March 10, 2007

"Are You Unexpecting?" "Yes, Yes I Am."

The kid smacked her head on the corner of the coffee table this morning. After sweating for months--years, really--through the crawling, the cruising, the toddling, the walking, the running, all her phases, trying to keep her from smacking her head on the coffee table, it actually happened. And when I never would have expected it, either. But she happened to be crawling, pushing a car a long the floor, and her cheek was right at a level again where it hasn't been for almost two years.

She hit it at a good clip. I was on the phone and as soon as I heard the smack, in the stunned pause before the wailing started, I said, "I've gotta go." I had a sense of what was coming, though it turns out I underestimated it, too. The kid was inconsolable. She's been weepy a lot lately [probably a sign of some impending developmental surge or transition, which is the explanation we've come to fall back on whenever the kid we thought we've finally figured out starts confounding us again], and it took a good 30 minutes to comfort her and calm her down. She's got a bit of a shiner, but she'll be fine.

But it put me to thinking about luck, randomness, uncertainty, and how, for all our preparedness, and attention, and advice-seeking, and product/solution-seeking [even mentioning table pads or bumpers seems so beyond irrelevant at the moment, and will seem even more irrelevant in just a paragraph or two], having a kid and becoming a parent always involves some uncertainty, some risk, something you just didn't expect.

Expectant. Expecting. I've never liked the phrases "Are you expecting?" and "expectant dad," partly because they sound old-fashioned and euphemistic, but also because so much of the parenting experience involves the unexpected, the unsuspected, the utterly baffling. There's no way I could have understood or expected the joys that I've found being a father, but the unexpected can also bring some of the deepest sadnesses as well.

Which I was reminded of after the now-cheery kid left for the morning with my wife, and I set out to catch up on what other dads were up to the last week or so. That's when I read on his blog, How About Two? that Rob and his wife P.Pie lost one of their twins, their son Doss, after a tough, 11-day struggle in the NICU. [Sister Jorga is doing fine and apparently didn't suffer the same prenatal stress that Doss did. Doss's memorial service is today.]

I don't know how I would face the combined joys and exhaustion and chaos of a new baby and the pain and sadness of losing a child, especially after months of expectation [there it is again] and preparation for twins, and sleepless days in the NICU. But Rob's blog has provided some insight. I might not know, but I can imagine.

I know it involves plumbing the depths and limits of your emotions: "I am surprised that I have not yet cried myself dry." It peels off a layer of abstraction from the oft-expressed parental oath, "If I could lay down my life in exchange for my son’s well being, I'd do it in a heartbeat," only to slam you with the realization that not only is that deal not on the table, in fact, there's almost nothing you can do to change the outcome.
And I know that it can max out your limits in ways that affect the people around you: "these events have also made me somewhat bitter and angry - as well as a little mean. To those in my personal life, if I am short or angry with you please forgive me. I will try to do better."

I started this site in the off chance that my experiences as a new dad might be of use to someone else. Since then, I've found that to be the case somewhat, but more than that, I've also benefitted immeasurably from the experiences and insights of other parents. As a somewhat self-absorbed guy, that was something I definitely did not expect.

But that's another thing I've learned from Rob, who has found unexpected comfort in the comments from "strangers":

As I said at the beginning of this journey, I am surprised that I have not yet cried myself dry.

And that was true for today as well, but with one exception – we managed to cry a few tears of joy.

Your heartfelt thoughts and wishes truly made our journey a little easier. An enormous thanks to everyone.

Many of your comments started with ‘You don’t know me, but…”. Anyone who thought of, or said a prayer for, our Doss is not a stranger.

You are all friends; and dear ones at that.

So if you have some words of comfort or solace from your own experience that might be of use to the Barrons, please share it.

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