“Let’s have a baby!” Tammy announced happily as we walked through
the park. I was carrying a small rock maple sapling and a half-shovel
as she said this, and right then I stepped on a root and stumbled,
losing the shovel and almost dropping the maple.
“It’s not that bad of an idea.” she continued, as she handed
me the shovel and pretended to brush me clean. I hadn’t really
fallen to the ground.
Actually, it wasn’t a bad idea. I had been entertaining the
thought myself, and on a day like today, everything seemed alive,
even with the leaves on the trees just beginning to change color.
It was a beautiful late summer Labor Day festival. The park
service had just opened up a fairly barren section of land and
named it Arbor Fest Woods. To allow the public to participate
in its creation, they had been invited to plant a tree in this
new section for a small fee. It wasn’t difficult to do because
they had already dug the designated holes. All you had to do
was to pick the hole in the area you wanted, drop the sapling
in place, and cover the hole with the dirt that was next to
it with the half shovel.
As we walked, everything I saw seemed to challenge the autumn
that was coming. We were carrying a new tree, it was absolutely
perfect weather, and small children were making happy noises
as they ran around the park. It was only natural to think of
having a child our own.
Probably what had prompted Tammy’s statement, though, was that
her younger sister, Debbie, had announced she was pregnant about
three weeks earlier. Tammy and I were both twenty-four, and
had been married for almost three years. Debbie had just gotten
married the previous spring, and at twenty-one was bubbling
about her pregnancy. It hadn’t affected Tammy that Cathy, her
older sister, had two kids, or that my sister Joan had three.
Both of them had seemed enough older so that they were supposed
to have kids, whereas we were still planning on them.
Tammy and I seem to plan everything. It isn’t fun for us if
we haven’t figured out what we want to do. We were high school
sweethearts, we thought alike, and it was always fun to be around
each other because we liked doing the same things. Both of us
felt that college was a necessity; so we held off getting married
till our junior year when we finally decided we could get by
in the married section of the dorms.
After graduation, we both found jobs in our respective areas;
I did environmental lab work for a soils testing company, and
Tammy started teaching math at the local middle school. We were
able to afford a nice apartment near both our jobs, but kids
were a definite no-no on the budget. So birth control pills
became a requirement.
We scrimped and saved, and even managed to take a wonderful
trip to the Grand Canyon on our second anniversary last spring.
Both of us love our work, so we couldn’t imagine that things
could get much better, other than the fact that wanting a family
did begin to nag at us both.
We’ve always both loved kids. Uncle Roger and Aunt Tammy are
favorites whenever we visit Cathy’s and Joan’s. So, it was only
natural that we wanted children ourselves.
As we placed the maple in the ground, all of this came together
in my mind. It was time. We had a little bit in savings,
even after taking our trip, and I think that Tammy was ready
to leave the school after this year. So even the timing would
be perfect if she became pregnant in the next couple of months.
I patted the ground around the tree with the shovel, looked
at Tammy, and said, “Yes Let’s!”
Laughingly, she planted a big kiss on my cheek and danced around
the little sapling.
It was a perfect late summer day.
* * *
The birth control pills went by the wayside, and our sexual
play was actually enhanced because we were making a baby
instead of just making love.
It didn’t take long for us to announce to the world that we
were going to be next in line for the baby train. Tammy would
pat Debbie’s still flat tummy and announce that Debbie’s baby
would probably have a playmate, or I would start talking about
playing with my kids in addition to playing with my nieces and
Autumn went by quickly as both of us stayed busy at work. We
didn’t expect to get pregnant right away — we expected it might
take a few months before we hit it right.
But one thing did change. We started going house hunting, even
though we didn’t have enough extra savings for a down payment.
