when life gives you lemons… frame them

 

Some stories only become legend long after the event has occurred and you can look back and laugh at the whole situation.  Occasionally a story can become legend even when your currently living it.  Over at my other more professional website secretly-important, I said something to this ilk while discussing Tig Notaro, a comedian who went on stage just a day after learning she had breast cancer.  The more I write these types of articles the more I become hyper aware of the story I will tell, even as I experience an event.  Needless to say, as the event of this story was occurring I’d basically already written the article.

Not long after my daughter Jackson was born my wife Jaime and I had the idea to get professional pictures taken for each month of Jackson’s first year.  It would fill out one of those little oval shaped picture frame mattes perfectly.  As the first month drew near, Jaime came across a Groupon deal for Sears.  Before we get too far into this story let me acknowledge that yes, we knew that Sears wasn’t a top notch photo studio.  Sears seemed like a good option because it was cheap (we’re doing this 12 times) and easy.

We went at Jackson’s first month and things went great. As the second month approached Jaime was preparing to return to work from her maternity leave and we dropped the ball, completely forgetting to get her 2nd month pictures.  Instead we chose to look forward to her three month pictures which would double as her Christmas pictures.  These were a big deal, involving a fancy dress and an entire family photo shoot.  A beautiful and expensive dress was chosen, I got my hair cut and Jaime had her hair styled for the occasion.

We were looking good on time when Jackson shit four times in 10 minutes.  Mind you that we dressed her fully each time.  It’s a miracle that we kept her dress and tights clean through the entire ordeal.  But as a result by the time we got on the road we were already 10 minutes late.

Jaime called Sears and after a lengthy phone conversation we were informed that customers were given a 20 minute grace period (it didn’t go nearly as smooth as I just made it sound).  We arrived at Sears with a minute to spare and raced through the store to get there within our allotted 20 minute window.  Let me remind you that Sears photo studio accepts walk-ins.

We were there in time, but the two women in front of us spent five minutes retelling the story of their lives right up to them arriving at Sears and having this conversation.  When we got up to the counter it was 25 after and we were informed that we wouldn’t be able to get our picture taken that day.  Yes we were late, but come on, the stars had aligned we had to get our picture taken that day, even if we had to wait.

Eventually the manager arrived and we explained that we didn’t mind waiting (because they fucking take walk-ins). Let me remind you that the first employee told us that we couldn’t be seen, but when the manager checked, there was neither a 2:30 or 3:00 appointment.  So we signed up for a 2:30 appointment which we were one minute early for.  We would still have to wait fifteen minutes before we could be seen.

In the waiting room Jackson was all smiles, to her the walls were hilarious.  It looked like we had the happiest most well behaved baby in the world.  That all changed when our photographer brought us in the studio.  Basically he looked like a child molester, uncomfortable and sweaty, I’m positive he had a white windowless van in the parking lot.  In his bag of tricks he had a rattle toy that looked like it had been removed from a bomb crater in a Bosnian village, and a demented Donald Duck voice that he used so timidly it hardly seemed that he was even doing it to cheer Jackson up.

Jackson cried.  She cried when we set her in the little chair, she cried when we laid her on a little pillow.  She cried when I held her, she cried when Jaime held her.  She cried, she cried, she cried.  There were fleeting moments of peace where we tried our best to take a decent picture, but in the end Jackson just cried.  Eventually Jaime and I reached a point where we were done, there was no cheering Jackson up.  She wanted no part of this photographer and neither did we.  But guess what?

We couldn’t leave.  It was explained to us that more pictures had to be taken in order to meet Sears Quality Standard.  So we took more awkward pictures as a family with a three month old screaming and flailing about.  Eventually Guantanamo was closed and we were allowed to leave.

We didn’t even have to see the pictures to know they were terrible.  Even the ones of us as a family felt stiff and unfamiliar.  For a brief time we contemplated walking out, but we’d already paid for the pictures.  When finally we did see them, they were just as bad as we expected.  The few of Jackson not crying looked as if she was being held captive by the Taliban.  Those of the entire family were a total mess.  Sears photographers are trained only in the basics of getting a shot, and this photographer never saw fit to adjust us once we were in position.  In a number of shots I could be seen creepily leering over Jaime my hands barely touching her shoulders.  At other times I was hunched over like Quasimodo, while Jaime stared distantly past the camera lens like a robotic Stepford wife, and in every picture Jackson was desperately trying to flee.

