- What to Expect
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[End Page 110]
Three am, four am, the inky blot of time between night and dawn, she sat up in bed covered in sweat. There were no dreams to blame. She’d stopped dreaming. It was like her body knew she no longer needed to dream, that she had stepped into a reality more surreal. The baby could be retarded. The baby could be autistic. The baby could have a congenital defect, faulty DNA. The baby could have a less determinate problem— could be mean or exhausting or ugly. Really, this baby could be anybody. [End Page 111]
The donor Emily had picked was of Italian descent with “thick, dark hair and a lean, athletic build.” He had gone to an Ivy League college before getting a law degree. When she added him to her list of favorites, an alert came up that supply was limited. She clicked the question mark, and a small box informed her that if she wanted to use this donor, she should purchase as many vials as she thought necessary to “achieve her family planning goals.” The next day, he had only half as many vials left, and she felt a proprietary urge, a sweep of impulse. She purchased them, all eight, for $425 apiece, in the same amount of time it might have taken her to snag a sweater at a sample sale.
It was a miracle, at thirty-nine, to get pregnant on the first try. But that was what happened. She had the vials shipped to a clinic, went to the clinic midcycle, and two weeks later missed her period. And now, thirteen weeks in, she felt seasick and stuffed, as though she’d eaten a loaf of white bread dipped in melted butter, as if she’d swallowed those expanding sponges. In line at the grocery store, in the car on the way to the pool, in the bed, at the editing studio—she was sick, she felt sick, she was sick.
But no matter how bad she felt during the day, the bad feelings reached an apex at three am, when she sat up and felt like reaching inside herself and yanking her own uterus out. Who was she? Why had she done this? Wasn’t it difficult enough to just be her, alone? Who was this baby? Whose DNA did he have? Whose history had she become inextricably bound up with?
Also, at three am, she felt broke. She felt broke, in fact, because she was broke. She edited documentary films freelance, and even though she’d moved to Portland from San Francisco a year ago to cut her costs, even though she’d given up the jewel-hued sunlight and bustling vibrancy of the Mission and lived now in a small one-bedroom apartment with an oven the size of a milk crate and drove a ten-year-old car, even though she wore the same jeans she’d been wearing for four years, the sweaters with the holes under the arms, she had not been able to save more than $2,000. She couldn’t afford to have an autistic baby. The baby had to come out with a job or a trust fund. A tiny little stockbroker, a real estate developer, a nuclear scientist. Or perhaps it had to come out clutching the hand of its father, the Ivy League lawyer, a man sliding out after the infant, covered in that same streaky mess. She imagined the way a briefcase would feel against her most private parts as it edged its way into the world. [End Page 112]
Also, it felt hot in the apartment in the middle of the night. No air conditioning. Bad ventilation in these old turn-of-the-century buildings. A smell sometimes flooded the place—orange mixed with vinegar, a bad, wrong smell—and she wondered if she lived above some kind of Superfund site—despite the hipsters and organic food, this city was full of them—and if the baby would not be born autistic but rather half tadpole or salamander. When...