Breastfeeding: Threat or Menace?

Lisa had a bassinet from home. She slept in it when she was a baby, as did her brother, some other family members, and I believe some family friends as well. It was the town whore of bassinets. It was right next to our bed, so she could easily get to the baby. And that would have worked great, except our son, Robert, absolutely hated it.

The only thing that seemed to keep him calm was sleeping on one of our chests. We’d get him to sleep, put him in the bassinet, and then he’d wake up and start crying again. Before the baby was born, I had always derided the idea of co-sleeping as a bunch of hippie nonsense, but it was starting to sound like a good idea. Re-watching Lost and giving money to Nigerian princes also sounded like good ideas at this point as well. Eventually he wore himself out, and we were all able to get a little bit of sleep.

The Rock n’ Play worked a lot better. If you’re not familiar with it, a Rock n’ Play is like a little massage chair for babies. You may feel stupid buying a massage chair for a baby when people in Finland have their babies sleep in cardboard boxes in the snow, but they work. My son slept in it, so that was really all that mattered. The slutty bassinet became a place for Lisa to store her laptop. The moral of the story is that family heirlooms are dumb.

Both of us getting up every time the baby woke up wasn’t working either. All it did was make everyone tired all the time. We decided it would make more sense if we split duties. I would stay awake during the day while Lisa took naps, and then she would get up at night while I slept, as she was breastfeeding.

At least, she was trying to breastfeed. I know it’s supposed to be some sort of beautiful bonding experience between mother and baby, but I thought the whole thing was stupid and overrated. If you had a recipe that called for butter, you’d just go to the store and get some butter, right? You wouldn’t go out and buy a butter churn and spend four hours making butter and then also refer to butter from the store as rat poison. Well, that’s what it’s like with breastfeeding.

I didn’t even think my wife wanted to breastfeed. She used to work in a NICU and she was always adamant that there was no difference between formula and breastmilk and that it was no big deal if a mother didn’t want to breastfeed. No sooner does the baby arrive, and she started trying to breastfeed. She even went to a lactation consultant, which I guess is someone who shows you how to do something that is simultaneously easy and natural but also difficult and time consuming. I found it all very confusing, especially since the hospital just gave us a bunch of formula, but I wanted to be supportive of whatever she wanted to do.

I know, there’s a lot of pressure to breastfeed, but I have to assume most of that pressure is coming from other women.  Until I had a child, I never once worried what someone might be feeding their baby. Milk, formula, the blue liquid barbers keep combs in – it just didn’t matter to me. I had more important things to worry about, like watching John Carpenter’s The Thing for the 47th time. Maybe there’s a man out there who has angrily dissuaded his friends from talking about their fantasy football league because he wanted to discuss how has wife wanted to feed the baby, but I’m skeptical

My wife was never able to produce enough breastmilk. She really tried everything she could to increase her supply, but it was making her miserable. I was ready for her to stop after about three days into parenthood. Nevertheless, she persisted. Not that it did any good, because we still had to use formula from the day he was born. She tried breastfeeding exclusively for a day, which our son hated. I also remember getting angry at her because I wasn’t able to give the baby a bottle. To make matters worse, our son would sometimes just puke up the breastmilk, which in no way made my wife feel like she wanted to jump off a building.

She used a breast pump for a while, which I believe is a device to make women feel less guilty about going back to work by making their boobs feel like they’re being eaten by Johnny 5. She put herself through hell for several months trying to make it work. She finally decided she’d had enough shortly after her maternity leave was over. All three of us were a lot happier once she stopped, and we switched exclusively to formula.

If you are spewing milk everywhere, and you want to feed your baby with it, go for it. But if you’re really struggling with breastfeeding, just give the kid Enfamil and be done with it. The baby stuff goes by so fast, and you’re going to miss it if you’re too busy worrying about clogged milk ducts. Also, you can also cut cocaine with powdered formula, so it can really come in handy if you’re parent who also deals drugs.

A Break from Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

My dad is dead. I’ve been saying “passed away”, but I’ve never really been fond of that phrase. He’s gone forever, it hurts, and I don’t see the point in trying to disguise that fact with euphemisms.

