Making Babies

Over the Diapers, A Sidelong Glance

It's 3:27 a.m., and I'm typing quietly so as not to wake the young lady asleep in my lap. She's got only slightly more hair than Sinéad O'Connor, and she'll celebrate her first birthday right after Valentine's Day. For the first thirtysomething years of my life, I thought of sex as an end. Now, as I sit in my office at an hour once reserved for after-parties and Frank Sinatra records, listening to Emma breathing, finally asleep I think, I've come to realize that sex is only a beginning.

The moment you decide to have a baby is a watershed. Your sex life becomes like gym class: pass/fail. But despite what I learned in junior high health, it's hardly a done deal once you decide to ditch the condoms. So as surely as we paid the cable bill, we embarked on a new monthly ritual. If Sally was even five minutes late, she'd run to the medicine cabinet and whip out the EPT kit, only to find that the dipstick was whatever color showed she was not yet in the family way. Maybe next month. Then she bought a basal thermometer. That, friends, is the dividing line between trying to get pregnant and road-to-the-fertility-clinic-to-have-septuplets obsessed about getting pregnant. And it worked. She never took it out of the package. But with that talisman safely ensconced on a shelf, we stopped thinking about ovulation cycles and procreation-friendly foods, and focused instead on getting busy, and it happened. Preggers.

When? Damned if we know. We can narrow that most audacious of sex acts to a month, a week. But a precise moment of rapacious carnal bliss on the living room floor involving jug wine, guacamole, and Walker, Texas Ranger blaring in the background? No way. Even our obstetrician doesn't know for sure. So we've taken an educated guess and composed our own creation myth. Our son, Ethan, most likely in a hotel room in Utah, after a day of playing in the thin air and soft snow. Emma? Our own bed, the cool of fresh sheets, as furtive as two teenagers, trying not to wake Ethan up.

And frankly, we're happy to let the mystery be. Procreative sex carries with it a certain gravitas that should give most sober folks pause. Stop to think for a second about the enormity of what you're embarking on, and it's hard to avoid paranoid fantasies about the gene-pool Lotto drawing. She's on top and we've got a little Mozart. I'm on top and it's Marilyn Manson. It boggles the mind. In the years since our familial population doubled, our conception of romance has changed—changing a poopy diaper now counts more than a dozen roses. But when I see Emma make her first joke—a sight gag involving strained mango—or Ethan doing his best Jackson Pollock—"But it's a stegosaurus, Dad"—and I catch Sally's eye watching me watching, she casts a lustful glance in my direction that says, "Hey, we did that." And what could be sexier? Besides, of course, a couple more hours of sleep.


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