by Spider Johnson
Like most men, I went into wedlock without the hint of a thought about having kids and remained oblivious to it for several years thereafter. Then the kid cavalcade began among our friends and while the wonderful strangeness of their babies’ first steps, getting weaned, first words, etc., etc., was a curiously fun celebration for me, it still didn’t quite cross over as a probability for me. After all, I was a busy guy, I had my art for my children and my music for the rest of my fulfillment in life. What did I need kids for? There was no shortage of human beings on the planet and I was doing my part for zero population growth. And I was just too, well, busy.
The “busy” excuse was, of course, a convenient synonym for “afraid.” I wouldn’t have called it that back then because I just wasn’t that insightful at the time. I couldn’t have admitted that I didn’t want to take on such a huge responsibility or that I just wasn’t that mature or all the other real reasons behind my denial; that kind of wisdom would come later—no surprise.
It wasn’t because I didn’t love my wife—I did, very much. I was clear that I would spend the rest of my life with her and I was faithfully committed to those wedding vows. Sure, she mentioned it now and then but I deferred the question, thinking to myself that there’s plenty of time to discuss this later. Little did I know how important it was to her, not until later.
After the aforementioned kid cavalcade, the conversations about having kids became more frequent and serious. I was, finally, beginning to realize that I couldn’t avoid it any longer. It became clear, despite no ultimatums, that if I wanted to remain married to this woman I loved, I had to step up and do my part. So, at age 33, the process of having a baby began.
In order to have a baby, the first step is to get pregnant. It turns out that is easier said than done when two people are actually trying—instead of avoiding—to make a kid. The trying part was easy, of course, and natural and fun, and even though we did all the right things with ovulation timing, stop-in-the-middle-of-the-day-quickies, vitamin & exercise regimens, yoga, meditation, different sex positions, nothing seemed to work. Then the fertility doctor visits started. The first step was a sperm test, and since they needed a fresh warm sample, I had to “render” one in the semi-privacy of my VW camper van at the clinic parking lot and deliver it without smirking too much.
I had my doubts that my sperm was infertile, having impregnated two former girlfriends during the irresponsible oblivion of passion, both of whom terminated those pregnancies—but that’s another story. Sure enough, my sperm count was high. So, we kept trying and trying, to no avail. And since our “fertility” doctor turned out to be non-board certified in that field & was just an opportunist, we elected not to pursue egg testing with him. After a while, our efforts to get pregnant began to wane and an unspoken pall of disappointment came between us.
Discussions about adoption started, albeit without a lot of enthusiasm. New friends with an adopted child invited us to their annual Adoption Agency Celebration, where parents and their adoptees gathered for a picnic and made small talk, and a dawning realization that there was no joy in this option for us became clearer. We had a talk afterwards and came to the agreement that we would not resort to “heroic means” just to end up with a kid. I’m pretty sure that moment rendered a major crack in the foundation of our marriage from which it never recovered. True enough, in time and for additonal reasons, we divorced.
It turns out that my wife had gone through a medical treatment for some kind of swallow reflex problem when she was a child, a procedure using radiation on her thyroid. It was not known at the time that it could cause infertility, and that’s what we think happened.
So why did I never have kids? Dumb luck, or dumb un-luck, as the case may be. It certainly didn’t happen resulting from a great effort on my part, one way or the other. I just did what many other hapless husbands felt obligated to do—become a live-in, providing sperm donor. I’m not complaining about this nor am I in any way denigrating those few men who actually go into marriage planning and fully expecting & looking forward to fatherhood; I’m just telling the raw truth about Great Nature’s role for the male of any species (with rare exception), humans included, which is to fertilize as often and as randomly as possible. Would I have been a great dad? Damn right. Do I regret not having children? No, but I do feel wistful at times at their absence in my life. My life would have been notably different if I had been a father, yes, but my life has been richly rewarding without them. I do have the occasional joys of being an uncle, a godfather, even a good friend to the younger ones, and that’s good enough.