I mean, I knew he did it, but good lord, I didn’t realise a four-day hiatus would be so traumatic.
‘What am I supposed to do for four whole days?’ he says, quite seriously, on Tuesday afternoon.
‘The doctor said four to seven days,’ I tell him. Being the sort of kid who always handed in their homework two days early, I am now the sort of adult who would see four days as the bare minimum required, and therefore the preserve of losers.
‘There’s absolutely no way I could wait seven days. Four’s as many as I’m willing to endure.’ We are clearly entering uncharted territory here.
‘Well, I’m away all week, so at least there’s no temptation to have sex.’
‘Hah!’ snorts Herbert, ‘that only makes it worse. What do you think I do when you’re away?’ Um, a little light needlework? Macrame? Sugar craft?
Hang on, am I married to a compulsive masturbator? I simply had no idea it was this embedded in his routine. I do hope he’s not rubbing himself inappropriately up against the cats in my absence.
As the week progresses (jollied along by unhelpful texts from me, e.g. ‘Hurrah! You’re now 75% through your non-wanking marathon! Your’e a tiger!’), Herbert develops a more pressing concern: how to transport his sample to the hospital.
Semen samples must be kept at body temperature and should be tested as soon after ejaculation as possible. Our local hospital, sadly, does not offer a special room for the job.
After mulling over the prospect of knocking one out in an NHS toilet cubicle, H decides that he’d prefer his first post-abstinence wank to be at home. The man from the pathology department therefore helpfully suggests he keeps it under his armpit until he reaches the hospital. Herbert and I are not sure this is possible without straining something or crashing the car.
After much indecision, on Thursday night he decides to practice driving home with the empty bottle clenched between his thighs. It is declared a success. We are all ready for the Friday morning payload.
In the meantime, I am occupying myself in other ways. I decided, quite suddenly, that I ought to be taking special pre-conception vitamins, just in case, y’know, I fall pregnant in a so quickly that I haven’t had time to stockpile folic acid. I take a trip to Boots, where I find a brand that’s so expensive I imagine they must contain micro-bots that swarm up my fallopian tubes and gently massage my ovaries into submission.
I buy them. And while I’m there, I also purchase a breathtakingly expensive box of ovulation sticks, as I figure I might be able to catch my body sneaking out an ovulation when no-one’s looking. I suspect that peeing on a stick every day will keep me occupied, particularly in conjunction with swallowing a vitamin pill.
Because, really, as soon as this process starts, the obsession kicks in. I may be ambivalent about what a baby will do to my life, but I am not in the least bit ambivalent about the process of conceiving it. Conception is a task which, properly managed, can be robbed of some of its uncertainty. Or at least, that’s what I have to believe if I’m not going to crack under the strain. If it all fails, I don’t want to be left with the nagging doubt that I didn’t do quite enough.
At eight o’clock this morning, I text H:
The time is upon us!
H: Ten minutes to go.
Me: In my head, you’re standing with your hand poised over your penis, like a gunslinger in a spaghetti western.
H: You worry me sometimes.
But the deed is done. He produces his sample (I don’t enquire), drives it to the pathology lab on the way to work, and then texts me to say:
It wasn’t a very big sample in the end. I’m a bit disappointed. I expect they’ll want another one now.
FFS, how much do you think they need? I reply.
Do you know the worst bit? says H, I just looked it up online. Two to four days of not ejaculating is usually considered enough. Your GP is a sadist.
Ah well. I suppose we all have to find ways of managing the little stresses in life.