Monday, July 24, 2006

An excerpt from "Eggs,"
by Kerry Neville Bakken

Naturally, Noah and I had been trying to have a baby for a year: taking my basal body temperature each morning at five a.m., conscientiously making love three times a day during prime ovulatory time, figuring out the physics acrobatic positions and spermal flow. Latitude and longitude. Tilt pelvis forty-five degrees, align with the earth's axis, factor in rotational pull. This wasn't always easy. Sometimes we were tired or sick or just plain bored: now insert penis, raise hips, thrust: all entrée and no appetizer.

Initially, we treated our ovulatory allegiance as an opportunity for exploration, playing strip poker, strip Trivial Pursuit, strip Go Fish; tying each other up; reading Penthouse Forum out loud; playing doctor. Sex became a dramatic, necessary, pre-ordained production, but it lost its appeal in the meantime. In sickness or health? Once, we both had the flu and after flaccid love-making session we raced to the bathroom. I puked in the toilet, semen dribbling down my thighs, Noah in the sink, his penis quickly shrinking back to size. Hardly erotic.

And all those wasted dipsticks. I bought home pregnancy kits by the dozen. Despite the small window of ovulation and against all that we’d learned, every time Noah and I waited: he sat on the rim of the tub, counting down the minutes on his watch; I sat on the toilet re-reading again and again the color code for positive, the color code for negative, wondering if I'd been mixing them up all along. And every time, I sat on the toilet and tried not to cry as Noah took the dipstick from my hand, squinted at the color bar, shook it as if it were a thermometer and he could change the reading. “It’s okay, Annie. Next time,” he’d say, “just concentrate on the next time.” Then I'd take it back, hold it to the awful light, trying to see in that dried splash of urine the failure of our cells to combine.

So we made an appointment with Doctor Shinefeld, a highly touted Reproductive Endocrinologist. He was a burly Texan with a handlebar mustache that he swizzled between his fingertips. Two weeks out of each month he flew to his New York clinic, spending approximately ten minutes with each patient-couple. Our first visit, purely introductory, lasted eleven minutes and fifteen seconds.

"How often do you have sex?" he fired.

"Every day," Noah said, his palm smoothing down the seam of his khaki slacks.

"Three times a day during ovulation," I corrected.

Dr. Shinefeld laughed and pushed his black leather chair from side-to-side. "That bad?"

"Not that bad," Noah said.

"Yes it is," I said. "Why lie?"

"It's exhausting," Dr. Shinefeld counseled, "but I'm here to tell you you're not alone. This is a solvable problem for sixty-five percent of my patients. Sixty-five percent is pretty damn good."
I bobbed my head up and down, my smile wide and hopeful. Us! Us! Us! Saved! Saved! Saved!
Noah looked up. “But no hope for the other thirty-five percent.”

Could I burn holes into Noah’s head with the power of my galre? He refused to look my way.
Dr. Shinefeld dismissed the statement with a wave of our chart which he then quickly skimmed, his finger darting back and forth across the page. He stood up.

“Noah, it’s Noah, right? Two-by-two and the ark? So that’s something. Noah was the kingpin of reproduction, so take heart.”

He sat back down and smacked his hand against the desk. “You’ve been playing a game of chance, you two. I know how hard it’s been, but I’m about to load the dice.”

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