ANY DAY NOW.

Here we are: on the eve of Week 38. The baby is more or less to term, depending on which medical professional is talking. We have built all the furniture, installed the car seat, set up all the other baby gear, and laundered all the new clothes. We’ve met the baby’s pediatrician and we’ve taken a detailed tour of the hospital. We’re keeping the house spotless in case we have to disappear for a few days, because the last thing we’ll want to do when we return from the hospital is clean the house. We’ve stocked our freezer and cupboard with easy meals. We are daydreaming about the baby on our own and talking about the baby constantly when we’re together. We’re ordering more baby supplies on the internet because it’s basically the only way we can take care of our child at this moment in time. We’re doing everything we can to stay calm.

Every day I play the same game: if the baby came today, would I be ready? I run through the task lists and inventories again, double- and triple-check to make sure I didn’t miss anything. There’s no way around it: our home is completely ready for this child. There is nothing left to do except deal with my excitement and anxiety.

I do the same thing every day at work, but the story is different because there is always something else to do. For weeks, I’ve been on a mission to tie up all loose ends, finish ongoing projects and initiate new ones so I can lay the foundation and get people set up to assume what would normally be my role. It’s not easy for me to relinquish control of projects that are my responsibility to lead. No matter how much faith I have in others to perform well in my place, my sense of ownership over my work is so strong and it hurts to think about putting it down for eight weeks. At least that’s how I feel right now. I know the baby’s arrival will change everything.

I keep thinking about how I only have a couple more weeks of being a person who is not a parent. I’ve lived nearly 37 years as a non-parent. Once the baby comes, I will be a parent for the rest of my life. The more I think about it, the more I realize there’s nothing else with the ability to completely alter my identity and worldview, in such an immediate and unavoidable fashion, the way being a parent will.

Many people have told me and Lauren that we’re going to be amazing parents. While I appreciate the vote of confidence, it strikes me as an odd thing to say. Seriously — what if we totally suck? I can see fatherhood bringing out the very best in me, but I can also see it bringing out my worst qualities: my anxiety, my control freak tendencies, my stubbornness, my emotional distance, etc. There’s no possible way that Lauren and I are going to be consistently amazing at parenting, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation for anyone. If we don’t fuck up sometimes, then we are not human.

I’ve had significant troubles with sleeping for a decade, but it’s only getting worse as our due date approaches. Morning hangout sessions with baby have become all-nighters. He is as active as ever, though he clearly takes up a lot more space in Lauren’s belly. Often her abdomen is skewed in whatever direction he’s leaning, making her look like an adorably lopsided penguin.

This blog post is about as scattered as my brain right now. I’m guessing this will be my last post before the baby is born — at which point I will be a legit dad in plaid.

setting up the baby room.

Somewhere along the way, it struck me: We were setting up a room for a person who does not exist yet. We were pouring our time, effort, care, creativity, and love into building a safe haven for our child — about seven weeks before we’ll meet him, name him, and hold him for the first time. It was the first time in ages that I’ve been struck with a completely new feeling, and it was the most intensely paternal feeling I’ve experienced yet.

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Our child has no aesthetic preferences at this point, so the room is really all about us. We’ve chosen furniture that suits our tastes, bedding that amuses us and fits our aesthetics, gear and accessories that match the early parenting choices we’ve made, and (of course) a bunch of adorable toys. The room is filled to the brim with our intentions and anticipation, and also the generosity and love of our families and friends, as we’ve bought almost nothing ourselves.

Our kid will inherit the 0-3 month wardrobes of both his older cousins, our nephews, whose wonderful parents sent us a giant suitcase full of clothes. Along with the clothes we’ve received from other friends and family, they have been carefully folded and put away in the drawers of the changing table.

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That deeply paternal feeling hit the hardest while we were folding all these clothes; they just felt impossibly tiny in my adult hands. These miniature outfits revealed just how small and vulnerable this new human is going to be.

I never need an excuse to be anxious — I’m worried about ten different things even on my best days — but it’s clear this kid is going to introduce me to a whole new universe of anxiety. I welcome it, of course. Otherwise we wouldn’t have tried to have a kid in the first place. I just hadn’t felt the beginning tinges of that worry until I visualized our little guy inhabiting these tiny clothes.

