I’m writing this to you so that I’ll remember how it felt when the OB showed us a small dark spot on your mother’s uterus, centered it, and said, “That’s your baby.” It was a peculiar sensation somewhere between my stomach, which felt like it was on spin cycle, and my head, which was alternating between happiness and dizziness. I reached for my wife’s hand and held it while the doctor printed out some grainy pictures.
We’ve been working on this particular project for a while now, and when she told me we should look into buying a pregnancy test, I was cautiously optimistic. We’d had several false alarms in the second half of last year, so I wasn’t going to get my hopes too high. One Saturday afternoon in January, we shopped for groceries and home supplies, and when we returned home I got lost in my project, obliviously walking past her several times with handfuls of tools intent on breaking something. When I brought her in to look at the progress, I wondered why her eyes were welling, thinking, dirty old wallpaper can’t make her this happy. In a rare moment of clarity, I correctly guessed the reason for her emotion, we held each other in the half-demolished doctor’s office, and I was caught between waves of joy and stark terror. This is for real.
Today, before the first meeting with our OB, we sat in the waiting room for our appointment, both nervous and lost in our own thoughts. I skimmed Outside magazine, unable to put the sentences together, and held her hand. Inside the exam room, with the lights turned down, I was amazed that a spot five millimeters long could have such a strong effect on me. The doc pointed out the highlights (not much, considering your size) and assured us everything was fine and that our conception date was most likely the one we thought it was.
Dear Lima Bean,
We can see your little heart beating clearly in the grainy black and white monitor next to the exam table. I reach for your mother’s hand again, and we both are smiling as the doctor takes measurements. I’m not ashamed to say I got choked up as she told us it’s looking good, and that we’re past the first big hurdle.
That’s what we’re calling you this week. See, mommy gets these emails every week that talk about what to expect and what’s happening and what to look for, and they compare your size to fruits and vegetables. Which is ironic.
At first, the changes were minor, but now we are dealing with the brutal onslaught of morning sickness, which should be renamed monthly sickness. Food—the mere thought of food—seems to have lost all of its appeal; certain things now go by codenames so as not to make your mother’s fickle stomach backflip with displeasure. There are days when the subject is completely verboten, and I must simply place some substance, any substance, in front of her and pray it will not turn her stomach. We have tried all the usual cures: Ginger, watermelon, saltines, graham crackers, ice water, etc., etc.
You laugh at these things. Our normal lackadaisical eating schedule has been supplanted by your demands: YOU WILL BRING FOOD EVERY THREE HOURS. I am horrified to find myself in charge of the menu planning, which is sort of like letting a blind man fly a plane: it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing becomes a smoking crater in the ground. You’ll find out soon enough what a lousy chef your father is. Thankfully, there has only been one time mommy has sent food back to the kitchen, a dark experience involving a bean burrito unknowingly sabotaged with zucchini. You and mommy both don’t like zucchini. Bananas and cantaloupe are always welcome on the menu, but when you get tired of these failsafes, we’re fucked.
Meanwhile, the trick has been to keep an outward sense of normalcy while we wait for the first trimester to pass while lying to everybody. Sorry, everyone, we’re sorry for the subterfuge, avoidance, and outright lies when you’ve asked how things are going: “Nothing’s new here.” The truth is, we’re both worn out. Your mother’s had to beg off from dinner plans due to ‘food poisoning’ once already, and we’re trying to avoid any social occasion that involves alcohol. This has not been 100% successful, especially given our, ahem, well-known love for the grape and grain. You’ll find out about that, too. Meanwhile the secret is killing me.
Today your parents dragged themselves out of bed to be in the city by 7:45 for a more comprehensive checkup at the hospital, a scant two days after the federally mandated joke called Daylight Savings Time. See how much we love you? You’ll find out how grumpy we are at six in the morning in a couple of months.
