How To Get Pregnant In The Modern World
This essay was published in the Austin Chronicle the week of February 13, 1987 and hasn't been seen again until now — though a chunk of it was incorporated into a different essay that appeared in my first collection, Telling, called "Where Mommies Come From." The odd dated moments show its age: IUDs are legit again, and everybody's mate has a cell phone.
How To Get Pregnant In The Modern World
You think you know. You think getting pregnant in the modern world is no different than getting pregnant at Palenque. All it takes is a little artless coupling between biological grown-ups, right? No fancy equipment, no elaborate planning; the standard organs and urges will do just fine.
It is true that if you and your partner have no intention of procreation, fertilization can scarcely be avoided. A tricky contraceptive device is just another thrilling challenge to the speedy young sperm with a dream. The traitorous ovum will climb out her window and sneak down the tube to meet him. You might sooner try to prevent the full moon.
But say you've become fascinated by the miracle of conception, and are eager to try it out in your own home. For you, the odds are reversed. Equipped with only your genitals and your big ideas, you will not become parents. Instead you become a Couple Who Is Trying To Have A Baby.
No, like so much else in modern life, reproduction is not as simple as it once may have been. Something more than mere sexual congress is required. You need a strong will, a valid library card, and the ability to achieve the full flush of arousal on a precise schedule. And this is only the beginning.
Step One: Remedy Your Hopeless Ignorance. What do you know about cervical mucus? Does the term "breakthrough bleeding" mean anything to you? I thought not. How do you expect to get pregnant and remain that way for nine long months without the most rudimentary knowledge of these critical matters? It is time to go to the library and check out every book on the shelf numbered 618, Pregnancy and Childbirth. Here you will find handbooks, workbooks, guidebooks, sourcebooks, and intrauterine photo essays tracking the progress of the blob or blobette through the forty weeks from pinhead to Pampers.
Step Two: Rid Yourself of Deadly Vices. It is a known fact that our mothers, the mothers of the 50s and 60s, martinied and Marlboroed their way from the marital bed to the delivery table. And we were born apparently whole in spite of this reckless behavior. Well what worked in 50s and 60s often does not work in the 80s, as evidenced by home appliances and automobiles of that vintage. You must quit everything you enjoy or your baby will be born a deformed junkie and don't say you weren't warned. Cigarettes, no. Alcohol, no. Marijuana, caffeine, forget it. Nutrasweet, no way; aspirin and Alka Seltzer are out; hot dogs should be viewed with extreme suspicion.
For some people this may not be a major problem. Some may have already renounced all pleasure in life out of sheer patriotism, for the rush of just saying no. But for others, myself included, we are talking about the death of a way of life. You, like me, will find yourself with no hobbies, no pastimes, nothing to do at parties, and very little in common with anyone you currently know, including your mate. Get used to it. Get used to the sound of unthinkable statements like "I'll have a double Stoli and soda, and my wife will have a glass of lemonade."
Step Three: Kick the Birth Control Habit. This should be obvious but some people do forget, since after 10 or 15 years interrupting foreplay to put in a diaphragm becomes just another element of pre-coital stimulation. On the pill? Get off it while you still can. And IUDs are illegal now, so have yours removed before you get pulled over for an expired license and the cop sticks his head in the window and says, "What's that wire hanging out of your cervix, Miss? Not an illegal intrauterine device, I hope."
Step Four: Pinpoint Your Fertile Period. The major causes of unsuccessful procreation attempts are randomness and spontaneity. In order to get pregnant, you must determine exactly when the egg will be produced by your ovary, and then arrange to have it continuously bombarded with spermatozoa during its entire 12- to 24-hour lifespan. To achieve this, you will need a calendar, a basal thermometer and a cellular phone for your mate. Don't risk being out of touch when the critical period begins. Take time off from work if necessary to devote your full attention to the task at hand.
Though some people breeze right through the first time, others will find these monthly sorties growing tiresome before conception is achieved. What is required now is rigorous and regular worrying combined with exhaustive medical testing. Assume the worst, and spare no expense to have your fears confirmed. Should you require it, a host of fertility experts, surgeons, lawyers, and adoption agencies are all waiting to collect your money and aid you in your quest for parenthood. After all, this is the modern world.
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