Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Intimate Landscape

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You wake up one morning and decide it's time to have a child. This is it, you tell your husband of many years. It's time.

"Sex all the time?" he asks hopefully. "I'm going to enjoy this."

You announce your hopes out loud, to friends, to strangers. "Well, we're not not trying," you say, letting them figure it out.
For three months you try in an unscheduled, spontaneous and hopeful, lots-of-sex kind of way. "Let's make a baby," your husband says, as he leads you to the bedroom, the couch, the kitchen floor. He has the easy part.

Nothing happens.

It's time to get on the stick, you tell your husband. Literally. The sticks have arrived in your home -- ones to pee on, to detect subtle midmonth shifts in your delicate hormonal balance, and then ones that announce your fate, the bright little "plus" sign, to let you know that you have successfully met your fertility objective.

Nothing happens.

You see your doctor and tell her you've been trying to get pregnant; you suspect she is relieved -- her expression says, "at your age, it's about time." She tells you it takes most couples a year to get pregnant. Her advice: Relax.

You don't believe her. You have heard enough horror stories from friends your age on the fertility circuit. You book a specialist and lie through your teeth, telling them you've been trying for over a year. There will be tests. Unseemly and inconvenient and invasive tests. Submit.

You begin to live your life in 28-day cycles: 14 days of hopefulness,az then ovulation, copulation, and two more weeks of waiting until you can take the stick test. Negative results to be followed by despair and the wait for the inevitable, the walls to crumble, the feeling of a hollow vessel.

Begin again. Repeat as many times as your heart can stand it.

One day, after a year of tests that have breached your belly button, with scopes snaked through your insides, after a year of taking enough drugs that produce mood swings that make PMS look like a walk in the park, and cost enough to rival the gross national product of a small country, you see a sign. That positive plus sign. Just the vaguest of blue, the faint outline of the cross, and you fall to your knees on the bathroom floor in thanks.

It's early, too early, and yet you tell everyone. Your friends begin to treat you differently, more carefully and watchful. Your husband starts to call you "mommy,"--once, in the middle of the night, you caught him murmuring sweet nothings directly to your midsection--and you find yourself drawn to all things baby: parenting magazines, diaper commercials, children in strollers. The shift is sudden, leaving you feeling a little dizzy and off-balance. There is a new feeling of joy so overwhelming it almost hurts.

Then one afternoon when you are home on the couch, doing the crossword puzzle and drinking mineral water, the cramping starts: a low rumble between your hipbones, a burning up your legs, a tremor down your spine. It's nothing, it's nothing, it's nothing you say, willing yourself to believe.

When the cramping continues, gaining strength, you begin to pray to a force you never really believed in, the faith of strong desire, desperation and foxholes. Your prayer takes the form of one word: Please.

Later, at the doctor's office, your husband will sit with you as blood is drawn. Together you will watch as a wand of sound displays a picture on a small screen, like the black and white television of your childhood, and there you will glimpse the peaks and valleys of an intimate landscape, empty and bare.

"Wait a few months," the doctor tells you. She squeezes your shoulder, looks into dry eyes. "There's still time," she says in her best encouraging doctor voice. "You can try again."

Try again? You don't know how you could ever try again and yet you know somehow that you will. And this feels like hope, something you never knew you had, but has been there with you all along, just lying in wait to be born.


Wendi Kaufman holds an MFA in English/Fiction Writing from George Mason University. Her fiction has appeared in various literary journals and magazines, including The New Yorker, Fiction, New York Stories, and Other Voices. Her stories have been anthologized in Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops, Elements of Literature and most recently, Faultlines: Stories of Divorce. Wendi is a recipient of a fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the winner of a Mary Roberts Rhinehart award for short fiction, and a 2000 Breadloaf Writer’s Conference David Sokolov Scholar in Fiction. She is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post. She is the mother of two energetic boys, ages seven and three, who have a more demanding social calendar than she does. She can be reached at kaufs@aol.com.


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