Our youngest boy is living proof that vasectomies aren't fool-proof
And baby makes seven. The Flanagans jump for joy, to little Declan's apparent displeasure. Submitted photo by Marie Snippa
At least once a day I look at him and wonder where on Earth he came from.
Declan is now one year old and seeing him lying there in the bed between us when he gets up in the morning is sometimes still as shocking as the day the home pregnancy test confirmed the impossible: nine years after we'd had four children in five years, we were somehow going to have another.
It was a sports injury doctor who diagnosed me. I had gone to see him on the advice of my running partner when I developed an inexplicable pain in my right sciatica.
"Have you ever experienced this pain before?" he asked.
"Only in pregnancy," I laughed. "And I can't be pregnant - my husband had a vasectomy."
Famous last words.
The young sports doctor prescribed an X-ray. He dutifully pulled out his prescription pad but, good doctor that he was, first asked about my menstruations. Hmmm, come to think of it, I had sort of skipped my last monthlies. But I was getting ready to sell a house and move my family to the other end of the country. That explained it, I figured.
There were a few other strange symptoms, like nightsweats and severe fatigue - one afternoon while our house was being shown, I fell asleep on my neighbour's couch as her visiting mother was chatting to me. But my helpful husband Chris had kindly Googled all these unusual goings on and graciously informed me, just before sleep one night, that I was experiencing early menopause.
I suppose the real news was payback for that remark.
My husband had always been proud of his vasectomy story - supposing it compared to childbirth, I imagine. He told me the surgeon insisted there was no turning back, that he used an "aggressive technique" that could not be undone, even with reversal surgery.
"He cut out a full inch of tube," Chris used to boast, "clamped 'em with titanium clips and cauterized both ends for good measure."
The titanium man was still in the car on his way to work in Richmond, B.C., when I called to tell him the news.
"Wait a minute and let me pull over," he said, somewhat frantically. I could feel his surprise through all the "are you sures?"
"Maybe the test was wrong," he said.
"Listen, if this thing had bells, it would have woken up the entire neighbourhood," I replied.
Dr. Wong, my usually unflappable family doctor seemed beyond surprised.
"Could it be someone else's?" he asked me, wide-eyed.
I knew it was a question that had to be asked.
But Dr. Wong obviously didn't know us very well. For the past two years, Chris had been studying for his MBA at the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University. Every second weekend he would head to the Delta Hotel in downtown Vancouver for two nights and hang out with dozens of other executive types, of both sexes, who were also away from the demands of family life. If anyone had a chance to have an affair, it was not me. I was too busy chauffeuring three boys to hockey and one girl to dance through Bangkok-like Surrey traffic.
In a way, it was a relief to know I was pregnant. It explained the overwhelming nausea and the daily consumption of massive quantities of Greek salad washed down with Miss Vickie's salt and vinegar chips.
I imagine it was a relief to my husband when the sperm test came back overwhelmingly positive, though he feigned nonchalance.
This time Dr. Wong was agog with excitement. "There are live sperm," he kept saying. "They are not supposed to be there."
So, when Chris returned to Newfoundland a month ahead of us, I sold our house in Surrey and packed up and prepared four children for the drive across the continent. I'm the only one I know with maternity pictures at Mount Rushmore.
It's harder being pregnant in your 40s than in your 20s and 30s. Every now and then while perusing the beautiful scenery of the States, I would have to pause to throw up in one of the bags handily kept in the front of the van for that purpose. This time last year, I weighed 177 pounds and my fingers looked like sausages.
Friends were busy filling our house with all the trappings necessary for raising a child in the western world. Crib, bumpers and bedding, change table, playpen and car seats. Breast pump, bottles, toys, clothes and a Bumbo chair. What the heck is a Bumbo chair? In the nine years since I last had a child, things had changed.
A baby shower outfitted me with a year's supply of diapers and 1,000 wet wipes. My office was converted to a nursery. My filing cabinet is gone. My dictionaries share shelf space with copies of Dr. Seuss and Jillian Jiggs.
Chris went back for a second surgery. He tells me his superman ego was somewhat deflated when the surgeon removed a full inch of scar tissue that had gobbled the titanium clip and allowed his swimmers safe passage.
Declan arrived precisely on our 15th wedding anniversary, at 45 seconds before midnight. Earlier in the evening, Chris was determined to go out for steak. Despite the fact my water had broken. He consoled himself with bringing a movie to watch on the laptop at the hospital. It was an interesting evening.
I started a baby group in our neighbourhood. All the young mothers look at me like I'm some old nanny goat. They ask me questions about bedtime schedules and napping routines.
"Soon enough Angus will be sleeping through the night and napping four hours a day," I say.
I only lie to the first-time mothers. No sense scaring them out of having another child and depriving their little one of siblings.
Declan, like his siblings, is not big on napping. There's always too much going on. He doesn't want to miss out on a thing.
His brothers and sister love him to bits and, of course, we can't imagine life without him. When I'm not wondering where he came from, I'm wondering what we did without him. Nevertheless, I'm at the stage where my friends are going on cruises and planning empty-nest activities while I'm excited just to go to the drugstore by myself.
Ah, what a couple of minutes alone in the family-planning aisle can do for my psyche.
Susan Flanagan is a mother of five living in St. John's with her fertile husband, Chris.