I awoke at 3:30 this morning full of uncertainty. Perhaps a rehearsal of things to come.
We are very close now and I am filled with the excitement and anticipation of a child’s Christmas morning.
It was chilly in the bedroom. the cat snuggled up between us seeking our warmth and naive of the fact that our small pack will soon have a new member. I had been dreaming, nothing specific, but I remember seeing my Mother and Father and my nephew Tristan, all now deceased. I felt a little sad but also comforted. I wish they were here to meet my daughter.
I pulled on some pants and a warm shirt and stepped outside, sadly to smoke a cigarette, not quite finished with that. It was so peaceful and the sky clear. There were quite a few stars visible considering that we live in a city and one can normally see very few.
There was Jupiter off to the southeast, and Mars on the eastern horizon.
What jumped out at me though was Orion, the hunter. His belt of three stars, his bow aimed and ready. They have always given me a sense of comfort and wonder ever since I was a child. My earliest memory is of Orion and the stars. I was probably around four years old, looking out the windows of the front room of my first home on Grant Avenue in Brooklyn. My mother was sitting in a chair and one of my older brothers, Greg I think, was pointing out the constellations. I remember being excited that I was able to make out the figure of Orion by connecting the dots. That memory fills me with longing. And magic.
I sat quietly looking up at the vastness of the night. Thoughts of my mother returned. I asked for her protection. To watch over my wife and my daughter. To somehow continue her nurturing from elsewhere.
I am going to be a father soon and for the rest of my life. I’m not old, but older than most who have a first child. I can’t help but look at my time as limited and it sometimes worries me. I want to see my daughter grow up and come into her own. I want Lindsay and I to have a long life together filled with love and wonder.
I apologize for all the navel gazing, but awakening in the middle of the night will often have that effect on me.
I climb back into the warm bed, my head filled with stars, and reach over to Lindsay, sleeping soundly, between her nightly awakenings. I place my hand on her ripe belly, my future contained within. The cat crawls down deeper under the covers. I imagine us, curled up in this autumnal bed, as a heavenly body, gliding through space together. Always.
Lindsay is getting some well deserved sleep on this classic autumn day. Not much longer now and other than an iron deficiency, she’s doing great. I’d like to take a moment to express my love and admiration for my wife. She’s been a trooper for the last nine months. I couldn’t even imagine what her body has been going through.
She’s ready. Past ready.
We’re both looking forward to meeting our little girl. What will she look like? Well, once the initial wrinkly stage is over. What will her temperament be like? One thing I know for sure is that she will be wonderful. And she’ll have the most amazing mom in the world.
So, I just wanted to say to my beautiful wife, Lindsay. Thank you.
Am I ready? The short answer is yes. As ready as one can be. The big pieces are in place. Crib. Check. Changing table. Check. Diapers. Check. Birthing classes are progressing, although I admit to looking away, a little, when we watch the films of actual births. My psyche has not made that leap yet. The birthing plan and all the checklists are coming together. Having many nephews and nieces has prepared me for the diaper changes. Baby poop does not intimidate me. And I’ve been waking up at odd hours of the night as if in anticipation of the sleep deprivation to come. So, physically, I feel prepared.
Mentally. Well, that’s a different story. Many time throughout the day it hits me.
“I’m going to be a father.”
Then I stare off into space, dumbfounded. I truly came to believe that after 49 years this was something I would not experience.
Then, all the fears come rushing in. ” Will she be healthy?” “Safe?” ” I am not prepared for this and have no idea what I’m doing.” “Am I too old?” “Will it all be too overwhelming?”
Then … the doubts subside … and a silly grin replaces the worry lines.
“I’m going to be a father.”
“She will be healthy.” “I will keep her safe.” “I’m young in spirit.” “It will be trying at times, but I am not alone.” “Not if, but when, I make mistakes, I will have the humility to recognize and learn from them.”
So. There it is. Hopes and fears all wrapped up in one simple phrase.
There will be a couple of people my daughter will not get the opportunity to meet. Two people very important to me. I speak of my parents, who have both been deceased for close to twenty years now. In fact, there are many people in my life now that never got to meet them, most significantly, my wife, Lindsay. She has heard many stories about my parents, especially when my siblings and I get together, and has seen quite a few old photos of them, but that’s not the same. One can understand a person a little more when you meet their parents; when you can observe the dynamic between parent and child.
My daughter will have grandparents, Lindsay’s folks, who are wonderful, kind people, who will shower her with love that only a grandparent can. But it makes me sad that my parents aren’t around to do the same. The sadness, in part, stems from the fact that they don’t get to see how wonderful my life is now.
It wasn’t always this way. I put them through a fair share of concern and worry. It took me many years to get my act together and I’d like them to see the result. They weren’t perfect. No parent is. You’re going to make mistakes and recognizing that is important. My hope is to act from love, kindness and compassion. To help guide my daughter to find serenity and joy in whatever way she can. To be prepared for missteps, hopefully learn from them, and move on, undaunted.
