Family and Relationships
When she looked in the mirror, she imagined herself as someone very different from the person she’d become. Not the sort of woman who was about to purchase a child on a home-equity loan from some poor young desperate thing whom fate had tricked and whose womb had performed the labor of incubation for nine months and who — for financial and emotional reasons, most likely — would be unable to keep the part of her that is advertised as every woman’s greatest joy. What would it mean, this exchange, and how would they explain it satisfactorily to the child, who would “want to know,” as all the books and experts repeated like a refrain? Certainly not as tricky to explain as anonymous artificial insemination, or the donor-egg scenario.
This child is not my own, but still the words of possession slip from me: “My baby girl. My sweet baby.” Although I’ve never seen her before, I think I know what she needs: the lights at her hospital bedside dimmed, her loose arms girdled securely against her chest. She has no name except “Girl” and a family surname typed on the identification card at the foot of her crib.
After all these years, my father’s rich, deep voice still filled me with a mixture of fear and awe, even over the telephone, “I don’t know why you people want a dog,” he said. By “you people,” he meant not just me and my husband, but everyone everywhere who has ever had the slightest inclination to get a dog.
I wondered what kind of food could drop from the sky like dew. Something that would melt on the tongue like a kiss and fill the body with strength.
That winter, after Betse and I discovered we were infertile, I became fascinated by pearls. My passion for them resembled an addiction, though I hesitate to call it that. There was a ritual aspect to it, a heady anticipation, an urgency I didn’t always understand.
This spring I am almost thirty-nine, the cut-off age for success with most infertility treatments. Under thirty, thirty to thirty-four, thirty-nine and under, forty and up — these age categories used to seem so arbitrary, but now the startling difference in success rates between the last two is a measure of how much hope I have left.