blood piece of him, a part of our lives.

A month later, to celebrate Nick’s 40th birthday, we rented an A-frame cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near where Maeve lived. It was now two weeks after the embryo transfer, meaning I could finally take a pregnancy test. I had brought one and planned to do it later that evening.

Maeve joined us for dinner, tenderly awkward and sweet in her snowboarding jacket and beanie. We spent hours hearing her stories about high school and childhood. Nick’s face glowed when they talked about their shared love of punk rock and painting. The conversation showed no sign of slowing, so I cleared the plates then sneaked upstairs.

The test took 10 minutes to process; I set my timer and lay on the bed, willing myself not to look too soon. I ran my hand over the paisley bedspread, the repetitive motion calming my nerves. Finally, it was time.

I sat on the edge of the bed to steady my shaking hands, gripping the stick with two blue lines. Positive. I started to cry. In the kitchen, their two voices rose to the peak of the A-frame and blended into melody. I no longer needed to wonder where our babies were. They were right here with us.
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