I waited 28 years to have sex. 28 frustrating years.
And ereey weren’t easy years, just so you know. I didn’t hang with only monks or go through life without knowing what woman was. It was the standard stuff, all those years of typical teenage hormones where everything that even remotely resembles a boob is arousing. Then I got into sports in school and became successful enough to earn the title of popular. I was and am extroverted. I met girls. I had girl friends. Some of them were even attractive.
But then I got into pro-ball. Ah, yes, pro-ball, an uber-masculine zoo where not screwing any woman you can, whenever and wherever, is like declaring yourself a flaming homosexual who has nothing in common with anyone, including flaming homosexuals. In pro-ball, a vow of abstinence is like telling the world you’d rather flagellate yourself with a barbed whip than have sex with a girl, even the hottest girl on earth, which I was put into hypothetical situations with regularly just to confirm I was abstinent: “You’re telling me you wouldn’t hit that?” Inquirer points to a photo of smoking hot pop enchantress. “Seriously? Hayhurst… Da fuck is wrong with you, man???”
And sex was everywhere in pro-ball (I’ve written exhaustively on that subject elsewhere). In a masculine environment like a locker room, sex—be it the act, desire, or design—makes up 50% of any given dialogue. The other half is broken down into sarcastic insults, jokes, boy-toys, and… uh… oh yea, baseball!
There is porn in most locker room bathrooms. Usually one of the guys has a catalog of porno DVD’s to rent (remember to disinfect them before you return them), and there are groupies at most stadiums that exist to service players. Your teammates will congratulate you on a sexual conquest, curry your favor by providing insider details from their own, and thank you for jumping on a “grenade” (the ugly friend of the girl your teammate wants to hook up with but can’t unless someone jumps on the… ) for them. Hell, sex is even used to bust slumps in pro-baseball. Basically, if you’re a person who wants to practice abstinence, prostitution would be an easier profession to work in than pro-baseball.
I guess what I’m saying here is; I had opportunities to score. I was in a no judgment environment for most of my prime scoring years. Still, my batting average was .000. In high school I dated one girl for four years and we didn’t have sex. I don’t think I even saw her topless! After that, I dated a different girl for nearly three years, one of which I spent living in her parent’s basement while she lived someplace else!
Wow. Just writing this and reading it back to myself makes me wonder why my man parts didn’t just pack up and leave. How did I not wake up one morning to a sticky note down in the place where my wee-wee is explaining “I have needs, Dirk. I’m leaving you for someone who will appreciate me…”?
I abstained because I was intensely religious at the time. Christian folk would call this “on fire” but I was just a zealot, mostly misguided and judgmental, and the only thing I have to show for all those years of being a quasi-Christian nut job is a merit badge that says “one woman man.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m proud of it (I’d better be). I think it’s added a dimension of intimacy to me and Bonnie’s—she has the “one man woman” merit badge—life together. But after waiting so long to have it, I guess I just assumed that sex would always, always, always be this amazing thing that could never, ever feel routine.
Then Bonnie and I tried to have kids…
For three going on four years, we tried to conceive, unsuccessfully. At first, it was fun, as it had always been. We’d go on vacations and hook up in some exotic hotel in Europe or Canada, or wherever, and joke about how we’d tell our future kids he or she was made on a river boat in Venice, or a hotel in Amsterdam, or a resort in Hawaii. But when the pregnancy didn’t come, sex started to become routine, planned… work. I felt like a delivery man, and, no, not in the swanky porn sense of the word.
Near the end of the second year, I knew Bonnie’s ovulation calendar better than her. Even on days when she was “too tired,” I made sure we stuck to our routine because of something else I didn’t expect to happen in our marriage…
Bonnie, so indomitably upbeat, so effervescent and optimistic, was starting to buckle under the frustration of not being able to conceive. I made sure I was “in the mood” at the right times of the month, even if I wasn’t, because watching the crack spidering across her soul every time a pregnancy test came back negative, every time her period was unfashionably late, was crushing me.
Our friends and family where practically breaking baby news every other week. Oh God did I hate that. It was agonizing watching Bonnie act happy to their faces then crumple in private, wondering what was wrong with her, with us.