We got some higher-resolution pictures of you from a cheerless technician who jabbed the sensor clear through to mommy’s spine, and for the first time we heard the strong, clear whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of your heartbeat, which made me dizzy with pride. You look good! You have a nose, and little arms, and every time the tech bonked you on the head with the sensor you jumped around like a flea. You’re a bit larger than a fig, actually—eight centimeters, to be exact. So we want you to know that you’re ahead of schedule and to slow down a little. Your neural tube looks good, which is a relief. We talked to the counsellors about our family histories and tried to remember all the aches and pains and diseases that run through our family trees, and then they took about a gallon of your mommy’s blood for testing, and then we were done and it was time for a SANDWICH.
Mommy is holding up well, considering you make her feel like throwing up all the time. I’m running out of ideas for dinner, though, so I’d appreciate it if you’d lift the ban on vegetables, chicken, potatoes, salad, and, well, everything else besides cantaloupe, bean burritos and Trader Joe’s Ginger Almond & Cashew Granola cereal. Because they can’t make enough of that stuff if that’s all the two of you can eat.
Lately there’s been a lot of talk about subprime mortgages, stagflation, and unemployment. These are all fancy terms for HOLY SHIT THE SKY IS FALLING. They say “timing is everything”, and it looks like we’ve picked a swell time to start our new family. Things are still reasonably OK right now, but I’m hoping the country hasn’t devolved to a Road Warrior state of anarchy by the time you’re ready to pop out. All of this cheerful banter has daddy laying awake late at night pondering different ways of earning money to feed you. But don’t worry, little one. I’ll do whatever I’ve got to do to keep you safe, warm, and happy.
Today was a huge day for the three of us. We saw the OB this morning to listen to your heartbeat, which always chokes me up, and every time we talk with her I like her better. I hope she’s the one who hands you to your mother on your birthday. We started making some calls to my family to give them the good news, and sent your first picture, and I’d like to thank you for the best birthday present EVER.
We’ve started telling a few people now, which is alternately exciting and tiring. Your grandparents are thrilled, and they’re chomping at the bit to spoil you rotten with all kinds of things they never would have dreamed of giving us, their children. Your great-grandfather really couldn’t hear us too well, but after the fifth or sixth time shouting “We’re having a baby” into the phone, I think he got it. It’s this whole complicated thing with his hearing aid and batteries…we’ll explain that to you someday. Hopefully you will get to meet him in person, and hopefully he’ll be able to hear you.
Mommy would like to thank you for reducing the level of nausea to a dull roar. The past four or five days has been much better on her, and it’s good to see the two of you up and moving around. The three of us took a drive to Lancaster this past weekend to peep some furniture at an outlet store, and you both held up surprisingly well. She’s now deep in migraine territory though, which means many evenings are spent in a dark, quiet cave awaiting the bliss of sleep. The cats are not happy with the new arrangement, because they are now banished to the basement each evening, following a frightening moment when one of them used your head for a launching pad (sorry about that). And hey! That Which Shall Not Be Named isn’t so vomit-inducing anymore! Talking about it is still tricky, and smelling it still isn’t acceptable, but she can actually fix some things for herself in the morning, to which I have to say THANK YOU, because suddenly you’ve decided that you’re getting the two of you up at 6:30AM, and I just can’t hang with that.
Dear Medium Shrimp,
Yeah, I’m sorry you’re now being compared to shellfish. I think they could have come up with something more imaginative than an hors d’oeuvre, and my guess is that you’re larger than that anyhow. I’ve never had the pleasure of eating a shrimp bigger than a lime, but I bet it would be good. I’m sure you’ll smell better than shrimp, unless it’s shrimp with Old Bay. In which case daddy might have to snack on one of your arms with a cold beer. And hey, what’s this whole thing about the smell of beer making mommy want to puke her guts out? You’re Irish, kid! Beer is the lifeblood of our people! And your father just learned how to brew it for himself. This is a cruel joke, little one.
This weekend, some carefully laid plans to tell your mother’s family at Easter dinner were waylaid by an abrupt visit to the emergency room (not you or your mother, so don’t worry), but your aunt is now at home and doing fine. We did finally share the good news with them, even if it wasn’t quite the way we wanted, which means it’s now time to notify the internets. Dear Internets: WE’RE HAVING A BABY.