The doctors thought it was cirrhosis. It didn’t make any sense, as my dad didn’t drink much. I know that people who don’t smoke can get lung cancer, so I guess perhaps it was plausible. However, the treatment didn’t seem to be helping. My parents eventually gave up on the doctors in Harrisburg and went to one at the University of Pennsylvania instead.  That’s where they found out it was cancer.   Cancer isn’t necessarily a death sentence. People beat it all the time. My mom and my aunt both survived breast cancer. No reason he couldn’t do the same.

Then we found out it was hepatic angiosarcoma. It’s not even in the Microsoft Word dictionary, so I guess that’s indicative that it’s not the most common form of cancer. I believe it’s actually one of the rarest forms of cancer you can get. It’s the kind of thing you see in an episode of House, except it’s an episode where the patient dies because there’s no way to fight angiosarcoma.  According to my mom, the medical team at U Penn was great, but there really weren’t any options. They tried chemo, but it was almost too much for him to handle. The doctor could provide ways to minimize the pain, but since my dad wasn’t really in any pain, there wasn’t much to do.

I’m not sure how much my dad knew about his prognosis. He was a smart guy, and I’m sure he knew this wasn’t going to end well. But, he acted as if he’d still be around in 20 years, and if hadn’t gotten that damn disease, he probably would have been. My dad was remarkably healthy for a 65-year-old man. He was tired a lot, and he was using a walker, but he was still the same guy I always knew. The last time I saw him, he looked sick, but he seemed in relatively good spirits. I don’t think anything about him ever astonished me as much as his bravery in the face of death. I don’t know if I could ever do the same.

It looked like things were on a bit of an upswing, and Lisa, my son, and I were going to visit. Then he went to bed on a Friday night and didn’t wake up. I drove in the next day to see him. He was unconscious. I watched a priest give him last rites. I stayed there for a while, but my mom told me to go home. The hospice workers told her he could last several days in that condition, and she didn’t want me to be away from my son for that long. There was nothing any of us could do except wait.

I went home and ran in a half-marathon the next morning. I wasn’t sure if I was going to, but then I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning and figured it was better than lying in bed. I gave my medal to a charity that gives them to kids going through chemotherapy. When I got back home, my mom called and told me he was gone.

I dreaded going to the funeral. Not because I didn’t want to say goodbye, but I didn’t want to be a blubbering mess and make things worse for my mother. She was already going through enough, and want to burden her with my own grief. The funeral was going to be at the church my dad went to as a kid. The priest there apparently had better things to do than comfort a grieving family and gave my mom all manner of pushback about this, so she found a very nice priest who was willing to do the ceremony at a funeral home. I’m not religious, but I greatly appreciate that man’s kindness.

Several of my friends came to the funeral, which was unexpected but very nice. A lot of my dad’s coworkers showed up to, which was also nice. It was not easy to sit through, but I did feel some sense of relief once it was over. I wouldn’t say I felt better, but at least I felt like there was some kind of closure.

My dad was a workaholic. I wish he hadn’t worked so hard, and I wish he hadn’t had to travel so much when I was a kid. But, he loved my mom, and he loved me and my sister, and I don’t think there’s anything more anyone could have asked of him. He was always there when I needed him. He was there my wedding and for the birth of his grandson.  I’m not sure if he had any regrets, but he seemed like he was pretty content. As far as lives go, I think he had a decent one.

What does hurt is when I think about what could have been. He was a wonderful grandfather to my son, and they could have had so much more time together. I lost both of my grandfathers when I was fairly young, and I’d hoped that son would be spared that and that my dad would be around for a good long time. When I think about what could have been and what my son will miss out on, it’s devastating.

I don’t know how to act or what to do. If I dwell too much on it, then I find myself unable to function, and I don’t have the option to just wallow in sadness. If I try not to think about it, I can go about the day, but I feel like I’m betraying my dad’s memory. I want to be angry, but there’s no one to be angry at. It’s no one’s fault he got cancer, and it’s no one’s fault they couldn’t cure it. It’s just terrible luck. I try to try to tell myself that it could have been worse, that he could have died in a great deal of pain, but I’m not even sure I believe that.

