Wednesday, October 9, 2013

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Baby Making Season (Why do discussions about having babies make my husband nauseous?) Part I


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It took me two years to get over having our first child. But eventually I did, and we welcomed Norah into the world. But that was it. I was done. We had one of each, a boy and a girl, and I felt good about that. But then I had a few spiritual experiences that led me to consider having a third child. The first revolved around me getting a vasectomy. We waited until Norah was one year old. We wanted to be sure that she wasn’t going to die or anything. As I write this, I realize how heartless it sounds, but Mel and I are both really opposed to having a single child. They tend to be bratty. Not all the time. Sometimes single children are really great. But most of the ones I’ve met are whiny little shits and I didn’t want that for Mel or myself or anyone in education. Shortly after Norah’s first birthday, I made an appointment with a doctor and then Mel came forward with an idea I hadn’t thought about.
“Perhaps we should consult the Lord,” She said.
In Mormon speak this means make a visit to the temple and pray about it. So we did, and I received the worst news I’d ever received from God. I felt a very strong feeling that I shouldn’t get a vasectomy. Which I interpreted to mean that we were probably going to have another child.
We put it off for another couple of years until I went to a temple wedding in Salt Lake City. When the temple sealer said that the couple being married was supposed to ”multiply and replenish the earth,” I felt like he was talking right at me. His voice rattled around in my head for sometime and I knew that I was supposed to go home and get busy.
I left the temple feeling high on God’s spirit. The best way to describe it is a tingly good feeling. Arthur "Killer" Kane, former bassist for The New York Dolls and converted Mormon, said that God’s spirit was a lot like getting high on LSD. I’ve never tried LSD. But I have tried LDS, and it’s a good feeling that I like to call God’s After Glow.

Arthur "Killer" Kane

I called Mel and told her that I felt like we should have another child. I told her that I felt it in the temple.
“Oh..” She said. “That’s great news!”
Mel hadn’t complained about wanting another baby for years. Probably because she knew how opposed I was to it. But subtle hints told me that Mel had wanted another child for some time. I often found baby name sites open on the computer, and she’d been taking prenatal vitamins for several years. Now that I think about God’s involvement in all this, and about Mel’s often long nightly prayers silently said on her side of the bed, I wonder if the two were in cahoots.
I left the temple high on God’s spirit. I felt certain that we were doing the right thing. Mel and I knocked boots like crazy for a few weeks. It was all around magical. Mel wanted it. I wanted it. God wanted it. All lights were green.
But about three weeks into the baby making the after glow started to wear off. I started looking at my kids and picking apart their frailties. Tristan can’t seem to flush the toilet. He leaves floaters all the time. Is that what I wanted? Another floater maker? Norah is constantly throwing fits. Is that what I wanted? Another fit thrower. Another child sprawled out on the carpet, legs and arms flailing. Sometimes I looked at Norah, assumed she was possessed, and longed for a cross and holy water. But I’m not Catholic. I am. Not. Catholic.
I looked at the messes. Around this time I shampooed the sofa because it smelled of piss, sour milk, sweat, and play dough. Between the cushions was dried Silly Putty. I gagged while pouring the thick black sludge from the shampooer trap, a collection of all the nastiness my kids had infected my sofa with. I remember thinking that it would have been more sanitary to simply set the sofa on fire and then buy another. Is that really what the Lord wanted for me? To have another? Ugh…
Also, kids need clothes, diapers, and food. They require a car seat, a crib, a potty seat, a crib light for the night, and a car shade for the day. I’d finally started to understand what people meant when they said kids were expensive. I didn’t know how I was going to afford another child. I worked in education. And it didn’t help that Mel had gone green since we moved to Oregon. She proudly showed me environmentally safe diapers that cost more than regular diapers. I asked her why we needed those and she said, “Well… they are better for the environment and they don’t smell as bad as cloth diapers.” She made a stinky face by scrunching up her nose. It was supposed to be cute, but I was not in the mood. “It’s just our way of saving the planet,” She said.

“I’m not trying to save the planet. I’m trying to save money. I’m trying to save my sanity. I feel like you are over complicating an already complicated situation. Last time we had a child it was months of you consoling me. Holding me. Telling me that I will be okay. That we can find a way to support the child. That you still find me attractive despite how whiny I was being. This whole diaper thing is pushing me over the edge.” I said.
Mel sat on my lap and said, “I know what will make you feel better.” She raised her eyebrows.
I looked at her up and down, suspiciously. “You don’t want me. You just want my baby.”
It was commonly known around our house that we only had what I felt was a sufficient amount of sex when Mel wanted a baby. In fact, the last time she wanted a child I’d never felt so desired in my whole life. Sometimes I’d try and shoo her off so I could give myself a break, but Mel just wouldn’t have it.
Usually I have to beg for sex, or mope, or start an argument in hopes that we will have makeup sex. Usually when I bring up that I want to have more sex, Mel will give me one of three things that I should do: Take her out more. Do more around the house. Get up with the kids in the night.
I’m really good about getting up in the night with the kids. And I am really good about helping out around the house. So when she suggests those two ways to improve our sex life, I feel like she is taking advantage of me. However, I suck at taking her out. I will admit it. It was never a problem until we moved away from family. I love spending time with Mel. I love taking her out. But we’d moved twice in the past four years, from Utah to Minnesota, and then from Minnesota to Oregon. With each move, it took us a while to make new friends that we felt comfortable asking if they would watch our kids. Usually once we found those people, we discovered we were moving again. 

Anyway, her list never worked. I’d always step it up with the cleaning, or the getting up with the kids (during these extra pushes I don’t think she got up at all in the night). I’d start arranging more dates. But nothing. No increase in sex. I always find it’s more effective to just be whiny.
However I must say that many of her excuses to not have sex were valid. She has been either working full-time or a college student during our entire marriage. She often stayed up late getting homework done because the kids wouldn’t let her concentrate during the day. There’s also the problem of timing. Once we had kids, we could really only have sex in the evening or when the kids weren’t home. And since our kids were five and under they were always home, wandering about the house, asking for things, crying about this or that. It was not very conducive to romance. If we tried to do it when the kids were home, we were competing with the fear that Tristan or Norah might sneak into the bedroom and wind up being jacked-up for life. Appropriate sex times also happened to be the only quiet times around our home, so sex was in competition with a lot of other obligations. It was all very frustrating.

But during baby making season, the rules changed. Sex just happened whether I wanted it or not, and it felt good to be the one to say that I felt bloated after a big meal, or that I had a headache, or that I was gassy, or had work to do, or it was too late. It felt good to know that I could turn it down and that it would come back around soon enough. And I suppose in these moments where Mel is the sexual pursuer, I started to understand why she was so ready to turn me down. She knows that I will just keep wanting her, desiring her, knocking on her door. Perhaps instead of being whiny, I should simply adopt Mel’s strategy: play a little harder to get.

If you enjoyed this essay, you might also enjoy, The Covered Wagon (Why is my husband so proud of his farts?).

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.