Thursday, February 10, 2005

Biological Terrorism

Biological Terrorism... not the anthrax kind, not even the deadly kind. This is a kind of biological terrorism that men and women have been dealing with since forever. This is biological terroism that we make ourselves. I'm not talking bacteria.....

I'm talkin' babies.

Most of you that will be reading this probably know that my wife and I are expecting a child in May. We already know that it is a boy and we've named him Tyler Quinnon. I thought today I would try to put down some of my thoughts and feelings about this development.


Today's Question: How do I feel about becoming a father?

Father... man, I'm not even comfortable with that word. I might can handle dad. There that's better... I'm going to be a dad. The weirdest moment I've had so far was when I was talking to my dad and said something about "My son." It's hard to explain, but it was just surreal talking about "My son." to my Dad. Anyway.. onward.

I think maybe the best way to approach this question would be to walk through my emotional progress over the past few months. Some of the following might border on Too Much Information... I'm really not sure exactly what all I'll include. Consider yourself warned.

Last summer, Mandy and I used our overly large tax refund (I never got our witholdings right) and took a trip to Jamaica. Mandy was really getting impatient to have kids and I'd always said I wanted to go on a nice vacation before babies came along... so to Jamaica we go. We both knew this was the 'pre-baby' trip.

My wife is a planner. She knew exactly when she wanted the baby to be born, and consequently, exactly when we needed to get pregnant. For the past few years, our family planning method of choice has been the pill. She tells me that if a woman has been on the pill for several years (like she had) then it usually takes a few months for her body to become fertile again. This means that she needs to go off the pill ASAP so that we have a good chance of getting pregnant at the 'right' time. This also means that I get very nervous. We fight. We sort of compromise.. but mostly she wins.

I've always hated chemistry. I'm an engineer and love most branches of science, with the exception of chemistry. It would seem that chemistry also hates me.. because... how to say this... my troops appear to be very resilient to chemical barriers.

1 month off the pill = 2 lines on the pregnancy test.

We're having a baby.

Holy cow.

At first, I had mostly bad reactions and emotions about the whole thing. Staring the idea of a baby in the face I was terrified and convinced that I wasn't ready. I was also a little bit peeved because the whole process hadn't worked out like I wanted. The one thing I was looking forward to about trying to get pregnant was a couple of months of it NOT working. There are few things in life more fun than practicing making a baby. I thought I'd get a couple of months of that... no such luck. Poor, selfish Caleb.

For several weeks, I was pretty depressed and stressed. Money was kind of tight so that was a concern. Mostly, I was just scared. I didn't know anything about babies. I'm the type of guy that I'm only comfortable if I know what I'm getting in to... and I didn't have the first clue about what it was like to care for a baby. I felt like I was standing on the precipice of the gaping chasm of my own ignorance, and the winds of change we're blowing me closer and closer. Add that to the fact that the winds of change smelled like baby poop and I wasn't a very pleasant person.

The wife and I fought. A lot. Her hormones were raging and so was my temper. Things were bad.

A few months in to her pregnancy, my wife started having some sharp pains. She was concerned that something might be wrong. We made a doctor's appointment and went in to have an emergency ultrasound to check on the baby.

We settled in to a dark room with a doctor bed and a fancy TV next to it. The ultrasound technician came in.. turned on the equipment.. and started looking for our baby. Mandy was scared... I don't know what I was. I could see the TV and saw varying shades of grey, along with some empty areas.

Then, floating in the empty space was another little body. As this small figure appeared on the screen, the speakers that had just been playing the sound of my wife's heartbeat started cranking out the rapid hearbeat of my child.

My world shifted.

Something that was so much pysically smaller than me suddenly became emotionally larger than anything else in my life. The abject terror was still there... but new emotions were floating alongside it. Wonder, tenderness, joy, love... the baby's heartbeat was about 150 bpm... I think he and I were synchronized at that moment.

If you think that a desktop computer is the most life changing piece of technology you'll ever encounter, think again. The most incredible use of technology I've ever known is the first time you see and hear your child on ultrasound.

My attitude changed and things got better at our house. I started talking about the baby more and even smiled from time to time! We went back in right before Christmas for another ultrasound to determine the sex of the baby. Mandy and I both wanted a boy. She was convinced it was a girl though... I had no idea. She's never been happier about being wrong. At the halfway mark of pregnancy, it is amazing how well developed the baby is. I could clearly see fingers, eyes, toes... he was sitting there with his ankles crossed.. like he was watching TV or something. Ah, like father like son.

I'm doing much better now. I'm still scared to death... but I'm excited as well. Back when we told our neighbors that we were pregnant, they could tell I wasn't very excited. Heck, anyone could tell I wasn't very excited. She said something that, for some reason has stuck with me and is actually one of the reasons I'm happy about having a kid. Here's what she said:

"You should be happy... I mean, look at the world around you. Now more than ever....... smart people need to breed!"

I guess that appeals to my arrogant side. But, at the same time, I think it speaks to the core hope of being a parent. Sure, there's fear at all of the hardship of being a parent and fear for your child that something will happen to them. But there's the hope of what you're child will be able to do for the world. There's the hope that this little person will learn from you and grow up under your guidance and hopefully make the world a better place.

I'm doing better now. The thought of being a dad still keeps me awake at night. But, I've found a better way of dealing with that. Instead of getting out of bed and playing a video game until I'm tired again, I reach over and put my hand on Mandy's belly. Tyler always helps me out and does a few cartwheels inside of Mandy for me. I think he knows it helps me feel better. It doesn't make me less scared.. but it does make me smile. I'm hoping that means that I'll be a good parent. Concerned enough to do things right, but positive enough to smile at everything.

So to answer my question... I feel lots of things. There's no one word or phrase that could sum up everything. This wordy blog doesn't even come all that close. All I know is that, ready or not, the best thing that will ever happen to me is coming in 3 months. I just hope I have the wisdom to see it for what it is and do things right.

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