Read Maybe Baby Online

Authors: Kim Golden

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #United States, #African American, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction

Maybe Baby (4 page)

BOOK: Maybe Baby
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I squeezed his hand and said
"okay" softly. I was glad for the dark. I thought for sure the guilt would show on my face.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

Danish Surprise

G
oing to Copenhagen released something inside of me. All of the tension dissipated and I felt like could breathe again. It was a feeling I always had whenever I arrived. Was it the city's irreverent grittiness? It was just as beautiful as Stockholm, but less studied. Copenhagen didn't mind if you saw it on an off day, whereas Stockholm always strived for perfection. While my colleagues were more impatient, making beelines for the taxi stands as soon as we’d disembarked, I liked discovering the city slowly and opted for the train. I wasn't in the mood for small talk, so I told them I would meet them at the hotel.

Our first meeting didn't start until after lunch, which gave me time to check in at the hotel, and call Copenh
agen Cryo to make sure my appointment was still on. I almost felt like a secret agent with all this subterfuge. And imagining myself as a modern day Emma Peel made me laugh at myself. Here I was, trying to hide from the man who was effectively my husband that I was trying to figure out how to have a baby without him. And my guilt ate away at me. What the hell was I doing? I pulled out my iPhone and sent Niklas a guilty text that said, "I love you so much." I did. So why did I feel like I was cheating on him by even considering using someone else's DNA to help me have a baby?

And why was I so obsessed with a baby being mine? By the time I arrived at the hotel, I'd almost convinced myself to call Copenhagen Cryo and cancel my appoin
tment. But then I thought about it—I wasn't committing to anything. I was just getting information. Information could possibly help me—help us—especially since Niklas was warming up to the idea of us starting our own family. By the time I was on my way to the offices of Jensen, Fogh & Ogilvy, I'd talked myself into believing Niklas would thank me for taking the initiative, and not waiting or simply relying on information found online.

*      *      *

Copenhagen Cryo turned out to be easier to find than I'd expected. It was just around the corner from the Hotel Kong Arthur, in an office block that looked more like a five-star hotel than a medical clinic. I'd expected something very plain, or the cookie-cutter medical offices I was used to from back home; nice enough that you were glad your doctor had one but bland enough to have zero distinction. But this office was very Danish design—all wengé wood and muted colors. It was obvious that the architects and interior designers worshipped at the altar of Arne Jacobssen—there were teal-hued Egg and Swan chairs and sleek edges. A floor-to-ceiling wall of glass let in pale shafts of watery light as it overlooked Nørre Søgade and the bridge to Nørrebrø.

The young woman sitting behind the receptionist desk, who looked more suited to the cover of Elle rather than behind a desk in a clinic, watched me with an e
xpressionless face as I approached her from the elevator bank. As soon as I was close enough, the expression on her face warmed, and she allowed a smile to form. "Welcome to Copenhagen Cryo," she said. "Are you here for an appointment, or an information session?"

"
I'm here for an information session with…" I glanced down at the name I'd saved on my phone's reminder app. "Ida Friis?"

"
And you are?"

"
Laney Halliwell."

The Ice Blonde nodded and tapped away at her co
mputer. "Ah, yes. There you are." Then she called my Client Services Assistant on what looked like the very latest  iPhone. "Have a seat, and she'll be right with you."

I chose one of the Egg chairs and tried to look as calm and collected as I imagined Eddy would be in this situ
ation. Nothing ever seemed to faze my cousin. Something completely out of the ordinary happened, and she was more likely to raise an eyebrow than to have a mental breakdown or burst into uncontrollable tears. I was the one who usually lost control, or who froze and couldn't think straight. And she was usually the person who would snap me out of it and make me react. I wished she was with me. I should have asked her to come along for moral support. No doubt she would have criticized the outfit I was wearing—black capri pants, black ballet flats, and a silk pullover sweater—and said it was too boring, too Euro Corporate. That I'd pulled my hair into a bun would have made her grimace, but I had to dress for work, and I'd come to the clinic straight after my last meeting, so at least I had an excuse.

When Ida came out to greet me, I was struck by how young she looked. She didn't seem like she was much older than Siri. She was probably only a few years her senior. But she carried herself with a self-assurance that was enviable. I pegged her at twenty-five. When I was that age, I could only fake confidence. I was good at working it and making people think I was cool as a c
ucumber, but inside I was shaking. And now, as we greeted one another and shook hands, I tried to channel a little of Eddy's confident persona. Ida led me to her office, which was just as stylish and Danish cool as the reception area. Instead of sitting at her desk, Ida and I sat on the black leather Exposition sofa. On the rosewood coffee table in front of the sofa were several binders and a sleek MacBook Air. From unseen speakers, ambient lounge music streamed in, giving her office the feel of a trendy hotel bar rather than an office at a clinic.

"
Now, tell me," Ida said in an encouraging voice. "What sort of man speaks to you?"

"
Speaks to me?" I asked. "You mean on a daily basis?"

"
No, sorry, I should have been clearer. I meant what sort of man interests you."

"
Oh! Well..." I tried to picture Niklas in my head. He was the man I loved so, surely, he would be the man who spoke to me. Instead, I saw a completely different man. Someone a little taller, a little less serious. Someone who didn't slick their hair back every morning with hair gel and who didn't clear his throat whenever he wanted me to hand him the Culture section on a Sunday morning. "I like men who are creative." It was the only thing that came out that wouldn't sound like a withering putdown of Niklas. And he didn't deserve that. Where had all of this criticism come from?

"
That's a good start." Ida started taking notes on her computer. "Tell me more."

