Chapter 1

Marcia was sopping wet when she entered the lobby of her building on West End Avenue. She kicked off her soaked shoes in the doorway. They were probably ruined, she thought, but she was too excited to care. She went straight to her bedroom, dripping little rain puddles onto the Oriental rug in the entry hallway, changed out of her clothes and pulled on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. Catching a glimpse of herself in the bedroom mirror, she noticed her wet hair plastered around her face and towel-dried it with one hand while opening her briefcase. She ignored the manuscript she had brought home to edit and extracted three pamphlets she’d picked up in her doctor’s office that afternoon. Clutching them in her hand, she curled up on her bed to read them again.

Surrogacy. Her last chance, her last hope. She had tried everything else. Surely this would work. But she knew getting Jeff to accept it would be an uphill fight. At least it wasn’t adoption; she knew he would never give in on that. But he’d also been resistant to every form of conception other than as a by-product of their lovemaking. She would have preferred it to have happened naturally too, but it hadn’t. They had tried to conceive a baby for three years with nothing to show for it but a less spontaneous and thus less exciting sex life. She had taken her temperature every day for months to determine when she was ovulating. She’d rush home when she was and miss dinner dates or parties required for her work. Making love became so separated from seduction it began to seem like a job. They’d been to doctors and they’d had every test anyone could think of and nothing explained why she couldn’t conceive. Yes, they’d told her, he had a slightly low sperm count, but others with the condition still had children. Whether that was the problem or it was something else entirely, she remained barren and it had become the heartbreak of her life.

Convincing Jeff to try any medical intervention hadn’t been easy. After the first two years of disappointments he was ready to give up. That had been a year ago but she remembered every detail of their conversation as if it were yesterday. She had just emerged from the bathroom, fighting tears.

“I got my period,” she’d said disconsolately.

She’d climbed into bed, pulled up the blanket and turned away from him, staring silently into space.

“Don’t react like this, Marcia. It’s only one time.”

“One more time after two years of only one more time. I feel so sad and so stressed I don’t know what to do.”

“Maybe it’s the stress that’s stopping it from happening,” he said.

“I don’t know, that sounds vaguely like it’s my fault somehow.”

“No, I’m not saying that. We’re both tense.”

“Look, if being tense prevented conception, rape victims would never get pregnant.”

He paused for what seemed like a long time before venturing his next suggestion. “Listen, honey, please, turn around. I want to say something.”

She sighed and turned to face him.

“Maybe we just can’t do this,” he said gently.

She didn’t look at him. Her thoughts were far away. “Maybe not like this,” she said quietly. “But there are other ways.”

He looked perplexed.

“We could try IUI,” she said.

“What’s that?”

“It’s intrauterine insemination.”

He looked puzzled.

“You know,” she added with a little smile, “the turkey baster method.”

He withdrew his arm from her shoulder. “That’s a turn-on,” he said.

“It’s not supposed to be a turn-on,” she countered. “It’s not about sex. It’s about conception.”

“I thought those two went together.”

“Well, I guess this is for when they don’t,” she said softly, getting out of bed and leaving the room.

He’d gone along with it after that, but she knew he did so grudgingly. He hated the idea and he hated the process, and she knew, and appreciated, that he submitted only because he understood how important it was to her. But when that method also repeatedly failed, he was more than ready to give up. She’d begged him to talk to her doctor about another possibility and so, reluctantly, he went with her to discuss the next step with her gynecologist.

The doctor had suggested in-vitro fertilization: Marcia’s egg would be harvested in a minor surgical procedure and then fertilized by Jeff’s sperm outside her body. It would then be inserted into her uterus. The doctor explained that to increase the odds of success she would insert several fertilized eggs at the same time. The process, she said, would cost about $15,000.

They were shocked. Insurance wouldn’t pay any of it and although they could afford it—Jeff had a good job in a law firm and Marcia was a senior editor at a publishing house—this was not a price they could shrug off. Besides, they realized that it might not take the first time around. Each cycle would multiply the cost by the same amount. How far were they ready to go?

“What if more than one egg takes?” Jeff had asked one night as they were lying in bed talking about it.

“That’s very rare,” Marcia answered.

“Not so rare. I can just imagine it. The Naiman Quintuplets,” he said. He pretended to roll up his sleeves like a circus barker. “Come and see them. A modern miracle.”

Marcia laughed. “Well, we’d be sure to get lots of presents. And five of each. Can’t you just see them lined up in their cribs, all of them with your chin dimple?”

“It’s not funny, Marcia. What if we did have twins? That’s not rare at all in this procedure.”

“We’d be done, then,” she whispered. “There’d be a few tough years, but we wouldn’t have to do this part ever again.”

They had gone through with it. There had been no way to turn back—Marcia wanted a baby too much. She’d have tried anything, paid anything, borrowed if she had to. And Jeff had gotten into the spirit of it. It had become a challenge, a kind of high-stakes game and, as usual, he simply didn’t want to lose. He seemed equally devastated when it didn’t work, Marcia thought. But when she insisted they try it again, he balked. And when she’d convinced him, promising this would be the last time, and once again failed to conceive, he refused to try a third time. The subject had been dropped. They stopped taking her temperature and consciously trying to conceive. But Marcia never really let it go. She was painfully aware that her thirty-ninth birthday was approaching and that soon she might lose her chance completely. She’d taken her temperature without telling him and made sure they made love when she thought she was ovulating. Still, nothing had happened and she felt bereft every month when she got her period. Continually disappointed, her usual optimism failed her and she fell into a depression from which she couldn’t seem to emerge.

Now hope slowly stirred again, like a cat stretching after a long sleep. She felt a renewed sense of possibility and purpose, and resolved to research the subject thoroughly starting tomorrow. She knew Jeff would be against it—they had discussed surrogacy early on and both had rejected the idea—but that was before it was clear it was their only chance. She’d taken it up with her doctor today, and she believed that she had finally hit upon the right solution and that nothing now could stand in her way. Nothing, that is, except Jeff.

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