Even the best picture of the family looks uncomfortably forced.

In the end this was the photo of Jackson we chose.

I can’t tell you how strange it is to select a half dozen photo packages of a bawling baby, and creepy family portraits, but that’s exactly what we did.  There was nothing even remotely usable as a serious picture so we decided to just go for it and take the worst of the worst.  If you’re on our Holiday Christmas list you can expect to see the above photo as a Holiday card in your mailbox.

The thing of it all was that at home we have a fancy camera that I bought to use on my own website.  Why didn’t I take the pictures?  In fact while we all looked nice why didn’t I take pictures of us that night?

We went up to my parents house where they had a nice stone fireplace for us to sit in front of, and I scoured their house for every available light to get the room as bright as possible.  I framed the picture and set the auto-timer hurrying to find my place.  After 30 tries Jackson hadn’t produced a single shot where she was calm and/or looking in the direction of the camera.  So I put Sesame Street on the computer.

Here is Jackson and our dog Olive watching Sesame Street.

Then I moved sesame street underneath the camera.

in the end we went with this picture where Jackson and Olive are looking not at the camera but at each other… close enough.

Then I took about a million shots of Jackson alone.  Unlike earlier in the day where the creepy photographer tried feebly to get Jackson to smile, we knew all the tricks.  Mainly they involved Jaime dancing around singing I Wanna Dance with Somebody and Like a Virgin.  The pictures we took with our camera were far more “us”.  They capture Jackson at her best and us as a family flaws and all.

It could have been so easy to get upset and write the whole day off as a total failure.  We could have walked out of Sears without any pictures and just harbored ill feelings.  Instead we had fun with the horrible pictures we did get, and moved on to take our own pictures.  There are going to be many days like this ahead, and rather than long to be elsewhere else in some other fictional situation where life is perfect, you have to live inside the moment and make the best of it.  After all had the day gone perfect I never would have written about it.

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shadow of the moon/christmas present

We defied the doctors orders, or rather ignored his suggestion (depending on your viewpoint on doctors).  Instead we decided that we would wait until the end of December when the possibility of hearing the heartbeat was more assured.  We were astronauts in the space capsule finding ourselves in the shadow of the moon, cut off from all communication with Houston, unsure of what our fate would be when we circled back to the light side and communication resumed.

In the mean time pregnancy was commencing.  One morning without warning sickness took hold over my wife and wouldn’t loosen its grip for months and months.  You were never quite certain which smell was going to set her off.  Will it be the soggy fish and chips at a gritty comedy club?  Will it be the smell of alcohol?  Or one of any number of smells that previously would have gone unnoticed or at the least uncommented on, suddenly became cause for major concern.

Then there was the car which might have been renamed the vomitmobile .  We needed only to drive a few blocks before motion sickness threatened to paint the inside of the car with the days breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It took us weeks to realize that my wife should be the driver.

It’s standard to wait three months before informing people that you’re pregnant.  I don’t know when or where this started but I was going to abide by it.  By mid December the only people who knew about the baby were parents and the closest of friends.  That all changed on the weekend of December 10th while attending a birthday for my wife’s Grandfather.  She spent the entire night tugging on my shirt sleeve begging to let her tell them.  I finally caved and she spilled the beans to everyone.  Then I spilled the beans to my family, and basically anyone who was interested we spilled the beans to.  We spilled the fucking beans all over the floor and let me tell you there’s nothing worse than having to clean up a floor covered in spilt beans.

Dry beans aren’t such a big problem, you just get a dust pan and sweep them all up, just a minor inconvenience.  In this case though it felt like these were canned beans, wet and slimy.  I bring up this analogy because the week of Christmas we got a call from Dr. B’s office wanting to know why we hadn’t been to get another ultrasound to prove that this was indeed a viable pregnancy.

