Headlong Into Heresy

A few days ago I was scrolling through Facebook and stumbled across a thread in which two of my friends had entered into a lengthy theological debate with one another. People treat religion like it’s a sporting event, and every congregant is n bench-pew quarterback screaming that their plays are the only ones that matter. I skimmed through the first few comments before I felt a tidal wave of existential ennui come crashing down upon me.

How could we possibly know which of them are right? What difference would knowing possibly make? In that moment, I felt absolutely suffocated by what Christianity has become in America. I tried to take a breath, but it had filled my throat and gotten to my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. I needed to step out. I needed fresh air.

I have tried my best to make sense of the schizophrenic state of American Christianity. The religion part is easy– love God, love people. That’s it. The end. That part I can get behind and support. Everything else though… Honestly, I can’t take it anymore.

The way Jesus gets trotted out to push political agendas. The way Christianity has become an excuse to remain ignorant of science and of suffering. The way Christianity continues to be used to draw lines between “haves” and “have-nots”.

For the past decade, I’ve watched as my faith has crumbled around me. I’ve stopped believing that the Bible is meant to be understood literally.  I’ve stopped believing that the Bible is infallible. I’ve stopped believing that God “blesses” anyone. I’ve stopped believing in the devil and hell, in the traditional sense. I’ve stopped believing that Christianity is the only means to a meaningful afterlife.

These were not easy conclusions to draw. I had to wrestle with each and every one of these points. I desperately wished I could just go to church, raise my hands, and believe what everyone else around me believed. It would have been so much easier. This process has terrified me. I’ve lived in a constant state of fear that I’ve finally “gone too far”.

But here’s the part you, dear reader, should be frightened of: God led me this. I fought it. I tried to remain conservative and theologically sound, but it wasn’t to be. God flung me headlong into heresy. 

It’s scary. There are no certainties. Every day I’m painfully aware that everything I know could be wrong. I could wake up tomorrow and have to start from scratch again.

But you know what else I’ve found? Every time I’ve stopped believing something, a wider, warmer, more inclusive belief replaced it. I’ve found freedom, out here in the margins. There is liberty to be discovered in the gray. Not only that, but there’s also God; unadulterated and unshackled by dogma or orthodoxy.

I’ve found God in the uncertainties. And I’m finally embracing it.

It’s taken me years to be able to say this, but I don’t care about any of it anymore. I don’t care about your quadrilaterals. I don’t care about your denominations. I don’t care about your take on speaking in tongues, handling snakes, or abortion.

It doesn’t matter. 

It’s all window dressing. All I want, the only thing I need, is God. If your beliefs aren’t making it easier for me to know or understand God, then I don’t want or need them. If your beliefs aren’t making you more loving, kind, compassionate, and an all around better person– guess what? You don’t need them either.

I’ve given it all up. Everything. Reading the bible. Going to church. Reciting wish lists out loud and calling them “prayers”. I’m done, I’m out. It’s over.

I don’t feel right calling myself a “Christian” anymore. Not just because of the schism I feel regarding religion, but because labels carry weight. The notion of American Christianity has veered so far, I’m not thrilled with being associated with it.

So for now? I’m not a Christian. I don’t belong to any particular ideal or to any sect. For now, I belong to God, and that feels like enough.

 

My Son, the Wolf-Boy

Since I’ve become a parent, I find there are two sneaking suspicions that underline my entire existence:

1.) There’s almost certainly a better way of doing whatever you’re trying to accomplish, and if you had just read the heaping pile of books you purchased in the first trimester you’d probably know what it is.

and

2.) Every other parent in the world has read that pile of books, and what’s more, they all know you haven’t, and they’re judging you for it.

I want to be involved. I want to be an active participant in my son’s life. I want to be an amazing father. I want to be a glad dad bad ass. So I read articles. Paint and I talk ad infinitum. I’ve joined facebook groups. If there’s any truth to how the media portrays fatherhood, I’m over here batting like, a thousand touchdowns. (That’s how sports works, right?)

All that, and I still spend a significant portion of my day feeling like somebody who  got their job by lying about their skills on their resume. Now I have to act like I know what I’m doing.

