My husband and I can’t conceive. The how and who doesn’t matter. What matters is we can’t have children biologically. I cried really hard about this for about a week. Then I regrouped, blew my nose, and focused my energy on adoption.
Adoption had always been on the table for us; we even talked about it when we were dating, so the fact we were faced with it as a reality was not that big of a deal. After all, I love my husband and I consider him family. I’m not related to him biologically (ish) so why does my kid need to be? Also, the world is woefully overpopulated. (Seriously, I am a believer that every problem on the planet can be traced to over-population.)
As we started the process, I realized the paperwork alone was much like a part-time job, but instead of a paycheck, I got a kid, so it didn’t bug me that much. Turns out, there are some fabulous advantages to adopting.
1. – I didn’t gain any weight. In fact, I lost some. That’s right, I lost weight and looked fabulous when “delivering” in China. Also, I didn’t throw up, no hemorrhoids, and I slept like a baby at night.
2. – No stretch marks. Well, not from the baby anyway. (I have a few on my thighs from the “freshmen 50” but they’re easily hid.)
3. – I got to drink booze at my baby shower. It was a lovely affair. It was (of course) Chinese themed, but we also enjoyed margaritas. Go figure. It was a pot luck, which means if you’re lucky enough to know my girlfriends, there were tables and tables of amazing food. We partied and ate and drank and after I opened the awesome array of loot, a few of us ended up trolling down to Morty’s bar for a few more.
4. – We adopted Em when she was 8 months old, so we avoided the “What the hell is that and why does it look like an alien?” moment after birth, the “She just lies there and poops and cries and eats.” phase and the “I’m so tired, I can’t put my shoes on.” mornings. When we got Em, she usually only woke up once around midnight and had a spectacularly gentle personality.
5. – The only postpartum depression I had, was being in quarantine for 10 days after we got home. We were in China in the midst of the SARS outbreak, and since she had a slight fever when we returned, we were mandated to stay home and not show her off. Kriner, the hermit, was in absolute heaven, although he did sneak out early in the mornings for a few workouts on his bike. He figured if he pedaled fast enough, he’d be in the clear. I, however, was in hell, as I am a social butterfly. Not walking into a restaurant for 10 days was sheer torture.
6.- No painful, awful, nightmarish stories about labor. However, that’s not to say my labor was easy…
My labor was the 20 hour flight (in coach) to China. It was painful, but not in the way you would think. We joyfully entered the plane (which of course, was after 2 years of paperwork, which included documents being lost, papers delays through 9/11, and as stated, the then ongoing SARS epidemic.)
We were elated, excited and thrilled. We were literally on the last plane out. Due to SARS, all non-essential travel had been canceled for weeks, and on that day, that very morning, they canceled all business travel as well. That was it, zero hour. We had to get on that plane, and we had made it; in the midst of fears, problems, crisis and world events, we were on the plane. As we bounded down the aisle, we were triumphant. Now all we needed to do was to sit and smile and dream about getting our hands on that baby girl. We found our row, put the luggage away, and plunged into bliss. Or so we thought.
Turned out Kriner’s seat was broken, permanently set to the recline position. There was clearly no way he could sit like that for the full 20 hours. Little did we know that asking to be moved would be the biggest mistake of the trip. When we rang for the stewardess, she didn’t seem to be too concerned with the seat being back.
“Oh, you’ll be fine.”
When I asked her, “Then why do we have to have them upright for takeoff and landing?” she replied “For safety.” Ah, wit.
I piped up with “There is no way he can sit like that for 20 hours. He should be able to move his seat. You’re going to have to find us another spot on the plane.” She rolled her eyes, muttered something about being “so full” and sighed. She said she’d be back.
When she returned, she told us she found us a new seat, and we were to be moved from the back of the plane to the front of the plane, behind the bulkhead. Bulkhead. I should have known better.
As we approached our new seat, we got a glimpse of our “situation.” We were being moved next to an extremely large woman, some might say morbidly obese, who was enjoying the fact that she had a row of three to herself. In hindsight, I see this now as a vindictive move on the stewardess’ part. She knew exactly what she was doing. This woman’s sides spilled over into the middle seat and she looked relaxed, confident and happy. That is, until the stewardess brought us up to her row.
“I’m sorry. They need to sit here; they need to be moved.”
The woman glared at us. “What?”
“They need to sit here. He thinks his seat is broken,”
“It IS broken” I tried to appeal to the woman. “The seat is stuck on recline…it won’t get upright.”
“So, he can’t sit there. What about take-off and landing?”
That’s about as well as it went. We sat down and she was silent. She didn’t say one word to us the whole trip; the whole 20 hours she didn’t say one word to us, although her eyes spoke volumes. “You bitch, I was planning on sleeping in that seat, and you have completely ruined the start of my fabulous Asian vacation.” That’s what her eyes said. I could hear them loud and clear.
