There are some great things about marrying a woman who's not girlie: minimal crying, few conversations about our relationship, no cuddling after sex in fact, no combination of any of those activities. I also appreciate that Cassandra puts up with me when I do those things.
But now I'm in the reverse-gender position of wanting a second child while she doesn't. Unfortunately, I lack the uterus to make this happen, along with the prestidigitation skills to remove her IUD without her knowing. Left with no other options, I've resorted to reasoning with her. I explained that as great as our first child is, I'm pretty sure we can do better. Laszlo seems curious and happy, but I don't think he's going to cure cancer. I want a cancer-curing child. If we start kid 2.0 on sign language, then alternate a Mandarin-speaking nanny with a Spanish-speaking one, I think we have a shot.
Cassandra's antichildren stance, meanwhile, is flimsy. "I have only a few years of my youth left," she said. "I don't want to go through the fat and the sleep-deprived nights again." Also, when she was pregnant she had to be on medication for a thyroid problem. And she was anemic. And nauseated. And had swollen ankles, trouble breathing and sciatica. I found none of this convincing. Then she sent me an e-mail with the heading, "You want this to happen again?" that contained a photo of her from her ninth month of pregnancy looking sad and, frankly, sexually unappealing.
Still, Laszlo, despite his inability to cure even simple, nonmetastasizing diseases, makes me so happy and interested in life that I want to watch it all happen again, and I want to see him interact with another child I love. So I needed help from an expert at talking his wife into getting pregnant. I called Jim Bob Duggar, the father of 19 children and a co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-co-star of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting.
Jim Bob and his wife Michelle both got on the phone with me at the same time, something my wife and I can't even manage with just one kid. He suggested that I casually discuss names I like with Cassandra. To allay her fears about a second child being expensive, he said, "Tell your wife that instead of shopping at the mall, she could shop at thrift stores, and you can afford a few more children." Despite having nine daughters, Jim Bob does not have a good sense of how to motivate women.
But Michelle told me that I couldn't talk Cassandra into it: "You're not a woman. You're not the person to convince her, as far as the pain and the agony and the morning sickness and the stretch marks." Worse yet, Michelle said she understood Cassandra's dread about pregnancy. "The best thing you can do is work on yourself and let her know you adore her and she's a great mom. You better tell her how beautiful she is and the reason you married her. You need to be speaking those things to her every day," Michelle said. "That's where babies come from."
Then Jim Bob suggested I plan a date night once a week. Also, that we put Jesus at the center of our marriage. I told Jim Bob that I'm Jewish, Cassandra and I are both atheists and Cassandra is in her mid-30s. Even the Apostle Peter couldn't slip Jesus into our marriage in time for a second child.
When I got off the phone, I tried the baby-name ploy, knowing Cassandra liked the name Anastasia. She suggested we use it for a dog or cat. I talked about the joy in teaching your children to love each other, and she told me that kids mostly fight. Desperate, I mumbled something about Jesus turning loaves of bread into lepers. I really don't know much about Jesus.
Then I told her the stuff the Duggars said about tricking her by making her feel loved. "That's interesting," Cassandra said. "I think the only way it would be possible would be to show me how in love with me you are and how you want my baby not just a baby. That's your only chance. I feel as if I'm your oven. That it could be anybody. That you just want a baby-delivery vehicle."
Which isn't at all true. In fact, before we were married, I was sure I never wanted children. Having Laszlo has made me feel closer to Cassandra than ever as if we're alone exploring a beautiful continent that happens to be filled with human excrement. I love when he makes the curious raised-eyes face she makes, and I've cried watching her sneak into his room at night to straighten his pajamas while he's asleep.
I was going to say all this to her. But as soon as I started talking, Cassandra pointed out that the more children you have, the less sex you have. I'm pretty sure the cancer patients will understand.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 20, 2010, issue of TIME magazine.