I can remember the phone call clearly because we were driving on the freeway when my wife answered the phone.  I could hear the subtle change in her voice from excited to concern.  I listened as she explained to the nurse why we were electing to wait another week to get the ultra sound, then silence.  An appointment was made for the following day at 8 am, December 23rd.  She hung up the phone and I asked what was said, and she explained to me that the doctor wanted us to get the ultrasound done ASAP, she also told me that he had some major concerns that this wasn’t a viable pregnancy.  I immediately pictured myself on my hands and knees scooping sloppy wet beans off the kitchen floor.  Were we seriously going to have to go back to are friends and family and tell them that it was all a false alarm, we’re not pregnant after all.

There was another side to all this that asked some big questions.  Such as, what specifically about our pregnancy was the doctor concerned about?  Is it because he didn’t see a yolk sac on the first visit, even though he warned us that we probably wouldn’t?  Is it because we didn’t hear a heart beat at our next ultrasound, even though it was more likely than not too early?  Is it because Dr. B could not remember who the hell we were and simply wanted to get this thing confirmed before he invested too much energy in us?  I don’t really know, it could have been  a little of all of those reasons.

It was also explained that there was concern of an ectopic pregnancy, meaning that the embryo was growing outside the womb.  Seeing as the yolk sac was already forming inside the womb, that was highly unlikely, and seemed to be a poor excuse for scaring the shit out of us.

I don’t think either of us slept much at all that night.  I was awash with equal parts fear of confronting my family with news that it wasn’t a viable pregnancy, and sadness that this baby I was beginning to picture wasn’t alive at all.  To make everything worse we were just two days away from Christmas, which meant that we would have to tell everyone while opening presents, presents that I knew neither my wife or I would be able to enjoy even a tiny bit.

The capsule was nearing the blazing white edge of the moon, radio communication was about to return and when it did we would know if we were doomed to circle the moon for ever and ever, or if we were in fact coming home.

Again my wife filled her bladder to bursting point, disrobed and lay down in the examination chair.  The technician took out the wand and began to probe.  For the layman nothing on the screen makes sense, it’s just a bunch of black and white it could be good, but it could also be bad, I find myself instead looking at the technicians stoic face looking for the cracks that would reveal what exactly is happening on screen.  The longer you go without seeing anything confirms in your mind that there is nothing to see.  The wand continues to probe through this black and white void for an imaginably long time, so long that you think you can’t take it any more and that you’re going to just yell out, “is there anything in there!”

And there it is, a tiny little figure, like a perverse alien emerging from its UFO.  Massive head, tiny flipper feet, and hunched back, it was our baby.  As I write this it seems impossible that I can look to my left and see Jackson as she is today, two and a half months old, cooing and smiling, crying and crapping.  It seems so unlikely that that tiny, almost amorphous lump could become a whole baby, that that age old myth of the stork feels more plausible.

But we weren’t out of the woods yet, we needed to hear a heart beat, without one, tiny fetus or not, it would not become a baby.  There was no need to worry, because there in the middle of it’s microscopic chest was a slight flicker, a beating heart, pumping blood through hair thin veins.  The microphone was activated and there was the sound of a thudding heart, the radio silence was over, we were coming home.  It was the first sound we would ever hear our baby make.  It was the first time in this whole ordeal that I would begin to tear up.  This was my baby.

We were given a virtual tour of the uterus and ovaries, and measurements were made concerning size heart rate.  With everything looking good were free to go.  With a our first grainy black and white photo in hand, we gleefully showed off our amorphous blob to all our family.  It sounds cheesy to say, but quite honestly all our Christmas presents paled in comparison to the one we received on December 23rd.

everyone poops

this was the day she brutalized a pair of stuffed animals with poop.

It’s true, everyone poops, Brad Pitt poops, Barack Obama poops, Mila Kunis poops, the Queen poops, and yes even the most adorable babies in the world poop.  Believe it or not that last one came as a surprise to me.  I’m not an idiot, I knew my baby would poop, it just wasn’t something that I put much thought into.

My daughter wasn’t even out of the womb when her poop became a major concern.  My wife’s water broke, or we thought it broke, then a little later we were confident that it broke.  But we’d been warned (because we were two weeks late) that if the water had the appearance and consistency of pea soup, there could be meconium in the fluid.  Meconium is a scientific word for infant shit.