These are the things my parents gave me. Yes, they made their share of mistakes, and regrettable choices, but, I weathered the storm and when I look back, I always felt loved, unconditionally. They allowed me to follow my dreams no matter where that took me. And for that I thank them.
Last night reminded me of a large deficiency in my life. I can’t drive. Nearly Fifty years of age and as helpless as my unborn daughter behind the wheel of a car.
We went to the hospital last night, as a precaution, because Lindsay’s feet and ankles swelled up rather suddenly, and after trying to diagnose online, could be preeclampsia, especially since one leg was swelling larger than the other, we concluded that it would be better to be safe than sorry. Problem is, I can’t drive, so my wife, uncomfortably swollen feet and all, had to drive us to the hospital. I felt like a failure.
After some tests, she was cleared of any problems. Just elevate her feet, keep drinking lots of water, and try to stay cool. Relief.
This inability to drive has never been an issue before. I have always had jobs close to home, within a couple of miles, and walked. Or have gotten rides when convenient. In the past, I’ve lived in cities where public transportation was good, so that usually took care of the longer hauls. I’m convinced that all the walking has kept me fit, in both body and mind. But I’ve never had anyone dependent on my ability to drive a car.
With three months left until the birth I have to get a driver’s license. I attempt this with some trepidation. Having gone this long without one I admit to some fear. It seems so foreign to me. A kind of phobia has developed. The fear, I have to say, is for everyone else on the road.
Have to be careful that any possible nicknames derived from said name will not be embarrassing or cruel It should sound good with the surname. My surname. LiVigni. Which is italian, so we are leaning that way. We are also resisting the temptation to pile on a bunch of names. That strikes me as showy. Two should be enough. First and middle. One would be fine, I suppose. I never use my middle name. Although that middle initial gets its fair share of use on forms and applications. I barely know the last names of people, let alone their middle names. It seems superfluous. Like the appendix. It’s there, but doesn’t get any attention until it causes trouble. Little Johnny Doe is fine till he breaks something then he’s suddenly John Henry Doe.
But a middle name she will have. Vita. It means life. It was also my grandmother’s name. My father’s mother. I wasn’t particularly close with her. Hardly knew her. But she was the grandmother I wasn’t afraid of and Vita sounds good with the last name. One of my nieces has it for a middle name already. I suggested it to my brother at the time because I never thought I would need to name a child. Well, that’s changed.
We have the first name narrowed down to a few choices. I’m not going to mention them because everyone has an opinion and we don’t want that to cloud our choice. But we are open to ideas. (Fill in the blank) Vita LiVigni.
And don’t suggest Lampshade. That one has been crossed off the list
We reached the 23 week mark today. Yesterday brought another visit to the doctor and with it a listen to the heartbeat of our child. It was probably the sixth time we have heard it. The rapid “Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.” Sounding much like a locomotive steaming down the tracks in some old movie. But underwater. Each time I hear it, though, it feels like she’s getting closer.
Yes, we are having a girl.
We found out for sure over a month ago during an ultrasound. That’s when the tears came. Tears of joy. I could imagine holding her in that moment. I could see a little girl, in my mind’s eye, running towards me and calling “Daddy”. Six months ago, none of this was in our plans. I think my wife and I somehow felt the time had passed. We had been open to it the last couple of years and even stopped using any method of birth control. We left it to fate. It just didn’t happen, so we figured it wouldn’t or we couldn’t and left it at that.
When the year started we thought we would take a long trip overseas. Greece or Italy. Somewhere warm and near an ocean.
“Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!”
That’s the sound of my heart beating. Faster. Expectant. Curious.
That blue plus sign glaring up at me from the piss stick lying on top of the toilet tank. I was too focused on the business at hand for it too even register. It was like so much of the debris that finds itself on the back of the toilet. Then, with my free hand, I tentatively lifted the stick to inspect closer. This is a joke, I thought. My wife is quite clever and she has figured out a way to rig this instrument. We sometimes play pranks on one another, though they usually involve jumping out from hidden locations. This was more elaborate and I had to hand it to her. Well done.
Finished and zipped up I entered the living room for the requisite “Gotcha!”. She was on the sofa, nonchalantly watching television. Ok. I’ll play along, I thought, and held the stick up, a look of questioning on my face. Her eyes wide and a slight smile, not a “ha ha” smile, but a “uh oh” smile, and a barely detectable nod.
“Is this…,” I paused, unable to finish.
“Real?” She finished. “Yes.” She said with conviction.
Silence. Disbelief. Shock.
And some quick math. This happened in February. I was turning 49 in May. The child would be born before the end of the year. I would be 50 years old before our child turns one.
More disbelief and shock.
Now, 20 weeks into the pregnancy, the shock diminished, and reality setting in, I’ve decided to share my reflections on becoming a first time father.