I remember the phone call like it was yesterday.
I was lying on my bed in Tennessee, sweating profusely, twisting the sheets, sporting a full-body set of hives that would have been the talk of the town if I had been outside, and if anyone else had cared about my appearance. As it was I was there clutching the sheets because I knew what I had to say was devastating news any way she would have looked at it.
I knew that the words about to come from my mouth could be a deal breaker. But I also knew that I would have to say them anyway, that if our relationship had any chance of working I would have to be honest from that phone call on, however long it would last after I said those four ominous words.
“I can’t have children.”
What we had built to that point, albeit only via the telephone and email, was strong enough that I had a bit of hope that she wouldn’t send me her regrets and sign off for good. But no woman wants to hear the words I had to say. I released my death grip on the sheets and exhaled.
Then I just went for it, like some kind of blubbering fool, and once the words were out of my mouth there was a pregnant pause, a silence that seemed to stretch from Tennessee to the magical Gomching Forest in China. In those precious moments all manner of thoughts went through my addled mind, from yelling and screaming, to the death knell of a dial tone, to a wretched sobbing that I knew would wreck my soul.
My hives began to itch in earnest then, and I almost said something more… but then she responded.
And her response was a measured one, as simple and as revealing as anything she had ever told me to that point, and as anything she’s ever told me since. She was cool and collected, the very essence of someone who looks at all sides of a conundrum and somehow finds the best possible path through it.
“We’ll figure it out,” she said, and I knew then that it would be all right. I knew that regardless of how everything played out she wasn’t going to leave me, that she was going to give the idea of US a chance even if we were never to have children, even if life had thrown us a curve ball.
I loved her then, for the first time, knowing it deep in the marrow of my bones, as deeply as I had ever known anything in my life. I didn’t tell her, of course, but I knew it nonetheless. It was like the four magical words she told me revealed more about her then those famous three words ever could. I loved her then, and I’ve loved her ever since. She was right, too. We did figure it out, and we did it together.
And nearly 14 years after that conversation we sit here now on the 7th birthday of our youngest child, and I am so glad she said those four words out of all the words she could have said in response. We figured it out, and that has made all the difference.