“I am so sorry,” Cindy is shaking her head as she speaks. “I am just so sorry.”
“No, it’s on me. It’s all my fault,” Pete turns in his seat and cradles her hand in both of his.
Dr. Waldt leans forward in his rocker. “I can clearly see both the ache and gift of your love for each other. It seems you each want to lift a cross of guilt from the other and carry the weight for yourself.” Here he stops and leans back, his dark eyes resting first on Pete then on Cindy. He’s returned his focus to Pete when Cindy speaks up.
“It’s my fault because I am the one who messed everything up. We were doing so well too.”
Pete inhales to begin speaking, but Dr. Waldt speaks first. “Cindy, fill me in. Would you please explain to me, first of all, what you mean when you say the two of you were doing well?”
“You were right, what you said before, we worked hard in couples counseling. I think I speak for both of us when I say that now we enjoy having sex together.”
Dr Waldt leans forward in his chair again, keeping his eyes on Cindy. “Just speaking for yourself now. Cindy, are you saying you are enjoying sex these days more than in the past?”
“Yes, Pete is a good lover. I reach orgasm, but more importantly I feel close to him when we have sex. I especially enjoy the time we spend cuddling and talking afterwords.”
“That’s good,” Dr Waldt says. “Now would you explain to me about the guilt part?”
Pete clears his throat, shakes his head and turns on the couch toward Cindy. Before he can speak she says, “No, Pete, let me tell him. Let me just spit it out.” She turns to Dr. Waldt, “It all started when Pete’s great-aunt died. She lived to be a hundred and two. Can you believe that? One hundred and two.”
Dr. Waldt lifts his eyebrows, “Pete has some longevity in his family line.”
Cindy continues, “We went to visit her several times in North Dakota, especially because she was too frail to travel to our wedding. You won’t believe what she did. Before she died she had Pete’s family cradle boxed up and sent to us. It’s from the late 1800s. Pete’s mother, grandfather and great-grandfather were all rocked in it. Can you believe that? It was originally made by Pete’s great-great-grandfather.”
“Cindy outfitted it with blankets, pillows and a baby mobile. All vintage. She made it into a work of art really. A show piece.”
“But the cradle loosened something up in me. I started to think about the babies that were rocked in the cradle. One thing led to another. I asked Pete’s family for old photos of family members.”
“You should see the wall of old photos she arranged,” Pete says. “It’s like in a museum. A work of art,” Pete adds.
“Then I gathered old family photos from my side of the family and added those to the wall. But that wasn’t enough for me. Next I got into genealogy, and became active in a group that explores family trees. It was fun. I found some surprises. Definitely there were surprises, isn’t that right, Pete?”
“I’ll say. Come to find out that one part of my family, on my mother’s side fled Poland because of Russian pogroms in the 1880s. They were Polish intellectuals, you might say. Mathematicians mostly, I have a family member who worked with Fermi on nuclear fission in the ‘30s.
“That’s where Pete gets his math from,” says Cindy.
Pete says “We both had 23andMe genetic testing done, sure enough mine came out one-quarter Ashkenazi Jew.”
“Pete, I have a confession,” Cindy turns toward Pete. “I was not totally honest with you. Well, not totally honest with myself either, I guess. It’s true, I was curious about what our genes could tell us about heritage. But I also wanted to make sure that we do not have any heritable diseases that we might pass down to our children. There is diabetes on my side of the family, and I read there are genetic diseases linked with Ashkenazi Jews. I just wanted to make sure we are both healthy that way.”
“Yes, that makes sense,” Pete says. “It’s because you want us to have children.” Pete turns back to Dr. Waldt, “We both came out fine as far as their testing goes. They did not identify any genetic diseases.”
“Cindy,” Dr. Waldt says, “Help me make sure I understand what you are saying. The two of you had a sexual problem, but that has improved as a result of changes you both made in therapy. Also, seemingly instigated by the Pete’s family crib, you are now very much interested in starting a family with Pete. Have I got it right so far?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“What I don’t understand, so please help me with this, what I don’t understand is where the guilt comes in.”
“Well it’s the whole thing about how babies are made,” before she can continue Pete interrupts.
“This is why it is all my fault. Yes, we enjoy having sex, but it’s not the kind where my semen ends up in her vagina. When we try to have sex that way. The regular kind of sex. The kind of sex that makes babies, I lose my hardon.”
“Yes,” Cindy continues but that only happens because I’m putting pressure on you about having babies.”
Dr Waldt raises his hand in the stop position, “You are both collecting guilt like green stamps. Never mind,” he waves his hand as though chasing away a fly, “That’s a metaphor you won’t understand. Before your time. At any rate, one thing leads to another and now you both end up with a problem.”
“Well I still think it is my problem,” Pete says. “I went to a urologist like our therapist recommended, to make sure there is not a physical problem. The urologist said everything is fine physically and sent me back to the therapist. Then the therapist recommended that I see you. She said to be thorough we ought to get another perspective.”
“Yes, as a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist I probably have a different perspective than your marriage and family therapist might have. Although Pete is my patient and I expect that he and I will primarily be working together, I asked,” and here Dr. Waldt makes eye contact with Cindy, “I asked that you come along, Cindy, for this first session to help gather information for treatment planning.”
“You think I’m autistic, don’t you,” Pete is fist pounding and rocking. Fuck I can't believe I just said that out loud.
“If that is something you worry about, Pete? Let me assure you that I have no reason to believe you are autistic. When I watch you and Cindy together and sense the way you interact with me, I think quite the contrary. Indeed. No. Not autistic.”
Pete stops rocking and leans back and sighs, “Good, at least there’s that.”
“I would like to conduct a psychiatric evaluation, Pete. Mostly what that means is getting information about your family and your symptoms and then coming up with options for a treatment plan. Parts of it will be in questionnaire format on the computer but mostly it will be an interview process with me. As you know it will take several hours. Are you up for that Pete?”
“Yes, another perspective won’t hurt and might even help,” Pete says.
Dr Waldt looks at Cindy, “As you know I will spend time with Pete alone and without you for the evaluation.”
“Yes, that is not a problem for me. And if there is any way I can help, please let me know. Sometimes I wish Great Aunt Kate never sent that crib,” Cindy says.
“I dreamed about the crib last night,” Pete says. “I just remembered now. Just right this minute. I dreamed there was a baby in the crib. I could just see the top of her head,” here he turns to Cindy. “It was the top of your head. I could tell because it had your same cowlick pattern as yours.” Pete stops talking and is making his hands into fists. Stop! It's just a dream. Dreams are not real. You should not be telling your dream.
“Tell the rest of the dream,” Cindy says.
Pete lays his hands flat on his thighs, feet square on the floor, 16” apart, “When I stepped in to pick up the baby, there was only the top of her head. The entire body was gone. I looked all around and there was no body. Only the top of the baby’s head.”