I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked what I want the baby to be. Friends, family, co-workers. They are all curious what my preference is, as if it has some bearing on…I don’t know what.
Don’t get me wrong. I will readily admit to having asked this very question. But now that I am on the receiving end, I realize how silly and impossible to answer this query this is. Of course I feel guilty not having an answer at the ready, so here is my explanation why I really just don’t know:
First, I didn’t really have a choice. It’s not like we got to order the baby off of a menu. “I’ll take a boy, with brown hair, blue eyes and and a side of freckles. Oh, and I’d like a tall drink of water (get it? wink, wink).” As with most things in life, if I don’t have any control over a situation, especially a situation that ends well no matter which way it goes, I really do not put much thought into what I want. I just roll with it.
Second, the same people who know we are having a baby also know I already have a son and a daughter. I have seen the light and dark sides of those moons, and they are just as much of a joy as they are utterly confounding at times. Boys are rough and tumble jokesters with a stubborn streak a mile wide. Girls are sweet and thoughful, but have a tendency to channel soap operas divas 95% of the time. It’s a snips-and-snails-and-puppy-dog-tails versus sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice smackdown. It’s a toss up. Every. Single. Time.
Third, at the end of the day, does it really matter what I want? As long as the baby is healthy, has the requisite number of fingers and toes, and utters “dada” as its first words, everything else will take care of itself.
Well, not really by itself, as that would be a miracle, but you know what I mean…
Adding another person to the already hectic mix of a 4-person family takes some doing, and when that addition is a baby, it has come become very clear that the sheer amount of stuff we are going to need to make everything happen, much less happen smoothly, increases by an order of magnitude. Bassinets, changing tables, rocking chairs, and cribs, not to mention a landfill-choking mountain of bottles and diapers and wipes. And that’s just in the house. Actually leaving the house and venturing past the end of the driveway is already shaping up to be an undertaking of Titanic proportions (and some of these trips will likely be just as massively unsuccessful).
In addition to the whole other person in the car (which is really baby + 1 when you throw in the overstuffed carseat), the checklists I have seen spell out a veritable wagon train worth of items that are deemed necessities (or so Babies R Us would have you believe). Seriously. I travel lighter for a weeklong business trip to Omaha. This is going to require some serious space. Space which we did not have. At least not until the other day.
You see, up until Tuesday, my wife was snug as a bug in her little white Volvo S40, sprinting around town, cute as can be. Unfortunately, for anyone familiar with this car, while it may be sporty, and it’s safe to a degree typically enjoyed only by tanks and bank vaults, it is short on – and by “short on” I mean dreadfully lacking, and by “dreadfully lacking” I mean completely devoid of – space. We quickly came to the realization that no amount of science, engineering, or magic would be able to make 1 baby + 1 carseat + 1 stroller + 1 diaper bag + 1 wife + 2 other kids + all their crap even fit in this shoebox of a car, much less in a way to make them even remotely comfortable. (You will note I left myself out of that equation. Well, that’s because I’m 6’3” and need a shoehorn to get in the car as it is. There isn’t a chance in hell I’m fitting in there with all that other stuff going on in there.)
Not ones to dawdle (and, more specifically, because the wife wanted a new car anyway), the car shopping began in earnest. Immediately ruled out were minivans, conversion vans, station wagons, and any other silly “crossover” that offered a low sticker price in exchange for crappy styling, mediocre safety and still not enough space. With these categories eliminated, we knew we had to go big. Beyond Europe. Beyond Japan. We had to go with “holy shit enormous”, otherwise known as the Chevy dealership. Yep. You guessed it. In the span of 48 hours, we went from a tiny, insect-like yuppiemobile to a hulking V8 monstrosity in “Summit White”, complete with gleaming chrome, 22 inch wheels, and enough leather to impress even the most hardened rancher.