What happened was awful. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I don’t know if I’ll ever be quite the same again. When it looked like we couldn’t have children, I sometimes comforted myself with the thought that it was OK because there was no way I could be as good a father as my dad was. I’m still not convinced of that, but I will have to try my best. I wish he could have been here to see it.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, except with a baby instead of Remo Wiliams

I have to admit, I was sort of expecting him to dance. He didn’t.  Ally McBeal lied to me. She lied to us all. Instead, my son Robert didn’t really do much of anything. He could eat; I gave him his first bottle, which was pretty cool. But aside from that, he spent those first couple of days in the hospital doing not much at all. Not really the work ethic I was hoping for, but you have to love your kids for who they are.

I wasn’t fully prepared for how overpowered I would be by my own emotions. It was kind of like being a teenager again, where nothing makes any sense, you can be passionately in love with someone just because she’s in your homeroom, and the only person who really gets you is Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies.  The raw emotion that was a hallmark of those years came roaring back.

I would look at the baby, and I would have to sit down because I was so overwhelmed. Not only did I want to teach the world to sing, I wanted to buy it a Coke as well. Also, I felt like writing some terrible poetry about vampires and reading The Crow. I’ve never done drugs due to exposure of several very special episodes of 80s television sitcoms (NBC: Let’s All Be There!), but I imagine that the whole situation was like being on drugs.

One problem with feeling like this is that when the baby cried, it was the worst sound in the world. I’d heard babies cry before without any problem, but this felt like someone stabbing me in the heart while simultaneously reading me Vogon poetry. Rationally I understood that the baby was crying because he didn’t have any other way of communicating, but it was still pretty awful. Fortunately, my wife had several years of experience working in the NICU, so at least she wasn’t a total wreck every time the baby whimpered. What can I say, I’m a wimp.

I’d been told that it takes time for fathers to bond with their children, but I felt like we had a pretty good connection right off the bat. He seemed to enjoy when I held him or read him Ray Bradbury stories.  He wasn’t giving me high fives or anything, but he wasn’t immediately crying when I picked him up, so I assumed everything was going OK. I was surprised by how much I did not want to put him down.

We laughed a lot more than I thought we would in those first couple of days. It certainly wasn’t the never-ending torrent of misery I’d been led to believe it would be by several mommy blogs. The one thing I wish I’d known is that I should have brought something comfortable to sleep on. New mothers get a big, comfy bed to rest on their laurels in, and babies have a nice little bassinet where they can chill out. At the hospital we were at, there was a chair that folded out into something that was theoretically a bed but one that was designed by Philip Lemarchand. If an expectant parent, and you’re not the one who’s going to be giving birth, do yourself a favor and pack a sleeping bag.

While it would have been nice to have a team of medical professionals help up us out for a while, we had to go home. High fives to everyone at the hospital; they were all pretty great. As we put our son in the car seat for the first time, I kept thinking that this was all some kind of joke, that someone would realize that we had no business taking baby home with us, and our son would be snatched out of our hands and given to someone more competent. But, they let us leave. I guess they’re not too picky about who leaves the hospital with a baby.

We brought him home, put him in the crib, and then we just looked at him. I started crying a little bit. I had never seen anything so amazing. I didn’t want to leave him alone for even a second, but we were both so tired that we needed to get some rest. He seemed really tired as well. We were all going to sleep well that night.

Little Scorpy and the Sex Criminals

I don’t think either one of us actually believed Lisa was going to have a baby. Lisa was supposed to eat lots of green vegetables, but she just ate a lot of ramen and hot dogs instead. She hadn’t graduated yet, and she didn’t have a job lined up.  Even if she was going to have a baby, we’d have to raise it in a box on the street because that’s where we’d all be living. And it would be an incredibly tight fight what with the baby and my entire record collection. So the timing was just awful. Also, this just seemed like a cruel joke the universe was playing on us. We had just convinced ourselves that parenthood was not for us. Why give us the chance to prove it?