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After the clothes were squared away, we sorted everything else into major categories — toys, books, bathing, feeding, changing, outdoor gear, etc. Of course, we went out and bought some adorable bins to store all the stuff.

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The room is all ready to go. Last night, Lauren caught me standing in the doorway and staring into the room. “I do that sometimes,” she said with a knowing smile.

I think we’re ready too.

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on work/life balance.

My job is all-consuming. I run an ambitious nonprofit organization with a small budget and global aspirations. Most of my work occurs during normal business hours, but there’s the extra hour or two of emailing and catching up on relevant political news while I wake up, and there’s the hour each night I spend following up on any issues left dangling when I not-so-completely shut down for the day around 6pm. There are the few hours each weekend that I spend wrapping up the week’s projects and preparing myself for Monday morning. All told, I probably average 60 hours per week, and that’s when things are relatively calm.

It’s conventional wisdom that work/life balance is important, and that Americans are generally overworked, especially those of us who engage in some degree of remote, internet-based work — because it’s that much tougher for us to establish reasonable boundaries. Well, what about those of us who really love our jobs, and who thrive when we aren’t saddled with excessive amounts of free time? Is it truly unhealthy to love what you’re doing 12+ hours a day?

Sure, I could put my free time into hobbies. Remember that time I was in a band? The thing is that I don’t really know how to do music as a hobby. For me, music has always been an outlet for my industriousness as much as my creativity. There is always a concept for an album, an associated marketing plan, and tour dates, whether I’m writing songs about my own personal experiences or pretending to be a magical tree. I don’t have time for all the extra stuff that comes with it, so it’s difficult for me to feel motivated to work on music.

As it turns out, executive leadership at a nonprofit like the HPA requires both industriousness and creativity, in nearly equal measure. Every day I find myself using the same general skillset that I used as an independent touring musician. Frankly, I’m at my worst when these skills aren’t being put to use. When I’m not hatching an ambitious plan and building it from the ground up, it’s likely I’m either doing nothing or doing busy work. Either scenario results in me being depressed and unfulfilled.

I love my job, so why not focus on it? Even with 12 waking hours dedicated to the best job ever, that still leaves me with around 5 waking hours for everything else. That’s plenty of time for hanging out with Lauren and the cats, eating, doing chores, and catching up on our favorite TV shows. There are really only a few earth-shattering, life-altering things that could happen that would render this time allocation unsustainable.

Like having a baby.

I’m not kidding when I say that I have the best job ever. Exhibit A: we’re a small nonprofit with a modest budget, and yet we offer eight weeks of paid leave for new parents in the case of birth or adoption. I intend to take all eight weeks of paid leave that are available to me, and I am committed to ignoring my work inbox and staying away from all ongoing projects for the duration of that leave. It may not be easy, but this is an incredible opportunity that I don’t want to take for granted. Despite my genuine passion and enthusiasm for my job, I don’t believe I’ll have any trouble focusing entirely on getting to know the baby once he’s born.

I’m a bit more worried about what’s going to happen after the leave is over. How will 60 hours of work per week jive with being a parent? Will I find myself wishing I had an office away from home, or will I be so caught up in being a first-time father that my awesome job will lose its luster?

I’m pretty sure this will be a frequent topic on this blog as things progress. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from other parents with full-time careers: how do you balance work with parenting? Please tell me your secrets in the comments below!

other people’s babies.

For the first 24 years of my life, my interest in babies was precisely zero. When a parent asked if I’d like to hold their baby, I would politely decline and then back away from the baby as if I’d encountered a snake in the woods. Something about babies made me deeply uncomfortable. They were little blobs of barely-human, unable to communicate in anything but gurgles, poops, and caterwauls. Why not just get an actual cat?

It wasn’t until my 25th year that I experienced my first paternal urge. It welled up inside of me out of nowhere and it terrified me. How could I possibly want to father a child, given the reality that all children begin as babies? Let alone the fact that babies become toddlers — ceaselessly energetic snotmonsters intent on destroying everything their parents hold dear. The baby phase itself was all the birth control I needed. So where did this urge even come from?

