That spring my governess and pseudo mom, Suzanne, who’d lived with our family for the past twenty-two years, got married and moved out of the house. My real mother, Franyo, grew a little lonely and morose as a result, so we asked her to join us on a trip to the Yucatan. She’d always wanted to go to Isla Mujeres, which became our first stop, a seven kilometer spit of land in the Caribbean that had giant sea turtles. In pre-Columbian times, the island had been sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth, and in my obsession with getting pregnant, I took that as a sign. Beyond a few tentative conversations, I still hadn’t confronted Werner on the issue. I knew there’d be nothing but a big red light, so I stayed quiet and bided my time.
After a day on the island, we flew to the mainland to visit the ruins at Chichen Itza. It was there, atop the steepest pyramid, that I had a kind of revelation. The climb had been almost vertical going up, but somehow we managed. Werner was like a billy goat at places like this, running up and down steep flights of steps with his cameras as if they were molehills. Franyo and I ascended very slowly. At the top was a gorgeous view, but when we went to go down, we realized there was no place to put our feet: it was a sheer drop and one had to guess where the first descending step was.
Franyo started weeping. The only times I’d ever seen her cry before were when her friend the baron, Erich Von, died and when I was a twelve-year-old child with encephalitis, so this was a true jolt. There was no other way down than by foot. One had to have faith – kind of like jumping out of a plane and assuming the deities loved you and your parachute would open. You just dangled your foot till it touched somewhere, then said a prayer and went down really slowly on your ass. I took that first step with my eyes closed, and as I did I knew I was going to take another kind of plunge, throw caution to the wind, and open my baby-wanting body to fate, no matter what.
I waited till we got home to London to talk to Werner. I told him I planned to have a baby, but he didn’t take me seriously. “I will, you’ll see,” I said. A day or two later, feeling terrified by the momentousness of my decision, I stopped using birth control. Make love to me if you dare, I thought in dangerous, silent defiance. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Being young, I expected immediate results. But conception took awhile and a number of things happened along the way.
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