Meconium is a concern after the water breaks because it would be potentially dangerous for the baby to be inhaling, baby shit.  As with everything in pregnancy and birth, everything is subjective.  For instance, one persons murky pea soup is another persons chicken broth.  As it turns out there was no meconium, but it was just a matter of time before there was a ton of it.  So here you go, your weekly dose of way too much information that you didn’t ask for, in a article that is sure to keep some mouth breathing boyfriend away from my daughter for a year or two.

this is her poop face

Though she didn’t poop in the womb, she did poop just seconds out of it.  Then pooped again somewhere during the shuffle between the bathtub and the bed.  Meconium is essentially tar.  Odorless sticky tar, it’s a nightmare to get off clothes, the changing table, and your babies butt.  Thankfully it only lasts a few days (for breast feeding babies, until the colostrum is replaced by milk).  Lucky for me just prior to the milk coming in, my daughter literally filled her diaper with meconium.  Opening up the diaper and peering in I could see nothing but a thick brownish black tar, it was horrific, I washed her off in the laundry room utility sink.

Once the milk comes in the poop changes, I call it dijon mustard, because that’s what it looks like.  Needless to say I didn’t eat mustard of any kind for some time afterwards.  It’s odor is not pleasant, but not terrible, but she was shitting once every hour it seemed, and it was starting to get old.  There were a number of days when I would just carry her into the shower to wash her off, but on one occasion she required a bath, after she pooped on me, the wall, her stuffed animals and herself.  It was traumatic for all of us, perhaps more so for the stuffed animals.

Occasionally you might come across diarrhea.  None of this poop looks right to begin with so in order to identify it you have to know what your looking for.  Diarrhea is dark green, and foamy, and accompanied by a lot of crying.  This only happened once but that of course was the day we took her to see Great Grandma.

After the Dijon Mustard comes this brown liquid in varying thicknesses.  It’s basically brown paint, and if you don’t clean out the diapers (we use cloth diapers) properly, then good luck getting the stain out.  The most disturbing part of the poop at this stage?  The smell.  Not that it smells bad, it smells bad only because I know it’s poop.  Fresh, it smells like wet flour, but once it dries it has the distinct odor of hot buttered popcorn.  This is unsettling because while the smell itself isn’t disgusting, knowing that it’s baby shit makes it terrible.  When you first enter this stage you get a dirty diaper every other day (which is glorious) but then it turns into every day (which is disappointing).

 

My wife feeds the baby, which is obvious.  In exchange for the sacrifice she makes to her nipples, time, and modesty, I change 90-95% of all the diapers.  Two months in I’ve seen all that my daughters bowels have to offer, and now because you’ve read this article, you have an understanding of what her bowels have to offer.  The frequency, consistency, and odor of the poop changes as she gets older, every time we enter a new stage I surprisingly feel sadness.  From tar to dijon, brown liquid, and whatever comes next, it only signifies that she is getting older.

The last thing I ever anticipated was gaining a relationship with my daughter through her poop, and yet here I am, mentally cataloging it’s shape, color, viscosity, and many other measurements.  Some of the best quality time we get together is with her looking back up at me.  Likewise she learns a lot about me during these times.  Such as, at 3 a.m. with my eyes half closed and brain half awake, I will fumble with snaps, struggle to fold the diaper, and on occasion forget to use the covers.

No matter what mood I’m in watching her smile up at me will always melt my heart.  My daughter, sadistically laughing at me, finding it hilarious that I am wiping her ass and changing her diaper.  But I will have the last laugh, because one day I will be old and decrepit, and lord knows I might need a diaper, and I will make sure she is there to wipe my ass, and I will look at her and laugh and laugh.

for keeps

When I was far too young I saw a movie that I never should have seen, it damaged my fragile little psyche so much that I was unwilling to even re-watch it for this article.  This movie is so terrifying, so sadistic, so demonic and soul crushing that I would rather watch all seven Saw films consecutively followed by the Human Centipede before I would even consider watching this film.

Have you seen the  film For Keeps?  It stars Molly Ringwald and tells the story of a couple of High School Kids who get pregnant and decide to keep the baby.   What follows is 90 minutes of a nightmarish hellscape the not even Lars von Trier’s mind could have conceived of.  It goes without saying that these two kids almost literally go through hell, systematically destroying each others lives and childhood.  If you haven’t seen it, don’t.

