He heard her while he was in the bathroom shaving, getting ready for another day at the office. She was busy dressing, putting on her make-up in the adjoining bedroom.
It was the morning of Halloween, 1972.
“I’m going to have to make a doctor’s appointment, honey.”
In between strokes of the razor on his upper lip he managed to reply. “Really? For what?” He wasn’t paying much attention. It was too early and he hadn’t had his coffee yet. He continued talking. “By the way, do we have enough candy for the rug rats tonight? I really don’t know how many we can expect.” It was the first Halloween in their home; a sprawling ranch on an acre of grass and trees set in Lincroft.
“You’re not listening.” Maybe she should have waited until the train ride into the city, but she hadn’t wanted to bring this up in a public place. She wondered what his reaction was going to be.
“Okay, I’m listening, promise! What’s the problem?”
“No, we’re not,” he said, looking at his watch where it lay on the counter top.
“No,” she said patiently. “I’m late.”
He looked at himself in the mirror. Did she just say she was late?
He wiped off his face and came out of the bathroom and stared at her. They had been married for nine years. He had fallen madly in love with her when she was still in high school. Five months after he took her to her prom, they married over the frantic objections of both sets of parents. They had been happily together ever since. Nine years of a good life. Two incomes. No kids. A lovely home. Vacations. New cars. No smelly diapers. Love in the afternoons. Love in any room in the house. Love anytime.
“You’re late? How late?”
“Three months this week.” She was looking at his face. Looking for a sign.
He walked over to her and gave her a half-smile and a hug, trying not to let his own insecurities show through. They both knew that this would be a life- changing event. And he wasn’t certain that either one of them wanted their lives changed.
They were never big on birth control. Didn’t seem to be any need. Nothing ever happened. As the years rolled by they came to believe that nothing ever would. And they were okay with that. Even happy. At least he was. And he thought she was. They both had good jobs and budding careers.
They were the envy of all their friends who were struggling in small apartments with screaming little bundles of joy, constantly clamoring and in need. Children were just something he never thought about as they took to bed on rainy Sunday afternoons. So here he was, thirty years old and looking like a young twenty-something and suddenly the possibility dawned on him that he might be a father in six or seven months.
After breakfast they got into their new red Camaro and drove to the Middletown station to catch the 7:11 to the city. They picked up two coffees from the coffee wagon, climbed aboard and took their usual seats.
“How do you think this happened?” says he, still in a bit of a shock.
She smiled, put her arm under his and pulled him close. “How do you think it happened?”
It was clear to him that she seemed happy over this turn of events. He was just scared.
“You know”, she said “I married you to keep you off the streets. Doing my bit for humanity. If it wasn’t for me you would either be blind by now or sitting in a cell somewhere for dry humping women in crowded subway cars.”
He smirked at her.
“You love it. That’s why you married me. It certainly wasn’t for my sensitivity and taste. It was I who felt sorry for you, poor girl. You have so much need. We all have a cross to bear. I mean some guy had to do it!”
She made the doctor’s appointment and on the following Tuesday, election day, the day Richard Nixon would bury George McGovern, the two of them headed for the office of the OB/GYN.
The waiting room was filled with women in various stages of baby bump. Some barely showed evidence of their bedroom romps while others had trouble getting off of the couch or chair when their names were called. And there was no other man in the room except him. He felt like he was at a beauty parlor.
This was the domain of women.
Men didn’t go to the office of the Doctor of Women. They got whatever news was forthcoming from their woman over dinner or while smoking a cigarette after sex. Moreover, men didn’t go into the delivery room when the time came; putting up with the labor room was hard enough for them. Many hospitals still banned men from the labor room figuring we were just too sensitive to hear all that screaming – especially when it was directed at us. Men gathered in the TV lounge and together we laughed, joked and screwed up the courage to be fathers.
Her name was called.
She got up, smiled at him, blew him a kiss and headed for the stirrups while he sat twiddling thumbs and reading the latest edition of Woman’s Day or Good Housekeeping. He finally put the magazine he wasn’t reading down and looked around. The ladies were smiling. Poor guy, he imagined them thinking. He looks so young. So lost. He must be one of the new breed of sensitive men. Little did they know how terrified he was. Or maybe they did.
An agonizing half-hour later, out she comes.
Under her arm, a blue book. She held it up for him to see the title.
So You’re Having a Baby…
The look on his face must have said it all. Shock. Happiness. Terror. Bewilderment. Disbelief. The rest of the women in the waiting room started to laugh at him.
She gave him a laugh along with the rest of the crowd, a kiss, and took his hand as they moved toward the door.
“I’m hungry! How about lunch?”
He certainly wasn’t.
They walked hand in hand into the parking lot outside of the doctor’s office. As she stood by the passenger side door of the Camaro waiting for him to open it for her, she looked closely into his eyes. She could see his anxiety.
“Don’t worry baby. Everything will be all right.” She realized she sounded like the Beach Boys. They laughed and started singing the tune. “Don’t worry babeeeee…..”
They got in, started up the Chevy and headed north on Route 35, through downtown Middletown, made a U-turn and pulled into the parking lot of the Middletown Diner. Most of the lunch crowd had finished up and left at this hour.
They hadn’t talked much during the ride. He was still in shock and she knew it.
Life for them had been a fantasy of good times; a romance scripted in Hollywood. Boy meets girl in Brooklyn luncheonette; boy takes girl to prom; six months later two lovers marry as soon as they are both of legal age. Parents frantic but finally agreeable, guessing she was pregnant. Everyone assumed so. Instead, they had nine childless years.
He was up and coming at the “Don’t leave home without it” company. She worked for Greek Line, a passenger cruise line based across the street from the Army Induction Center on Whitehall Street. Free vacations. They needed only to board ship and take any unsold state room. It had all been too good to be true.
Suddenly parenthood was upon them. And he was worried.
“I’ll have a turkey club on white toast, an order of fries and a diet soda,” said she as the waitress stood at the table, pad in hand. He ordered a BLT on toast and added with a smile “and an Alka Seltzer please!”
She reached across the table and took his hand. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. How are you doing?”
“Well I’m still feeling good if that’s what you mean.”
“Sweetie, you’ve told me in the past you didn’t want kids. It didn’t matter if we didn’t have any. And now?”
“I changed my mind – women are allowed to change their minds,” with a smile that could melt a stone. “I was just as surprised as you, but now I’m looking forward to it. Sure I’m scared – a little, just as you are, but everything will be okay. You’ll see.”
She continued, while holding his hand across the table. “What did your Dad say about having kids? If you wait until everything is just perfect, you’ll never have any. The time for us has come, whether we like it or not. And I for one am happy that it has.”
And his grandmother said beware when things are going too well, he thought. Enjoying the good times too much is a jinx. “I just want us to be as happy as we are now. And besides, I’ve never thought about being anybody’s dad.”
“You’ll make a great father. I knew it when I married you! So, you gonna stay with me or are you bailing? Pregnant girls are extra hot, you know…”
He kissed her hand as the lunch plates came.
Real life had begun.