We went in for the first ultrasound, and they told us that yes, Lisa was pregnant. The nurse pointed to something on the screen she assured us was a baby. After looking at it for a while, we decided it looked like a scorpion. We started calling it “Little Scorpy”, and I guess we were a little excited at this point. I still spent much of my time looking at articles about unicornuate uteruses and assuming that disaster would strike at any moment. My grandmother always said that nothing good ever lasts, which I’ve taken to heart. She also sad that thin girls get fat, and fat girls get fatter. My grandmother was a real font of wisdom.

The second ultrasound was a lot more impressive. It had stopped looking like something like a back-up dancer for Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band and started looking like a little person. It flipped around and threw some punches against the ultrasound machine, and I completely and utterly bonded with it. I think I could have watched it for hours. I was still scared as hell, but for the first time I was excited.

I think this is the point at which people change their Facebook profile to a blurry ultrasound picture, and do things like have gender reveal parties, which I don’t really understand the point of. Unless the point is to eat cake, in which case I completely understand the point of gender reveal parties. We told our families, but we decided to not tell anyone else just yet. If we could have made it nine months without telling anyone, we probably would have. We wanted to just have the pregnancy over and done with.

Lisa wanted to be surprised about the gender of the baby. I had wanted to find out, but I didn’t feel strongly enough that I wanted to argue about it. After a few months, I was pretty convinced that we were having a girl. I was really excited about this. I’d heard boys were difficult. I was never a sports fans, so I wouldn’t have to worry about disappointing a kid when I wasn’t any good at playing catch. I learned about American Girl dolls, and I looked forward to teaching my daughter about American history, albeit with an emphasis on important battles of World War 2. I figured I’d get her a few issues of Wonder Woman, and everything would be all set.

I started reading parenting books, and while I learned a lot, it gave me a whole host of things to worry about.  I worried that if I had a daughter, then she would be raped. I worried that if I had a son, he would be a rapist. I was worried our child would be a delinquent and end up going to prison. I was worried it would have Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (It seemed plausible at the time).  I considered approaching women with well-behaved kids and offering to trade them for the kid forming in my wife’s uterus, just so I could be assured that I wouldn’t have to deal with behavioral issues.

We started telling our friends that Lisa was pregnant.  We starting telling everyone. We used to lie in bed at night, and I would read science fiction stories to the baby. I admit it’s a bit unorthodox to read “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” to your child in utero, but Lisa always said that the baby would move around a lot while I was reading, so I thought it was a nice bonding experience. Also, it’s never too early to expose your child to the work of Harlan Ellison.

Everything was going about as well as could be expected until the night Lisa came home practically in tears because she hadn’t felt the baby move all day.

“I’m sure everything’s fine,” I said, pretty sure that nothing would be fine ever again.

I watched her roll around on the bed and jump up and down in an attempt to get the baby to move. I tried to think of something, anything to say to make it better. I couldn’t think of anything.

The baby started moving again. Lisa cried. I felt like I’d aged about 20 years in five minutes, but at least everything was OK. I’m not sure I would have ever truly recovered if it hadn’t been.

The baby shower came and went. The baby’s room was painted, and the crib was set up. I had read all the parenting books I could stand at that point, and there was pretty much nothing else to do but wait. Lisa was 38 weeks pregnant at this point. I couldn’t think of anything else to do, so I watched Frozen, as I knew little girls are into that movie, and I wanted to make sure I was prepared to deal with that nonsense.

A couple days later, Lisa went in for an exam, and they told her the baby needed to come out. I don’t remember all the details, but we had to get the baby out before her uterus collapsed in on itself and turned into a wormhole and shot the baby into another dimension. Or something like that. I’m not a doctor. All I really remember was that I was reading this article in the waiting room, which is not the best article to read when you’re about to become a parent. Time was up. In a couple days, the doctors would induce labor and we’d be parents.

We walked into the hospital at 7 o’clock on a Thursday morning reading to stat this whole parenting thing. I didn’t know how long it was going to take, but I assumed that once that hooked my wife to whatever contraption they were going to use to induce labor, things would happen pretty quickly. I’d seen the movie Inseminoid, so I wasn’t completely clueless about how this whole childbirth thing worked.