This is all further complicated by the fact that Paint has spent years of her life as a nanny. She has practical, hands on experience when it comes to dealing with the little ankle-biters. As a result, it’s really easy to rely on her to do everything.

Not because I’m lazy, but because I’m scared. I don’t want to screw anything up, least of all my son. It would be so simple to just allow the cultural gender roles do their dark work and assume that Paint will handle the child rearing, and I will bring home the bacon.

However, that’s a shitty thing to do. For one, there’s no reason she should have that responsibility heaped upon her shoulders. Despite my inner monologue, it turns out I am a capable, fully functional grown ass man. Two, that’s not the kind of dad I want to be.

 

Fortunately, I’ve recently stumbled across an epiphany that changes everything. It came about because for the first time since he was born, I had plans to go out on my own and grab dinner with a friend of mine. I came home after work and reminded Paint about my man-date. She said, “Oh, that’ll be fun. You should take Pigment.”

I frowned.

You see, something you should know about my son is that he seems to be part werewolf. Once the sun goes down, our sweet, docile, little boy goes feral.  His red blood darkens and becomes pure rage which transforms his adorable coos into sanity shattering howls. 

I say he’s bent on our destruction. My wife says it’s gas.

Either way, it happens nearly every night. If we catch it early enough we can give him a hit of holy water and he’ll recover. Some nights, though, nothing helps. After we go through our bag of tricks, all we can do is gently speak to him and be present for it.

This was the reason for my hesitation. I was confident that if Pigment was in a good mood, taking him out wouldn’t be a problem at all. However, it was still early in the evening and the moon could come out at any moment.

As it happened, his stomach chose nearly that exact moment to let out a low, ominous growl heralding the approach of his transformation. Paint and I sprang into action. Holy water? Administered. Back? Patted. Songs? Sang. Tummy time engage! Gaseous emission in three…two…

Safe. 

Time had passed. It was late enough that I needed to be gathering my things to go. I looked down at Pigment, now smiling with big, bright eyes and cooing like a particularly good-natured dove.

It was an easy decision to make. Once we’ve beaten the Change it usually waits a few hours before trying to reclaim him.  The missus was beside herself at the prospect of getting time home alone (a first, after ten weeks of baby handling). I could smell the rich scent of brownie points baking in the oven.

“What the hell?” I thought. “I’ll gather him, too.” 

When all was ready, I scooped him up in my arms, ready to show him off to the world. Unfortunately, I had neglected to take one thing into account: I am not his mother. 

This is relevant because it just so happens that at the time, Pigment held a not insignificant preference for his mother. Cognitively, I understood this. At his age, his neural network isn’t dense enough to hold space for two caretakers; all children begin bonding with only one person. Since I wasn’t the person sustaining his life with my own body, he chose his mother, and I was downgraded to “the hairy helper that helps sometimes”.

The moment I lifted him off the floor and began to make my way toward the door, he began screaming. Paint offered me a thousand opportunities to relinquish the child and just go be my own man. This was it! The chance I was waiting for! An open door to continue being the dopey-dad who doesn’t actually know how to parent while his wife does all the heavy lifting.

Actually, it turns out, that’s not what I wanted.

From somewhere deep within me, I knew that I needed to take Pigment with me. I wasn’t sure what the night would look like. I didn’t know how it would go. But in that moment, I knew that if I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror, I had to let it happen.

 

Plus, I kind of liked the idea of being the single dad for a night. It would be a growing experience. Hell, it would be a bonding experience, right? Right?!

He screamed as I kissed Paint goodbye. He screamed as I walked outside. He screamed as I opened the car door. He screamed as I fit him into the car seat. He screamed as I got in the car and he screamed as I backed out and headed to our destination.

I was meeting my buddy at a restaurant about ten minutes away. He screamed the entire time, pausing only to gasp for breath. I sang songs at him. I defied all known laws of physics and managed to reach behind me, find his pacifier, and get it into his mouth. Sadly, it turns out this must be a grave insult to his people because this only served to further enrage him.

By the time I pulled into the parking lot, my nerves were frazzled. Okay, we’re here.  Step outside, close the car door. The silence crashes into me like a wave. Cleansing breath. Get your energy on point. Alright. Here we go. I open the door and it’s like opening a psychic blast furnace. I steel myself and strap the baby carrier to my chest while trying to sooth him with my words.