It just seemed natural to think about getting a house, because
soon we were going to be a family, instead of just a
Right before Thanksgiving, Tammy and I saw a new house for
sale in our favorite neighborhood. It was one we had actually
looked at a couple of times from the outside, even though it
wasn’t for sale, because it was cute and had a nice yard. It
needed a little touch-up paint on the outside, but since I’ve
always liked that kind of work, that didn’t bother me.
We called our real estate agent, who arranged for us to see
the house the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The house wasn’t
big, but it did have three nice bedrooms, and the master had
a bath of its own, something we really wanted. What really floored
us though was that even though all the bedrooms had doors into
the hallway, the master had an extra door into bedroom two.
So, it was through this door that we first saw the second bedroom.
It was perfect. It was small and cozy, and decorated in pastels.
The upper wall was decorated with Pooh characters with balloons
floating all around them. This was clearly the Baby’s Room.
It was several seconds before my mind registered on the furniture
— a small sewing table, a single bed, and a small desk with
a computer monitor and keyboard.
“I think the folks living here have been planning to redecorate
the room,” apologized our real estate agent. “But it’s perfect.”
said Tammy astonished. Once again, the two of us had obviously
been thinking the exact same thing, and I couldn’t resist giving
her a one-armed hug.
Afterwards, we went over our finances. We thought the house
was a little bit overpriced and were sure we could get it for
less, but even assuming that, the lack of a sufficient down
payment was a problem. We could afford the monthly payment;
we just couldn’t get in the door.
Thanksgiving came and went, school stayed busy for Tammy, and
my work continued to be interesting. Christmas suddenly whooshed
upon us, and it was time for the family to get together for
the big Christmas Eve get-together.
This was always a big deal. Almost all of us lived within thirty
minutes of each other, so it wasn’t that we didn’t see each
other during the year. But it was rare that everyone was together
in one place. My parents and Tammy’s parents lived within two
blocks of each other and had been friends when Tammy and I dated,
so our families had combined for this event after we were married.
This bash always included my parents, Joan and Gary’s family,
Tammy and me, Tammy’s parents, Cathy, Bill and their kids, and
this year Debbie was there with her husband, Tony.
Debbie was the hit of the day. She was showing, and everyone
commented on it. Debbie was glowing from all the attention,
and Tony looked pretty happy about it, too. Debbie told Tammy
that she’d adore being pregnant, “Well, at least up until the
end of the fifth month.” Nope, Tammy admitted, she hadn’t had
morning sickness, and a lot of discussion ensued about pregnancies
After games with the kids and a big dinner, we settled down
to open our presents. The holiday became perfect when we were
interrupted by a shout of “It’s snowing!” from Daniel, Joan
and Gary’s oldest, and the large bay window was suddenly covered
with lots of face smears from everyone staring outside.
It was getting near the end of the presents; Debbie and Tony
had even received several for their baby. As I looked over our
loot while Tammy and Debbie were gabbing, I noticed that every
gift Tammy and I had received had been a gag, whereas everyone
else had received nice gifts in addition to the traditional
But, before I had time to think any further, Tammy’s Dad, who
was handing out the gifts, announced, “What have we here?”
A hush fell over the room, and everyone’s attention was directed
toward Tammy and me. “It looks like a present for Tammy’s and
Well, no, we weren’t pregnant yet; I hadn’t left that out of
the story. But most everyone knew we were going to be pregnant
soon, we hadn’t kept that a secret.
It was a small present, and Tammy’s Dad made a point of giving
it to me, even though Tammy was huddled next to me on the couch.
“What is it?” questioned one of the kids, but they were quickly
hushed by my Dad.
Embarrassed at all the attention I opened the gift with Tammy.
It looked like just a piece of paper. No, it was a check, and
the check was for six thousand dollars!
We were floored. Then Debbie chimed in, “It’s for your house,
silly! Tony and I don’t have enough money for a house, but we
figured if we all chipped in, and you combined most of your
savings with it, you could get that cute little house you’ve
been mooning over for the past month.”
Tammy started crying, and I had a few tears in my eyes, too,
as hugs were exchanged all around.