Your first thought might be that this is a good thing, that it kept me from getting a girl pregnant and ruining our lives.  In reality this movie scarred me so severely that when it came to thinking about having children, even at a responsible age, my entire vision was clouded with memories of this film.  Rather than thinking about our next step I was having images of not going to the college I’d been accepted into, working dead beat jobs and living in a musty brick walled basement.  I imagined a dinner made from Chicken Nuggets, and nonorganic milk.  I couldn’t see the next logical step, I couldn’t even grasp that I was already college graduate, that I was nearly 30 years old, the same age my parents were when I was born.

If there was and is one ongoing theme between my wife and I in pregnancy and parenthood, it’s that she always knows what to do next, and I calm her down when she thinks we took the wrong step.  The week after three plastic pregnancy tests informed me that we were pregnant I really didn’t know what to do next.  You see a doctor I guess?  Luckily my wife was there and knew exactly what to do and scheduled an appointment with a doctor.

The selection of our doctor and hospital was simple, and made simpler when the first OBGYN we called flippantly dismissed us and claimed that there was no need to even bother coming in for another month.  Neither of us were experts but that just didn’t sound right.  So we went with another Hospital and another OBGYN.

We squeezed into a tiny room, it might have been 10’ X 10’ but it easily could have been smaller.  The bulk of that space was consumed with the examining table.  There is a long story involving our doctor that will consume upcoming articles, for that reason I will leave his name as Dr. A, that sounds bad, how about Dr. B.  As it turns out, over the counter pregnancy tests are so accurate these days that they don’t even confirm that you’re pregnant, or so he said.

We briefly discussed the basics of this new drastically changing lifestyle, a new diet, old wives tales, and vitamins.  What was clearly glossed over was any discussion about labor and birthing, at the time for me this felt so far down the road that it hardly merited mention, looking back I realize that we should have forced conversation with Dr. B despite his protests.

I got the distinct impression that this could have been our whole visit, but something, either our subtle insistence or some nagging feeling tickling the back of his spine, he went ahead and did an ultrasound.  This was prefaced with a warning that because this was such an early stage we might not see anything (the yolk sac being the goal).  After five minutes of exploring the gaping void of my wife’s apparently empty uterus the search was called off.

It was disappointing for my wife who was hoping to see the beginning of our baby, for me it was a mixture of emotions.  On the one hand, this all could have been a big mistake and we might not have been pregnant after all, on the other hand I was beginning to wrap my mind around parenthood and was also disappointed.  For me the moment of complete acceptance wouldn’t come for three more weeks.

Here’s where the train began to derail, it was quiet at first, almost imperceptible but later we would literally be able to see the train jump the track and just narrowly avoid getting caught up in a massive wreck.  While it was totally normal not to see anything in the womb at this point (something which was reiterated by Dr. B over and over) his actions suggested that not everything was fine.  He then began to go into a series of worst-case-scenarios, your basic cover your ass speech, which served only to freak out my wife.

In the end it was determined by Dr. B that our hCG levels needed to be checked.  Very little was explained to us about hCG and what they meant, all we knew was that it required a blood draw, and that every 72 hours your hCG levels should at the very least double.  He was the expert and so we went ahead and did as told.  Through the miracle of hindsight I now know that this was the first major warning sign that Dr. B might not be for us.

I now understand that hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, and is made up of cells from the forming placenta.  The levels can be tested as early as 11 days after conception, and will stop doubling/tripling in 8-11 weeks.  The question in our mind remained, why was it so important to test our hCG levels just because we couldn’t see a yolk sac, when that’s totally normal?

Surprise surprise the hCG levels doubled, and we were in fact pregnant.  To celebrate this wonderful news, that doctor scheduled another ultrasound for us at a different clinic, this time hopefully to see the yolk sac and hear the babies heartbeat.

We were six weeks in which most literature will tell you is far too early to hear a heartbeat, our suspicions were confirmed when the technician asked us why we were there?  Why were we there, if not to see the yolk sac and hear a heartbeat?  My wife filled her bladder to bursting capacity and an ultrasound was performed, the yolk sac was there, but no heartbeat.  I should remind you that this is totally normal.

