I have spent days digging through file drawers of material I’ve written through the years, trying to determine what may be worth saving and what is simply a fire-hazard. It’s a long and arduous process, because I’ve found I can’t just pitch without at least skimming. Among the countless pages of “practice”, I have some work that seems to have held up well, and may be worth revisiting at some point. This is one such piece, written over two decades ago, when I was (sort of) finding my “adult voice” in my work. Despite the apparent fence straddling in my literary maturity, I think it’s still an enjoyable and pertinent article. I did make the decision, however, to type it as it was originally written. As such, I’ve ignored my numerous grammatical errors (though MS Word is not so lenient!)- and ask that readers forgive the same. My son, and daughter who followed a few years later, are both adults now, and so much has come to pass- but the sentiment on the page remains unchanged all these years later.
I was stunned. “Are you sure?” I asked. We had talked about making the commitment for the last two years, but the reality of the situation never seemed so… final. Yet there it was, in that strange blue “positive” color. We were soon to be parents.
My wife and I had been married for seven very short years, the official ceremony taking place shortly after college graduation. I’ve regarded being married as absolutely the coolest adventure I’ve ever begun. Unlike the stereotypes so prevalent in our society, our relationship as husband and wife was far from “the old ball and chain”. We each had our own careers and interests and, since we genuinely enjoyed being together, our interests often crossed into the shared category. We lived in a trendy, contemporary condo, threw legendary parties, maintained long-standing relationships with most of our single friends, and traveled as much as possible. Some travel was for work, quite a bit involved auto racing (we both raced), and the rest vacationing wherever we could reach in whatever time we had. Life was great, and we spent as much of it together as we possibly could. Time and circumstance can have a way of changing virtually any lifestyle, though.
When we committed to this married existence, we both agreed that there were no children in our future. My wife’s position as a social worker/ foster care specialist, however, regularly had her dealing with children of various ages. Hours spent with the babies, as well as hearing of the hardships suffered by couples trying desperately to become parents, rapidly coaxed that “maternal instinct” from the recesses of her being. At the same time, I was dealing with friends who were beginning families of their own, and realizing that if ever I were to veer from my path of married coupledom, I should do it now while I was young enough to survive the rigors of parenting. Thus, when Lori (my wife) approached me with the idea of a child, my defenses were weak. I didn’t really want to be a dad, but she really wanted to be a mom. I couldn’t bring myself to stand totally against the idea, so the “negotiations” began.
For two years we stepped to the edge of the water, only to decide it was too cold to swim; We weren’t ready… We couldn’t afford to have a child… We were too young… I was too selfish about my time… and the list went on and on. Then, a couple that we spent a great deal of time racing and travelling with became pregnant with baby number two. We thought ” what the heck”, and decided we’d give it a try. ” After all, my wife assured me “we’ll probably be trying for at least a year or so.” Hah! I had been out of town for a few weeks on business, so we made this momentous decision by phone. I miss my wife terribly when I am on the road, so the romance of returning is always a high point in our relationship, and this time was exceptional! I flew back home the morning of winter Superstorm 1993, and Lori had positive pregnancy test results a few weeks later. Nothing quite like incredible fertility, or lots of luck! Our journey had begun!
I realize that there are people who live to find themselves in the “family way” … I, however, am not one of them. When the initial shock wore off (for both of us- Lori had not expected such efficiency at our task either), I began to assess the impact that this development would have on my life. The conclusions I reached were not all that wonderful. The first thing that came to mind was the permanence of the situation. Having children was not something you could do “part-way”, or “sort-of”. Unlike a car that can be traded in or traded up whenever you got the urge, a child came ” as-is “, with no options or opportunity to change the outcome. In reality, even a marriage can be ended relatively easily, and not necessarily at the expense of the friendship of the ex-spouses. Being a parent, on the other hand, is forever. Two people created that being, and no matter what else changes throughout a lifetime, there will never be any other biological parents to that child. You have accepted the position for life. Once past that intense revelation, the minor tremors that continued around the main event carried nearly as much force. “A kid changes everything” I’d heard on more than one occasion, and I had no doubt that this was truth. I considered the financial damage: so much for the sailboat, or new motorcycle. I had better be thrilled with the current race car and our daily drivers, because they were going to be with us a while. What of my relationship with Lori? What about sex? I’d heard sex becomes non-existent after a child (though I’d heard the same nonsense about getting married). How would we travel with a screaming baby/ toddler/ child? Heck, I’m just hitting my thirties, most of my friends are still single and career-oriented, and I’m just too busy playing with all the toys and pursuits in my own life- I can it be having a kid! The list of negatives seemed endless, and the worst part was my wife’s sudden doubts about our decision, as well as her inability to be any more positive about our new situation than myself. Though the negatives far outweighed the positives, there were a few gleaming examples that helped me to maintain some degree of enthusiasm. I thought of how awesome it would be to teach a small piece of Lori and me to fly, or to race cars or mountain bikes, or to take camping and share the world with. I considered how incredible it would be just to create a being through the most basic and natural act of love, and provide it with the values and ideas that we believe in so strongly. The possibility that this child might one day make a difference, perhaps THE difference, in the world around us. Though I thought of all these things and more, I was terrified that I would do this “father” thing all wrong. Someone was handing me the raw materials and saying “make a good person of this”, and I was completely lacking the confidence that I could carry out such a task. I was quick tempered, easily frustrated, and highly critical of myself and others- and I was going to be ultimately responsible for this tiny human-in-training. I spent many sleepless nights being totally overwhelmed at what I had agreed to do. This child-to-be growing in my wife was the result of a conscious and planned decision that, though perhaps a bit untimely, we had both agreed to. For nine months I hoped and, though I am not a particularly spiritual person, prayed that the mere sight of this newborn person would instantly transform me into DAD. I continued to ponder the changes.