They hooked Lisa up to a Pitocin drip, and we waited. And we waited some more. And then we spent even more time waiting. Fortunately, there was a TV in the room, so Lisa could watch reruns of How I Met Your Mother while I read the first collection of the comic book Sex Criminals. (Pro Tip: never leave the house for the birth of your child without a copy of Sex Criminals)

By the time evening rolled around, nothing whatsoever had happened. They took Lisa off the Pitocin so she could eat something besides crushed ice. I don’t think either one of us thoughts this experience would be boring, but it was pretty boring. The nurse said it was highly likely that something would start happening overnight, so we went to sleep, ready to leap into childbirth at a moment’s notice.

By the next morning, there was still nothing going on. I thought about just calling off this whole baby thing and going to see a movie, but apparently the doctors have a way of breaking a pregnant lady’s water, so that’s what they decided to do. Then she started having contractions. After a few hours of contractions, Lisa got the epidural, and everything slowed down again.  She didn’t really get it in gear until 5 o’clock in the afternoon, when she was finally ready to start pushing.

I know some people say childbirth is beautiful, but those people are morons. Childbirth is horrible. Lisa told me afterwards that she’s been through things more painful than childbirth, but it all looked pretty awful to me. She pushed for three hours, and I felt like I wanted to vomit the whole time. I tried to take my mind off of things by trying to remember the names of all the companions on Doctor Who in order as well as all the names of as many aliens from Star Wars as I could remember. If someone had handed me a copy of the second volume of Sex Criminals, I would have read it.

There’s really nothing worse than seeing your wife in pain and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I started thinking both Lisa and the baby were going to die. I just wanted to the whole thing to be over and for us to all to go home, but it just seemed to be endless and everything was awful…

And then my son was born, and my whole life changed forever.

Childfree and Loving It

You may be wondering at this point why we didn’t try for adoption, and the answer is that I don’t know. We had discussed adoption early on in our relationship, and neither one of us was opposed to it. However, after everything that had happened, it sort of felt like having a baby was like winning the 25,000 Dollar Pyramid and adopting one was like getting the year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni. I think we might have come around the idea of adopting eventually, but after the IVF didn’t work, we just weren’t ready to think about it.

W we probably should have had some sort of counseling, but instead we opted to just ignore everything and just hope that our lives would get better. They did not. Lisa concentrated on school and drinking too much at parties, and I concentrated on watching a lot of horror movies, but what we should have concentrated on was our relationship. And instead, we just sort of ignored it. I felt like our marriage was crumbling, but I was just too tired to care anymore.

We coasted along like that for about a year, until one night Lisa drank so much at a party that she nearly got alcohol poisoning. I spent a few hours cleaning vomit out of the car and making sure she didn’t die. After that scare, we started growing closer again, but even though it seemed like our relationship was slowly getting better, I wasn’t getting any happier.

I never really believed I would be any good as a dad, and when the IVF didn’t work, part of me figured it was just as well that there wasn’t going to be a kid around for me to screw up. What I wasn’t prepared for was how painful it was going to be not to have a child.

I started feeling like I had lost at life, and now I was just counting down the days until I died. Everything I owned would just get tossed out in the garbage when I was gone. I would die alone and unmourned. I knew that my friends with children were happier than I was, and I knew that I could never have that kind of happiness. I don’t know if what I had could be categorized as depression, but I can’t think of a time when I felt more lost and alone.

I think I hit rock bottom when I read the book All Joy and No Fun. The first part of the book made it seem like parenthood was such an enormous burden, and I was starting feel a little better about not being a parent. But by the end of the book, I was sobbing. There was a passage in the book about how parenthood is a pathway back to childhood, and perhaps it was just because I knew I would be turning 40 in a couple of years, but I wanted more than anything to play hide and seek or have a snowball fight just one more time. Knowing that would never happen was one of the most painful things I’ve ever felt. After I finished the book, I felt numb.

Lisa had seen me reading the book, and she asked me about it. And with that, we finally started talking about what we’d been through We cried a lot.  Once we were done, we finally admitted out loud that we would never be parents, and we had talked ourselves into the idea that would have been OK.

We were getting older, and only crazy people would try to have a baby at our age, especially with the risks of miscarriage and premature birth we would have been facing. Besides, our house was kind of small, and there was no room in the back yard for a swing set, and let’s face it, we probably weren’t cut out to be parents anyway.

