Of course, the first thing you want to know when you discover that you're pregnant is, ``How long have I been with child? When am I due?'' There is a simple formula for figuring this out: Add one week to the last day of your last period and subtract three months from that. That's your due date. This formula is magic. But, like most magic, it doesn't work very well--only about five percent of all births occur on the predicted date. As you might expect, there's about a two week window before and after that date during which the baby will actually be born. To quote my good friend Joe, ``Oh, fickle and uncertain life!''
Unless you've been through in vitro fertilization or some other similar fertility procedure--or are completely lacking in human curiosity, or else very inactive sexually--the next thing you wonder about is when the baby was conceived.
Now, the way I see it, this interest may be more than academic. Is it possible, for example, that the conditions surrounding their conception will affect the person-to-be? If the sex was passionate, will the baby be passionate? If it was slow and easy, perhaps the baby will be easy-going. If that love-making session was ticklish and goofy, maybe you'll end up with a bouncy giggly child. It could happen--all sorts of unknown biochemical things could be going on, and that chemical state could very well be passed on to the baby as it's conceived.
Really. Why not?
So immediately we found ourselves trying to remember when it was that this baby could have been conceived. Despite our mild tribulations, we never got around to tracking our sex life, as you probably should do if you've been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. So we had to rely on our somewhat faulty faculties of recollection. With a little bit of thought and some calculatus eliminatus, we narrowed it down until we were almost certain we knew when our baby's life began.
We were camping with our friends Colleen and Dave.
Well, only semi-camping. My parents and my sister and I used to spend every summer in a place called Driftstone on the Delaware in upstate Pennsylvania. Driftstone is a campground and it's right on the Delaware River, as its name implies. But it's not just a big chunk of forest with dirt patches on which to pitch your tent. No, it's a former farm, a big piece of land with roads and open grassy spaces. Each campsite comes equipped with electric and water and there are two bathhouses with flush toilets and showers. In addition to the river, there's a swimming pool, too.
Most people at Driftstone don't camp in tents--they use trailers. So, in a way, Driftstone is more of a trailer park than a campground. But it's not a trailer park like the ones you always see getting hit by tornadoes on the news. The trailers are smaller, for one thing. And for another, no one really lives at Driftstone full-time, because it closes for the winter. And for yet another thing, tornadoes rarely strike the mountains of Pennsylvania.
And this is where I spent my summers growing up. My family had a trailer and a site at Driftstone for years, and my mother and sister and I would go and stay there for the whole summer while my father came up on weekends. Almost my entire adolescence feels as if it was spent in Driftstone. And there wasn't much to do there.
In fact, the only thing for a pubescent boy to do there was wait anxiously for Friday and Saturday nights. You see, there was definite hierarchy in the campground. At the top, of course, were the owners of the campground. They were the absolute and unquestioned--although often defied--rulers of Driftstone. Just below them were the seasonals--the families who camped there all summer. I was a seasonal. Then, arrayed below them, were the people who only came up for a month or so, and then the people who came up for two weeks or one, and then, finally, the weekenders--the families who only came for a single weekend. The seasonals naturally looked down upon all of those lesser campers who wouldn't make the full commitment.
But the weekenders provided one thing: New girls. And so, every Friday night, we boys would get dressed up in our best jeans and denim jackets and would go to the Barn to look cool and see what girls had come for that weekend. The Barn was the center of social life at Driftstone, a barn that had been converted into a general store and video and pinball game arcade; in the back was a large rustic space that was where a band would come in every Saturday night and, for some reason, play ``Wipeout''.
So this is what we lived for, spending Friday and Saturday nights trying to find pretty girls and meet them and maybe get them to go out into the bushes with us to have sex. This never ever worked. At least, for me it didn't, and I'm not sure if it worked for anyone else, either. I'm not even sure if we would have known what to do if it had. But, nevertheless, this was what we lived for, and if we couldn't get them to have sex, maybe we could get the girls to make out with us. I wasn't very successful at that, either.
I guess I didn't appreciate Driftstone for what was really good about it, which was the trees and the river and the island in the middle of it and the fresh air and all of that. But that's what my wife and I go back for, even thought my parents no longer camp there and we have to bring our own tent and only stay for the weekend. We are now at the bottom of the totem pole, yes: Dawn and I are weekenders.
And yet, returning there even now, almost ten years past puberty, I still feel many of the same feelings. As Saturday night falls, the old ways come back to me, and I long to get a girl to go off into the woods to have sex with me. Only now I'm married, and I have a guaranteed partner. What a dream come true for a frustrated fifteen-year-old!
So that's how a moonless and cloudless Saturday night found us walking around the campground hand-in-hand in search of a suitably dark spot for our little midnight rendezvous. And walking. And walking. Maybe things had changed since I was younger, but I remembered there being a lot more dark places around the campground. Maybe the hormones made things look darker back then, I don't know. But every place seemed either far too well-lit for our purposes or far too overgrown. I mean, going off into the woods to make love is a nice idea, but when you've got a perfectly comfy tent and air mattress to go back to, the idea of scrambling through brambles for a little nookie in the out-of-doors isn't quite as appealing as it used to be when it was the only option. Actually, one place had plenty of dark for our purposes: The riverbank. But once there, we discovered something about a night with no moon, which is that the stars do give off enough light to see. Not enough light to see anything in particular, but enough light so you can see shapes. And it's really very spooky. So we high-tailed it back to the campground.
And everywhere we went, people looked at us like they knew what we were up to. I could tell by the looks on their faces as they squinted past the light of their campfires to see who was walking on the road--two young lovers, we were, giggling and laughing and wobbling.
Well, after going around and around a couple of times, hearts fluttering and pulses racing like we were teenagers, we realized there was simply no spot that qualified for a love nest. So we went back to our little tent.
And there, less than ten feet away from where Colleen and Dave were staying in their tent, our child was conceived. When Dawn and I found out about the pregnancy and figured out when conception had occurred, I was mortified. Our friends were just over there! Oh, how awful.
So I have to wonder: Will this child come out electric, filled with the energy of skulking around, looking for a safe place for sexual adventure? Will they be frantic and frenetic, restless and itching for excitement? Dawn already tells me that she feels much better when she gets up and walks around, instead of sitting in one place for too long. She blames the baby.
Really. Why not?