It only got worse with time. By my late 20s I found myself oohing and awwing at babies and small children in the same way I’d always reacted to seeing an adorable animal. There was genuine love in my heart for these creatures. Most bizarrely, I began to feel a longing to provide food, shelter, and emotional support to one or two of them, should the opportunity to procreate ever arise. What was becoming of me?

I’ve lost it completely in my 30s. Not only do I accept babyhood as a stage of humanity and find babies altogether endearing, I also can’t control my amusement with their stuff. Baby toys. Baby clothes. Blankets and crib skirts. Area rugs and nursery wall art. I can’t get enough of it.

The clinching moment occurred in May, when Lauren and I were in a toy shop in Portland, Maine, just a few weeks after we learned we were pregnant. I went into this store assuming I’d be unmoved by any of its contents. I was proven wrong on two counts: 1) They had an excellent selection of tabletop games; 2) THIS:
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The Skip Hop Activity Elephant. It stopped me dead in my tracks. It was displayed eye-level next to other activity animals — monkey, owl, puppy, lion — but I only had eyes for the elephant. I imagined our child playing with this silly thing, crinkling its crinkly feet and squeezing its squeaky ear. It was the first time I’d clearly envisioned our child doing anything, and it brought me to tears. The activity elephant had brought me to tears.

There’s no turning back now. When I see other people’s babies, I am filled with anticipation and excitement for what’s to come. Dozens of people have told us, “Enjoy these last couple months of peace and quiet. Your life will never be quiet again.” It doesn’t faze me. This baby is going to make a lot of noise and a lot of poop. Our house won’t be clean again until 2033. We won’t stop worrying about the child until we’re dead. To all this I say: bring it on.

When I see other people’s babies, I know that I’m ready.

sympathy weight is real.

I have gained around fifteen pounds since we learned Lauren was pregnant. The weight is most visible in my midsection and in my face. My jeans are tight. My large shirts no longer fit. I am strictly extra-large for the first time in a couple years.

I am constantly hungry. I am craving sweets like never before. I bought myself some vegan dark chocolate to help me avoid trips to our much less healthy Halloween candy bowl. The result is that I’m just alternating back and forth between healthy and unhealthy candy. I don’t even care. It’s all fucking delicious and I totally deserve it.

Sympathy weight is real. It doesn’t come from hormones. It doesn’t come from actual feelings of sympathy. It comes from having a legitimate excuse to eat a lot of junk food. The excuse isn’t that you’re stressed out and need a few extra treats to cope. The excuse isn’t that your partner is having ice cream cravings and needs a buddy to help her finish off the latest pint. The excuse isn’t that you’re going to be a dad and that’s awesome, so why not celebrate.

The excuse is simply that sympathy weight is real.

I was reminded of the reality of sympathy weight at some point during the first trimester. I can’t remember how — it may have been a conversation or something I read in a book. Either way, that mention of sympathy weight planted a seed in my brain that sympathy weight was a real thing that I would be dealing with soon. And so I spent the next few months realizing the inevitability of sympathy weight, specifically by eating a lot of delicious food.

Realistically, if I really put my mind to it, I should be able to gain another five pounds or so before the baby arrives. I’ll keep you updated.

morning hangout sessions with baby.

I’m an early riser. Lauren likes to sleep in. Every morning before she wakes I rest my hand on her belly and feel his movements. Sometimes it’s a quick little tap and a gurgle. Sometimes it’s like Lauren’s whole torso is convulsing. Most often it’s a limb gently protruding, just enough to push my hand up half an inch. I like to push back and see if he responds. It’s kind of like we’re high fiving.

I assumed visible kicks would gross me out, but I find myself watching Lauren’s belly to make sure I don’t miss them. It’s the closest I can get to feeling like I know him. Yes, I won’t truly know him until he’s complex enough to be an individual — and before that happens, he still has to finish being a fetus, and then a little bug-eyed poop machine.

For now, we have our morning routine, and I have my imagination. I like to daydream about the walks we’ll take and the games we’ll play, the bond we’ll forge when our hands can touch.

Due date: 64 days.
Excited grandparents: 7.
Onesies received as gifts: More than we can count.