To Make A Baby
was, I suppose you could say, in a PREpartum depression.
started when my wife, Connie, decided it was time to have a baby.
I was thirty-one and she was twenty-eight, a circumstance which
I reminded her in my argument against the idea was no cause for
alarm. But after she'd voiced her ambition--and thereby made it
real to herself--the achievement of motherhood became an obsession
for her and she would not leave me alone about it. Finally, after
several months, my reluctance to enlist in her project compelled
her to resort to a not so veiled threat: "Steven," she
said. "Either we have a baby now or I'm going to leave you."
right, I told her, get off the fucking Ovril then.
it wasn't that I never wanted a baby, and not that when I had
one I didn't want it to be with Connie. Strong of character and
will, nurturing, quick-witted and sometimes astonishingly perceptive
(not to mention pretty), Connie was a terrific wife and more than
qualified to be an exceptional mother. The notion of one day having
a family with her was hardly repugnant to me.
What troubled me when the prospect became imminent--what troubled
me immensely--was a consequence inherent in the making of a baby,
a consequence that I could not stop recognizing. Fathering a child
would tie me into the hideous plan that Creation has devised for
everything corporeal. I would be, and by my own hand, replacing
myself. Once the deed was done, once I had accomplished the only
thing we know with any certainty Creation wants of us, I would
be, in Creation's estimation, expendable.
Connie, born Catholic but now earnestly New Age in her faiths
and sentiments, soothed her fear of death by believing in reincarnation,
I was a secular Jew and so had only the void to anticipate. And
if I'd always been keenly tuned to the price of existence, and
lived in a perpetual state of medium-grade anxiety as a result,
my heightened appreciation of my mortality destroyed any semblance
of internal equilibrium I could claim. With Connie's demand the
sinister underside of nature had turned itself toward me and it
wouldn't turn away. Indeed, my now hyper-consciousness of what
it ultimately meant to be alive made any vista of extravagant
pullulation, albeit as manicured as Central Park, grotesque to
me. On the most festive of occasions I would see what William
James saw--"the skull grinning in at the banquet." And
I understood as well what Burroughs meant by "Naked Lunch."
When I ate I saw exactly what it was--the flesh--on the end of
was also, much of the time, in a small rage about the new burden
I'd be taking on. I'm referring not to the responsibility of child
raising per se, but to the fact that no matter how large was the
contempt I'd developed for humanity over the years, having a child
would force me to care about what the world might be like after
upended, I even began to think about homosexuality; about, that
is, the solution it afforded to the problem of getting your rocks
off without spinning what Kerouac called the "wheel of the
quivering meat conception." Though a less than appealing
option for me, there were hours when, oddly and perversely, I
could not help but feel...well...TITILATED by the concept of having
sex that was unencumbered by procreative implications.
In the petrifying absence of contraception I found myself avoiding
sex with Connie. And when I could not avoid it my performance
was impeded by occlusions in my circuits that would leave the
both of us in a condition of considerable frustration. Worse,
my very biology joined in the protest forcing me to suffer the
embarrassment of a sperm count that a lab I visited at Connie's
insistence twice reported was "virtually negligible."
these miseries, locking me deeper into paralysis as it increased
my sense of urgency, was Connie's evident disappointment in me;
a disappointment that was evolving into disdain. Terms of endearment
like "honey" and "sugar," for example, were
routinely being replaced by "washout" and "loser."
In my timorousness I'd become, in her eyes, something less than
a man. Recalling her admission to me once that she'd believed
that all Jewish men were extraordinary providers and natural born
fathers--and having long before disabused her of the former assumption--I
knew that I had no choice now but to keep the latter one alive.
reasoning that a change of scene might turn the trick, Connie
came up with the idea of spending a few days in the country together.
When I agreed, she arranged for us to stay with our friend Betsy
who ran a little print shop out of her ramshackle house in a Catskill
town not far from Kingston.
Connie's patience rapidly disintegrating it was, I knew, something
like now or never for me and I geared myself as best I could.
