About a week ago, my wife and I found out that we are set to become parents sometime around October 22nd.
The news was somewhat surprising, although not wholly unexpected. I considered sharing some of the details with you, but I think the entire matter can best be summed up in a bit of helpful advice to those actively participating in various forms of family planning: Doubling up on the pill after having missed a dose does NOT right the ledger.
Anyway, the funny thing is that for most of our marriage I have been the weaker part of our duo – the one opposed to all things baby, including baby carrots, baby tomatoes and baby as a term of affection for one’s significant other. In fact, my personal taste of hell was the time I booked a last minute flight to Oklahoma which left me wedged between two obese passengers and a screaming baby directly in front of me. I realize this sounds a bit like a cliché. If only reality had been so kind.
Nevertheless, once we received the news and had it confirmed, my opposition to children strangely melted away. I found myself involuntarily wandering to Baby Ralph Lauren, Baby J. Crew, and scouring the web for a “big sister” t-shirt for our dog. I suppose even the mightiest wall can crumble. Any residual opposition vanished entirely when I saw the photo above and heard our baby’s heart beating at a healthy 179 beats per minute.
Of course, my wife Gwyn has been ready for children for some time now. I don’t know that pregnant women ‘glow’ per se, but she certainly has a luminescence of late. And even if this weren’t the case, the grin she permanently wears all but broadcasts our news. In terms of health, and mood swings, I have to say that my cherished partner has done remarkably well. In fact, my lone complaint through the entire pregnancy, thus far, was the $8, CVS Pregnancy Test that she used to find out we were expecting. Obviously the home test worked just as well as any of the others, but something about it made me feel like a spendthrift considering the $149 Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor that we could have been using all along. Apparently, if we had ordered on-line we could have gotten the thing for a drop over $6. At least we didn’t buy it on sale.
I suppose the main reticence I have about welcoming my own spawn into the World stems from the abject fear that I will somehow find a way to royally screw up this parenting gig. Childhood is really one of the most formative periods in life. It’s a time that is both precious and precarious. Given the immense pressure to succeed (think Baby Mozart CDs, early childhood education, sports clubs, prep schools, college expectations, etc.), I still can’t help but walk into Fatherhood with some degree of trepidation.
More immediately, my concern is that personalities are formed during childhood and the process and experience that go into forging a human being are extraordinarily subjective. Dreams are hatched in the minds of precocious young kids. And while some kids are headstrong and sarcastic (viz., yours truly), for others the least bit of negative feedback can crush a childhood dream in an instant (viz., most of Generation X). On the other hand, one moment of well-timed encouragement could well spark a life long fascination in a child’s mind that leads it to incredible success. The possibilities and nuances are beyond my comprehension.
Aside from personal quandaries, I also can’t help but think about the type of world that our child will be entering. With sabers rattling in Iran, the pervasive threat of terrorism, and pink slime in school cafeterias, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder about our child’s future and the challenges it will face in the coming years. Of course, this reminds me that every child that has ever been born has also faced uncertain times. Our child isn’t being born in the midst of a World War, for example. And our child will be born in the United States of America, which even in the midst of recession is still the most consequential and powerful country in the world. It will have advantages that many of its peers around the world lack and will always lack. It will have access to the internet, clean water, healthy foods, health care, education, shelter, transportation, information, two laughably overeducated parents and the world’s laziest guard dog. Our child will not have every advantage. But it will have every opportunity to succeed after a decent start. And as a result of its generally favorable provenance, it will also have a moral and ethical obligation to serve others. I can’t help but think it all quite a lot to expect of someone that is, right now, less than an inch tall.
Assuming there is a point to be drawn from any of the above, I suppose it is the obvious – that life is chaotic and unpredictable. And that’s ok.
The best we can do is embrace the unknown, pray for strength and wisdom in our successes and failures, and resolve to forge ahead, day by day. In other words, c’est la guerre.