It didn’t really matter how normal this was supposed to be, when the doctor wants to hear a heartbeat, you want to hear it too, and when you don’t it worries you, it depresses you.  The following week Dr. B’s office called to schedule us for another ultrasound.  My vision still clouded and all caught up in the film reel of For Keeps, didn’t know what to do, so I deferred to Jaime.  The clear minded one.

Rather than continue to go back each week to get another ultrasound, hoping to see something that may or may not be there because it’s too early, Jaime took the reigns and decided that we would wait until early January, when we were guaranteed to hear something.  Coincidentally this lined up perfectly with when that original doctors office wanted to see us… maybe we should have seen them first?

To our credit, while we were both eager to hear the heartbeat, we were eager to hear our babies heartbeat.  If this had turned out not to be a viable pregnancy, then we would simply try again, we were both relatively calm and simply decided to wait.

to be continued…

new car smell

This is where I return to the present, next time we’ll jump back into the past.

baby jackson 3 hours old, waiting to be loaded into the car seat

Have you ever bought something brand new and really cool, say a car or an ipad and tapped your feet with literal impatience as you go through all the required steps to get said thing home.  These are important steps, where they tell you how to use said product or instruct you on how your payments will work, you should be paying attention but all you can really think about is what you’re going to do with it the second you get home.  Let’s call this the new car smell, it’s an aphrodisiac that clouds your brain until you get home and everything clears and you say to yourself, “oh shit, what did they say?”

This is where I found myself at the Birth Center waiting to take home our brand new baby girl, Jackson.  Our room at the birth center was luxurious and comforting, like a stay at the Four Seasons, only with four women constantly putting their hands up your vagina.  I was standing over the Midwife and assistant as she showed me how to operate the car seat that had been sitting in my car for over two months.  Look, the car seat is an important piece of equipment, the most important when it comes to vehicular travel, and strapping your four hour old child into the car seat properly was the first test for a seemingly unprepared father.

My mind wasn’t in that Birth Center, it was at home leering creepily over the edge of a crib, changing diapers, playing peek-a-boo, and rolling around on the floor.  I was impatient to get my baby home and figure out just what the hell this new life was going to be like.  We’d conquered nine months of pregnancy, 48 hours of labor (more on that in a later post) but now we were ready to take the first step, and I was eager for that to begin.

Sometimes that new car smell doesn’t have anything to do with something new and cool, sometimes that aroma clouds your brain while being fed important instructions at work on how to complete an important project.  I had a flash back to my pharmacy manager showing me how to properly input patient information into an antiquated computer, I nodded my head accordingly struggling to pay attention.  At the end of the demonstration she asked if I had any questions and wanting not to say, “ yes, please repeat everything you just said” I told her no.  Then I preceded to sweat through my shirt as the first customer approached the counter, I looked a an empty screen, awaiting my newly acquired expertise.

I caught myself wondering just why I was so eager to get this baby home.  I don’t know what to do with a baby after all.  I’m completely incompetent, sure to kill this thing within hours.  At least here at the birth center she was under the constant watch of the Midwife and her assistants, here nothing could go wrong.  Home was a nightmarish hellscape with death at every turn.

You’ve probably caught on to my catch-22 by now.  I couldn’t wait to get this little bundle of joy home, and was equally terrified to leave the Birth Center, the midwife and assistants behind.  Subsequently I was hearing nothing, my brain stuck in a futuristic limbo.

I put the car seat harness around her tiny fragile shoulders, buckled her in and loaded her into the car.  We said goodbye and I drove off into the wee hours of the morning, never topping 30 mph.  I pulled into the driveway and we entered the house for the first time as a trio.  And then it hit me.  There I was again standing at that blank computer screen, sweating through my shirt and maroon smock, an impatient customer in front of me rapping her fingernails on the counter, and my mind, a blank slate, awaiting input.

My mom showed up to make us soup (our first meal in almost 24 hours) and somehow I fell asleep on the bed.  I awoke five hours later my phone buzzing underneath my stomach, my mind still clouded in that new car smell, a crying infant in my mothers arms standing over the bed.  At that moment I didn’t have a single clue what to do.

Not everyone experiences new car smell, and it seems that my wife does not.  In our first day home she centered me, by tirelessly repeating all the many details that had slipped past my ears the night before.  Within the next few days I would get comfortable changing a diaper, comfortably holding my daughter without feeling like I would crush her like a faberge egg, and understand what she needed from one moment to the next.