Scrupulously adhering to a plan we devised--a month of wholesome
foods and regimented exercise; no masturbation for a fortnight--I
made ready to win a war with myself.
arriving upstate, I felt like a German soldier must have felt
upon arriving at the Russian front. It was the middle of winter,
the sky was low and gray, the snowdrifts were thigh-high and the
temperature was near to zero. This was not exactly an atmosphere
conducive to a successful completion of the undertaking at hand--especially
not when in the back bedroom to which Betsy assigned us (and which
she used to store old printing equipment and bound stacks of yellowing
posters and flyers), you could see your breath and needed to wear
as inopportune and unlikely as the setting may have been, it was
on our second afternoon there that a child was conceived.
should say, first of all, that I was feeling not a little physically
ill--and it wasn't only that I was on the edge of a cold. A city
apartment dweller, I've noticed that country people who pay for
their own heating oil tend to be flinty about using it, and Betsy
was no exception. On this day, however, in a generous but woefully
misguided demonstration of support, she had pumped the thermostat
up to steam bath levels. The oppressive heat, coupled with an
effluvium of musty furniture and nasty chemical compounds, threatened
my ability to both keep my lunch AND remain conscious.
any case, with Betsy at work out front, Connie, after giving me
a thumbs up sign, took off her clothes and arranged them carefully
over a chair. Deliberately presenting her bottom to me as she
bent to the bed to pull away the quilts, she followed this maneuver
by abruptly turning around and flopping onto the bed on her back.
Then, reaching for a pillow, she propped it under her buttocks
and spread her legs.
do you feel it too? It's as though there's a spirit hovering near
us waiting to be born again."
I said, removing my pants. "I hope it's the spirit of a heavy-duty
bond trader who happened to have a coronary while he was up here
for a weekend. Please don't let it be one of the local yahoos
who ran his pickup into a tree."
entered her immediately--it had, after all, been two weeks. But
just as quickly I knew I was going to wither. My deprived penis's
rote reaction to a welcoming vagina notwithstanding, the gravity
of the occasion continued to undermine me. Still, I'd made a compact
which I had to honor and I began to leaf through bodies, shuffle
through poses, postures and configurations in my personal mental
Kama Sutra file--then, starting to panic and sweating obnoxiously--to
ransack my memory and imagination. But no one and no thing I could
remember or think to want would keep me up, let alone elicit he
participation of my gonads. I tried, with my hand, to STUFF it
in. I would happily have settled for a premature orgasm.
Connie said. She squeezed out from under me and, her hair trailing
along my chest and stomach, ran her tongue down the length of
my torso to the numb thing between my legs.
determined virgin into her early twenties--she had not permitted
a man inside her until she was twenty-three--Connie'd had more
than a little experience keeping boyfriends with her mouth. In
seconds, my mental state notwithstanding, she got it half way
up and we tried again. But once more I evacuated her ignominiously
and she was obliged to root in me again. Ten minutes must have
passed before she raised her head. I was expecting an expression
of scorn. Look, I was prepared to say, I'm sorry. This is really
out of my hands. But Connie was grinning at me. Crawling backwards
a little, she reached her arm under my legs and lifted them until
they were almost perpendicular to the bed. Then, holding my haunches
up and steady with both of her hands, she lowered her head to
my starkly exposed ass and drove her tongue as deep as she could
into my rectum. Lingering there for a while, she finally came
out from under me and, brushing it against my nostrils en route,
brought her mouth to my ear.
little Jew bastard," she whispered. "I wish you'd be
the lesbian you are right now because what I really want to do
is eat your pussy."
one for Connie's acumen and her resourcefulness in an emergency.
"Harder," she was instructing me after no more than
a minute had elapsed. "Go deeper. Yeah! Oh! Splash."
was born nine months later, almost to the day. Nature being oblivious
to human expectations of justice and symmetry, he had, contrary
to the circumstances of his conception, both a proper allotment
of toes and fingers and a countenance that was amazingly genuine
in its sweetness and innocence. I mean there was nothing unhealthy
or freakish about him, nothing that was even remotely Damien-ish.
By every measure he was a wonderful specimen.
me? Well, I was worn by then to a physical as well as emotional
nub--I lost fifteen pounds during Connie's pregnancy that I didn't
need to lose. But not dropping dead with Cody's arrival had a
salutary effect on my nerves that was almost immediate. I was
still filled with trepidation, of course, but--my panic significantly
less clamorous and debilitating, my not so quiet desperation much
quieter--it was, relatively speaking, a manageable trepidation.
days after his birth I was, in fact, as close as I get to all
is a former contributor to The Village Voice and Rolling Stone
and the coauthor and coeditor, respectively, of two collections
of essays about rock and jazz in the '60s: "Music & Politics"
and "Giants of Black Music."
To Make A Baby
by Robert Levin
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