As we left, my Dad chided me with a, “Well, son, we wanted
to make sure that baby of yours has a decent roof over its head,
but you and Tammy better get to work on the other side of the
deal, if you know what I mean.” We both laughed and bid everyone
a “Merry Christmas” as we went back to our apartment.
It was a perfect Christmas.
* * *
We moved on Valentine’s Day. The Baby’s Room looked even better
now that it was empty of the office furniture. Tammy had made
the room sparkle; it was ready and waiting. We had placed in
it only the few baby furniture donations from family members.
Maybe we were jumping the gun a little, but it was a
Baby’s Room, and we didn’t want it looking like we’d seen it
Admittedly we were getting a little antsy. Six months had come
and gone, and nothing had happened. We even began to check into
when we should have sex, to increase the chances we’d get pregnant.
Having Debbie around didn’t help. She was about seven months
pregnant and loving it. I know she had our best interests at
heart, and would come over with a new item for our baby’s room,
because she had bought an identical item to go into the second
bedroom in her and Tony’s apartment.
Winter ended, and spring roared in like a lion. You can’t really
dwell on things, and we had our day to day activities to keep
us going. Tammy went on a field trip across state in March with
her eighth graders for almost a week, and I think both of us
were a little upset because it was right when Tammy would be
able to get pregnant. I contemplated showing up at the camp
just because of that, but realized that was sort of a dumb idea.
Debbie had her baby on April 6. It was a bouncing baby boy,
7 lbs., 2 oz. that they named Michael. As we gathered to celebrate,
Debbie whispered to Tammy, “Now it is your turn.” Tammy
didn’t laugh. We had recently stopped laughing at comments like
It was strange how we had started to dwell on getting pregnant.
Our job and our families continued to occupy most of our time,
but everything seemed to start pointing to pregnancy, babies,
and families. Every TV show, commercial or newspaper article
seemed to be about kids or having kids.
After a nice sermon about motherhood on Mother’s Day, Tammy
was extremely quiet. After lunch, she cleaned the dishes, and
went into the Baby’s room. She vacuumed the floor, put fresh
sheets on the crib, even though the ones there were not dirty,
turned out the lights, and closed both doors. I didn’t say a
word. She didn’t go back in the room after that for quite a
It had not been a perfect spring.
* * *
Ten months! It wasn’t supposed to take this long. The Father’s
Day softball game was coming up, and for the first time since
I was a kid, I was dreading it. Luckily, I was still young enough
that it was still me and my father who played in the game, but
a lot of my friends already had little boys with plastic bats
and ball caps on the sidelines.
Tammy seemed in a good mood. She knew I had always enjoyed
playing in these games. I had even won a couple with a last-inning
home run, or by driving in the winning run. And so it was that,
once again, we were in the ninth inning, and losing by one run.
My Dad was on third base and there were two outs. I came up
to bat, and Jimmy Johnson was catching. He had a habit of trying
to make players lose their concentration by talking to them
while they were at bat. I never fell for that tactic and would
concentrate on the ball, and wouldn’t talk to him, at least
not while we were playing.
“Hey, didja see how my wife Jenny fixed up our twins? Braves
uniforms and everythin’. I tell ya, it’s hell having two at
once, but when they get fixed up like that, it just makes it
all worth while, huh?”
“I hear your sister-in-law Debbie just had one. Is she here?
Did she come to see you play? Where’s her new baby?”
“Hey, you and Tammy are about ready to have a family, right?
I saw that new house of yours. Pretty cool! How much did you
pay for that sucker?”
“Haven’t the two of you been trying for a while? Is Tammy pregnant
yet? Is that her over in the stands? How’s her school going?
Is it nice having her off for summer vacation?”
“FOUL BALL! STRIKE TWO!”
“Come on, level with me. Practicing is sure fun, isn’t it?
But, I wonder, do you think you’re shooting blanks?”
