Washington - Years ago, before having a baby was ever even a notion, I'd read a phrase I'm about 80 percent certain I can quote verbatim: Having sex with someone you love is even better when you're trying to make a baby.
I wish I could remember who wrote this. Not so I can attribute the quote correctly, but so I can track down the author and shove my test-negative pregnancy sticks down her throat.
If you're older than 40 and your biological clock has sprung a few coils (I picture a confused cuckoo bird poking his head out at irregular intervals to chirp "Pregnant? Who's pregnant? Are you pregnant?") there is nothing even remotely appealing about having sex to make a baby. Making - or trying to make - a baby is work. And like all work that requires physical exertion, two-party collaboration and an increasingly tight deadline, it's enormously stressful. Who even cares if the other person involved is someone you love? This has nothing to do with love. This is about creating a family.
To be honest, I don't need a baby. I've already had one. Although, at 3 years old, she's not much of a baby anymore. Not only can she speak, she can sing Psycho Killer in its entirety. She's capable of advanced negotiating skills and can make a reasonably convincing case for a) Wearing only dresses to day care b) Eating only cake for breakfast c) Very badly needing a younger sibling (preferably a sister to play Anna to her Elsa). Her pleas can't be good for my reproductive sanity.
I've been trying to grant her this request for a sibling for almost a year. So after a self-diagnosis confirmed by no less than three internet sources, I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss a cure for secondary infertility, the condition in which women who've already given birth find themselves incapable of re-reproducing.
"Let me start by asking you a question," said the doctor. "Are you having enough intercourse?"
The answer to this question is no. Definite no. By any standard. Ask anyone. But I was reluctant to come right out and say it, so instead I stalled with another question. "What do you consider enough intercourse?"
"If you are trying to get pregnant, you should be having intercourse at least two to three times per week during your cycle."
I let out an audible whimper. Two to three times per week? What, am I supposed to quit my job? I have a full-time career, a toddler and a heap of laundry that refuses to wash itself.
Two to three times per week?
There was a time when two to three times per week was not an issue, when we could engage in the fun kind of intercourse, the unpredictable kind that allowed for twist endings. The kind that didn't demand results until accidentally (or miraculously, if you prefer), we did get a result, and then that was pretty cool, too.
But that hasn't been the case for a while. Intercourse is now a twice-a-month (at best) ordeal, dictated whenever my luteinizing hormone decides to rear its awful head. The motions are robotic, the outcome is predictable. There is nothing even mildly romantic about this encounter.
There's another question I have for my doctor, but despite the professional safety net that supports our relationship, it's still a hard one to blurt out.
"Do I need to have an orgasm?" I ask.
By the way, this is the second person I'd like to impale with a box load of fertility sticks: the person who first sneaked this gerbil of a fact into the spinning wheel that is my pregnancy-obsessed brain. I don't remember how or when I first learned that the female orgasm was very much a part of the baby-making choreography, designed to help usher sperm along its path to the hallowed egg, but I wish I could unknow it.
"Don't worry about that for now," said the doctor, maybe kindly.
So at least that. If nothing else, that.The Washington Post