There I was, in the company of pregnant women -- seven baby-bellied ladies -- and their toe-tapping, knuckle-cracking, head-swiveling partners. We sat in a basement classroom, each expectant parent wearing a look-I'm-a-dork name tag, all of us struggling to appear as casual as possible. I sensed a slightly nauseating freshman-orientation vibe in the air. Was this a pre-fatherhood anxiety dream? Some super-fertile AA meeting? Neither, actually: My wife Lisa and I were starting a seven-week natural childbirth class offered by Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts.
Randi, our instructor, at last ended the quiet by introducing herself and asking us to go around the room and say a little something. Panic rose in me like acid reflux; I didn't know we'd have to speak. I couldn't remember why I was there or what I did for a living.
As I tried to compose a non-stupid greeting, I started to think about CVS and the night in early fall when Lisa and I stood at one of the pharmacy's cash registers and slid an expensive ovulation test across the counter. We'd been in the baby-making biz for a few months but, for all our bedroom R&D, hadn't yet managed to crank out any product. We were out late because we were trying to keep a low profile. The Procreation Project, y'see, was a private venture: I was under strict orders not to leak any information, and Lisa didn't tell anyone either -- except her mother, a few of her best friends, the woman who does her hair, and the girl at the coffeehouse. But here we were taking it public.