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Unexpected Stork Gets the Nest Squawking

July 31, 2002|Chris Erskine

No one ever claimed biology was particularly pretty, especially when your mom and dad are involved.

"I'm going to have a baby," their mother announces.

One kid cries. Another nearly passes out from shock and disgust. Generally, everyone takes it quite well.

"Hey Mom," the boy asks every morning, "how do you like your eggs?"

"Unfertilized," she grumbles, a joke the kids repeat to everyone who walks in the door. Believe me, walk in the door, you'll hear that joke.

"Hey Dad, how does Mom like her eggs?"

"Over easy?"

"Unfertilized!" they scold.

"I'll try to remember that," I say.

Yes, the issue of contraception has come up, and you know your life has turned upside-down when your teenage kids are slipping you hints about such things and chastising you for your lack of self-control.

With unusual glee, our lovely and patient older daughter lectures us about what an unplanned pregnancy can do to someone's life. Evidently, having a child is a huge, lifelong responsibility.

"Are you sure you're ready for this?" our college-age daughter asks.

"Somehow, we'll make it work," I assure her.

"We're young," her mother notes, "but we love each other."

"Well, sometimes that's not enough," our daughter says.

And sometimes it is. It got us through our first three children, who are turning out pretty well despite a chronic shortage of funds and a surplus of those parenting books their mother keeps buying. Somehow, they survived all that. Now they'll probably survive this.

"Grandma, can I come live with you?" the older daughter pleads over the phone.

"Me too!" yells the little girl.

First, they were forced to endure the house renovation, which has lasted longer than the Civil War and shows no sign of ever ending.

Now there's this new baby on the way. Talk about war. Talk about sacrifice. Clothes. Food. Proms. Tuition. The kids can somehow sense the new set of demands that will be placed upon the family.

"I'm not changing any diapers," the boy says.

"Me either," says his little sister.

"Me either," I lie.

Of course, the biological details of it all continue to baffle them. Just how does something like this happen to parents in their 40s?

At 40, the number of eggs drops. They are good eggs, mostly, just fewer of them. This, according to experts and dads everywhere, reduces the chances of conception.

Among married couples, it can also lead to a certain recklessness. It can lead to surprise. How do you like your eggs? Well, you know.

Then there is the rarity of husband-wife romance itself, what with kids sleeping with the parents, as many children do these days.

You know how it goes. During a house renovation, you lose a bedroom, some kid is in bed with you. Even when you're not renovating, someone is having a nightmare and tiptoeing around the bedroom like a cat burglar.

"Mom?"

"Huh?

"Nightmare," someone says, which can put a crimp in the marital relations department, if you know what I mean.

So how does something like this happen?

"Did you go on a cruise?" our friend Mary Ann asks. "Usually, it happens on a cruise."

No, not a cruise. Rarely left the house, though in hindsight that was probably a mistake. In my experience, most accidents happen in the home.

"I'm going with an Immaculate Conception," I explain to my friend Paul.

"That's what you said last time," Paul says.

I favor the Immaculate Conception explanation, since it hints that God is somehow involved and it would free me of original sin. Any time you can unload sin, original or not, sign me up.

"Actually, I think it was the night of Taylor's slumber party," my wife explains.

"So if Taylor doesn't have a slumber party, none of this happens?" I ask.

"That's right, slugger," she says.

Can life be more capricious? Can the turning points be more unpredictable?

Can humor, faith, persistence, wisdom and family see you through? Not likely. But what else are you going to do?

"It's a boy," predicts my buddy Irv.

"It is?" I say.

"If I'm wrong, it'll be the first time."

If you ask him, Irv will also predict the due date and describe what you had for dinner the night the baby was conceived. It's a gift, possibly. Or a form of dementia.

"I'm never wrong," he says. "Just ask Metzker."

Like I have the time. Ask my buddy Metzker something, and you'd better carve out a week. Love the guy. But he requires a lot of patience.

"Just ask him," says Irv.

OK, someday I'll ask him. In the meantime, I'll sit here wondering how I'll pay for these new additions to the family--the house and the kid.

Of course, I've been wondering about such things for nearly 20 years now. There are finger-sized channels in my forehead from all the rubbing and worrying, worrying and rubbing. It's one of the components of aging, I suppose. But things usually work out. Somehow we manage.

"Hey Mom, how do you like your eggs?" someone asks her yet again.

"Grown and out of the house," she teases.

Not for a while.

Chris Erskine's column is published Wednesdays. He can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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