So, my wife Mindy is pregnant. She's been pregnant for a couple months now or so. Our baby is due in October.
We don't know the sex of the baby, though it's possible we'll get a hint today, as Mindy has another checkup scheduled.
We're very excited, of course. We're at the age where our friends have been having babies for years, which alleviates a lot of the stress because we've seen them do it, and it doesn't seem like a reason to panic.
Don't panic. That's been my mantra. Maybe it's the natural contrarian in me, but I don't want to turn impending fatherhood into a raging cauldron of anxiety and soul-searching. As The Onion pointed out so many years ago, in one of its finest articles, this has happened before. There will no doubt be a million ways I screw my child up in his or her life, so I'm not going to kill myself trying to get it perfect. That may sound like apathy, but I assure you that's not the case. I'm thrilled beyond belief, and I smile every time I think my son or daughter is growing and moving next to me at night.
We had one appointment where we could see the baby. Mindy's doctor status gets her some special treatment, I think, so ultrasounds happen at every appointment. Last time, the baby looked like a Mexican jumping bean with little arm and leg stumps and a fluttering heart.
"Hm. That's interesting," I looked at the monitor.
"Look how big it is!" Mindy cried.
"But it's the size of a bean," was my reply.
It was all fine, but Mindy was disappointed I wasn't more excited. That was our child. I knew that cerebrally, but it didn't register as much more. I've heard people talk about how you see that image of your baby, and you can't possibly believe a fetus isn't a life worth protecting. Again, while I agree with that intellectually, it didn't feel like a real thing. It may have been a little person with half my DNA, but it was still a hazy, black and white oddity which reminded me more of Arty Binewski in Katherine Dunn's Geek Love than a human being.
That night, I was talking to my friend Steve, who's daughter just turned a year-old.
"I guess it's common for the father not to make a strong connection until the baby is born," he said. "That was the case with me. I mean, you're not carrying it around with you."
"Maybe when it starts kicking," I offered.
"Yeah, that'll be nice. But it won't be real until it's born."
I was still confused. So Steve gave me an analogy, because I like analogies.
"It's like the '77 NBA Championship," he said. Steve was born in 1978, and I was born in 1980, yet we're well versed in the footage of these games, in the photos from the parade, in the stories about how it felt. The parade's most famous story involved Bill Walton, who had his bike stolen that day and had to hitchhike to the parade. My dad's best friend claims to be the one who picked him up, which I believed until years later, when I learned everyone's uncle claims the same thing.
"The thing is, we've heard how it felt, and we can see the pictures of people hanging from lampposts and the city celebrating, we can watch other people celebrating championship seasons, but we won't know the real euphoria until it happens."
And while that got me daydreaming more about that giant tipped crown being righted in front of the Rose Garden than the birth of our child, I still think it's the most appropriate metaphor I've heard.