He’s exhausted. He’s nearly screamed himself into oblivion, so he doesn’t put up much of a fight as I struggle to get him situated. Finally, we’re ready. His cries are now being muffled by my chest, but he seems to be calming down. I walk a few laps around the car before heading inside. When I reach the door, I glance down and see that blessed sleep has claimed him.

That ends once I actually enter the restaurant. The moment I step through the threshold, he is awake and howling. We chose a casual burger joint, and I was grateful to find that his cries were largely drowned out by ambient noise. I leaned down and gently shushed his ear. Just that quickly, I watched sleep take him once more.

I blinked.

I honestly hadn’t expected that to work. The fact that it did lit up my brain like a Christmas tree. This was the first time my actions seemed to have any immediate effect on him. I ordered my food and met with my friend. We chatted while I tried not to drip any condiments on my baby’s head. We talked about parenthood, and I told him some of the ways it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but how sometimes it’s also the best.

After about an hour or so, Pigment had enough and decided to once again voice his discontent at his lot in life. I stood and gently swayed and bounced and bobbed and weaved as I tried to tune into some kind of magical frequency that would lend him some calm. It was not to be found.

I ended up saying good night to my friend all too early, as I once again got Pigment secured in his car seat. I was hoping he would be tired enough to go to sleep once the car got rolling.

No luck. Instead, it was a repeat of our trip down. Screams without ceasing. Paint heard us approaching well before we reached the door. She was ready for him and swooped in as soon as I entered, wielding her mommy magic to make our boy happy again.

Later that night, I was replaying the evening in my mind. When Pigment was crying, I felt utterly insufficient. I felt useless because I couldn’t calm him. I felt like a shitty dad, and I didn’t particularly enjoy that feeling. I began to realize how dangerous the situation I was in could be. It’s a cycle.

You feel unprepared and overexposed as a father because you lack hands on experience with your child. Those feelings then push you toward refusing opportunities to gain that experience the next time around.

The only way to break out of the cycle is to fling yourself headlong into disaster.

This, my friends, is the epiphany:

Sometimes you have to act like the person you want to become, even if that’s not who you are yet.

At the end of day, despite a screaming infant, despite a dinner that got cut short, nobody died.  Nobody called the cops. No one threatened to take my son away. I’m still here. 

And next time? When we’re at the library and my son deafens everyone in a three-stack radius? I’ll survive that, too.

I guess what I’m saying is, parents, even when it’s shitty, you will survive this. And next time? It’ll be easier. It’ll go smoother. You’ll begin to get it figured out. Just keep trying, and eventually your wolf will grow tame.

Skin to Skeleton

He’s almost here.

He could come, literally, any day now.

My child. My son.

Do you want to know the first time I felt like a father? It wasn’t when I bought that knife, or felt him kick, or even when I saw him in his first ultrasound. It happened over a year ago, before Paint was pregnant the first time. I was still on the fence about having a child. I was scared that it would break our relationship. There aren’t a lot of husbands and wives in the media that have children and still seem to like
each other. There certainly aren’t any that love each other the way Paint and I do.

Knowing that, I’ve always felt like maybe the rules were somehow… different for us. Yes, everything about who we are and how we interact works amazingly well, but what if there’s a catch? What if there’s a hidden self destruct button that could bring this relationship we’ve spent years constructing crashing down around
us?

I got it in my head that if that button exists, it will almost certainly be a child that pushes it. You don’t have to look hard to find couples that are worse off because of having children. People have kids, and suddenly their marriage isn’t what it used to be. They have less time for one another. They have less interest in one another. They have less patience with one another. And then it’s only a matter of time. Our
decision to not have kids was an easy one to make because Paint was everything and all I needed.

When I shared my thoughts with Paint, she told me that adding a child to our lives didn’t mean there would be less love to go around; there would be more.

I fell asleep thinking about her words. When I opened my eyes, I was in a darkened room. In the center was a blanket with a sleeping infant lying on it. Even as I approached, I knew the truth: It was my son. It was the first time I had ever been able to see him as more than an abstract concept. He had a form. He had a face. I sat beside him and laid my palm on his back. I watched it rise and fall with his breath and felt something I had never felt before.