Obviously I was a more adept father than I felt I was, here we are over a month later and we’re all still alive, to this point I don’t think anyone has been irreparably ruined.  At times I still get that new car smell, but now it’s just in anticipation to move on to the next step.  To hear her voice, to see her walk, to help her with her homework.  My brain is no longer clouded in total fear that I am completely unprepared for what lies ahead.  After all, is anyone ever completely prepared?

birth control

At some point in your life you’ve probably heard this… unless you live in the deep Southern United states or Kansas, but at some point in say… health class you heard this: “it only takes one time of unprotected sex to get pregnant.”  Since my 13th birthday when my stepfather bought me a thee pack of Trojans and showed me how to use them on a banana, I’ve been convinced that that phrase was true.  If you’ve even caught yourself not believing that phrase understand this, it’s 100% true.

I was famously against getting pregnant.  It’s not that I didn’t want kids, I did want kids, just someday.  Someday could be anytime not in the present.  This is similar to how I’ve felt about many things in my life.  I needed to get my increasingly out of focus eyes checked, but someday.  I should get that rash checked out, but someday.  That loud vibration the car makes when I turn the wheel hard, is probably serious, I’ll get that fixed someday.  There was no doubt that I would marry my girlfriend of six years, but someday.

When it came to marriage I did want to get married, but I had an unwritten checklist of reasons not to.  I couldn’t write them down or recite the list to you, I could just tell you as they happened.  When our relationship came to a head my girlfriend posed the most convincing argument against my checklist, “there’s never going to be a good time to get married.”  Within the month I’d proposed. When it came to babies, I was resistant to that logic.

I wanted to wait until we had a house, until we both had stable jobs, until my website secretly-important.com (shameless plug) was on it’s feet, until I was 30,  until, until, until, until.  It was like a single soldier guarding the walls of a castle against an entire army.  The stone walls would keep them out for a time, but eventually they would be overtaken and that lone soldier would be trampled in the coming onslaught.

The way I look at it, had one of a dozen things gone differently during the year leading up to our pregnancy, it’s a good bet I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now.  But even as I sit here and write this story I’m still not sure what changed in me.  My agreement was foolish but somehow made sense; “we’re not trying to get pregnant but we’re not stopping it either.”

There’s another phrase that you might also have heard before; “it can take up to a year to get pregnant.”  Oh really?  This is what my wife told me, and it was actually the perfect thing to sell me on the whole getting pregnant thing.  Yes we would be trying, but it wasn’t going to happen today, it was going to happen… someday.  And that someday could be in three months, nine months, a year, or even a year and a half.  Here’s the thing about that phrase, it’s bullshit.

I’ll spare you the tawdry details of what occurred during the month of November.  But I will say that it involved intercourse one time, (it was a very busy month for us.)  Early on in the month my wife found her self in the emergency room with very concerning symptoms, blurred vision, slurred speech, loss of limb control, thundering headache.  She was rushed from work to the hospital where I met her, and was horrified.  She could hardly get words out to tell me what was going on or how she was feeling.  The doctor was fairly certain that these were signs of a severe migraine, but just to be sure they were going to give her a CAT scan.  Before that they gave her a pregnancy test, which came back negative.  Remember that fact.

The weekend following Thanksgiving my wife had yet to get her period.  This was a common occurrence, prior to our relationship she claimed to be very regular, but in the eight years we’d been dating this was never true.  In college if her period was just two days late she began walking around the living room in tears holding her stomach saying “my body just doesn’t feel right, I can feel something growing inside.”  We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf right?

I knew that there was no way she was pregnant, it defied nature, we had a pregnancy test done at the hospital and it came back negative.  So that Thanksgiving weekend we attended a party and got absolutely shit faced, and when my wife mentioned that she might be pregnant I completely wrote her off, it just wasn’t possible.

That following Monday it was decided that even though I knew it was physically impossible, we should take a home pregnancy test.  My wife went to the store after dinner and bought a box of three EPT home pregnancy test sticks.  A Christmas Carol was on TV, a fact that I remember only because it was the awful Jim Carrey Robert Zemeckis version.  This wasn’t the first time we’d taken a pregnancy test, in the past I’d always waited outside the bathroom door, my heart thudding through my chest cavity, my palms oozing sweat.  This time I calmly did the dishes.