As a Toyota devotee who regularly hates on the assembly line of crap that Detroit vomited onto the roads over the past 20 years, this was an especially painful process, but even I have to admit this is a hell of a vehicle. Not only will it more than adequately hold me AND all the pieces to the aforementioned puzzle, but it’s safe, it’s comfortable, it gets gas mileage on par with my 4Runner (which, I should note, is both lighter and smaller), and it has a litany of bells and whistles that will make any road trip more kick ass than pain in the ass.
It may be a bit bigger than we really need, and, admittedly, it’s not the greenest car on the road, but, look at it this way, at least it’s not a Hummer.
And that’s a lesson every baby needs to learn.
To be fair, I can’t make this project all about me. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll mostly be about me, but given my wife is doing all the heavy lifting - literally and figuratively - for the next 8 months (to say nothing of the next 18 to 45 years, depending on how much of a slouch this kid turns out to be), I have to give credit where credit is due. And trust me, after 5 years of being married to me, she deserves a medal. And some cash.
Seriously. The lady is a machine. She’s a mom, a wife, a homemaker, an entrepreneur and a business manager, typically all at the same time. She runs businesses out of our house. Yes. Businesses. As in the plural of business. She is the consummate grillmaster and she makes a mean-ass chicken tortellini. Her green thumb would put John Deere to shame.
She’s a cattle rancher’s daughter. And I mean a real cattle rancher. As in, thousands of acres and hundreds of head. He’s a tough guy. Strong. And he raised his daughter to be just as tough and strong and self-reliant…and trust me, tough and self-reliant she is. In spades. I’ve seen it in action. It’s sort of scary. Trust me on this.
But she’s a big softy too. She gushes over babies, and puppies. The kids get her to cave almost every single time. She fills the house with flowers. She wears cute little dresses and gets manicures and pedicures.
She smiles. A lot.
She is caring, and considerate, and completely selfless.
Frankly, there’s not a single other person I would want raising this baby…and teaching me what the hell I’m supposed to be doing at the same time.
…and that fact that she’s damn sexy throughout all of this doesn’t hurt one single bit either…
That summarizes the series of thoughts that careened through my head when my wife broke the news.
What a trite word to describe a piece of information the ramifications of which were immediately felt in the deepest recesses of my heart, soul and stomach. And I mean that quite literally. My heart leapt, my soul sang and my stomach was immediately reduced to a sickening series of twists, turns and knots as the practical part of me - which is to say 99.9% - began performing accounting acrobatics to outwit the impending and unavoidable undulating waves of budget slashing and bloated spending. “Instantly overwhelming” would be a good phrase to use, as would “terrifying.” But then so would thrilling. Yeah. Thrilling. Much better…
I know what you’re thinking. “You’re a dad already. This should be old hat.” And you’d be right. Well, partially right anyway. I am a dad and I have been a dad for the past 6 years. But to the rest of the world, the clinical term for my role is stepfather. I was not around when my kids were newborns. I did not feed them, change their diapers or rock them to sleep. So while being a parent is old hat, I have absolutely no idea what I’m in for with this whole baby business.
In the first 24 hours after the news broke (and even more so after the plus sign on that little purple stick all but screamed “get ready for some serious shit”), my emotions were practically menopausal. Happy one second, scared shitless the next. I’d look at the numbers at noon and be fine and then peek again around 2 and put spending on an immediate lockdown. I’d think of the space we have available in our comfortable but far from palatial house and be confident we could make it work and then walk into the kitchen convinced we had to add another three rooms and build out the attic. And the hot flashes. Ugh. Don’t even get me started on those.
So I needed some way - any way, really - to calm my nerves, to settle my fears, and to reflect on what little wisdom I gain from this whole experience.
Hence this blog.
Not only can I do all those things, but I can do it in writing. Which is quiet. And unobtrusive. It lets me do those things in a way that doesn’t involve me wringing my hands, gnashing my teeth and heaping a load on my wife even heavier than the one I had apparently inserted in her a couple of months back.
That didn’t sound right.
And so it begins…