He was mine. But more than that. He was also a piece of me and I loved him so much. In that moment, I wanted everything for him. I wanted to give him the entire world. I wanted him to have every opportunity. I wanted him to be exactly who he was supposed to be– nothing more and nothing less.

My hope became tangible. I closed my eyes and envisioned it flowing from me, pouring over my hand and onto him like a second skin. I wanted it to make him indestructible. I wanted it to make him fly.

In the end, I settled for wrapping my arms around him and hoping that I would be enough.

My eyes snapped open. I could still smell him, lingering somewhere in my subconscious. I realized what I had just experienced wasn’t so much a dream as it was a vision of the future. It was a foregone conclusion: I was already a father.

Paint wasn’t pregnant yet, but I knew that I had been chosen. From somewhere Out There, I had been seen and selected.

That’s why the miscarriage had been so devastating. But, ironically, on this side of things that’s why it feels like a non-event. We believe that the soul that chose us then, is the same soul that resides in Paint’s belly. It just needed more time. That’s okay. Pregnancy has taught Paint and I how to wait.

We waited for the heartache to subside.
We waited to try again.
We waited for her to become pregnant.
We waited for it to stick.
We waited for him to hit the “safe zone”.
We waited for him to get big and strong.
And now? Right now, we’re waiting for him to decide he’s ready to join us out here.

Every step has felt like the hardest part. This one is no different. It’s important to us to do this whole thing naturally, so we’re working on his time table, not ours. It could be hours. It could be weeks. Right now, in this final phase of cessation, I’m not scared. I’m not worried. From skin to skeleton, all I feel is gratitude that the universe saw it fit to pair me with this woman and this boy. I’m so excited to see what we can create together.

Carving Out Space

In the Highlander series, when an immortal kills another immortal, they gain the deceased’s memories and all their power. The process, called “the quickening”, leaves them changed. They are burdened with impulses and instincts without necessarily knowing from whence they came. I’ve taken to calling my process of embracing parenthood The Daddening. It is strange and foreign to me, but none the less, real. Which is why, a few days ago I spent hours looking at knives. Well, not just at knives, but for a knife. The perfect knife.

Unfortunately, I’m a respectable, intelligent, computer nerd. If I need to reach for anything, it’s usually a calculator. As a result, I know nothing about knives. My nerd brain couldn’t handle that. In response I deftly compiled a series of guides, forum postings, and user reviews and proceeded to gorge. In a matter of minutes, I knew I needed a knife with a frame lock, sturdy clip, and a sheepsfoot blade made out of American steel.

It wasn’t until I clicked “Buy Now” that I began to question why. 

Apparently, something biological happens to a man when he has a child on the way. Something deep within compels him to make the world safe. A better word might be survivable. That used to mean ensuring there was enough food, that there was shelter, and that it was secure. With the advent of supermarkets and plentiful housing, those conundrums have been solved, but that primal urge still exists. I realize, most dads probably haven’t been in a situation where a knife was key to their child’s survival. (At least not according to the parenting books I’ve picked up… Last I checked, “Childbirth Without Fear” didn’t have a chapter on proper knife handling.) However, this wasn’t a question of logic, it was a question of control: I needed to procure a knife so I could affect and shape the environment around us. Buying that knife helped me feel like maybe… somehow, we could survive the wilderness we live in. No, there aren’t as many wild animals these days, but the world still feels plenty dangerous.

The impending introduction of Pigment to the world has changed everything. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. The truth is, it has changed me and the rest of the world is the same old shit-show it always has been. Which, is kind of the problem. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it turns out, there’s some really fucked up shit going down on the regs out here. I’ve spent most of my adult life recognizing these things and then determining how to skirt by them without raising too much of a kerfuffle. Confrontation isn’t my thing. It makes my face hot, changes my body chemistry, and leaves me squicky. Much better to go completely invisible and sneak past the gates rather than pounding your knuckles bloody on them while they heat the oil.