I can’t express to you how little I expected my wife to say what she said when she popped around the corner into the kitchen, “you’re going to be a Daddy.”  Who?  I was speechless, not me, I’m not ready.  This was supposed to take a fucking year.  There was a nervous smile on my wife’s face, I could tell that she was excited but nervous too.  I wish that my reaction could have been different, I wish we could have jumped for joy but I couldn’t.  There were so many thoughts racing through my mind I couldn’t even pluck one out from the ticker flashing by and put words to it.

I wan’t to believe that she was lying, but there it was, a little purple and white stick, with a small oval screen that read pregnant.  It wasn’t confusing like in the movies, it was obvious, “pregnant” it said “pregnant, pregnant, pregnant!” The only way we could have been reading it wrong was if the test itself was wrong.  Before going to bed that night, we finished off the box. “Pregnant!”

My first reaction was as my first reaction to important new often is, pay a visit to my parents.  So at 8:30 p.m. my wife and I drove up the hill to my parents house to break the news to them.  When I was young this was literally the worst thing I could have imagined telling them, and perhaps because that had been true for so long that even now, when the news was good, I couldn’t shake that feeling.  They were ecstatic and they welcomed us in with hugs.  My stepfather cracked open an extra special Crown Royal reserve and poured us a glass.

I said very little right up until we went to bed that night.  I didn’t sleep well, my mind was still watching that ticker flashing by, still trying to pull just one thought from it and vocalize it.  The most life changing event of my life had just occurred and yet it didn’t feel different at all.  It wouldn’t take long for that to change, soon there would be doctor visits, and nausea, tiny baby clothes, car seats, and eventually a tiny little person that I would be expected to raise into a self sufficient adult.

If there are any lessons to be learned here it’s this; when someone tells you that it can take up to a year to get pregnant, they’re full of shit.  And When I grab my daughter by the shoulders at the age of 13, my fingers digging into her innocent flesh, my voice shaking, my eyes wide and say to her, “always use protection, it only takes one time to get pregnant.”  She’ll wince in pain and roll her eyes, knowing that I’m just her overprotective kook of a father, I’ll squeeze her tighter and say, “It only took once to get you.”  And I will be absolutely right.

 

 

 

 

 

fatherhood in babylon

Just two short years ago my wife and I were preparing to pack up our lives in Los Angeles, the vast urban sprawl we’d called home for three years.  We were moving back home to Seattle where our plan was to regroup and begin another chapter of our lives in New York.  A year later we’d begun to settle in the Northwest, unexpectedly.  By that following December I was looking at the tiny digital lettering on a sleek pale pink pregnancy test.  Pregnant.

Now here I am nine months later, a father and I have no clue what I’m doing.  I didn’t read the baby books… that’s right I committed the one great faux pas that Knocked Up told me I should never commit.  As my wife and I left the birth center, strapping our four hour old daughter into the car seat, I kept looking to the midwives, waiting for one of them to question my ability to raise a child.

“You’re not seriously going to trust me with this fragile human life?” I wanted to ask.  “Did you know I’ve adopted five animals in the past six years and only have three left?”  It was as if I was trying to convince them of my inability to keep an infant alive.

It’s been two weeks since I first held my daughter and I still have no idea what I’m doing.  I take solace in knowing that she’s still alive and healthy.  I don’t know if anyone actually knows what their doing when it comes to children.  If they did then you wouldn’t find shelves upon shelves of parenting books full of confusing and contradicting information at your local bookstore.

So in this age of over sharing I’m going to over share the shit out of what has easily been the most insane year of my life, and what is guaranteed to be the craziest years ahead.  Here I’ll be ping-ponging between the past and the present.  I won’t be a guiding light for would be parents to follow, instead I’ll simply be documenting my successes and failures through everyday observations.  I promise nothing in the way of education, but hopefully plenty in the way of entertainment.

By the way I run another more professional website, secretly-important, which focuses on music and entertainment.  I think it’s pretty great and I think you might feel the same.  I also includes a podcast that I work very hard on with interviews, with some great musicians, writers, and artists.  Please make sure to check out the website and “like” us on facebook.