Impending Fatherhood in the Time of Quarantine
How I found out I was actually going to be a dad was pretty anti-climatic. Reb and I had been trying for a couple of months, and every month it didn’t happen was a sad moment. We pulled the goalie, did the app and were about as serious about it as you could be. It was a real bummer to wait for something that only comes once a month and be let down, especially when I could feel my youth slipping away as the weeks went on. Right after the new year, Reb said that she took a pregnancy test and it was positive. She was very matter of fact about it. She was just like “look at this.” I looked at the stick that she definitely peed on and it was in fact positive. I was just like “Oh.” My first thought was that if this was a false positive, I didn’t think my heart could take it. That would hurt more than 1,000 negative results. We both kind of had no emotion to it because we were thinking the same thing. We decided that we’d go see a doctor and make sure.
In the waiting room at the doctor, we still had the same blank feelings. A medical professional had not confirmed it for us yet, so there was no point in being excited. The doctor’s name was Shebarbra. She was Caribbean. She did the test (which is extremely awkward and I’ll let Reb tell you about it) and then started talking a mile a minute using heavy medical jargon. Somewhere in that mess she said “congratulations” and then just kept going. We looked at each other, almost be like “wait, did she actually say what we think she said?” Shebarbra then went in on follow up appointments, who to talk to, what she can’t eat, etc. Everything she said was a total blur. It was like she was on low volume and speaking Swahili. It was not like in the movies where the doctor smiles and says “congratulations, you’re going to be parents!” This lady has done this thousands of times and did not care. She gave us a bunch of paperwork and they took a gallon of Reb’s blood and sent us on our way. We walked to the corner where she would get on the train and I would go back to work, and it was still all business. It was like “well, now it’s confirmed.” I went back to work and for the rest of the day everyone just sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. It was part shock and part just “wait, what?” It was was not how I pictured it at all. Something I’ve wanted for so long was finally here, and I felt like a host on Westworld, being giving this vital and important information and having a “this doesn’t look like anything to me” reaction. It was deeply weird.
I think part of the reason I had that reaction is because I’ve been ready to be a dad for a while. When Reb and I first started dating, three months in we had a Very Serious Talk. I let her know that I had goals for myself, and I wanted a partner and a family and I was getting to an age where I needed to start making that happen, and that if she wasn’t all the way in I was going to split. Obviously she was in, but I meant what I said. It’s old fashioned, but having a family has always been pretty much my only goal. Jobs are just a means to an end. Creative endeavors should be to your own standards and no one else’s. Having materials things are desires and not accomplishments. I’ve always thought that creating life and contributing to the new generation is the best you can as an individual for humanity. That, and I’ve always had a weird obsession with legacy. Like continuing a family business, taking up your father’s sword, etc. I can’t really explain it, but I think those things are important. My father has a can opener in the shape of fish that was his uncle’s, who raised him. Uncle Ed carried that fish in his pocket for decades, so it’s important to my father to have it. Or my grandfather’s police chief badge, things like that. Trinkets that hold a power, the power of memory and experience. I always wanted a child of my own to pass on knowledge and history, but also keep me alive in some way. I’m very much looking forward to my kid inheriting my leather jacket or my motorcycle, something they can share long after I’m gone. In a big way, having children is a way to have a good life and then live forever.
My parents predictably freaked out. My mother has been pressuring me for a grandchild since two girlfriends ago. My father cried and thanked me for doing this for my mother. Both my siblings aren’t having kids, so this is a big deal to them. My brother and sister had already figured it out, as Reb’s “dry January” ruse was easily seen through. Now that the whole world knows, it’s very weird. I feel like I’m joining a club. My friends that have kids are elated, and I’m glad I have them to rely on when I don’t know what to do, because, guys, I really don’t know what to do.
I bought a bunch of baby books, and holy shit they are super unhelpful. I think they assume that every guy experiences a completely unplanned pregnancy. They use a lot of “dude” and “bro” logic and try to explain things that as an adult man you should know. Chapters cover such things as what ovulation is or how hormones work. It does so in the most dumbed down, idiot-proof way. Pages and pages of “you’re whole life is gonna change, buddy!” YEAH I KNOW. I have zero questions about how to be a good partner or what is expected of me as a husband and a father, and many questions about the practical stuff. How many times a week do you wash a baby? What are the pros and cons of formula vs breast milk? What is the best stroller on the market and why? How do I keep some semblance of my life before the baby? Is a college fund worth it? I need how-to guides, not the Frat Dad Handbook. It’s really infuriating and I’m not with it.
So far, I’ve gotten mixed feedback. It’s nice when people express general excitement, support and love. They tell me that there is no greater joy than being a parent, and they are here to help. Those people are great. I love those people. What I absolutely don’t need right now is people teasing me about the shittier parts of parenting. “You’ll never sleep again,” “wait until your first diaper blowout,” “kids are little monsters that fuck your whole life up,” “your life is over.” Yeah, fuck alllllll that. Treating me like a noob and trying to scare me helps exactly no one. If having a kid is so terrible then why the fuck are you a parent? Obviously these folks love their kids, but focusing on the shitty parts during a time when I should be ecstatic about the prospect is exactly the wrong move. It’s like people giving you unsolicited advice about your wedding decorations. Thanks but no thanks, full stop.
On top of people trying to scare me, this is a notably bad time to be having a kid. The virus and the quarantine is a pit of fear and uncertainty and despair, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t affecting my excitement about having a baby. My kid is going to be born during a Trump presidency when there are thousands dead. My mother may have to wear a mask when she holds her grandchild for the first time, if she’s allowed to be there for the birth at all. Fuck, I might not even be allowed to be there for the birth. These things weigh heavy on me, on top of the financial economic impact. Every day I think about this kind of shit, and my little child is a complete innocent in all this. It breaks my fucking heart. It truly does.
Setting all that fear aside, I am truly excited for this. Reb is starting to show, and I’ve read that I can talk to the baby next to her belly and they can hear me. Special things like that are helping deal with not only the state of the world but the general terror of being a new parent. What I need right now is support and friendship. That will help us stay focused on the fact that this tiny person will have a positive impact on our lives, even if we are standing in a bread line in a hazmat suit when they get here. It could be a whole different story in September when they get here, but it also really could not. As the days blend into each other sitting around in my sweatpants reading baby blogs, I need my family and friends to help me stay positive and enjoy this. So far pregnancy hasn’t been rainbows and Kodak moments, and the third trimester was going to be a stressful slog anyway, so we’re trying to keep our heads up. I’ll be fine, but if you feel compelled to support someone, support Reb. She needs it far more than I do. She is carrying the weight of our family on her back, literally, and she could use your kind words and love.
So these are my feelings. I’m sure these are normal for any new parent, to have it be equal parts fear and excitement. I’m sure being able to see people and go outside would help matters, but that just ain’t in the cards right now. We are super appreciative of everyone who has shown us love and support. We see you and we love you. It’s an extremely uncertain road ahead, but we know we’ll get through it together. At the end of it is a little person who needs us, and weathering this storm to get to them is what makes it worth it.
Till next time.