A Canceled Rave


We already knew you long before that cold Winter night, and you already knew us.  Your arrival was more of being transplanted than being born.  We knew of your juicy lips, short legs, and long torso long before I first saw them covered in blood.  We knew you were a girl, knew your name, knew the songs we would sing you, the books we would read you, and the pajamas we would dress you in at night (and often in the day, as it turns out).  

Whether you remember it or not, you also surely knew much of us as well.  You knew that every night we baked a monster cookie and watched a TV show on the couch while we ate it.  It was either The Office or Survivor—two pillars of American culture.  I encourage you to watch the former so that you can appreciate our jokes and the latter so that you can understand people.  Given the genes that went into making you, I suspect you to be an introvert, and what better window for an introvert to observe the world than reality TV.  

Pregnancy eluded us for years.  When your mother first arrived at the fertility doctor’s office wearing her wedding ring on one hand and her grandmother’s diamond ring on the other as a token for good luck, the doctor lowered her voice midway through the consultation and said, “if money is not an issue…we can proceed directly to IVF.”

Of course, the fact that I quietly wondered whether we even really needed a crib, a changing table, a sound machine, a diaper bag, or more than two sets of clothes for you should be testament enough that money was an issue.  So we took the more circumspect route of tests, medications, and prayer, and as our romance was micromanaged into a disciplined chore, the pregnancy tests remained stubbornly negative.

We took a break from the doctors and went native instead.  Your mother visited a functional medicine clinic where she was given progesterone, filled with vitamin C intravenously, and told to dry brush diligently.  Three months later, she was pregnant.

Although my face flushes at the thought of discussing it, the story of your conception is too wonderful to skip.  We began to wonder if we would never have kids, and it caused us to contemplate having our mid-life crises early.  Your mother booked a techno concert.  She purchased an outfit made for black light dancing and completed it with a neon tie dye fanny pack for holding her essentials.  I suspected her concert was a planned catharsis of pent-up frustration scheduled to the pounding base of an EDM song.  She is, after all, a planner and a perfectionist.  No more wonderful companion for a mid-life crisis.

Although less of a planner and not at all a perfectionist, I, too, had a rebellious streak that drew me to your mother.  But where your mother cloaks her darker side admirably, mine has occasionally consumed me.  It caused me to get an earring, a tattoo, and to dress the way I did when I met your mother.  A dress shirt under a sweater, a sideways snowboarder’s hat, and an expressionless face in every photo that caught me.  It was my third year of college, and I was shocked that life hadn’t killed me yet, so I began to provoke it.  I drank more, cared less, and embodied a gloomier version of your mother’s neon fanny pack.  You will never believe this, though, because by the time you were born, our shared rebellion had been pacified into more temperate pursuits.  We dreamed of redoing our kitchen backsplash, and perhaps one day, buying a van with a sunroof.

The concert was abruptly canceled days before it was held.  Instead of traveling to the urban metropolis hours away for a rave, we went instead to our local bar, listened to country music, and drank too much vodka.  And after so long of making love at times convenient for ovulation, we thought nothing of it.  Of course, that was the time it worked.

All things considered, your mother handled pregnancy extraordinarily well.  By that I mean she survived it.  Her morning sickness did not limit itself to the morning.  Instead, she was nauseous all day, every day.  It was six weeks of toast and string cheese.  Once I made lasagna for her, and when she put the first bite in her mouth, she allowed it to fall right back out onto her plate.  It’s probably the rudest thing she’s ever done to anyone, and that should tell you what a toll pregnancy took on her.

As you both grew, it became apparent that you were a big baby in a small space.  You spent your days hoping to renovate your bungalow into a mansion.  You jumped on her bladder, punched at her stomach, and occasionally dug your heels into her liver or kidneys, but you always grew faster than the womb you struggled to stretch.  Your size led to heartburn, and your mother managed it with medication and ice cream.  An extra scoop for the baby, and another for the heartburn.  Silver linings, I guess.

During all these challenges, one of my greatest gifts to your mother was a body pillow the size of a poplar tree.  It wrapped around her back, gave her support between her legs and under her belly, and curled around her head.  She loved it and I loved that she loved it, but I, myself, hated it.  One of the great dividends of marriage is spooning, and that body pillow triggered a recession in our bedtime ritual.  Only after I had clambered over it, burrowed myself into the nook between the pillow and your mother, gotten my arms where they needed to go, and found a bearable place for my head was I informed that I had already overheated her.  Then, with the grace of a sandbag rolling around a sandtrap, I would clamber back to my side and anxiously await the day your mother discarded my gift.  But here we are, after your first birthday, and your mother still has never slept without it.  

Your mother made great preparations for your delivery, but as you’ve already read, they were unnecessary.  How do you prepare for an emergency c-section?  A lifetime of faith is all a person can do, and thank God she had that.  She also prepared me, though.  For an hour each night in the waning weeks of her pregnancy, we watched a birthing course together.  These were filled with helpful tips and good insights, but each session ended with a recorded birth.  It was desensitization at its finest—see enough babies emerge into the world and eventually you’ll accept the insanity as commonplace.  

I dreaded those recordings.  

By turns, my face flushed, my hands got clammy, my feet went cold, and my head grew lighter and lighter as I imagined your mother in place of the women in the videos.  It was the confirmation of a great fear for your mother—that during a trial in which she needed me, I could very well be rendered unconscious.  She told me that I needed to be strong for her, and I looked at the floor when I replied with my hollow assurances.  In hindsight, my trepidation seems quaint and childish—if fatherhood has taught me anything, it’s to simply react to the crises.  No thought required.  

The birthing course also mentioned something else for which to prepare.  Sleep deprivation.  But I had been to college.  I had once pulled an all-nigher in high school.  I figured it’d be like that.