The first person to learn that I was pregnant was my partially deaf, doddering 80-year-old father. I would imagine that, after learning she is pregnant, a woman first announces the good news to her partner or her mother. But I had neither.
A year and a half ago, in my father’s home in suburban Sacramento, I woke up to a congratulatory voicemail from a nurse at the New York City fertility clinic I’d been going to for two years. I burst from my room at 6:30 a.m. to run downstairs to tell, well, someone. It seemed appropriate it would be my father, but he wasn’t in his usual position on the ground inches away from the television blaring satellite news programs from India.
Worried, I yelled “Papa” outside his bedroom door a few times. He finally emerged, hair standing on end and muttering under his breath, “I think I have Alzheimer’s. I’m sure of it.”
“Papa, I don’t think you do. Let’s go downstairs,” I said.
Still disoriented, he sat down at our kitchen table and I took his warm palm in my mine. “Papa, I have something to tell you,” I said. My father had begrudgingly accepted my decision to have a baby on my own when I first started treatment at the eleventh-hour age of 43, but his befogged state betrayed no inkling of what I was about to tell him.
“Papa, I’m pregnant,” I said, to which he gave no response. Soon I realized he wasn’t censuring me with his silence, he’d fallen asleep. I nudged him awake and repeated, “I’m pregnant,” several decibels louder. After a few seconds, he seemed to finally register what I’d said but remained quiet.
“Papa, aren’t you going to say anything?” I implored.
He shrugged and delivered the most joyless reaction to ever accompany a pregnancy announcement: “Beta, I just wanted so much more for you.” I acknowledged that I’d dashed his hopes that I’d come by a family by more conventional means. I said, “I know, Papa, I know. I wanted more for me, too.”
The truth is I couldn’t blame him. Since the day I was born, it had been his singular, urgent, all encompassing wish that I get married, the 50% divorce rate be…