So this thing, uh, happened.
The wife is pregnant. Baby pizza is due in July. We’re both excited and terrified. Well, the wife just wants a churro—no, a soft pretzel—no, pancakes. LIKE RIGHT NOW. And I’m enjoying laughing at her random cravings, although it’s really more of a nervous laughter.
We started the journey over a year ago. As a writer, I’ve often thought about how I’d write about this, turning these little anecdotes over and over in my head. At first, I was naive. I imagined it would take a few tries (okay, one try), and soon I’d be on midnight pickle runs to the grocery store, bringing back all of the hilarious stories from the various lost souls and expecting dads you might find there. I’d call this part of the story Late Nights in the Condiments Aisle.
John Lennon sang, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It didn’t work after a few tries. Or several months. We fought. We cried. We decided to take time off and maybe go to fertility testing. This is what I talked about with my mother the last time I spoke with her on the phone. Her answer was easy. Prayer.
“I’ve prayed this family through everything,” she said with her dry sense of humor, but she also completely meant it. She believed she had a direct line to God.
Then the next part of the story happened. That night, my mom got sick. Over the next few days, her health rapidly deteriorated. She was rushed to the hospital. Her brain swelled. She became delirious. She slipped into a coma. On the last day I saw her conscious, we were all in her hospital room – me, the wife, my dad and aunt. My mother asked who was pregnant in the room.
“Somebody in here is pregnant. Who is it?” she asked.
As far as we knew, nobody was pregnant. We laughed because there was nothing else we could do.
A few days later, the wife took a pregnancy test. In previous months, we had waited and squinted at the tests, only to be given nothing but cruel stark-whiteness. This time, a second pink line appeared easily and instantly.
When God starts talking to you, you listen. I’ve heard people say that, but I thought it was just people talking to themselves. This pregnancy was clearly a sign. It meant something. At first we thought it meant my mom was going to get better – that she’d have something to hold on and fight for. It wasn’t for her. It never was. It was for us.
My mother died. I’d often read about the midlife crisis one experiences when losing a parent. But now I myself was going to be a parent. I wasn’t going to have time for a midlife crisis, and besides I’m not old enough for one.
That’s another thing one of the Beatles sang. Life goes on.
I don’t presume to know the rest of the story. I’m halfway convinced I’ll end up raising the next Charlie Manson, who will one day be laughing maniacally from prison as they read this, thinking about how stupidly sentimental I was.
So look kid, baby Manson, sonogram blob, thing that has been making your mother barf from “the smell of the refrigerator,” (even though I have literally been sticking my entire head in the refrigerator and inhaling, and can make out no discernible smell): I was excited. I was so excited. You were more than a gift to me. You were a lifeline.
Once, I remember asking my mother if it was even worth it. It’s all such a big risk, even before it starts. Getting through nine months of pregnancy seems terrifying – and I’m not even the one doing it. Then you have this kid, this vulnerable thing that’s dependent on you. And you’re stuck with it, like it or not, and whether it likes you or not. You’ve got to raise it. You’ve got to give up a part of yourself. Bad, scary things can happen. They do every day.
“How do you know it’s worth it to take the risk?” I asked my mother.
“It’s worth it,” she said firmly, like I was stupid for asking a stupid question. I thought but yeah, she has the benefit of hindsight. After all, my sister and I turned out fine. Fine enough.
But she’s right. Life is always worth the risk of living it. You’ve got to keep yourself open to it. I’m not saying go skydiving or some crazy shit (and I’m especially saying that to you, future kid), but take your chances, wherever they may lie for you.
I’m saying this having no freaking clue how mine are going to turn out. All I’ve seen so far are some tadpole-looking legs kicking on the sonogram screen. (Update: I originally wrote this piece at 9 weeks, and since then they have evolved into chicken legs.) You guys, it’s worth it.
PS: The single-serving cups of Velveeta Shells & Cheese ARE NOT THE SAME as the boxed variety. I repeat, THEY ARE NOT SAME. They should put a damn sign up in the aisle warning us lost souls on those midnight runs.
PPS: I have no idea what I’m doing. I hope you’ll be joining me on the next eighteen years of this blog as I attempt to hilariously figure it out.