The Little Voice
It was one of those rare times in your life when everything felt golden. You’d been through the worst of it, and you’d come out shining. Nothing could touch you now. You got it. You’d learned. You knew how to navigate life’s land mines.
I was 38. I had survived a gut retching divorce. My son, who was born five weeks premature and spent two weeks in the hospital, was now nine years old, and smart, healthy and thriving. I was married to a man I had fallen in love with at first sight. He was moving up in his dream job as the technical director of a theatre, and was well respected in his profession. We were finally able after renting for the last six years to buy a home.
But for me, despite all this, there was one thing missing. I wanted another baby, to be a mother again.
Or did I?
I had dreams. I had never finished the Bachelor’s Degree I started so many years ago. I wanted to be able to make a decent living, and stop working low-paying clerical jobs. I was working part time as a program coordinator at the same theatre my husband worked in; meeting artists and writers and actors and people who lived the creative life. I wanted that life too.
I had a lot of freedom. My ex-husband and I had joint custody of our son, so he spent a lot of time with his dad. I was not tied down, I could do whatever I wanted.
But still, that little voice. You know the one. It’s like an endless whisper inside your head; a voracious craving that can only be fed in one way. It’s like the perpetual ocean riptide, pulling you under. You keep fighting, but it’s no use.
I went to my gynecologist for the usual check-up, and to get my prescription for birth control pills. I mentioned I was thinking of getting pregnant.
“Well, you better do it quick,” he said. “You’re high risk because of your age, not to mention you already had a premature birth. And you know the risk of Down Syndrome and other genetic diseases are higher. If you want another child, you’d better not delay.”
I knew a bit about Down Syndrome. A coworker of mine had a daughter with it. I knew about the struggles she and her husband faced. Most of all, I knew about the heartbreak. While my friend loved her child, she was hurting.
“This is a grief I will live with for the rest of my life,” she would tell me. “It’s a sadness that never goes away.”
Sounded pretty bad. I loved my friend, and admired and respected her. I did not wish to be unkind, but……..
Oh my God!! I wouldn’t want to be her for all the tea in India. Saddled with an intellectually disabled kid. That’s a life sentence. Forget it. Life is tough enough.
When I got home that night, I spoke with my husband. He said it was up to me whether I got pregnant or not.
Tony was a workaholic in those days. The theatre was his life. He gave everything to that job. There were times when he would work 60-70 hour weeks. If I got pregnant, I would be on my own with this kid. When would I have time for my son? What about my own dreams?
And what about the other? The D word?
I was old enough. I would just have the genetic tests, and if the results were not good, well, I would know what to do.
But even then, back in the day when I was vehemently pro-choice, the idea of an abortion was unthinkable for me, even though I did not, and still do not, judge others who made that choice. To put it in the vernacular, yuck. If there was one thing I knew about myself; I was very sensitive. Some had told me, particularly as a child, it was too much so. I cried over Hallmark commercials. I couldn’t live with myself if I had an abortion.
So, I said forget it. Don’t make the boat rock. Life was good. Don’t screw it up.
I opened my prescription, and took my pill.
The Magic Elixir
It was the holidays. At the theatre, which also functioned as a community center, we had just finished our Christmas shows and exhibitions. Things had gone well, and we were all riding high. It was a cause for celebration.
We ventured to the Artistic Director’s house for a casual get together. Pot-luck, everybody brought something. The food was amazing, and the company was charming.
And so was the liquor.
My husband’s boss’ husband had this liqueur he had been saving for no particular reason, and considering the jubilance and seasonal joy we all felt, he said why not open it now? Now is as good a time as any.
I took one sip. Now, number one, I never been much of a drinker. I hate feeling out of control, and I hate feeling, well, like I’m going to heave. I would rather die than throw up. All it took was too many Tequila Sunrises on a camping trip in high school, and that was it.
But this stuff was special. It went down smooth like a Crown Royal, but was sweet like a Brandy Alexander. I asked what it was, he told me, but I only asked to be polite. I could have cared less.
I had a second glass, then a third. I was floating on a cloud. I was the most beautiful woman in the room. I could do anything. I was Mary Poppins. Give me an umbrella, I going to jump off the roof and fly.
I am not a stupid drunk that laughs uncontrollably, or gets nasty, or embarrasses myself by going into incoherent diatribes. I’m a contended drunk. I just sat in the corner, shit eating grin on my face, nodding my head to conversations I had no investment or interest in. No one asked me a question; I think they knew better. I was in my happy place so, leave me be.
When we got home, I was still there. And I wanted to take that happy place up to the bedroom.
When we were ready, my husband reached in his night table for a condom. This was because, after taking birth control pills for years and years with no problems, they were beginning to make me crazy. I felt like a raging bitch for no good reason, ready to kill everybody. I had no patience with my son, or my coworkers or my husband.
The doctor couldn’t figure out why; he just told me to go off them. So, before I found myself being hauled to downtown Los Angeles to the county jail, I figured I’d better do as the doctor said. But then, what was left?
Condoms. The old standby.
But remember, I was in my happy place. I was flying high. Nothing could touch the invincible Mary Poppins.
“To hell with those,” I told him. “I’m 38 years old. How fertile am I going to be?
He looked up at me, perplexed. “Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m sure. Nothing will happen.”
He agreed. It was a magical night. And who needs a rubber in a perfect world?
I would soon discover that I did. Bliss is not a viable form of birth control.