Lisa was going to be done with graduate school in a few months. We’d just travel and enjoy our lives, and everything would be just fine. I wouldn’t say were happy, but it was really good to have finally cleared the air. We would never have kids, but at least we’d have each other.  This wasn’t what we wanted, but we didn’t have much choice but to try to make the best of what we had.

Soon after, we were going to visit one of Lisa’s childhood friends, who was just about to give birth to a little boy. We got the onesie Lisa had bought so many years ago and took it with us to give to her. And with that, we closed the door on parenthood forever.

A few weeks later we found out Lisa was pregnant.

Didn’t Come Here Looking For Trouble

Imagine for a moment that you and your significant other went completely nuts. You wake up one day, and decide you’re going to start wearing blackface and pretend you’re George and Wheezy Jefferson. Then you open a day care center, dress the kids up like the 1985 Chicago Bears and teach them to sing “The Super Bowl Shuffle” in Esperanto. You get tattoos of Neil Diamond’s face on your faces, and then follow Neil Diamond around on tour, screaming “Play ‘Sweet Caroline’” over and over again during every song until you get thrown out. You buy a 1975 Trabant, outfit it with racing stripes, and turn it into the world’s biggest birdbath. You run for President on a platform of public nudity and free LSD for senior citizens. You buy a Sugar Ray album.

And then it all stops. You go right back to your regular old life and you never talk about anything you did. You pretend that you never once had small children fight each other to death in a cage match to determine who would play William “Refrigerator” Perry in your pint-sized version of The Shufflin’ Crew. You still have your Neil Diamond face tattoos, and the hubcap of a 1975 Trabant is hanging over your mantle, but you just act like it was all some kind of bad dream.

That’s kind of what it was like when the IVF didn’t work. I got the call from the doctor’s office, and then I had to tell Lisa she wasn’t pregnant. And of course she was inconsolable, and while I can usually think of something to comfort my wife, in this case nothing I said worked. “I’m so sorry,” just doesn’t do the trick, no matter how many times you say it.

Lisa spent a couple of days in bed. I baked a cake. I can’t remember why I thought I should bake a cake, but I needed something to do. Before long, we were just mumbling things to each other like, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” and “It is what it is.” Nothing meaningful, but what else could we really say? The doctors at the IVF clinic were sympathetic, but their only advice was to try IVF again. However, at this point, Lisa was going to graduate school in a few months, and we didn’t have the time or money to try again.

I put the onesie on a shelf in the guest room closet. I wasn’t really sure what to do with all the fertility clinic paperwork and the picture of our zygote. I didn’t want Lisa to have to look at it, but it didn’t really feel right to throw it out either. I ended up putting it in a box, and then I put the box in our crawlspace. And with that, we just tried to go back to the way things were.

Of the two of us, Lisa is far less likely to want to talk about feelings. However, I imagined that one day we would have a tearful conversation about all this over Haagen-Daaz, we would hug, and then watch Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion to cheer ourselves up, because who doesn’t love Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion? That movie is a classic, and I will challenge anyone who says otherwise to fisticuffs. I tried to do some research on infertility to prepare.

I read some infertility forums, this article in the Wall Street Journal, and the book Barren in the Promised Land. It was all very sad, but I learned a lot. However, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate this information into my own life. Would we be throwing a lot of money at the problem, despite the fact that it was pretty obvious that couldn’t have a kid? Would my wife turn into the old lady from Gremlins, really nice to her pets and mean to everyone else? Would we ever be OK again? I didn’t know how to feel, what to say, or what to do, but it didn’t really matter, because we were acting like nothing really happened. And for a long time, that’s all we did.

The Needle and the Damage Done

When I was very little, one of my favorite things to do was watch the evening news on CBS. I know a lot of people these days don’t let their kids keep up with current events, but back then I don’t think people cared about shielding their children that much because we were all going to die in a nuclear war with the Soviets anyway.