I volunteered to sit in the middle, as Kriner is taller and broader than I am. He’s got about 40 pounds on me. This woman had about 340 on me. Needless to say, she took up most of my seat, and I found myself leaning into my husband. (Let me state at this point that I am completely and unfairly judging this woman’s size, but frankly, if she had been decent, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to find fault in her. But she wasn’t decent. She was mean, and mean people open themselves up for criticism, and for snarky gals like myself, we tend to go for appearances. Shallow? Yes. Affective? You bet.)
For 20 hours, I leaned into my husband for safety, but to no avail, her arm and stomach were constantly touching my arm and side, and I could feel her hatred and wrath for me through her skin. She hated me, and I could feel it. I had ruined her trip. She had won the lottery with an empty row, and I had come and stolen her ticket. Let’s just say a “kink” in my neck is the understatement of the millennium. I couldn’t look left for a fortnight.
That might have been bad enough, but there was an incredibly large, dirty, smelly, very drunk man sitting directly behind Kriner. His hairy belly bloated out under his “I Heart New York” t-shirt, which was perhaps 6 sizes too small. I wondered if he had actually meant to get on this plane, and more importantly, HOW he managed to get on this plane. I also wondered when the last time he had washed his hands. I imagined he thought he was on his way to Reno or Vegas. Maybe he was a homeless man who somehow had stumbled across an old boarding pass in the alley and thought it was a sign.
Kriner is a bit of a germaphobe, so the fact that this man (who I shall now refer to as “Ham” because that’s what he smelled like, or more specifically, that was one of the things he smelled like. I could have easily called him “Barn.”) placed his grimy, dirty hands on the back of Kriner’s chair whenever he stood up or sat down, which was often. Ham’s big, dirty paws would grab the top of Kriner’s chair, which of course meant his filthy, germ-ridden, disgusting hands would be on either side of my poor husband’s head. Surrounding Kriner’s horrified and disgusted face would be these big, meaty, digits and on close inspection, there was not only black filth under his fingernails, but a bit of green as well. Imagination at that point ran wild. Kriner would say something like “not cool, man.” but Ham went on with a grunt as if he hadn’t heard a word. Fun fact, Ham was also having some problems keeping his pants up properly.
Here’s where this story gets “good.” Ham got up to use the bathroom a lot, at least twice an hour. Also, the bathroom was located in front of the bulkhead, which, as earlier stated, we were sitting behind. I quickly surmised that Ham was suffering from some sort of digestive, gastrointestinal malfunction as the sounds and smells emanating from the bathroom were indicative of a horror movie. At first it was hard not to laugh, however, after hour 3, it was hard not to cry. And of course, we waited in vain to hear the water of the sink faucet run. “Please, please for the love of God, wash your hands” but to no avail. And of course, with every return, he would place his hands approximately 3 inches away from my husband’s face to labor to get his drunken lard-ass back into his seat. “Not cool, man.”
I started to wonder where his handlers were, and also, if we would have to mortgage the house to upgrade to business class for the return trip.
It would be good to say at this point that contractually stewardesses are not responsible for the upkeep or maintenance of the airplane lavatories. It’s a union thing. Bathrooms are cleaned when the plane is on the ground. As the hours went on, Ham was making more and more of a mess in there; please forgive me if I don’t go into details. We would walk around, trying to get away from the smell, the hatred, the grunting, the leaning, trying desperately to find a friendly face somewhere on that plane. We even went back to the broken seat, only to see it had been filled by a lovely, young couple, both of whom were sleeping soundly.
After about hour 15 I couldn’t take it anymore. That’s me. When things around me hit critical mass, I fly into action. I can’t help myself. I headed back to the rear of the plane, pulled down my carry-on and started to dig through it with a purpose. I had packed a fairly extensive first-aid kit, as the U.S. consulate had instructed me. I found my latex gloves. I also had packed at least 4 large tube containers of Lysol disinfectant wipes with bleach, also instructed by the consulate (i.e. SARS with special notice to wipe down phones and TV remotes in hotel rooms.) I marched back up to that bathroom with a vengeance and armed with my meager cleaning supplies, making sure to “accidentally” bump into Ham’s seat on the way there. Kriner gave me a mixed look of respect and horror, knowing I had reached my limit, and realizing what I was about to do.
I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, I used the whole container of disinfectant wipes, (all 100 of them) and through my work, I reminded myself that all around the world, men and women are paid to do this kind of work every day. It is gross, thankless and horrid and some people do it 8 hours a day. Also, in a few short hours, I would be wiping someone’s ass for a solid year, so cleaning up urine off the floor and wiping “something” off the toilet might be baptism by fire. After what seemed like an hour, but was only 15 minutes, the tiny bathroom was clean. It smelled like a hotel pool. It shined like a new penny. I was a good person! I had done a wonderful, selfless act for my fellow travelers. I was AWESOME! Just then, someone had tried the door handle. I was going to open that door and see the wonderful surprise on someone’s face. Someone, who was fearful they might meet “camp outhouse” but instead was meeting “hospital clean.” I threw away my gloves, fixed my hair, washed the bleach off my hands and opened the door with a smile.
Standing before me was Ham. Not cool, man.