I closed my eyes and let my mind wander. I thought of the walk I'd taken from the Jensen,
Fogh & Ogilvy office in Væsterbrø and envisioned the men I passed. There was a café I passed just as I came up Øster Søgade. It was situated on the corner, and I remembered seeing a man sitting by the window, reading the newspaper. I'd paused long enough to catch his eye. I hadn't meant to. I got a bit distracted by how relaxed he looked, how his reddish-blond hair waved around his face. He wasn't classically beautiful, but he had an interesting face and such kissable looking lips that I could almost feel them on mine just thinking about them. Then I had to stop myself... damn, I already felt guilty, and all I'd done was daydream about another man.

"
I'm sorry," I said. "This just feels weird."

So Ida took over and began telling me about why C
openhagen Cryo insisted on potential parents meeting the men who could help them in their quest to become parents. "We wouldn't just let anyone in our homes, so why shouldn't we be selective about whose sperm fertilizes our eggs?"

She made it sounds so normal, so logical. She talked about Dr.
Mikkelsen, the woman who'd founded the clinic and who'd come up with the idea of making a sperm bank as transparent as dating. How she thought you ought to know as much as possible about the men involved—even have access to their medical records or police records so that you could be assured you were getting superior genes. It all started to sound a bit like eugenics, and maybe Ida sensed my reticence, because she assured me that this wasn't about creating a master race or a super baby, just making sure that the man whose sample you used didn't have any illnesses or disorders that could prove fatal for your future child.

"
This way, you never have to worry about being impregnated by a man with HIV, for example, or with hemophilia or congenital heart problems."

"
How many women have used your... services?"

"
Well, since we opened ten years ago, we've helped 30,000 women here in Denmark alone. And when we initiated the open sperm donations two years ago, we helped 5,000 more women."

The figure was significant. I nodded slowly and let her words sink in. It was a figure Niklas would respect.

"If you're worried about the race of your child, we have African and African-American donors as well. I'm sure a few of them will come to the mingle."

"
Do you get a lot of Danish women who want black children?"

"
Quite a few," Ida said, without seeming surprised by my question.

"
My partner is Swedish, so I think it's probably best if I have a donor who resembles him."

"
It's your decision," Ida replied. "We don't try in any way to steer your choice of donor."

I thought she would leave it at that, but then she b
egan to describe the hormone therapy that every woman had to go through to prepare for artificial insemination. The rounds of shots, the possible mood swings... the insemination itself and then the waiting. The more she told me, the less sure I felt. I wished Eddy were there. I wished I could ask her for advice, hear her reassure me about how pleased Uma was with the choices she'd made. Eddy would know all the right questions to ask. I tried to imagine sitting here with Niklas. He'd listen, he'd nod, he'd say all the right things, but later he'd shake his head and say it was all a bit trite. If I couldn't even imagine my partner here with me, why was I doing this?

"
Would you go through all of this to have a child?"

Ida nodded and flashed a beatific smile.
"Yes, I would."

"
Honestly?"

"
I would. Especially if I still hadn't met the man I want to be the father of my children, and I heard my biological clock ticking."

"
I don't want to feel desperate."

"
This isn't desperation, Laney. You already know you want to be a mother. You've just unfortunately found yourself in a situation where your partner's past decision has put you in this position." Ida slid the binders toward me. "Have a look. You don't have to make a decision now. You can walk out of here whenever you like, without making any commitment whatsoever. This is all up to you."

I flipped open one of the binders and browsed through page after page of men. Some were exceptiona
lly handsome, others average. Some so well-educated—at least on paper—that it was almost intimidating. But none of them in the first binder spoke directly to me, or elicited enough of a reaction that it warranted watching the videos Ida assured me she had of every single one of them. I asked her if there was a particularly popular one. She smiled a little enigmatically and then said, "I could show you his video. He's got magnetism."

I was curious, so I went along with it. I had to see the man who seemed to inspire women to melt.

And the video was very compelling. He was rugged-looking, with the sort of wind-blown, reddish blond hair and pale green eyes that made you think of a young Robert Redford. And when he spoke, he had a deep timbre that resonated inside you and made you think of long sessions of weekend sex and wine, sore muscles. I glanced away, thinking how this man probably helped populate many a Danish town. He was the man I'd seen in the café, the man I'd imagined when I should have been thinking about Niklas.

"
He's got a definite appeal." I blushed. I was glad my skin was dark enough to cover the rising heat flaring inside me.

"
He does," Ida agreed, still smiling. "You know, you should really stay for the mingle."

"
Is it here in the office?"

"
No, downstairs at the bar. I think we'll have a good crowd tonight."

Ida changed the subject again; she wanted to know more about me, and how I'd ended up at Copenhagen Cryo. For some reason, I hadn't expected this. I'd thought she would go into hard sell mode and try to co
nvince me to sign up already, pick my sperm donor, and then start the hormone treatments immediately. I found myself telling her about Niklas, about how sometimes he made me feel like the most wonderful, most essential part of his life, and other times I felt like a shadow. I told her about my relationship with Siri and Jesper, and how daunting it was to be the de facto stepmother to teenagers who seemed hell bent on hating me, no matter what I did. And how I'd woken up that morning in New York, with a void growing inside of me, and a sudden desperation to have a child of my own.

I wasn't getting any younger. I was
thirty-three. The number scared me. When I was twenty-five, I'd thought that by now I would be back in the US, or maybe in London, with a different man, perhaps. I'd never pictured myself staying in Stockholm for so long. How had that happened? How had I become one of those women who latched on to a man and didn't let go? But that was love, wasn't it? Or at least part of it? When you knew with a certainty that you could not live without the person you were with, or that you didn't want to live without him? I didn't want to live without Niklas. I just wished that parts of him—the part that psychoanalyzed me whenever I was annoyed, or the part that always took Siri and Jesper's side, even when they were wrong—would magically disappear.

BOOK: Maybe Baby
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