But this kid… This tiny, defenseless lump is almost here. In just a few more weeks it will reside in the same world as racism, ignorant Americans, advertising, evangelicalism, Iggy Azalea, and police brutality. It’s my job to help him learn the skills he needs to navigate these minefields by himself, and I’ve got to tell you, that feels like a tall order. The people that run everything are, at large, against us. All of us. Regardless of our religion or our ideals or our race or our gender, they’re looking for ways to exploit us for their own gain. Do I teach my kid to duck and dodge and play it safe, or to point out the injustice with a megaphone and get a target painted on his back?

I’m not entirely sure how to exist in this world anymore, and I’m certainly unsure of how to teach someone to do the same. How do you explain to a child that if they’re ever in danger they can trust a policeman to help them when every week there’s new footage of a police officer shooting an unarmed civilian? How do you tell them that god is all about love when everyone seems so content to use her as an excuse to hate? How do we teach our children to survive in this broken, ugly, fucked up world without allowing them to be destroyed by it, but also, without becoming it?

I don’t have a clue. But I have a knife. And with it, maybe I can teach our son how to reveal the beauty hiding in a piece of wood. Maybe I can teach him how to build new things and create art. Maybe I can show him that the whole world isn’t broken; there are still parts that are beautiful and true. I’m not sure if that’ll be enough, but it seems like a good start.

Little Eyes

Parenthood began as a very ethereal condition. So haunted by our past miscarriage, Paint and I didn’t dare to believe that this would be real. There was no fanfare, no parties, and only tentative celebration. Slowly, over the course of months it began to dawn on us that this is our baby. This is our child. By the time we were recognizing that this baby would stick, it felt like we had already missed our chance to greet this tiny little life with the joy and gratitude it deserved.

So, when we went to the birth center at 19 weeks for the anatomy scan, we opted not to discover the gender immediately in the midwife’s office. Instead, she wrote it down and sealed it in an envelope that we delivered to one of Paint’s friends for safe keeping. That friend then engaged a network of cohorts across the city and sent us on a scavenger hunt straight out of “This is Your Life”. We visited the campus where Paint and I first met, our first apartment, the restaurant I took Paint to on our first date, the spot where I proposed, and finally we found ourselves in Market Square; the heart of Downtown Knoxville. Our poetic clues led us to an illuminated arch. Beneath that arch, was a small box. Inside that box was a custom made blanket emblazoned with Pigment’s real name.

In case you are late to the party, we’re having a boy. Continue reading

Unknown Quantities

For the past week, I’ve found myself strangely nervous about becoming a father. Up until now, I’ve maintained a rather laissez-faire attitude toward the whole thing. I was excited, sure, but not worried. I knew that I had it in me to be a good father. I still do, as a matter of fact, but now I find myself wondering just how naturally it will come to me.

Last night I voiced my concern to Paint, who wisely tried to help me attach a name to my generalized dread.

“Are you nervous about having a baby? The keeping it alive part? Or are you more worried about the developmental stuff?”

After a few moments of pondering, I responded.

“Yes.”

We spoke well beyond when we should have gone to sleep, but still, something was nagging at me. It wasn’t until this afternoon that I realized what it is.

In just a few days we’re going to find out the gender of our kidlet.

We had an anatomy scan about three weeks ago, and Paint and I opted not to find out in favor of having our doctor write the gender in a sealed envelope that we then delivered to one of our friends. That friend has spent the intervening time setting up a scavenger hunt that will end with Paint and I discovering a piece of who the stow away in her belly will be.

People are always asking if I’m hoping for a boy or a girl. In terms of raw desire, I’ve not felt a pull in one direction over the other. But when I think about it, when I really examine who I am and what I’m about, then it’s clear to me that wanting a girl is the obvious choice.

My entire life, I’ve felt like something of a fraud. I’ve never behaved how boys are supposed to behave. I was never interested in sports. I never chased girls with frogs or caused any kind of mischief. Instead, my mother was training to be a counselor so her friends were constantly coming over at all hours of the day looking for advice. Since I lived there, I was allowed to sit in on those conversations, observing and listening. I learned empathy was something to aspire to. I learned compassion and kindness mattered to people. A premium was placed on intelligence and spirituality, and so those pieces of my psyche were developed early and took root in my loamy soil.

