“I’m sorry, what did you say?”  I asked R, incredulous.

We’d quietly made the rounds through the holidays, everything quietly subdued in the aftermath of 9/11.  We’d spent Thanksgiving with our families in Michigan but had decided Christmas should be spent close to home, since my due date was in mid January.  After my speedy birth with Melinda in just four hours, I didn’t want to take any chances of going into labor and having my little baby boy somewhere unfamiliar.

It was now the second day of January.  R’s new position at work, the one that had saved him from losing his job last spring, had been a major uptick in workload.  Since he was now in the finance department, instead of the IT department, it meant that every quarter, R had to work on financial reports.  The “quarter close” became code quickly for two weeks of increasingly late nights at work, some of them as late as 10 or even midnight.  I didn’t understand how he was making the same salary but putting in many, many more hours, leaving me to fend for myself for evening childcare while I taught.

“The timing is going to be terrible,” R was saying of my due date.  “We have to report the 2001 financials that Friday.  If you go into labor at all that week, I honestly am not sure how much time I will be able to spend at home with you.  Even just the day of the labor will be a stretch.  I’ll have to bring my laptop to the hospital.”

“Honestly, no one at work gets that you have a pregnant wife?  Nobody can pitch in for a day or two while you tend to your child being born?” I asked.  This was not the first time we’d quarreled over his new hours at work.  As I stood in my kitchen nights at 6:30 wondering where he was, we would engage in testy exchanges over his cell phone.  I supposed I should be grateful he even had a job, but it was hard dealing with a toddler, a seventh grader, a dog and a pregnancy all at the same time with no one to help me out.

“No,” he answered, his irritation increasing.  “The job I do, I don’t have help.  I have people above me and below me.  But I’m not part of a team.  I’m at a level now where I have a title, it’s just me.”

I swallowed my words about not wanting this parenting gig to feel the same.  “So what are you suggesting?”

“Well, I think we should ask your doctor to induce you.  They ended up doing that anyway in Oklahoma due to your blood pressure, remember?  It might be necessary anyway, for a variety of reasons.  Maybe the same thing will happen again.  But also, you’re due in January; you had Melinda in four hours.  The hospital is forty five minutes away.   If there is a snowstorm or anything that day and traffic is backed up when you go into labor, you could deliver on the side of the road.  If we schedule an induction, we can avoid all that.”

He actually had a point there.  But I was still bitter about his work.  “And you can schedule it so that you can spare a few hours for the birth of your child.”

“Well yes,” he responded, missing my sarcasm entirely.  “If we do it on Martin Luther King Day, work will be slower because everyone has it off.  That way I won’t be playing as much catch up when I get back in the next day.  It just makes more sense all around.  There will be less traffic on the road too because so many schools and businesses will be off.”

I gritted my teeth on the end of the phone.  I couldn’t believe that we were actually talking about our child’s birth as if it were some business transaction.  “Fine,” I said.  “When I go in this week, I”ll ask the doctor if we can go that route.”  Fortunately, MLK Day was actually my due date, so it probably wouldn’t be a stretch.

“Good,” R said.  “Listen, I have to go.”

“I do too,” I answered, even though I didn’t.

I hung up the phone, feeling empty and alone.


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