My parents have been living in the basement for a week now, and Sarah’s womb has been painfully quiet the whole time. Every time I go downstairs, Tom and Lois are sitting on the couch, eating peanuts and watching Law & Order. And every time Sarah goes down there, they jump up with excited anticipation, and when they realize she has come to simply put in a load of laundry, they sigh. Audibly. They don’t mean any harm—they just want to meet the baby, too—but their presence seems to have spooked Sarah’s cervix. The pressure is overwhelming. “I feel like every day I don’t produce a child, I’m letting everyone down,” Sarah said.
The four of us went to dinner at Francesca’s in Little Italy one night and had a lovely (if loud) meal. Afterward, while we were waiting for our car out on Taylor Street, a homeless man asked me for change. I gave him the leftover veal medallions and a seared tuna instead. After opening the styrofoam boxes and eying their contents skeptically, he took them and walked away.
My mom was mesmerized by the transaction. “Is that customary?” she asked.
“Is what customary?”
“Giving the valet your doggie bag. As a tip.”
I just stared at her. Was she kidding?
“He’s not the valet, dear,” my dad said. “He’s a vagrant.”
“Oh,” my mom said, embarrassed. “Oh. Yes.”
Later, Sarah and I talked about the bizarre exchange. “In your mom’s world,” she said, “It makes sense that a valet would have a choice between the six bucks and the patron’s leftovers, and this particular guy just happened to go with the leftovers.”
This has nothing to do with the valet/homeless mix-up, but the next day, my folks announced a deadline upon which they absolutely must return to Albuquerque. That deadline is 11 days from now. In other words: Give birth or get off the pot.
Talk about pressure.
So Sarah and I have gotten desperate. Of course, there are all kinds of ways to stimulate labor out there—some based in science, others based in bullshit. We tried a bunch of them. Here’s our checklist:
1. Eat spicy food. Sarah ate a bunch of some hot peppers, and it gave her heartburn, not a baby.
2. Acupuncture. She resorted to this yesterday, courtesy of a young woman who trained in Chinatown. Sarah liked it, but nothing yet.
3. Bumpy car ride. The shocks suck on our car, so every ride is bumpy.
4. Nipple stimulation. Not likely. Sarah currently won’t let me in the same area code as her nipples.
5. Raspberry leaf tea. We keep meaning to go to Whole Foods and get some.
6. Take a walk together. Every night, no matter how cold.
7. Have sex. Trust me: this is out. And it has nothing to do with the fact that my parents are currently living just below us.
8. Belly dancing. You’ve got to be kidding. Sarah can’t even tie her shoes. How the hell is she going to belly dance?
9. Eat the salad at Caioti Café in Studio City, California. It’s reportedly done the trick for countless pregnant women over the years, and I’ve made inquiries getting one shipped to Chicago.
10. Drink castor oil. I’ve been downing the damn stuff for three days, and it just makes me sick.
“Don’t worry about it,” Dr. Harth told Sarah when asked what else we could do. “In all my years of practice, I’ve never seen a baby stay in there. But you might try the raspberry leaf tea, just to be safe.”