Unfortunately, this emotional intelligence came with a cost. When the news talked about an earthquake, I cried. When I heard about a plane crash I’d cry, then mention it during our pre-meal prayers for months on end. The notion of someone being mean was so foreign to me I literally couldn’t comprehend what was happening when I found myself being shoved off our porch by a neighbor girl.

All of that to say, I was soft. My mother encouraged this trait. My dad… Well, he wasn’t sure what to do with me. He loved me, but I think my sensitivity threw him for a loop. When he was a lad, he was rough and tumble; I was soft and stationary. He wasn’t sure what to do with a little boy who raided his mother’s craft supplies to super glue a tea-stained doily to the top of a potpourri filled mason jar to spruce up the living room. Similarly, I wasn’t sure how to handle a mustachioed man who came home from work covered in carbon black and insisted that the cartoon was called “Duck Butts”, rather than “Duck Tales”. (Fun fact: When he would sing “Duck Butts, wooo-oooo”, I would fly into a rage. To this day, I’m not entirely sure why.)

Don’t get me wrong, there was never a day in which I didn’t feel loved. Eventually, we found ways to connect and now we’re thick as thieves. But when I was young? It was a little touch and go at times. I was always aware that there was something about me that was an unknown quantity to my father.

What I’m just now realizing, is that my relationship with my dad shaped my understanding of masculinity.

Real men work in factories and get dirty and take cars apart and fix their houses and own tools and and live near their extended families.

I’m thirty-one years old, and I still feel that “unknown quantity” residing somewhere within me. Only now, instead of projecting it onto my father, I’ve begun projecting it onto the entire notion of manhood.

I don’t do any of those things. If that’s what a man does, and I do none of those things, then what am I?

I’m something else.

An unknown quantity.

Having a daughter would be easy because I would only be demonstrating to her what men could look like.

But if I have a boy? He’s going to look to me for an explanation on how to be a man, but I’m not a man, I’m an unknown quantity. How can I teach him something I’ve never learned?

That’s it in a nutshell. I feel “less than” my own idea of masculinity, and as a result, I am damning my son to being “less than” as well. This “dread” I’ve been feeling isn’t actually fear, it’s guilt for not being able to be the man my hypothetical son needs me to be.

Now, here’s the crazy part. I don’t actually believe any of that. Do men have to be mechanics and good with a band saw to be considered a man? Absolutely not. I know that. In my head.

But my heart?

My heart believes something else. My heart believes that because I’d rather be sitting at a computer than in a tent, because I’m more interested in grabbing a cup of coffee than watching “the game”, I’m somehow doing manhood wrong. As if the choices I’ve made, the path I followed isn’t a truly valid option. Like somehow I’ve just been skating by, and at any time the world is going to wake up and notice that I can’t grow a mustache to save my life and revoke my testicles.

My heart is wrong you guys.

While I was in the midst of sorting all of this out, I came across this fantastic article from the Good Men Project.  Its author, Mark Greene has the right idea:

If we want our freedom from the oppressive rules of the Man Box, we need to take away its control over how we define manhood. We need to create a world where being a man can mean being anything. Any work. Any play. Any love. Any life. And just to be clear, the options we’ll need to topple the Man Box will have to be so wide-ranging that being a man can even look just like being a women. And I don’t mean doing the dishes instead of mowing the lawn, I mean a man with a woman’s body.

He goes on to say that men can be anything. Period. There are no rules, no roles one must adhere to in order to be a man.

Men can work in factories, sure. But they can also work in offices and theaters and hair salons and preschools. They can like taking cars apart, but they can also love art or chemistry or dancing.

Should I have a son, when he looks at me to see what a man is, I hope he sees a man who is brave enough to carve out his own definition of masculinity.

 

Enough

Once, during Paint’s first trimester we had to flee our home. She called me on her way home from work and asked me to get some mushrooms prepped and sauteed. I did as she asked. Rinse the mushrooms. Pad of butter. Let them brown but not burn. I knew the routine. We’ve done this countless times over the years; mushrooms are one of Paint’s favorite foods. I took the mushrooms off the heat just as she arrived. From my post in the kitchen I couldn’t see Paint enter, but I could hear her. The door swung open. Paint stepped inside, exclaimed “Oh God!”, and the door closed again. After a moment of absolute silence, I I turned and found no one.