I also recall being incredibly confused one night by a story I saw about “test tube babies”. I was not clear on where babies came from, but I thought something seemed weird about the idea of a baby that lived in a test tube. How did that work? Was the baby smooshed inside a small test tube, or was it a really large test tube the baby could rest comfortably in? Was Doctor Bunsen Honeydew somehow involved? My copy of Slim Goodbody’s album The Inside Story failed to provide with me answers. I eventually moved on to worrying about other things, like The Incredible Hulk.

A few decades later, I was on a mission to create a test tube baby of my own.  Contrary to popular belief, fertility clinics are not run Vincent Price-type figures, cackling about tampering in God’s domain and running a laboratory filled with theremins, Erlenmeyer flasks filled with bubbling potions, and hulking assistants created from the bodies of dead babies and raccoons. Actually, I might be the only person who believes that. Instead they’re just like a normal doctor’s office, except with an unusually large number of pamphlets featuring stock photography of smiling parents holding smiling babies.

Lisa had been though a lot of tests already, and we were reasonably sure her one kidney could handle a pregnancy, and while there was a risk of a premature birth, we started doing IUI. I checked the fine print on one of the pamphlets, and the chance of success wasn’t great even for women with a fully intact uterus. But the doctors seemed pretty enthusiastic about our chances, so I wasn’t sure what to think.

First try, no baby. No problem; we would try again. It would just mean another month of strange looking drugs in our refrigerator and my wife sticking more needles in herself than G.G. Allin and Sid Vicious combined. I’m sure Mr. Wizard didn’t do all of his experiments in one take, so there was no need to panic.

Second try, no luck. By now, I was pretty much convinced this wasn’t going to work.  However, we were on this crazy carousel ride, and I didn’t know how to stop it.  I was scared we were going to keep doing this, it would never work, and then we’d have to deal with the failure for the rest of our lives.

It was around about this time we started discussing IVF. I don’t remember if it had a better success rate than IUI for women with unicornuate uteruses, but insurance was going to pay for it, so we decided to go for it. Around this time, Lisa found out she’d been accepted to grad school, so we came up with a new plan.  Lisa was going to have the IVF, get pregnant, have the baby, and then a couple of months later, start graduate school.

You know how it is when you hear that Nicholas Cage has bought a castle and filled it with dinosaur bones and vintage gumball machines? That’s kind of how I feel now when I look at this cunning plan. Also, at the time, the company I was working at was going through some rough times, and there was a possibility I would be losing my job, but why would that stop us?  I’m not sure why we thought this was a good idea, but I guess I knew that if it worked, we could all live in Nicholas Cage’s castle.

Whatever happened, I was just ready for it to be over. I wasn’t sleeping well, work was awful, and I was drinking about eight cans of Coke Zero a day. I was tired of feeling like I was letting Lisa down by not being able to give her a baby. At least IVF seemed like a definitive answer as whether we would have a baby or not.

The doctors extracted 15 eggs from Lisa, and one by one they died. A few fertilized, and pretty soon they died too. At this point I was wondering if babies really were brought by storks, because it didn’t seem like conception was possible. We were left with one living fertilized egg. All the discussion about whether we’d be freezing the extra eggs were moot. It was this or nothing.

The implantation was in a different doctor’s office than where we’d been going. We were the youngest people in the waiting room by about ten years. Everyone else looked to be in their early 40s, and if you think the waiting room of a fertility clinic is filled with happy-go-lucky people with a spring in their steps and a song in their hearts, you would be completely wrong.

We went into a room, Lisa was strapped into an undignified position, and they inserted the egg. We got to watch the process on a video monitor. I remember looking at the look of joy on her face and thinking that if it didn’t work, we had just made the worst decision of our lives. They gave us a photograph of the fertilized egg being implanted, and sent us home to wait.

How This All Got Started

I guess before I start talking about my son, I should talk about the long path my Lisa and I had to travel to have him. There a lot of ground to cover, so to save some time on my part, I suggest going to Wikipedia and just read up on things until you get until where I come in with a story about trying to have a baby.

You back? Good. The pre-Cambrian explosion was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? And how about that Eli Whitney and the way he totally crushed inventing the cotton gin?  And because you just get sucked into things on the Internet, you probably clicked a link at some point and ended up on the article about Lobot on Wookieepedia. Kind of scary someone spent all that time writing down all that information about Lando Calrissian’s assistant, isn’t it? Don’t even think about clicking on the entry for the guy who said “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?” to Princess Leia on Hoth. That way lies madness.