My Dad came to me from third base; he put his arm around my
shoulder and comforted me saying “You can’t hit the winning
run in every year.”
When we got home, Tammy decided to go over to Debbie’s and
see Michael. While she was gone, I went into the still closed-door
Baby’s Room and turned on the light switch. Christopher Robin
was dancing on the switch plate. I looked up at a Pooh who seemed
to be saying “Oh, bother.” I sat down in the old wood rocker
It was not a good summer.
* * *
It was the beginning of August, and Tammy was getting ready
to commit to the next school year. She wasn’t on continuing
contract, so during the early summer we had been hinting that
she wouldn’t be coming back since she was going to have a baby.
But as the summer dragged on, we started hinting the opposite
to the school board, and today was the day she was going in
to sign her yearly contract for teaching.
Being the dutiful husband, I went into the office with her
and waited for her to do her thing. Most of the conversation
went in one ear and out the other, but I picked up on the conversation
when I heard the office secretary say, “It’s amazing, what happens
“Yes?” said Tammy.
“You remember Doris Grayson, don’t you? She was in your class.”
“Oh, yes, cute little fourteen year-old. Blonde, curly hair,
with a little perky nose?” Tammy responded. I also remembered
her; from the times I had visited Tammy’s class when I was off
on certain afternoons. She was the one who always sat in the
front row and asked the most pointed questions about “why was
math like that.”
“She went off and got pregnant this summer!” stated the office
“What? Really? Doris?” Tammy stammered.
I could tell she was beginning to lose her composure, so I
got up, and said, “Are you done with the paperwork?”
“Oh, yes, we’re just talking, now.” said the secretary, oblivious
to what was happening to Tammy.
When we got into the car, Tammy broke down. I knew she had
just had her period a couple of days earlier, and that in itself
had become a traumatic revelation for us each month. “Why can’t
we get pregnant?” she hissed between her sobs.
“Maybe we should see a doctor other than your gynecologist.”
I suggested quietly.
“He says everything’s fine,” she declared in a monotone. “And
anyway, you’ve only been trying for less than a year, and sometimes
it just takes time. You’re only twenty-five, you’ve got lots
of time.” she said, imitating her gynecologist’s singsong voice.
“Anyway, school starts again next week, and I’ve got lots to
do to get ready for that.”
I was wondering if it would be a good autumn.
* * *
It was Labor Day. I don’t know why we did it, and I still don’t
know if it was a good idea, but we decided to go to the new
section of the park where we had planted a tree the year before.
We hadn’t been back since then. A lot had happened in the previous
As we walked through the older area of the park toward the
newer section, Tammy exclaimed happily, “Look! The trees! They’ve
grown so much in the past year.”
I had to admit, they weren’t monsters, but compared to last
year, this almost pasture-like area was now populated by trees
that were obviously much bigger than they had been the year
“Let’s go see ours!” Tammy seemed unstoppable as she ran toward
the section we’d picked out for our tree. I didn’t know why
she was so excited, but I laughed and ran to catch up.
I caught up to Tammy and grabbed her shoulders with my hands.
I was going to embrace her, but I realized that she was stiff
as stone. She shrugged me away. I looked beyond her at our spot.
The tree wasn’t there. There wasn’t even a trace of it. We hadn’t
misplaced the site; other evidence pointed distinctly at the
spot where there was only grass growing. The tree had obviously
not even survived the winter, and had long since been replaced
by newly sewn grass.
Tammy fell to her knees and started sobbing uncontrollably.
I didn’t know what to do. Other people were noticing; all I
could do was go to my knees as well and try to hold her and
calm her. As she was sobbing, I could hear her mutter over and
over between sobs, “Why? Why? Why? Why?”
It was not hard to see the symbolism. The tree was her baby.
It had been a year, and nothing had happened. Nothing! We had
done all the right things, even to the point of starting to
make sure we were doing the right things.
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