For nine months, Lori continued to change physically. The “psycho-hormonal” changes that I had been warned about never happened. She was beautiful throughout, and our lifestyle changed little. I joined her in the exclusion of alcohol and caffeine in her diet, and we probably ate healthier than we had in years. The changes continued, then, suddenly, it was time. Thanksgiving evening marked the beginnings of labor, but the contractions came and went without pattern. This went on for the entire weekend, leaving my stomach nearly as knotted and spastic as I imagined my wife’s was. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and sitting still was out of the question. My fears of my future were now intertwined with a fear for Lori’s well-being, and the health of the baby. I knew the chances were slim, and I was being irrational, but I was very afraid of losing my wife to childbirth as so many did in the old books and movies. What of my child? Would he be deformed? Would my indiscretions through the years have been passed on as some mutation in its gene structure? If anything was wrong, I would forever blame myself for his predicament. What have we done?!? I would know soon enough… Late Sunday night/ early Monday morning we drove to the hospital in the first winter storm of ‘93/ ‘94. Consider the irony- conceived in one winter storm, born in another! The delivery room was sterile but comfortable, and the delivery nurse assigned to us was terrific. I felt sick and helpless as I watched the pain of contractions distort Lori’s features, and could do nothing. The entire morning became a surreal blur in my mind. There were doctors and nurses, monitors and needles, blood and fluids, and buckets of sweat from both of us. The hospital where we delivered utilized willing fathers as active delivery nurses, so I scrubbed and worked. My job was to hold, support neck, back or legs (sometimes all at once), and comfort. A friend summed up the process of delivery perfectly; “It ain’t pretty, but it Is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see!” In the end, it wasn’t, and it was. At 12:23 on November 29, 1993, my wife delivered a perfect 8lb. baby boy. At that moment, it was like the Grinch’s heart melting in Whoville. I cut the umbilical cord, and the doctor handed me my son, our son, for the first time. All the fears and doubts within me simply melted into a sense of awe, and peace settled within my world. I cannot possibly make this keyboard and screen convey the feelings involved in the first moments of life. If one can describe in detail every aspect of each emotion, then a description of my state may exist. I have never had a near-death experience, never seen my life flash before my eyes. Yet the event that transpired was life flashing into existence before my eyes. It was beautiful!
My son is nearly 14 months old at this writing. I have just rocked him back to sleep, a stuffy nose keeping him from an uninterrupted night. Lori is working days, and I work nights to avoid employing a stranger to observe his growth and provide his care. Our time together is substantially decreased, though more gratifying than ever. The myths of major change are mostly just that- myths. The positives of my son far outweigh the negatives now, and most of my fears have proved to be unfounded. The first year was a drastic lifestyle change, but, as our son gets older, we’ve begun to get back to the same excitement of old. A quick release child seat on the mountain bike allows me to take him riding during the week, and removing the seat lets me blast through my usual hardcore weekend rides with the guys. Sean seems to share my love of all types of music, hangs out at the airport with me (next year I’ll take him flying), and always sits with us to watch the races. He likes to laugh at me as I work out, but then so does Lori (that does SO much for my ego!). Someday his head will be big enough to fit into Mom’s helmet, so he can ride warm-up laps at the racetrack, or on the motorcycles with dad and his Uncle Doug. I still manage to do most of the things that I want to, and these seem to be changes I can live with. The only real difference is that there are now three Mekindas who will be traveling, attending, hosting, or just tearing the place up- and I can’t imagine it any other way!