My new, China-born mother-in-law had cornered me in the guest bedroom. She’d told her son that she wanted to have a talk with me about “woman” stuff. He couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. Possibly because Andy’s father had already subjected him to the “Ultimate Over-sharing Sex Talk, Given Fifteen Years Too Late.”
Well, if Sunny thought she was going to
intimidate educate me with some superstitious old world sex misinformation, she thought wrong. My mother had been raised a sexually repressed debutante. While she was a little late to the sexual revolution, she embraced it with enthusiasm. Mom became a feminist. She called herself a liberated woman, bought multiple copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and went to law school when I was seven. Frank sex talks were the norm in our house. I cannot recall NOT knowing how sex worked.
My parents divorced, and my mom got custody of Our Bodies, Ourselves, but my dad was pretty liberated, too. Once his daughters turned eighteen, he insisted we get our first gynecological exam. Furthermore, he insisted that all of us get outfitted with some form of birth control. I, of course, argued with him:
Me: “But DAAAAADD! I’m not planning on having sex! Probably for a looooonnggg time!”
Dad: “I don’t care. You’ll have a medical history, and birth control will be there if you need it.”
Dad: “No. I’ll pay for this. If you need it, you’ll use it, because I am NOT paying for an abortion. Do you know how expensive THOSE are?!”
My father had five daughters. He was smart. He understood human psychology and he could do math. So I got a diaphragm. There were no unplanned pregnancies among his daughters. (For those of you with good memories, please be advised that Pretty Space Cadet Sister’s pregnancy at age 19 by the convict was, in fact, carefully PLANNED by my young and foolish sister. But that’s another post.) In any case, we could use more dads with my father’s realistic attitude, rather than the idiotic nut jobs making their daughters wear white and sign “Purity Pledges.”
So I faced my new mother-in-law, lifted my chin, and thought, “Bring it. I am ready for your old wives tales on everything from ‘lie back and think of England,’ to ‘the woman should never be on top because it emasculates men or whatever.’”
Sunny sat on a chair by the door, looked me up and down, and said, “Andy’s sister, nine months after she get married, I have a granddaughter. You and Andy married almost 2 months. Seven more months and I should have grandson, yeah?”
I blinked. I thought, I should have fucking known my talk would be about offspring rather than fucking.
Then I said, “No.”
There was silence. A long silence. I realized I finally had my chance to talk. Andy always said there was no point in talking to his parents, because they never listened. I secretly thought this was a) a copout, and b) bullshit – Andy just wasn’t a strong enough advocate for his position. But I was the child of lawyers and letters, and goddamnit, I was going to make my case. I would make it so well that Sunny would understand and Andy would never be able to weasel out of telling his parents anything they didn’t want to hear ever again.
I continued, “No, Sunny, I’m not pregnant. And we have no plans to get pregnant, not for several years.”
Sunny said, “But…why?”
She heard me! She had acknowledged that WE WERE NOT TRYING TO HAVE KIDS right away. HA! I was right and Andy was wrong! His mother WAS listening.
I said, “Andy and I want to have a some time together, just the two of us, before we think about adding the mental, physical, financial, and psychological burden that a child brings.”
Sunny frowned. “But you are not so young. You might not have time.”
I snorted. “I’m only thirty-one, Sunny. And I come from a long line of broodmares.”
Sunny looked puzzled. I elaborated. “Take my grandmother. She was smart and only had two kids when she got married. Boys. But one son was killed when he was fifteen. So she had my mother, a replacement child, when she was almost forty. No problem.”
Sunny still frowned. I sighed. “And my mother. The woman got pregnant EVERY YEAR. The only reason there are 22 months between my older brother and my older sister is because the woman had an ectopic pregnancy after Big Brother. With triplets. She lost a fallopian tube and an ovary and still went on to have 5 more kids. The last one when she was nearly 40. So I have at least 9 years fertile years left. The reality is probably closer to 15 or 20,” I finished glumly.
Sunny did not look convinced. Fine. I had not even begun to deplete my arsenal of arguments.
I continued. “Look, Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister got pregnant the minute she stopped using birth control. It’s a genetic…gift, I guess.” (I managed to say “gift,” but as I am not an ignorant “Quiverfull” fundamentalist, I normally characterize excessive fecundity as a curse. On my less cheerful days, I think of it as a plague upon the earth.)
Sunny grunted. “But how you know you can get pregnant like your mom?”
“Because out of all of us, I’m the one built like her. Big, tall, childbearing hips. And you know that my mom had all her kids despite the fact that she drank, she smoked, and her only exercise was chasing us if we ran away. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I never touched drugs. I run, dance, swim, and I can press two-hundred and fifty pounds.” (At the time, 3 of these 4 things were actually true.)
Sunny nodded several times as I repeatedly explained the genetic components of fertility and how I was far more worried about NOT getting pregnant than I would ever be about infertility. She did not argue with me AT ALL.
Clearly I had swayed the jury. I quit talking and happily visualized recounting my triumph to Andy. “Logic and reason,” I would tell him. “Facts. Your parents aren’t stupid. You just have to take the time to lay it out for them.”
I smiled at my mother-in-law. Why wouldn’t I? We understood each other.
Sunny leaned forward, her face more earnest than I’d ever seen it.
She said, “I know a woman your age. Twenty-thousand dollar, she freeze her eggs!”
On the plus side, Sunny was at least throwing the latest technology at me, rather than the oldest superstitions.
On the minus side?
I hate it SO MUCH when I have to admit my husband is right.