At first, I was angry. I suppose many people are when they can’t have a baby while everyone else is. I kept questioning the concept of fairness and procreation, chasing it round in my mind. Oddly, for me alone, I thought it was fair. I’m kinda of a bastard when it comes right down to it. I’ve been a sarcastic, abrasive ass for a good deal of my life. I generally assume most people hate me for something I did but didn’t realize I was doing it. I probably deserved it, so I took our drought as punishment for my sins.
But Bonnie, my Bonnie; my loving, saintly Bonnie… she didn’t deserve this. She deserved a baby. And the more sad she got, the more angry I got. At myself, at life, at her fucking mirth-stuffed, freshly impregnated friends. So angry that, if there were some rival kingdom I could have set the demons in my mind to destroy, I would have.
We kept trying. Joyless, clock-driven, time card punching work at the baby making factory. But it just wouldn’t happen.
We did, however, give birth to an idea: I should get a job at a company, get insurance, try to cover a run at in vitro. I should normalize my life more, get more security via real job and make our home a nest, comforting and warm. Create an existence in which a mother could conceive.
I wasn’t working a traditional job a the time. I was doing radio, television and writing freelance. Things were pretty great. Low key, what I loved, simple. Adding a kid to our equation, however, would require more security. At least that’s what we assumed. Based on that assumption I went hunting for a real job, which ended up being Patriot Software. I didn’t want to give up my easy lifestyle, but I’d lived my dream life already. Bonnie sacrificed so I could do it. Now it was my turn. The plan made sense. It felt fair.
After I had been hired at Patriot, Bonnie and I decided that if we could get in vitro covered by the insurance provider, we’d do it. If not, then we’d commit to adopting as we would then both “know” it was the right/good/noble/God-breathed/calling/choice/best option/only option.
The Patriot Software plan was a roll of the dice, and we knew. It was a hell of a lot to lay on a small town software company. There were no promises the company’s insurance would cover in vitro, but, I was getting my MBA at the time and needed some “corporate experience” if I was to finally (and grudgingly) transition into mainstream life. It made sense, and babies—no matter how they arrive—like it when their parents have insurance. Insurance, steady jobs, resume building experience… it’s what people who want families are supposed to do. It’s what all our baby having friends and family were doing. It’s what we should be doing, right?
I got the job. We kept punching the time clock at the baby factory. As soon as I made the 90-day milestone, my benefits vested and we confirmed that in vitro was (at least many portions of it) covered. Bonnie was thrilled, and I was relieved. The plan worked.
A week later we were in the fertility doctor’s office. The doctor is showing Bonnie the needles Bonnie will have to use to inject herself in the stomach with. The doctor is talking about the drugs we’ll have to buy and when to buy them. The doctor is mathing out calendars and counting back from period days. Bonnie, is soaking it all up. I can see hope in her eyes. This is going to happen. We’re going to do this. And if we whiff, they can freeze some eggs, reload, and fire again.
Then Bonnie picks up the injection needle and looks at her stomach and swallows hard. ” I hate needles, but I want a baby. You’re going to have to inject me.”
Visions of Pulp Fiction explode in my head. “I can handle it.”
Minutes later we’re getting blood drawn for genetic pre-screening. The nurse hits a nerve in my arm and my hand lights up like someone is burning it. The doctor comes in and makes small talk with me as a form of misdirection while the nurse switches arms. Then, casually, the doctor says, “I see you have XYZ insurance. I’ve never known XYZ insurance to cover in vitro. You might want to double check.”
Bonnie is spooked now. She calls from the waiting room. She double-checks…. the doctor is correct. Our insurance covers nothing we’ve done or plan to do. The person who told Bonnie in vitro was covered, even the tiniest portion, was new and made a mistake. In vitro would be a full price gamble should we continue.
I’d taken off work for the morning to go to the fertility doctor but now it’s the whole day off as Bonnie is wrecked from the news. I tell her that it’s going to be okay, and this is just a sign that we were meant to adopt. Bonnie isn’t having it, though. Not now. Not since the hope of having her own kid has taken root thanks to some misinformed insurance derp. She’d faced the needle, made her peace with the in vitro gauntlet, and was ready to go all in. Adoption wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
I remind Bonnie that, back when we had clear heads on the issue, we made an agreement that we would adopt if we couldn’t produce our own children without in vitro being subsidized. We had set limitations; financial and personal limitations that we’d built a lifestyle around. We had nothing against in vitro, of course, we just felt it was an expensive procedure with a lot of moving parts that may not yield a baby, even after the hormones and shots and surgeries. In comparison, there are plenty of great kids out there that need families. We had friends with adopted kids, and they were great. We’d seen it work. We could make it work, too. We had a plan. Remember the plan.
