Sunday 18th April 2010
Gestation: 29 weeks, 2 days
One year ago.
“So how many weeks are you now, Bel?”
“Twenty-five,” she said, shifting uncomfortably in her chair.
“Wow,” I say, “a real live human in there. That’s awesome. Well done.”
“Thanks, mate,” she says.
I look across at Dan, and he gives me the exact same look that Bel just did.
It’s the ‘I get it’ look.
* * * * *
Dan and Belinda are twenty-five weeks pregnant.
Three years ago, they had a miscarriage, and four weeks later, Bel had to return to surgery for complications.
Ever since, they’ve been trying to get pregnant. Through multiple rounds of IVF, they scaled the ever-higher walls of probability, while all of those around them fell pregnant by accident.
They went through the ringer.
I’d been witness to that look in their eyes each time in those three years that one of their friends got pregnant while they didn’t. Everyone around them was pregnant but them.
Well, everyone but us, that is.
Now Suse and I share that look. Shit, we’ve taken out a patent on it.
Because while we haven’t been through quite the same thing, haven’t travelled quite that far down the same road – we’ve seen the signposts, and we’ve seen the distance to the destination.
And we feel the same urgency to fill the tank to the brim.
* * * * *
Bel and Dan continue to talk, one or other of them keeping their eye on Suse and me, aware of the cauldron of emotion brimming under the surface.
As their voices fade away, like an effect in a movie, I glance around the table. Lexi and Adam sit there, playing with their fifteen-month old girl, Sally.
They fell pregnant, just like that.
They don’t know the look.
I reflect on this. I sit back, and we are served our dinner, I run an inventory.
I scan a list in my head.
Of all the people that came to our wedding.
I list the couples off, one by one. As I do, I come to the striking realisation that at our wedding, there were only two married couples who didn’t have kids.
One of them recently lost a child at 23 weeks; the very definition of a tragedy. The others have labelled themselves as a ‘cautionary tale’. Molly and Jeff, our beautiful friends from Sydney, met later in life, and as such, left their run late. At forty-five years young, Molly took me aside one day, and said:
“Whatever you do, don’t leave it like we did. Please get in and have kids while you can. Let us be your cautionary tale.”
Every other wedded couple from our wedding day is either pregnant, or has kids.
Everyone, that is, except a tragedy, a cautionary tale, and us.
No wonder my life feels like a Shakespearian drama.
* * * * *
In fact, twenty-three of those couples have thirty-eight kids between them. And there are five more on the way. There were eight singles at our wedding, and two who were in stable relationships.
So to maths it up a bit: of those who are in relationships and can have kids – including those who don’t want them right now – eighty-three percent do. And this is just those of child bearing age. Add in our parents, those of their vintage, and the numbers rise even further.
We’re talking ninety-six percent.
Every single one of our married friends – one hundred percent of them – either have kids or want them.
And we’re in the three of twenty-eight couples who want them, and haven’t had them.
There’s the tragedy, the cautionary tale, and us.
We’re not quite sure what we are yet.
Sometimes, life’s a bitch.
* * * * *
With this thought in my head, we head to the Comedy Festival. Suse and I are in sore need for some laughter. And it works. It’s a fun time.
There’s nothing quite like laughing till you cry.
We don’t mind our friends talking about their kids. We get that this is now their life. But like I say, of our day-to-day friends, every one of them has kids now.
All of them but us.
So when Adam Hills gets on stage, we are ready for a topical joke. He’s not my favourite comedian, but the man is smart. And given my recent revelations, his choice of topic can not have been more apt:
“Having kids is a little bit like owning an Apple Mac. Once you get one, you never shut up about it.”
Suse and I look at each other, and fall apart.
It isn’t even his punch line.
But for us, it is.
* * * * *