February 18, 2006

Journey of Highs and Lows

As an aspiring writer, I am habitually cognizant to avoid clichés as much as possible. So please accept my apologies for starting this story with the most flagrant cliché used to illustrate a turbulent emotional experience. Please allow me this one act of laziness; I hope to make it up to later in the piece.

Having a baby is like riding a roller coaster. The fluctuating sensation of intense euphoria suddenly spliced with debilitating anxiety is not for the faint of heart. The long nine-month journey of highs and lows rises and falls with every four-week doctor’s visit. And our last visit was no different.

Mairin had felt Kaia move, slightly, last week much to our delight, but then suddenly nothing for a week. What had happened? Was she all right? Through this time, anxiety slowly builds night after night, until finally you go to the doctor and he points to a small pulsating bronze blob on a high tech contraption and everything makes sense again, until something else comes up in the next four weeks to reek havoc with your emotional equilibrium.

The obstetrician’s office is always full of smiling faces and resounding pride. Every couple is anxiously waiting to see their little one. As fathers we smile to one another, sharing our amazement at what is growing in our wives’ bellies. We share an unspoken bewilderment that somehow we have created something out of nothing. Looking at each other’s wives we come to terms with the miracle, but find it difficult to hide our admiration. The room is awash in elation and trepidation, much like the womb itself I imagine.

Doctor Guna tells us that we shouldn’t start to worry about irregular movement until the 24th week, at which point, Kai should be moving regularly. Our worries alleviated, we stood around the machine and watched her throw little jabs and kick her feet. Everything looks perfect. Amniotic fluid levels: check. Placenta thickness: check. Spine: check. She is now 14 cm long. What does that mean? I quickly make the calculations in my head. Six inches. Still nothing…a remote control, bigger than a soda can; that makes sense. He pushes on her stomach and we see the indentation on the screen, helping us realize that they are one and the same place.

Mairin has been playing music for Kaia every night as we read in bed: Mozart, and World Lullabies. Yesterday, we dropped over one hundred dollars at the bookstore: Shel Siverstein, Where The Wild Things Are, The Hungry Caterpillar. We will start reading to her soon. She can hear our voices now; she can taste, breathe. How did we create this life? Out of nothing, where did she come from? We are faced with so many choices now. Careful not to smother, but not to ignore. Make sure she is, honest, kind, compassionate, independent. With so many people getting it wrong, how will we know what to do?

I had a dream the other night. It went like this:

Mairin was a sleep somewhere else. Kaia and I were alone in a dark, red room. She was tiny. Newborn. It was warm and she had just woken up. I grabbed her from her bed and rocked her back and forth. Gone was the uncomfortable feeling one has when holding other people’s children. Gone was the distance. We met for the first time in my sleep. She was warm and I could feel her breath on my cheek as I sang to her quietly. She smelled like me, but without the insecurities. My lips pressed against her soft forehead. Not a kiss but simply a physical connection to match the other ones. She purred as we paced the room, the soft lights glowing. Soon this dream will be real. I am ready.

On the drive home, the sun seems to burn extra bright, the greens greener, the wind itself carries life. This most natural act reminds you that magic is still at the root of it all. You contemplate concepts like god, reincarnation, oceans, evaporation, clouds, rain, oceans.

When I mentioned my roller coater analogy to my aunt, she said, “ Well get ready because it will last for the next eighteen years.” And judging by the way she treats my cousin, and how my own mother still worries about everything I do, I am starting to realize that they are right. When you create a new life, suddenly nothing else matters but its well-being. From this day on, we will be constantly riding this roller coaster.

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