Perplexed, I poked my head outside to find Paint gasping for air over the railing of our porch.

She had been unprepared for the way the thick wall of steamy fungal odor would affect her in her newly smell-sensitive state. She walked right into it, and now her stomach was threatening to turn inside out. She remained outside as I sentenced her mushrooms to their Tupperware prison and opened every window in our home.

It turns out Tommy Wolf was right; you can’t go home again. At least not immediately anyway. We proceeded to catch a movie, do some shopping, and eventually, when the idea didn’t nauseate her, grab some dinner. (You know, like you do on a Tuesday night.)

For the past nineteen weeks, I have been in some way, shape, or form affected by the tiny human growing inside Paint’s belly. Whether it’s watching my wife sate a specific craving by ordering food only to realize she’s nauseous before it can arrive at our table, or by finding myself watching youtube videos on how to properly dye polyester glider cushion covers, this baby is already changing things. Changing me. 

And yet… I have spent a significant amount of Paint’s pregnancy feeling vaguely guilty and useless. Continue reading

Hope Creeping In

This wasn’t how I wanted it to be.

When I daydreamed about what it would look like when Paint was pregnant, I was supposed to be writing constantly. Observing, reporting. Making interesting connections, concocting amusing turns of phrase, discussing the realities of day to day life while making inferences toward the Life Beyond.

As you can see, that has not been the case.

The first trimester was really difficult. Paint and I were constantly haunted by our miscarriage. What if this went the same way? What if we lost this one too? We were scared to love this kid. We were scared to believe in it.

It was easier to keep our heads down and barrel through until we knew for sure, so that’s what we did. We didn’t let our thoughts linger on tiny fingernails and big eyes. We didn’t buy clothes. We didn’t do any reading or research.

No one tells you how fragile embryos are. Your temperature changes. Your hormones become imbalanced. Tiny little adjustments in your brain chemistry that you’re not even aware are taking place could completely alter the tiny human growing inside.

So we hid from it. Until such a time that it was strong enough, we hid.  We treated Paint like she was ill. She spent the first trimester nauseous and barely able to eat. We weren’t so much grocery shopping as we were offering to take the grocery store’s food home so we could let it go rotten for them.

Nausea and exhaustion were the rule of the day. The baby was ravaging Paint’s body, and still we were scared to believe it was real. Every week, we’d read up on the baby’s development. Most of that stuff was a blur; what we were really after was the percentage. Each week, Paint’s phone would tell us the likelihood of the baby’s survival.

14%. 29%. 42%. 64%. 86%. 99~%.

I’d like to say the day we got to 99, was the day we finally relaxed, but that is not the case. By that point, it had been weeks, and living in terror was all we had known. We lived in constant fear that the baby would just stop. Stop growing. Stop living. Stop being. Paint went to three doctors appointments in the course of two weeks and made them take a sonogram each time. We’re going to have a photo album of the baby before it even gets here.

It was hard, but slowly we began to take off the armor we had built around our hearts. Little by little, we allowed hope to creep in. We began to imagine the future. We dared to imagine life as parents. Eventually, we realized that we don’t have to imagine… We already are parents. And while we can’t say with absolute certainty that everything will be fine, we’re beginning to believe it anyway.

Because You’re Going to Be

For the past two months, Paint and I have not been terribly active on this blog or social media. The reason for that is below. We had something we couldn’t talk about, and it was all we wanted to talk about. Neither she nor I can handle inauthenticity very well, so rather than carrying on like everything was totally normal, we chose not to carry on at all. So for what reason have we deprived you of our presence?

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Triumphing Over the Triumvirate: Relationships

When I was a kid, talking to people was easy. I had no trouble initiating conversation with complete strangers; no worry, no concern. I was lucky enough to have grown up with an army of people who knew and loved me, so I never felt like I had anything to prove to anyone.

Things started to change around junior high. I gradually became aware of the social order that governed the school and of what my place was. At the same time I began collecting a motley crew of nerds and geeks who got me. By the time I graduated high school, I didn’t need to risk making a fool of myself to strangers– I already had friends.

And then I left for college. Continue reading