The Moment of Truth: Your Transformation Into a Father-to-Be
Maybe you and your partner were planning to have a child together, maybe you weren't. Some of us are somewhere in between, ready to have a baby but simply letting nature take its course. Whatever you intended, the test has come back and the results are incontrovertible: you're going to be a Daddy.
People talk about remembering precisely where they were when they learned that President Kennedy was assassinated or that Elvis had died. When a man learns that he's going to be a father, it's a moment of such great impact that he'll remember it forever. Everything in his life changes in an instant. And it's just the beginning of a lifelong journey. It might be hard to believe now, but in a couple of years he'll be hard-pressed to remember what life was like before his child came into the world.
Welcome to the club, my friend. You're going to be someone's Daddy.So You've Ruined Your Life
I remember where I was when they got me.
I had been married to my wife, Sarah, for more than six years. We met in California, lived in Los Angeles, then moved to the Boston area when she was accepted into law school. We had relocated to Minneapolis the year before and bought a house. Life was good. My career was going well. I quit smoking and started working out. Soon I was going to turn thirty, a milestone that I was anticipating with more optimism than dread. I felt as though I had ironed out some of my internal wrinkles in my twenties, and that I had started to develop a talent for being happy and contented -- something that had eluded me in the postcollege years.
Sarah had always wanted to have children, ever since she was a little girl, and she had been clear to me about this fact from the beginning of our relationship. We had even talked baby names amidst the initial surge of hormonal fireworks between us, just before we graduated from college. I had never thought about having children, but Sarah's desire to have them was fine with me. Anything she wanted would have been fine with me -- I fell for her the moment we met. Having children was part of the future, an aspect of the life we fantasized about living together.
Years went by. The time never seemed right to have a kid. Sarah came down with a wicked case of baby fever during law school, and to alleviate the symptoms I took her to a pet store. We bought a little gray kitten that we named Nora -- after James Joyce's wife. After we moved to Minneapolis we decided that it was time. Sarah threw out the birth-control pills and we started trying.
I loved to say it to my friends: We're trying.
It sounded ridiculous, almost burlesque. It sounded like we were involved in some sort of arduous task, when of course the reality was the opposite.
At this point, the prospect of having a child was little more real to me than, say, Nepal. I knew it was out there someplace, but I had never seen it, never lived there. Maybe someday, maybe not. It wasn't something I really thought about much. Which was probably healthy.
Nothing happened. Turns out it takes a little time for some women to become fertile again after taking the Pill. Who knew? We got tired of trying, and when Sarah started looking for a new job we put the baby-making plans on hold yet again. We started using spermicide as birth control. I liked this, because I got to brag that I was a spermicidal maniac.
I forget the brand name of the spermicide. But if the company ever calls me asking for suggestions, I'll recommend You Asked For It Spermicide. The advertising copy would read: Don't Kid Yourself Thinking This Stuff Actually Works.
In the spring I traveled to Russia on a writing project. I returned home with memories of St. Petersburg snowfalls fresh in my mind just as the Minnesota tundra started to thaw. I mulled over the desultory state of our garden, and started to look forward to softball season. There was a bloom in my mind to match the buds starting to appear on the trees.
I didn't know it at the time, of course, but the first thing I did after returning from Russia was to father my oldest child.
A couple of weeks later, Sarah came down with a perplexing illness. She was nauseous and experienced spells of vertigo. She suffers from migraines, so I worried that her condition had somehow worsened. The doctor diagnosed an inner-ear problem. That sounded right. The good old inner ear. Case closed.
Friday night approached. I had a standing appointment with my friend Brynnar, who was starting grad school that fall. Every Friday night we drank cocktails at his place until after midnight, listening to music and bullshitting, activities at which we both excelled.
Brynnar had just broken up with his girlfriend and moved into an apartment of his own. The air was warm that night as I cycled over, a few LPs stuffed in my backpack. Sarah was planning to recover from the workweek with a long bath.
"Hey, man," Brynnar said as I carried my bike inside.
"Long time no see," I replied. We stared at each other for about ten seconds. Finally Brynnar cracked. "Cocktail?" he asked.
"Maybe just one."
Friday night was our opportunity to act like kids again. We played old Dylan and Replacements records. We smoked cigarettes, and they tasted heavenly since I wasn't smoking otherwise. I was sitting on a sofa we'd rescued from the Salvation Army about a month before, along with the retro-style coffee table on which my feet now rested.
"I think this place is really shaping up," Brynnar said with pride.
"It's looking damned good," I agreed. We surveyed his kingdom. His apartment was symbolic of a fresh start of his own. He had painted, fixed a few things, made the place more of a home.
"Not bad for a slacker," he observed.
"You won't be able to call yourself that much longer," I told him. "Not after you're a card-carrying grad student."
Brynnar lit another cigarette. "I don't know about that," he said. "I'll bet I can hold out a little longer."
We had a few more drinks. I started to sing along with Neil Young, a feat I can accomplish only after a few strong drinks.
"I love this apartment," I enthused with a slight slur. "And you got it all to yourself. Man. This is the life."
"Listen to you," Brynnar said, shaking his head. "You're the one with the super life. Great wife. That big old pad. You live like a pharaoh."
Brynnar and I always, at some point in the evening, took advantage of the opportunity to reflect on how much we appreciated the other's lifestyle. I was about to elaborate on this point when I happened to look up at the clock. It was almost twelve. I would have sworn it was only ten-thirty.
"You really do live it up," I said. "Your apartment is looking great. You can date whoever you want. You got it going on."
Brynnar nodded appreciatively. "Glad you see things the way I do," he said. His eyes were swimming behind his glasses like a triple-grape jackpot in a Vegas slot machine.
"But, as you observed, I'm the luckiest guy in the world," I added.
Excerpted from Do I Look Like a Daddy to You? by Quinton Skinner. Copyright © 2001 by Quinton Skinner. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.