Irrelevant. Bonnie had come so close to having her own child birth that our previous plans suddenly seemed inferior. In fact, if you want to distil how heart-wrenching this process has been into one paragraph, start here: “I’ll never have a little you, the most important person in my whole world. A little you with your eyes, or your smile. A little us. The best of us. I’ll never have that. How can we put a price on that? I don’t care what I have to do to myself. I don’t care what it costs. I don’t care!”
I need a minute… Every time I read this part I need a minute…
I mean, seriously, Goddam. It was like our little life-train just got snatched off the tracks by a Godzilla, and all the happy ideas we had riding inside were shaken into his mouth, nom-nom style.
In moments like that, what you want suddenly gets clear. The bullshit and comparisons and ideas of normalcy go out the window, and you start thinking about what really matters. This clarity would have been great if what mattered to the both of us was the same thing. Instead, Bonnie wanted her own child while I wanted to adopt… which did exactly nothing to help Bonnie find anything but misery and pain in the arms of her husband.
I was able to parlay the issue for 24 hours. The next day, Friday, I went off to my new, safe, family builder friendly desk job where I vainly tried to make sense of my existence as it ping-ponged between the bumpers of a reinvention, corporation, identity, and self-worth. I felt like the worst fucking husband God could’ve snot-rocketed onto this Earth. Bonnie should divorce me. What husband wouldn’t give everything to so their wife could bear their child? Bonnie should divorce me.
Saturday rolls around, Bonnie and I are still on distant planes of existence. Not mad, not indignant, just shell shocked that we’re here. I have to be up early, just like a workday, to go into my MBA program. In class, our financial markets professor is raining hellfire down on the greedy sons of bitches responsible for the 2008 recession. Her kid, a young teen girl, is sitting in the front of the class doodling on her laptop, sporting a pair of oversized Beats headphones to drown out her mother’s preaching. You can hear the thumping of the teen daughter’s music despite the thick padded phones. Finance Mom makes a comment about how her kid is adopted, off-handed, real casual, an insult aimed at her daughter’s liking of some teeny-bopper boy band her mother astutely describes garbage. “No, seriously, she’s adopted,” says Finance Mom. “That’s why she’s so much better looking than me.”
Between classes I investigate. I ask Finance Mom about adopting. She tells me, and I’m not making this up because it was like a giant, blinking neon sign of salvation on the foggy, jagged coast of my drifting present, “I sit on the Cleveland adoption board. Any help you need, I’m here. It’s an amazing thing, for you more than the child, and that’s the truth. Kids change your life, and I don’t regret, not for one second, not having my own. I tried. Did in vitro twice and had no luck. The process was harsher back then, and it messed my body up. Broke my heart, too. Not that adoption can’t screw you around—people will try and take advantage of you, cheat you, offer you a kid then decide against it after you’ve paid their med bills. But listen, you’ve come this far. If you adopt, you go for the best. Don’t compromise. It’s the biggest decision of your life, and you have to take the emotions out, whatever you do. The end is worth it, but it’s hard to see that now. But it’s worth it, I promise, and the proof,” she points to her daughter, “is sitting right over there. She’s smart. She’s beautiful, and I love her. More than anything I love her.”
I don’t remember any of the rest of the class. My grade reflects that. But I remember that, on the way home from that class, I felt like I had to stand firm. I loved Bonnie. I loved her more than anything. Bonnie and I made a decision before all these emotions invaded, and we needed to stick to it. I was scared to death of having kids, scared of permanently scaring my marriage, scared of losing my ass in an adoption scandal and scared of losing my wife.
Even so, I was sure I wanted to adopt.
There was an unanswered text message on my phone after class. Lord help me it was Bonnie. The text read, “I thought about it. You’re right. We should adopt.”
Thanks for reading. More coming. Please, click an ad somewhere on the site so I can raise some money to send our future kid to college.