Anyway, here’s how it usually goes when a couple tells me they’re going to try to have a baby.

Some couple: Guess what? We’re going to try to have a baby!

Me: That’s cool.

A couple of months later –

Some couple:  Guess what? We’re having a baby!

Me: What strange manner of witchcraft be this? Woman, how is your womb so bountiful? Tell me weary travelers, what news do you bring from the eastern lands? Does Hrothkali, the one-eyed king who waits in shadows, still rule the enchanted realms?

Or, I just say something like “Congratulations!” and get on with my day. But you get the point. I know it’s normal, but I’m still completely blown away by it. For most people, getting pregnant is not particularly difficult.

In our case, it didn’t work out like that at all. We started trying and nothing was happening. It was incredibly stressful, and to make matters worse Lisa and I were arguing a lot over a child who hadn’t even been conceived yet.  For example, Lisa was insistent that our child would only be allowed to watch TV shows from when were kids and nothing from the present day. I was insistent there was no way in hell I was going to go to the trouble of finding episodes of Square One  just to inflict them on our child.

Also, my wife went out and bought a onesie. Not for herself, as that would be weird, but for a baby. I’m not a superstitious person by nature, but I believe that having baby clothes in the house before it was entirely necessary was nothing but bad luck. As it turns out, my instincts were correct.

We tried for a year with nothing to show for it except a lot of hurt feelings and bruised egos. I’m glad we didn’t start on a baby blog like this, or else it would have been really embarrassing. I remember being really concerned at this point that my wife secretly hated me because I couldn’t give her a baby. She didn’t, of course, but that’s where my mind was at.

We went to the doctor to find out what was going on. It wasn’t long before my wife came home one day and announced that she had a unicorn uterus. I remember being completely confused by this, wondering how my wife had something that sounded like she had to roll a d20 to determine damage to her fertility.

After I asked for clarification, I learned that what she actually said was that she had a unicornuate uterus, which basically means that half her uterus is missing. She was born that way; it wasn’t stolen by the Dukes of Hazard or anything.  To further complicate matters, the doctors also found my wife only has one kidney and one ovary isn’t attached to anything.

This was obviously not good news, but we weren’t ready to give up hope yet. There’s a whole host of reproductive technologies available, so we were going to become parents with the help of science and technology.

Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

When my wife Lisa gave birth to our son Robert, I immediately began thinking of ways to monetize our little miracle. It’s so important to start building awareness of your child’s brand as soon as he’s born. And what better way to do that than with blogging?

What’s that? You say no one’s blogging anymore? You’re probably right. I am jumping on the dad-blogging bandwagon right as it’s shuddered to a halt, the wheels have fallen off, and it’s caught on fire. It seems like most people are documenting their parenting moments on Instagram and Pinterest. However, I think that often leads to awful things like this. Also, I’m not very good at taking pictures. Blogging it is.

In all honesty, I’m not even sure how much mileage I can get out of writing about parenting. Babies, while cute, don’t really do a whole lot.  I’d love to tell you about my son’s fascinating insights about world events, but when I talk about things like Greece’s potential exit from the Eurozone with him, he doesn’t exactly hold up his end of the conversation. Don’t even get me started on his inability to look at an issue of The Economist without trying to chew on it.  I’ll try to write as much as I can about being a dad, and when I don’t really have anything to say on that subject, I’ll write about things like which of the sequels to Halloween is the best. (Answer: it’s Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.)

I have no real expectations for this project. I used to blog some time ago, but I abandoned it for Twitter. I hope to stick with it longer this time around. I’m sure there aren’t many people who really need to read another parenting blog, so the audience for this will probably be pretty small. However, becoming a father has been a pretty big deal for me, so I thought it would be nice to write down my thoughts. Hopefully they will be interesting to someone other than me.

I wore an Iron Maiden shirt to the birth of my child. It's the classiest shirt i own.
Me holding my son on the night he was born. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just whispered “Welcome to planet Earth. My name is Chris, but you can call me dad, ” in his ear.