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On Parenthood

April 13, 2012

Driving through the Mojave desert back in 2002 I penned this uninspired little ditty. Actually I dictated it into a tape recorder (remember those?); this is the closest it’s come to the written page.

The birds and the bees speak words of wisdom
Unfortunately few people listen to them
So you see the consequence of one rash decision
Could be the compromise of your whole life’s vision.
Or it could be the best thing to happen
Since the magic lamp found Aladdin.
Many of my friends finally got it together
When unexpected news rained like the weather
And they had to choose to neglect and abuse
Or finally pursue their true measure.
 

Little did I know I was about to have my first experience with conception and find out how I really felt about abortion.

We didn’t last long after that, though three years later she and I became parents within months of each other. It took me six years to come to terms with the abortion, and not until I was experiencing relationship issues again. Then I understood how much worse it would’ve been with my former partner. I was finally able to grasp the fact that she’d recognized this beforehand and took preemptive steps to avoid it. And I was grateful.

My own pregnancy (if you will) was blissful, and Eva was born in magic. On Valentine’s Day 2005 Ann had her first contractions on the way to Powell’s bookstore. She bought a belly dancing book and I, a sci-fi. Midway through the night our midwife read a quote from the belly book. “Trust is the Mother of Opening.” It was just what Ann needed to hear.

Despite the surfeit of horror stories established parents seemed determined to tell us about their birthing experiences, and despite the judgments rendered unto us for not determining Eva’s gender before birth, she was born without drama or hassle.

She was also born intact in her caul (at 6:00 the next morning, thankfully). In other words Ann’s water never broke. The little one slipped right out and her birthing sac evaporated in Ellie and my hands. This is what my sci-fi book had to say: “Some say it’s a mark of extraordinary understanding, even second sight. A caul warns us that you will learn things most others will never comprehend, and you will always be frustrated trying to explain what you know, and what seems so obvious to you. It’s supposed to be both a blessing and a curse.” Darwin’s Children by Greg Bear

It soon became obvious our focus on the pregnancy and birth had excluded any research into the next steps of parenthood. Fortunately there are a plethora of books readily available, and they showed up in multitude at our doorstep. Unfortunately their advice was often contradictory.

Not long after, I read another sci-fi book in which the main character had a similar experience. His wife wanted him to read everything; he stacked the books by the toilet as the excretory event represented his longest stretch of peace and quiet. Still he couldn’t read them all, and was frustrated by the contradictions. This is how we whittled them down: any piece of bad grammar, misspelling, or blatant inconsistency resulted in the book being tossed to the floor and rejected. He reasoned that an author unable to write coherently and correctly wasn’t someone he wanted to take advice from. And I’d have to agree.

Kudos to stay-at-home dads of newborns and toddlers – I couldn’t do it. But now that Eva is seven I’m up to the task. Yesterday I did laundry, two loads of dishes, swept the floor, went grocery shopping, baked bread, made dinner, transplanted green bean starts, pulled dandelions, read two chapters of The Hobbit, and still found time to write a few pages in my children’s book. Today will look very similar.

As Ann and my relationship evolves from passion to friendship, I am grateful for my ‘Mr. Mom’ experience. I have the self-confidence to raise our daughter in a healthy manner resembling – perhaps ironically – my own upbringing, which I rebelled against for many years. We truly do become our parents, and in my case I am more proud than chagrined. Of course we have the opportunity to evolve out of our parents’ (perceived) shortcomings, and I hope I’m accomplishing this too.

Here’s a few lines from another little ditty that came to me recently. Imagine it to the tune of Alanis Morrisette’s song You Oughta Know.

If you’re a parent to be you’d better listen to me
Cause I’ll tell you just like I’d tell my brother.
Go get your fun and your sleep before you have your babies
Cause your life’s about to get tougher.
And if you think that you know how the future will go
Well let me tell you it’s not so.
Cause you just can’t control the emotions that flow
And you’ve got to let go.
Well let go!
 
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